Here is the second letter to my parish about the new translation:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
One of the things that sets us apart from our Protestant brothers and sisters is that we worship God liturgically. This means we use set forms and given words for our worship. When I was a Protestant I heard criticisms of liturgical worship–”Those Catholics just pray in vain repetition. They don’t know what they’re saying. They just parrot the words.” Others would say, “How can you have a heart to heart relationship with Jesus when all you do is read words out of a book and call that prayer?”
Although the comments were often phrased negatively, the folks were asking a good question. Why do we read words out of a book and not pray ‘directly from the heart”?
In fact Catholics are encouraged to have a personal relationship with Jesus and intimate prayer in a personal way is encouraged. The saints talked happily with Jesus and Mary in prayer and it is a good and wonderful thing to take our burdens and prayers and praises directly to Christ in a heartfelt way in our own words. So Catholics don’t prohibit that kind of prayer. It’s just that in public we use our shared words of worship, not our own private petitions.
Using the words that the Church gives us helps our ordinary prayers to transcend our ordinary lives. It’s kind of like writing a love letter to your beloved, but you also include a sonnet by Shakespeare. Shakespeare expresses your feelings in a much more exalted and beautiful way than you are able. So it is with liturgy. We use the words of worship given to us by the Church and this lifts our prayer to a higher level.
In addition to this, the words of worship in the liturgy unite us with all Catholics everywhere. These are not just my words, they are the words I share with all Catholics around the world and down through the ages. Through the liturgy my ordinary life is lifted up and I share in the communion of the saints.
Finally, when I pray using the words of the liturgy my prayer becomes something greater than I was capable of on my own. I am using the words of Scripture I didn’t know myself. I am praying through the doctrines and mysteries that I only partially understand on my own. I am entering into new and deeper dimensions of my faith that, on my own, I was only partially able to glimpse.
The new translation of the liturgy will help all these aspects to come alive for us in a new way, and I hope as we move forward later this year that you will do so with anticipation and an open heart and mind.