Seeking Competence and Peace


Their “lead” editorial weighs in on the approval of Roman Missal III’s Ordo Missae, NCR dredges up old wounds, hints at a possible resistance, and praises Bishop Trautman’s grace in defeat. Amy and her commentariat are on the ball with it, too. I’ve added my piece there, and here’s a bit more to pile on:

I do think the point NCR raises about competence is a valid one. Even my conservative bishop has expressed his own doubts about how the latest Lectionary has worked out. Along with competence in a skill set, be the person a language expert, a Scripture scholar, a liturgist, there are two other possibilities not often mentioned.

I think competence implies an integration of the disciplines involved. Any decent computer program can translate words. And computers often serve as surrogates or interfaces for pastoral contact and ministry. A competent person (or group) has the ability to fuse various disciplines and make them work across a wide range of needs. A merely “faithful” translation from the Latin can clunk like any poor 1973 effort if those implementing and using the words are lifeless and inert as musicians, priests, or other leaders. One would hope that Latinists and poets have a liturgy background, a bishop a sense of liturgy and art, liturgists a sense of language and tradition.

Poets? Were they included in ICEL? People who are the very best in the English language? People who are generally conceded to have the best and most artistic ability? I think a strong case can be made for the inclusion of such folks. If, that is, quality is part of the intent here. ICEL in the 80’s and 90’s did it with broad consultation: going to parishes and to poets and musicians to uncover the pieces it needed to complete the work.

The curia I’ve seen under the previous pope seems to have something of an aversion for competence. Maybe things are changing. Rock tells me we’re getting good bishops. I hope so, for the general tone of episcopal appointments for the past ten years has seemed to me to be rather thin and unimaginative. Why else would they shuttle bishops into as many dioceses as they do?

My other concern is with the alarming lack of peace on Catholic liturgy. Trautman concedes on issues he’s championed for years, yet much of what I’ve seen written in commentariat boxes shows little regard for that. In other words, St Bloggersville is mostly made up of sorehead winners. They get the triumph they want, yet they are unable to accept victory without their name-calling and their continuing misadventures in spelling. (Perhaps Latin would be a better target language for insults.)

For some Catholics, let me suggest your victory might be pyrrhic. The whole point of liturgy is the worship of God and the sanctification of the faithful. Yet in focusing on the unworthy centurion who requested a long-distance cure, perhaps you have forgotten the other gospel call to leave your gift at the altar and go in search of reconciliation in your broken relationships. For indeed, if you are so indulgent in your passions, especially anger, in the liturgy wars, you may indeed have lost something more precious than an accurate rendering of Latin.

In my own parish, the liturgy wars are far more muted than online. While there are a few simmer spots, some people seem to realize they have my ear for their concerns. Making liturgy policy is shared by parishioners and staff, and we make efforts to ensure substantial concerns are thought out well and if action is warranted, we discern as best we can.

Our implementation of Roman Missal III will probably look like our previous implementations: careful explanation about what appears to be tinkering, and especially taking advantage of our opportunity to improve the liturgy and to bring more mindfulness and prayerfulness to parish liturgy. The liturgy in our parish will improve not by following the formulas more correctly, but by a more complete involvement with Jesus present and active in our lives.

From what I’ve seen of the early drafts, I think we have a flawed tool with which to work. But that’s true of pretty much everything in mortal life. My hope is that parishes will be able to bring competence to bear in their liturgies. My hope is that parishes will see the implementation as the first step to better liturgy, not the last one. My hope is that someday we’ll see better spelling and less name-calling on the net.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Church News, Commentary, Liturgy. Bookmark the permalink.

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