"What if we said 'wait'?" missal critic says: nevermind

An outspoken critic of the new missal is reversing course:

A prominent Catholic pastor in Seattle is “letting go” of his campaign against a new Latinized translation of the church liturgy, but not his convictions in starting it.

“It is the people who will have the last word on the new missal once it is introduced,” Fr. Michael Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral, said in a Sunday morning homily.

Noting that the missal will be introduced later this year, Ryan added:  “This is neither the time nor the place for arguing the matter.”  He pledged to work toward harmonious introduction of the new language into the cathedral’s worship.

Ryan caused a national stir among Catholic priests, bishops and scholars, when he wrote a critical 2009 article for the Jesuit magazine America.

He launched a campaign entitled “What if we said ‘Wait’?” aimed at taking a second look — involving the laity — at liturgical handiwork of the Vatican’s powerful, insular Congregation for Divine Worship.

The new translations demonstrate that precise translation of Latin texts into English can result in language that is “awkward, arcane, clumsy and in many cases far removed from the way people speak,” Ryan wrote in America.

The texts will have Catholics using such phrases as “consubstantial with the Father,” “serene and kindly countenance,” “Joseph, spouse of the same virgin,” and “send down your spirit like the dewfall.”

Such language, Ryan told his congregation Sunday, he felt to be  “a step away from the spirit of the Second Vatican Council on the renewal of the liturgy,” and the Council’s stress on an enhanced decision-making role for the world’s bishops.

Ryan shared with his congregation what has been a struggle with the new language in the light of Jesus’ call in the gospel for trust.  It was a theme of Sunday’s reading from the St. Matthew Gospel.

As a young priest, Ryan stood in St. Peter’s Square as Pope Paul VI proclaimed reforms in the church.  Bishop Raymond Hunthausen of Helena, Montana — a future Seattle archbishop — was one of the youngest bishops at the global gathering.

But the Vatican isn’t waiting, and a majority of American bishops support the new translations, which “stacks the deck” against those urging a more deliberate approach, Ryan said Sunday.

“As the saying goes, they’re coming soon to a church near you,” Ryan added. (Use of the new texts will start in the pre-Christmas season of Advent, which is the beginning of the church year.”

Read the rest.

And you can visit the website Fr. Ryan created on this subject for more comment and analysis.

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6 responses to “"What if we said 'wait'?" missal critic says: nevermind”

  1. If Fr. Ryan had merely written a letter to America or Commonweal, or penned a simplified form of his original article, it would have been enough to raise the issues with the new translation. Instead, he chose to send copies of a letter to every cathedral rector in the country, create his website and promote it both in the article and in two- or three-line ads in the magazine’s Classified section over the course of several months.

    By comparison, in that same timeframe Fr. Anthony Ruff used his PrayTell blog to incorporate liturgical experts, historical documents and enough well-moderated discussion to start a conversation on the issue, which incorporates a broad range within the academic and ecclesiastical spectrum.

    Arguably, Ryan became a one-man cottage industry of open dissent. He should be credited for stopping what he started, if not taking it down a few notches. Surely a larger share would go to his new boss, Archbishop Peter Sartain.

  2. The thought that the language of the liturgy should be the everyday language of the people is truly frightening, if one considers the vulgarity that has become so commonplace that writers seem to feel compelled to sprinkle their works liberally with words I never heard my father use.

  3. We had a session here in our diocese recently on the new translations. One of the most important insights I gained from it was that the ICEL English translations are strict and formal with very good reason. It’s not just for the sake of more reverent language, or more literal Latin phrasing.

    It also has to do with the fact that these translations will serve as the medium for translations of the Latin Mass into other languages. Our facilitator pointed out that places like Uzbekistan are not exactly flush with Latin scholars able to provide a sound translation from the Latin rite into the vernacular. Therefore the ICEL version will often be utilized as a go-between, with the translation going from English into the local language.

    I don’t have a source for this, but it certainly makes sense to me.

  4. The connection between the scriptural sources is much more clear in the new translation…opening up a new world of understanding for me.
    Some might find the adjustment difficult, but am really looking forward to this this teachable moment!

  5. It’s sorta like swimming against the tide.. Eventually you get tired and the water carries you back where you started.. I think our most effective prayers are in “the silence of our hearts.”

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