Friday, October 6, 2017

Words Matter

Dear Friends,

At the same time as Pope Francis was in Columbia during late September, the Vatican issued a new document from the pope – a motu proprio, that is, a document written on his own initiative. In this document, Pope Francis announced a change in Canon Law which would return the process for approving translations of liturgical texts back to national bishops’ conferences rather than the Vatican. We might not think so, but this is an important change, which will allow the formal language used in our current celebrations of Eucharist to give way to language consistent with our lives today.

Words matter. Some words convey intellectual content and some words touch the heart and reflect our deepest selves. Words can draw us closer to God and things divine, or not. The culture in which we live also makes a difference to what words convey. In so many ways, words matter.

The Constitution on the Liturgy, the first document of the Second Vatican Council, called for our Eucharistic Liturgy to be in the vernacular, so that the faithful (you and I) could celebrate Christ’s self-gift to all with “full, conscious and active participation.” Any of us who were in the pews in 1973, as well as the priest-presiders, knew what arduous work it was to make the switch from Latin to English, but the effort made us experience Eucharist in a deeper way. It also became clear that the first English translation of the Roman Missal needed to be followed by a more polished, life-touching version. The International Commission on the English Language produced a beautiful new Mass text for use beginning in 1998, but Rome rejected this translation and had another translation prepared which we began to use in 2011.

Here is the Opening Prayer for the Feast of All Saints, as translated in each of these three time periods. I offer them here for you so you can get the “feel” of each way the community is encouraged to pray, and what we might look forward to. Try praying each of these out loud and hear how they feel.

Let us pray…                                                        
Father, all-powerful and ever-                         
living God, today we rejoice in the                  
holy men and women of every time               
and place. May their prayers bring us            
your forgiveness and love.                                
We ask this…                                                                                                        

Let us pray…                                        
All-holy and eternal God,                              
you have given us this feast                         
to celebrate on one day the                         
holy men and women of every                    
time and place. Through their                      
manifold intercession, grant us                     
the full measure of your mercy       
for which we so deeply long.                        
We ask this…                                                    
Let us pray…
Almighty, ever-living God,
by whose gift we venerate
in one celebration
the merits of all the Saints,
bestow on us, we pray,
through the prayers of so
many intercessors, an
abundance of the
reconciliation with you
for which we earnestly long.
Through our Lord….

It will probably be five to 10 years before our faith communities have a new Eucharistic translation that speaks to our hearts, but we may see glimpses of it before then. Even to know it is coming is an encouraging thing.

~Sister Joan Sobala