Trautman’s Vocab

alphabet

I’ve been seeing a lot of happiness over, or at minimum, a resignation to the new texts for Mass in English. Lots of good loyal Catholic soldiers on the Left and in the Middle. In what’s sure to get some bile flowing from the right fringe of the blogosphere, Bishop Donald Trautman is quoted at Catholic University quite critical of some vocabulary:

The vast majority of God’s people in the assembly are not familiar with words of the new missal like ‘ineffable,’ ‘consubstantial,’ ‘incarnate,’ ‘inviolate,’ ‘oblation,’ ‘ignominy,’ ‘precursor,’ ‘suffused’ and ‘unvanquished.’ The vocabulary is not readily understandable by the average Catholic.

Readers here know of my many objections to the new English text. Vocabulary isn’t really one of them, at least not in countries in which English is the primary language. The Africans may have a legitimate beef. But that only exposes the CDWDS’s unwillingness to make important pastoral and spiritual distinctions.

As for this nice vocabulary list, it is true that they’re mostly college words. I would hope the clergy know how to pronounce number 6. I agree with the bishop that pretty much every word isn’t familiar with most non-college-educated Catholics, and pretty much every ESL person who’s not otherwise a linguist.

Back to the bishop. I guess the only sadness from reform2 on this is that they don’t have an embarrassing YouTube video to go along with it. Come by my comboxes, though, my friends. We can have at it in a real theological way if you like.

About these ads

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 Liturgy. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Trautman’s Vocab

  1. Liam says:

    Well, I certainly encountered and used all of those words before I got to college – and I went entirely to public school K-12, and I was hardly alone. Of those, only “consubstantial” has a use limited to Church-speak; “oblation” has a slightly wider literal use in religion generally and wider still metaphorically (one may hear it more in wartime or other times of general civil sacrifice, for example, though I admit Americans aren’t asked much for that much any more….). Many of them are redolent words that are the best choice for what they intend to convey.

    I’ve come to suspect that some of Trautman’s concerns are sub rosa: that is, he is concerned that presiders will mis-pronounce words (ignominy comes to mind – it’s a word one hears on the news from time to time, after all) or that they will be heard equivocally. His rather notorious objections to referring to the “dew” of the Holy Spirit (a reference that is immensely rich in Scriptural resonance) I suspect come from the fact that not everyone does as singers do (pun intended) and pronounce the word as “dyoo” but instead say “doo”, which runs the risk of being misunderstood aurally. While I don’t think those concerns are nothing, I don’t think they should be dispositive.

    English has a huge vocabulary, and we should celebrating the use of most evocative words, not trafficking in a lowest-common-denominator approach. I tend strongly towards what Fowler might have called a Saxonist bent (as opposed to a Latinate bent) in word choice, but I’m not foolish enough to let that become a hobgoblin of consistency.

  2. Jim McK says:

    I agree with Liam, with one ‘minor’ correction: consubstantial has uses limited to Church speak.

    I hope those uses will not be confused.

  3. Jimmy Mac says:

    Not to worry, friends. With the possible infusion of Anglican-speak in the forseeable future, pretentious language and posturing will be more familiar to those who have suffered the thin gruel of plain-speaking Catholicism.

    Wurra, wurra, wurra. (That’s Irish, folks — not Anglican)

  4. Brendan Kelleher SVD says:

    Having browsed through what is available on the US Bishops site, and looking over the congregation with whom I regularly celebrate the Eucharist in English here in Japan, a mixture of expats and migrant workers, mostly from Asian countries, with a smattering from the US and Europe and occasionaly from Africa, I can see a need for at least a glossary to help them understand what they are praying. An awareness of how many different kinds of English there now are around the world was obviously never in the minds of those who made the new translations. And we should never forget those for whom English is a second or third language in Africa and Asia, but one that force of circumstances means they have to use as a common language in daily life. Their pastoral needs are also not reflected in the new translation. I am not looking forward to the day when I will be obliged to use the new translation.

    As to familiarity with these words mentioned, I really wonder how they would go down with blue collar or working class Catholics in the US, UK, Ireland or Australia and New Zealand. And though he has now retired, and admitting to being a little cynical at this point, maybe someone should ask ex-POTUS George W, how many he can pronounce correctly, or use correctly in a sentence.

    As an English teacher I test a students familiarity with new words by asking them to make up a new sentence using the word, in a way that accurately reflects their meaning. Defenders of the new translation should be asked to do the same. Their singability, or ease of composing new melodies for them is also possibly a useful standard to work with.

  5. Liam says:

    Brendan

    I don’t thing ESL should be the standard for translation reference points; I don’t think we can assume that the issue has not come up in the translator’s efforts, only that it obviously was not dispositive.

    And, while not dismissing your point, it might help to remember there are many millions of blue collar, working and lower class English-speaking Christians around the world who use the King James Bible and other “challenging” translations as the meat and potatoes of their word-based beliefs. (And there are myriad millions of non-Christians who become conversant in their sacred languages that are not exactly ordinary conversational language.)

