What If You Held a Liturgy War …

… and nobody showed up?

Not quite nobody, but there were enough bishops playing hooky from the USCCB meeting in Orlando that a vote on the Proper of Seasons, the part of the Roman Missal that includes prayers for the opening rite, gifts, and post-Communion, didn’t get the required two-thirds approval.

I’m not going to rehash the arguments here or even comment on them. Go to NCR or the Loggia or NLM or wherever. If the bishops asked me, I’d suggest they junk the whole ICEL translation. Apparently, enough of them have had enough of ICEL. There was a vote to bypass the once-controversial and now GLB committee if the chunk of Missal doesn’t get enough yeas.

I’m not sure what to make of that. This new ICEL has been less receptive to episcopal input, supposedly because of new curial guidelines that must be toed. Who knows how much of this is prelatial pride, how much is political machination, and how much is some bishops having enough and deciding to hit the Florida links instead.

I’m more interested in the working paper for the synod on the Word of God. Here’s a section entitled, “The Word of God and the Eucharist.” There’s concern the Word-Sacrament connection could be clearer. I’d like to point out this whole USCCB discussion on Latin loyalty is woefully misplaced. The bishops are missing the boat, because the real issue is making a pastoral connection for the benefit of an increased openness and responsivity to the Word.

Here’s the section I’d like to bring to the debate:

Oftentimes, the Liturgy of the Word is not sufficiently prepared or is not properly linked to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. An intimate bond exists between the Word and the Eucharist as seen in scriptural testimony (cf. Jn 6), confirmed by the Fathers of the Church and reasserted by the Second Vatican Council (cf. SC 48, 51, 56; DV 21, 26; AG 6, 15; PO 18; PC 6). In this regard, the Church’s great Tradition has many significant expressions which can serve as examples: “Corpus Christi intelligitur etiam Scriptura Dei” (“The Divine Scriptures are also considered the Body of Christ”), and “Ego Corpus Iesu Evangelium puto” (“I consider the Gospel to be the Body of Christ”).

If this is true, then why are Roman Rite Catholics stuck with a one-year set of prayers when we have a three-year Lectionary? I suppose in the present climate it would be too much to ask to salvage what we can from the Latin prayers and have new, poetic prayers composed in the vernacular that harmonize with the Scripture readings at Mass rather than some musty Latin original that hardly anybody hears or cares about.

Oh wait.

We had that in the preparation of Roman Missal II, which all the English-speaking bishops approved and the curia vetoed.

And we’re still stuck with 1975 Sacramentaries. Brilliant.

Some people prefer to oversimplify the argument and present it as a clash between Bishop Donald “Dumb It Down” Trautman versus Father Bruce “Exalted Language” Harbert. The real issue is that both the English first edition translations from the early 70′s and the Latin edition of the Roman Missal are inadequate. We’ve been waiting almost forty years for a good Roman Missal now. I don’t see the point in rushing to get anything done now.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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6 Responses to What If You Held a Liturgy War …

  1. Jeff Pinyan says:

    If this is true, then why are Roman Rite Catholics stuck with a one-year set of prayers when we have a three-year Lectionary?

    I would guess it’s a side effect of suddenly going from a one-year cycle of readings to a one/two/three-year cycle of readings (depending on the day). The connection between the prayers and the Scriptures was not considered closely enough. And older prayers from previous Sacramentaries were imported.

    I suppose in the present climate it would be too much to ask to salvage what we can from the Latin prayers and have new, poetic prayers composed in the vernacular that harmonize with the Scripture readings at Mass rather than some musty Latin original that hardly anybody hears or cares about.

    My understanding is that the 1985 English Missal has an additional prayer for Sundays (and Solemnities) that, while thematically based on the Latin, is a wholly new creation.

    And as for these new vernacular prayers, what effort would be made to keep them uniform across various translations? Because, to be honest, the uniformity of prayer is something I find intrinsic to Catholic worship; Americans don’t need their own set of Collects.

  2. Gavin says:

    I suppose in the present climate it would be too much to ask to salvage what we can from the Latin prayers and have new, poetic prayers composed in the vernacular that harmonize with the Scripture readings at Mass rather than some musty Latin original that hardly anybody hears or cares about.

    Well that depends on what your definition of “Catholic” is. I’ve often said that for Catholics, theology isn’t a matter of things being similar or representative. It’s a matter of them being real. Take the Eucharist. To protestants, it’s a symbol. Or to higher protestants, a “spiritual” presence. But to Catholics, it is really Christ’s flesh and blood. When we say we pray the same thing as our forebears, we’re not just saying something that means the same thing; we ARE saying the same thing in Latin. The Roman Rite isn’t just catholic in that it can include anyone of any culture, it’s also catholic with those behind us and those that will come after us. The collects are, for the most part, ensure that as much as the Canon or the Ordinary. Eliminating the traditional collects in favor of locally-composed not only disrupts continuity with the past but also eliminates our unity with others in the Roman Rite. The collects are a part of the Mass as much as the antiphons or readings. As a liturgist, you should know that.

    Besides, the Latin hasn’t failed because people gloss over the collects. They (and I include myself) do it because of ICEL. Every now and then I try really hard to pray the collect as I hear it. But then it just sounds like (credit to Fr. Z) “God, you are big. Help us to be big. Through…” You want a text I can’t pray, that’s it. Everytime I would visit a high protestant church and hear the collects, I would think “Wow, they have much nicer prayers than Catholics!” But then it turns out, they use ours, except translated correctly! Frankly, I think you might not object so much to the traditional collects if you ever HEARD them, rather than the ICEL substitutes.

  3. Todd says:

    All I can say is that Catholics should have artistically rendered prayers that give us sound theology rooted in the Scriptures and the rites.

    One would think that shouldn’t be so hard. So why has it taken the whole lot of ICEL, the bishops, the curia, and their special Vox Clara committee so long to deliver?

  4. Gavin says:

    I think it remains to be seen what Vox Clara will give us. I’m personally skeptical, but I’ll keep an open mind to it. Still, the mere presence of the word “Gibbet” does not ruin every collect of every Sunday.

  5. Deacon Eric says:

    In our black-or-white modern Church mentality, we have been too often presented with two choices: either (a) the breezy one-sentence collect of the current missal or (2) stodgy, slavish translations from the Latin that would get you a good grade in a high-school Latin class. But why only two choices? Why not an English translation that preserved what is good about the Latin text but sounds as though it was written for English speakers, using English sentence structure and meter?

    Todd’s right. It shouldn’t be that hard. But the Church today is in a mode where one party’s idea of accuracy will always trump artistry.I s it true? Is it good? Is it beautiful? These are things we ought to always ask in our life as Christians, but the prevailing mode today is merely to ask: Is it accurate?

  6. Al says:

    I disagree with many of your views on the translation, but share your ennui with the endless beaurocratic wrangling.

    Nice picture…

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