Sunday, June 15, 2008

Where were you people 30 years ago?

The story is out about the vote on Rome's English translation of texts of the Mass by U.S. Bishops at their meeting down in Florida.  Like a papal conclave, the vote to approve the texts was "insufficient for election" (to use an homage to "Shoes of the Fisherman").

The reasons given for votes against the texts?  Bishop Galeone said that he hadn't heard some of these words since 1949.  Bishop Sklba said that if the texts were approved, that both clergy and laity would pester the prelates to fix "perceived" defects (interesting.  So if it is only "perceived" to be broken, would you then only have to "pretend" to fix it?).  Bishop Trautman complained of "archaic and obscure" terms.  Bishop Lynch joked that the lengthy sentences of the new texts would force priests to prepare themselves by pausing long enough to gather some breath (though, believe me, I've witnessed enough banal homilies in my short number of years to debunk the rumor that clergymen are in need of greater lung capacity).

So old words, words that appear to be outdated or unused in modern society have no place in 2008?  My question is this:  Where were you people 30 years ago when I was forced to study old, outdated, and obscure words for the SAT test?  Even if you weren't in any position to get me exempted from taking the test, the least you could've done was give me and my friends some support in our cause.

You see, thirty years ago we were using that same argument with our parents and teachers.  Why do we have to learn the meanings of words that aren't used in regular, everyday conversations?  While we're at it, why do we have to learn things like the atomic number for zinc?  How about having to learn sines and cosines, secants and the Distance Formula?  Do I really have to learn how to parallel park if I promise I'll never actually do it?

The answer we almost always got happened to be in pretty simple, easy to understand language: "Because I said so!"  We had to learn it because our parents had to learn it, and their parents had to learn it before them, because our great grandparents wished they'd have had the time to learn it, but had to go to work instead.  We had to learn it because, when we entered the classroom for whatever subject, those things were the important things to learn.  It was how we communicated, how we understood things, and how we compared things to each other in the world of math, science, etc.

Doesn't our faith deserve the same attention to detail?  Won't words we don't normally hear in our mundane lives give us the subliminal suggestion that what we do in church is not "of" our everyday world?  You know, "tithing" is an obscure, some would say archaic word, but Catholics have been hearing plenty about it for the past twenty years or so.  So "wrought" and "deign" and "gibbet" are new words; we'll learn them eventually.  How many people every day, when push comes to shove, find themselves in the emergency room of a hospital, talking to a doctor about someone in their family, using big, complicated words like, "myocardial infarction" or "deviated septum", and adapt and learn the words?  Besides, if this provokes clergy & laity to expand their vocabulary, is that such a bad thing?  If it means that clergy will have to prepare themselves by reading over a few times the prayers they're going to pray at Mass, is that so bad?  Don't we expect our doctors and lawyers to do similar preparation?

I promise, I'll still speak "regular guy" when Mass is over.


Victoria said...

Mary Catholic here and I find it incredibly patronising that some bishops presume that I am too dumb to use a dictionary when I come across a word I dont' understand.

None of us were born with the vocabulary which we would need for all of our lives; we had to learn new words as our situation demanded. Have these bishops forgotten this?

God forbid that a priest should explain the meaning of some new words from the pulpit.

Mike Lavey said...

The Church has the responsibility to be an educator to its people. If we do not teach our youth the meaning of these words, and simply continue to dumb down the liturgy to reflect the break down of our language, then we are doing our youth a great disservice.

Having just finished my student teaching, working in two public high schools, I saw first hand the need for students to be exposed to proper English and new vocabulary. I'm frightened that our language.. and perhaps even our liturgical translations... will start to be reduced to "LOL, TTYL, BFF, and OMG".

To say people can not understand "big words" is to say that we give in to ignorance.

Unknown said...

I will pray for each and every one of the wayward bishops.

I'm thinking Ps. 108:8.



Jayna said...

Looks to me like another case of No Parishioner Left Behind. Some of these bishops, I didn't even know it was possible to be that patronizing.

Fr. James Weldon said...

Good article.
I can't believe how stupid the bishop's think the laity are. One minute they tell us how educated and sophisticated the laity are and the next they tell us that they have the vocabulary of a 3rd grader.
Fr. Jim Weldon

Laura said...

Last year, I participated in a diocesan event in which a highly regarded priest quite arrogantly told us that we needed to "resist" the new translation of the Mass, because he was certain that none of us could properly respond to "Dominus vobiscum."

But who bears the greater responsibility? Those who do not know know "et cum spiritu tuo," or those who failed to teach it?