  6. Tony says:

    The vast majority of God’s people in the assembly are not familiar with words of the new missal…

    I respectfully submit to the good Bishop that the vast majority of God’s people in the assembly are familiar with a dictionary. They only have to look it up once, and they’ll be familiar forever.

    This could even be taught from the ambo with a list of “Bishop Trautman’s Problematic Words(tm)”.

    I’m offended by the implication that “John and Mary Catholic” are idiots and can’t be taught what English words mean.

  7. Todd says:

    “I’m offended by the implication that “John and Mary Catholic” are idiots and can’t be taught what English words mean.”

    Indeed.

    Lots of Catholic Democrats are offended when George Weigel calls them stupid. Maybe the whole idea of the poor ig’nant Cat’lic laity should be retired.

  8. Mike says:

    They only have to look it up once, and they’ll be familiar forever.

    I’m guessing you’re not a teacher, or you wouldn’t have written that sentence. I’m not saying your basic point is wrong, but once normally isn’t enough.

  9. Mike says:

    Lots of Catholic Democrats are offended when George Weigel calls them stupid.

    I might be offended if I thought his opinion actually mattered.

  10. Tony says:

    I’m not saying your basic point is wrong, but once normally isn’t enough.

    How about every week for a couple of months?

  11. RP Burke says:

    I don’t go to Mass carrying a dictionary. Nor can I spell words correctly upon their first hearing, so that I can use the dictionary if I don’t hear a word correctly. So the “use a dictionary” retort is as bogus as the “that’s your personal taste” retort on music: nothing more than “Shut up and put up with what I happen to like.”

  12. Jim McK says:

    Using a dictionary presumes that someone will 1>remember the word 2>care what it means.

    At a recent session, a friend of mine found out what “hallowed” means. He has been using it daily for most of his 60 years, but had forgotten or never knew.

    Rote recitation, rather than engaged prayer, should not be the aim of any liturgical reform imo. Unknown vocabulary makes it harder to engage.

  13. Tony says:

    RP Burke Says:
    I don’t go to Mass carrying a dictionary. Nor can I spell words correctly upon their first hearing…

    Do they have missalettes at your church? You know, the ones that have “Sing a New Church” in them? This would allow you to know how the word is spelled to look it up.

    Better yet, we could have Bishop Trautman write the footnotes for any word he doesn’t think Catholics might be able to learn. This would be the most complete glossary because his opinion of our intelligence is the lowest.

    Jim McK Says:
    Using a dictionary presumes that someone will 1>remember the word 2>care what it means.

    Can’t “legislate” caring. If they don’t care with the old translation, they won’t care with the new one.

    At a recent session, a friend of mine found out what “hallowed” means. He has been using it daily for most of his 60 years, but had forgotten or never knew.

    Case in point.

    Rote recitation, rather than engaged prayer, should not be the aim of any liturgical reform imo. Unknown vocabulary makes it harder to engage.

    So now you know how I felt about the “reforms” of Vatican II. I was engaged to the point I was contemplating the priesthood, and Vatican II “disengaged” me.

    Oh, I learned the words and what they meant, and recently (the last 10 years) I have reengaged. I’m ready for a less antiseptic translation and I’m ready to pray above a third grade level.

    So suck it up, boys. Bring your dictionaries the first day the new translation is rolled out and get engaged.

    • Jim McK says:

      I have not a clue about how you felt when the reforms of V2 came. If you were engaged with God then, you would want more people to be able to pray with you. Instead you let the clumsiness of the words disrupt your relationship with God? Not something I can understand at all.

      Words give form to our relationship with God. If they cannot be understood, the relationship may never start. If they can be understood, their richness will echo, sparking new insights or deepening the relationship.

  14. Are the more complex words found only in the propers of the Mass, rather than the ordinary? I’ve read the Order of Mass and I didn’t have trouble understanding it. There were a couple of sentences that I needed to read more than once, so that I could read them correctly — there’s a bit of a doozy in E.P. I — but other than that, it made sense to me.

    If the trickiest words are in the propers, I think it would be appropriate for the priest to catechize the faithful about the CONTENT of those prayers during the Mass, either through the homily or through the little interjections he’s permitted to make. That could even start now, with our current translation. Do people actually LISTEN to the presidential prayers and understand them?

    There’s also plenty of time for catechesis… at least two years of time.

  15. Pedro says:

    Solution: level the field, let us all pray in Latin.

  16. George says:

    God speaks to us in a language we can understand. . . whether in words or gestures. We worked for years to pull people’s faces out of the pages of missalettes. Now they’ll be stuck there again for another generation. Any time spent trying to remember new responses and relearn what has been written on our hearts for our entire lives, is time distracting us from the work of the Holy Spirit. . . Bring a dictionary to church? You’ve got to be kidding. . .

  17. Pingback: Vocabulary and Liturgy « Catholic Sensibility

  18. Gavin says:

    There are two of those words whose definitions I’m not sure of. But I’m certain they make sense in context.

  19. RP Burke says:

    Tony,

    You must have forgotten that the words are supposed to be proclaimed and clearly said aloud, obviating (now THERE’S a word for you) the need for a missalette.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s