AND WITH YOUR SPIRIT
Monday was a significant moment in the life of our local Church. Almost all (247 out of a possible 261) of the priests living, or working, or helping in the diocese gathered at the Bethany Center to begin the work of preparing ourselves and our people for the changes in translation of the Order of Mass which will begin next year at about this time (the First Sunday of Advent). I invited Bishop Blase Cupich, bishop of Spokane, to come and be present to us as we begin this journey from a translation which we have used for about forty years now to the new translation. The bishop holds a doctoral degree in Sacramental Theology from the Catholic University of America and was a member of the Committee on Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops during the time of discussion and debate on the new translation. God’s people in this diocese can approach any and all of your priests this week-end and ask how the presentation went and you will hear nothing but high praise, at least for the presenter and ever more likely for the changes which both the bishop, priests and people will have to become accustomed to in the months to come.
Bishop Cupich’s presentation was divided into three parts: the history of the Roman Missal in Latin and English from the Council to the present moment; changes effecting both priest presiders and people; and navigating the orations or prayers at Mass (opening, over the gifts, after communion) which tend to be long and also use some interesting phraseology and word choice. As challenging and different at times as this new translation is going to be, by the time we all left the Bethany Center on Monday, I think we shared a sense that the new translation is probably theologically richer than the translation we currently use and offers we priests new opportunities for preaching the faith at a deeper level by focusing on and integrating not only the readings but perhaps the prayers and orations as well. If you have the time, the Bishop allowed us to record the sessions (three of them each about forty-five minutes to one hour in length) and they will be accessible through our diocesan web-site and this blog once they are available.
The new translation is a work of many “chefs” and not just from the United States but from the English-speaking churches throughout the world as well as the competent offices of the Holy See (The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, for example). Therefore, it reflects a universality of English usage which is not always the American-idiom and we need to be prepared for this in the new translation. It is also a negotiated document, long in preparation and debated at length and some would say ad nauseum by our own bishops’ conference. I must say that many of the parts of translation which I found particularly troublesome were addressed in the final redaction, mostly to my personal satisfaction though that should count for little. So what we will be praying will be slightly different, more faithful to the Latin tradition and texts, and, I think, after some getting used to has the possibility of enhancing our celebration of the source and summit of our faith, the Eucharist.
We priests will help you come to the same conclusions and understanding prior to the implementation date on the First Sunday of Advent in 2011. We will hold five diocesan-wide consultations in February for those who will be involved in either the catechesis or the implementation. In the Fall, in early October, I will travel throughout the diocese to personally make myself available to all who wish to come to hear the why and the how of the changes coming. I personally want this to go well and our diocese to stand out for its smooth and stellar transition from the present to the future in our Eucharistic worship.
Bishop Cupich got us started Monday in a fine manner and it was one of the first times when almost all the priests left saying such things as: “this was excellent,” or “I came opposed and angry and left thinking, OK this can be done and explained,” or “now I get it.” We have established a firm foundation among the priests now for the transitional work which lies ahead. Expect to read a lot more about these changes in this blog, on a radio series which I intend to launch on the topic, and using the electronic media, our web-site as well as printed materials. Only a stranger in Church on the First Sunday of Advent next year will come to Church unaware of what that day will bring and most of us will come saying, I embrace this change. From the bishop and priests of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, thanks to Bishop Cupich for a great start.