Will the new English translation of the liturgy make our worship more reverent? I doubt it. This doesn’t mean that I am opposed to the new translation. From what I’ve seen so far it has its good points and its bad points. No translation is perfect, and I reckon we’re swapping one set of problems for another. Don’t get me wrong. I’m in favor of the new translation and have high hopes for its successful implementation.
However, we must imagine that a more dignified and more accurate translation of the Mass is going to automatically make Catholic worship reverent. Catholic worship isn’t reverent or irreverent just because of the words you use. This should be obvious to anyone who has attended a reverently and carefully celebrated Novus Ordo Mass.
What is more important than the words is how the Mass is celebrated by both the priest and the people. I am quite sure that when the new Mass is introduced that Fr. Folkmass will still celebrate Mass in his usual game show host style while other priests will celebrate the Mass casually and carelessly. Many Americans will still shuffle into Mass late wearing shorts and flip flops. Comfort hymns and crooners with hand held microphones will still lead the music and politically correct former nuns will still bully everyone into singing protest anthems instead of hymns.
Mass isn’t reverent simply because you start using lofty language that ‘sounds religious’. True reverence is the fruit of a condition of heart. Reverence in worship is a by product of a certain type of Catholic mindset. It is not the automatic product of a particular form of words.
This is why I am not that optimistic about the new translation making Catholic worship more reverent. To understand the irreverence in much Catholic worship we have to probe much deeper than the form of words we use for worship. Catholic worship is too often irreverent because Catholics (priests and people) have stopped really believing the Catholic faith.
I’m sorry to call a spade a spade, but far too many Catholics don’t actually believe in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They believe in the fellowship meal. They don’t believe in transubstantiation. They believe in ‘the real presence’ (a vague and flexible term which can mean practically anything) That’s why Mass is irreverent–because they’ve changed it from a participation in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, which takes them into the very presence of the throne room of the King of Kings to a cross between a protest march and a pot luck supper at which we sing campfire songs.
The new translation of the Mass will provide more reverent language to those who are already reverent at Mass, but real change for the irreverent masses will come not with a change of words, but with a change of heart.