Friday, December 2, 2011

Beating My Breast

This post will probably interest mainly Catholics, at least those who attend Mass or have read about changes in the liturgy. I mean the recent effort to return to the Latin original after 40 years of using a serviceable English translation of the Missal.

First, I have to say that change itself in such cases, when it is enforced on the faithful, is problematic: People do not like change any more than our cat welcomes any alteration in her space. The updating of the Mass in the 1960s was so traumatic for many traditionalists that they fled elsewhere.

Now the changes are less drastic but seemingly unnecessary, a huge expense of time and money when attention should be paid to bigger issues. But that is what bureaucrats in Rome do: divert our attention from the crisis in the priesthood by burdening the priests with learning a new translation that may be more "accurate" in some respects but which lacks lyrical grace and beauty.

As Eugene C. Kennedy writes, it is all a clerical trick to divert our attention from more serious matters: Rome burns and fiddles with words. He, like me, does not want to be taken back to 1950. We do not want a reform of the reforming Second Vatican Council, which emphasiszed the community; the new translation emphasizes the individual, as when we return to saying: "I believe" and "through my most grievous fault."

This latter (mea maxima culpa) requires a beating of the breast, actually a gentle tap on the chest to remind me of my sin and guilt, to recall that ascetic practice of the past called "taking the discipline," in which the penitent whips himself with a small corded rope, not to inflict pain but to remind him or her of the unmerited suffering of Christ.

If I want such a reminder of unmerited suffering, I can turn on the news and see the suffering of Christ in the faces of people in Africa and the Mideast or wherever torture, war, abuse, and injustice reign. As to mortifying my flesh, I can--and do--prefer to work out at the Y, where the disciplining of my body and its frail flesh is a quite adequate reminder of my physical weakness and laziness. That workout has its spiritual side.

So I do not intend to beat my breast. I am too progressive to move backward. As to the translation, I will probably, like most people, try to ignore the changes as best I can and say the old words quietly while continuing to pay to support a church that thinks such unnecessary and diversionary changes are just what we need.

Of course, if the liturgists had hired a few poets to help them give us a memorable translation, it would be different matter. In private, in my own language,I will pray for the priests, especially the brave ones who are advocating what Rome fears: the ordination of married men and women. That would be progressive, but I will not live to see it happen, if it ever does.

No comments: