He is Here in Our Midst

So here’s an interesting tidbit that I missed from the PrayTell blog. Turns out that the Brazilians use some interesting choices in their missal. Check them out.

O Sehor esteja convosco. Ele está no meio de nós.
(The Lord be with you. He is here in our midst.)

Here’s another greeting he’ll use:
A paz esteja convosco. O amor de Cristo nos uniu.
(Peace be with you. The love of Christ has brought us together.)

The liturgical translations in use in Brazil for several decades are quite interesting in their lively creativity. The formula in the “supper narrative” of the Eucharistic Prayer in Portuguese remains “for you and for all.”

The response at the invitation to Communion is still “…and I shall be healed/saved,” not “…and my soul…”

Love it. I especially like “He is here in our midst.” Which I think is exactly the right note to hit. Basically it says, The Lord be with you and the response is “Don’tcha know it?” (with a nod to our friends in Minnesota).

It seems the Pope likes the use of simple vernacular. It would have been interesting to hear his take on the changes that the United States instituted and even to hear what he thinks of them now after the fact.

My students loved hearing all the different languages at World Youth Day. I don’t have the ear for languages but speak a bit of liturgical Spanish and Italian so the Portuguese is a bit familiar sounding.

Rating the New Translations

U.S. Catholic is asking for opinions on the new mass translations now that we’re coming up on a year of using them.

Now that the faithful have had nearly a year to get used to the new translation, have their feelings about the new Roman Missal changed? Has it become familiar and accepted, or is it more of an unwelcome intrusion in the lives of Catholics?

I would say for myself that I don’t believe these translations have enhanced nor detracted from my experience of prayer at mass. The process of learning the new translations however, was a bit cumbersome for me and I could think of a dozen ways that our time as church could have been better spent.

That said, if it has enhanced anyone’s prayer or brought them closer to God, then we can’t say it hasn’t been successful. How many have left the church over it? I would say not too many–most people could care less and I would think that some people might not have even noticed that there were any changes. As always those most involved are the ones that care the most—but only about 8% are that involved.

Take the survey here and let U.S. Catholic know what you think.

Tonight Falls the Giant Testicle

That’s how Malachy McCourt, brother of Frank, and famed raconteur of talk shows would start his New Year’s Eve show. But then he’d get serious and say, by the end of the year some of you listeners will no longer be with us. And if that is so…then how are you to live this year?

An excellent question…how will we live? What successes and failures and surprises await us? How will we change and who will bring change to us? What will touch our heart and what will challenge held convictions–maybe for the better? Who will be President and who will go home defeated?

What will our church look like in this first new year of new translations? Will our Pope resign as has been rumored because of his age? What new movements might be upcoming with the young church?

It is indeed exciting…and we need some excitement. It keeps the old heart ticking and reminds us of the life we all have left in us.

So live…and love, even when it’s hard…even when you have to forgive to do so…love your neighbor and your enemies in 2012.

And pray, that God, who isn’t finished with any of us, just might reveal more to us about His love for us.

Special prayers for a new year to those who seek my help in spiritual direction and for the UB students. And of course to my wife and that little dog of ours–who make every year worth living even more.

So…How’s the New Liturgical Changes Treating You?

We’ve let this go for a bit, but I’m doing Ok with it. I’ve got “And with your spirit” down now. I go 5 for 5 every mass now. The one that keeps tripping me is “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof….”

Just doesn’t automatically roll off the tongue.

I took special notice at Christmas to see what the not-so-often church attendees said. Truth be told they probably did better than most of us who come regularly because they had enough humility to actually use the worship aid. I’ve seen people in several parishes not even bother and just say nothing or say what they want to say.

Any funny stories? I heard one from Fr. John Mack, who often presides at our seminary here in Buffalo. He was quite pleased with the effort that a parish he assists in made in learning the new translation. He wanted to praise their efforts and so he did so at the end of mass before the final blessing. “So nice job, everyone…And the Lord be with you.”

And the crowd roared back, “And also with you.”

Well…they were almost there.

Your thoughts after nearly a month of this?

A Unitarian on Faith Formation

Since the Unitarians are a creedless faith, The Rev. Peter C. Boullata took up the charge of hoping that they haven’t “institutionalized narcissism. He talks about the challenge to do faith formation in their denomination. I was both excited and troubled that they have some of the same problems that we Catholics do at times with proclaiming “Just who they heck are we as church anyway and how do we teach others to proclaim that?”.

Rev Peter writes in post entitled The Liberal Church Finding Its Mission: It’s Not About You:

A good deal of this slippage comes from a lack of opportunities for faith formation in our congregations, especially among adults. A disciplined search for truth and meaning takes effort; it takes discipline. Being unencumbered by doctrine ought not imply that doctrine is not examined for the truth it may contain. Indeed, not being constrained by creedal formulations seems to have been translated into an abandonment of theological reflection altogether. We offer a non-dogmatic approach and context to religious inquiry without equipping members of our communities for the search. Discerning your spiritual path is difficult without tools, without support.

Faith formation is not simply adult religious education. Run a couple of classes on building your own theology and spiritual practice and then you’re done. Formation involves worship and preaching, mission work and governance. It’s the work of the entire enterprise of being church together. It takes place collectively, mutually as well as individually. We are also formed as people of faith in conversation with the tradition, with our historic testimonies. The tradition speaks to us and we respond. We respond lovingly, critically, thoughtfully–but recognize that our historic context has a voice shaping today’s conversation about who we are and what we’re about.

At times, I think we Catholics too tend to overlook our creed in favor of highlighting a God of love and casting “what we stand together on” to the wind. Obviously, even within churches people have healthy disagreement and even dissent at times–a church this big is bound to see that. Yet, we can’t just be a “God is love, now draw a rainbow” church. We also can’t just highlight the social justice aspects without some theology to back up why the heck we care about the poor. We also can’t afford to not help people with their own personal spiritual journey. How do people come to know God and form images of God–and most importantly, how do they let God be God and work on them so that they might become all that God made them to be?

A final comment from our Unitarian friend:

Inasmuch as Unitarian Universalist communities continue to neglect discernment, theology, discipline, spiritual practice, faith formation, vocation and engagement with our historic testimonies and tradition, we will never be a missional religious movement. As long as we are known as the church of individual seekers we will never have the kind of impact that a missional religion has on transforming the world. It should go without saying that the chronically self-involved have no interest in serving the needs of others.

What would it take for us to be known in the wider community for some of the traits, characteristics and perspectives we hold in common and that we continue to share with our historic legacy? What would it take for our communal calling as a faith community to become as important as our much-vaunted individual spiritual journeys?

What do people say about your church as they drive past it to others? Are we the church where they believe that we should serve the needs of the poor because Jesus held them in special regard? Are we the church that encourages people to explore their relationship with the divine and to talk with others about that? Are we a church with a mission to change not just the world but also our own prejudices, biases and other shortcomings? Are we a church that encourages dialogue and yet can hold on to truths we’ve come to know in a dynamic tension?

I hope we are. But I fear sometimes, we just have people, especially young people to draw a rainbow and call it a day.

A hat tip to my favorite Unitarian Peacebang

New Translations: Got It Down Yet?

So I went 5 for 5 with the “And with your spirit” line this week. At our student mass, I thought they did a great job as well as I heard very little mistakes. At other masses with larger crowds obviously it’s still a bit more challenging.

People are even saying that it’s even getting silly in stages when people mess up, and that distracts from the mass. The opposite purpose that the new translations intend.

A good treatise on this is at Papal Bull today.

I have no problems with this more faithful translation. Indeed I prefer the King James Bible to recent translations that attempt to help readers by translating the meaning rather than the actual text. The new translation, by sticking close to the original Scripture, often has a poetry missing from the dynamic equivalent we were used to.

My favorite example of how modern translations miss the genius of the original occurs throughout the book of 2Kings. After each evil king God punishes his people and kills, “every one who pisseth against the wall.” Modern translations go for something like, “all the men.” So we give up color for blandness. No wonder we can’t recognize the genius of the Scriptures when they are reduced to pablum.

But Rome has taken this faithfulness too far. “Consubstantial” and “oblation” may be found in an English dictionary. But when was the last time you used these words outside church or a theology class? In no way does “consubtantial” have the poetry and grace of “one in being.” It’s just not English.

My point exactly. Here’s what I can’t understand at all:

Why would we want to translate the exact word from the Latin as opposed to the exact meaning? Do we not want people to understand our theology and be confused? Do we want to keep people in the dark? Or is it that we want people to dive into the liturgy and actually study it a bit more so that they do understand? While perhaps well intentioned, it also seems a bit inhospitable. If you came to my house I don’t think I’d be talking in code with others who are “in the know?”

So what went on in your parish? How are you doing with the translations after 2 weeks? Where do you think we’ll be after Christmas? All is good for the fodder here–both positive and negative alike.

Who Did Jesus Die for? For Many or For All?

So one of the new liturgical changes deals with a single word in the Eucharistic prayer, specifically in the words of the institution.

“It will be shed for you and for MANY…”

Does this mean that Jesus didn’t die for everyone?

So I hit the bible. I used the New American Bible since that is the one used at mass. The Last Supper scene is found only in the Synoptic Gospels, namely Matthew, Mark and Luke. Both Matthew and Mark use the word “Many” while the Lucan version says:

And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.

Jesus then goes on to say that his betrayer is at the table which the implication as I read it would be that His blood will EVEN be shed for the betrayer, namely Judas Iscariot.

Also in Matthew’s gospel there is a note and Mark’s gospel also makes reference to it in the New American Bible. It reads:

Many does not mean that some are excluded, but is a Semitism designating the collectivity who benefit from the service of the one, and is equivalent to “all.”

Now I’m not sure if the average person in the pew picks up on that the literal word for word translation is being used here despite the meaning of the word which translators call Direct Equivalence. Dynamic Equivalence was used in the now older version of the missal which concentrated on relating the exact meaning of the words as opposed to the exact word used. I think here this will do a disservice to some, especially those who are young or those who aren’t educated in biblical matters, who don’t know this and will only hear what they think is an exclusionary phrase.

Some say that this is just a different way of translating and that one way is not superior to another. I would agree when we’re talking about academic study, but we’re not. We’re talking about public proclamation which should be done so that people can UNDERSTAND what the meaning of the words are.

Anyway, I hope this clears up any confusion you might be having. We’ll bring up some other things as time goes on. If you have questions sock em to me! mike.googlinggod at gmail dot com.

Lead us Not Into Community, But Deliver Us From Hand-Holding

Bishop of Covington, Roger J. Foys issued some directives on the proper postures at mass. Here’s a doozy.

Special note should also be made concerning the gesture for the Our Father. Only the priest is given the instruction to “extend” his hands. Neither the deacon nor the lay faithful are instructed to do this. No gesture is prescribed for the lay faithful in the Roman Missal; nor the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore the extending or holding of hands by the faithful should not be performed.

Here we go…

My first thought is that this is silly. Who does it hurt if some people wish to hold hands during the Our Father (or at any other time for that matter)? For the record, my wife and I hold hands throughout mass for the most part. We are praying together as a married couple and uniting not only our marriage but our prayers to God. I give her hand a little squeeze when at the prayer of the faithful we pause for our own personal needs because I want her to know that I’m praying for her at that moment. A Bishop would have to pry her hand out of my cold dead one before I stop doing that. Has it helped our marriage? You bet. Does it makes us want to pray together more often? Bingo. Is it a sign of our married love for others? Some people tell us it is and others admittedly, think we’re a bit much.

That said, I also think that nobody should be compelled to hold hands either. I know I see medical students holding hands at mass during the Our Father and other students who don’t do it. No harm, no foul. Look at the picture I selected, some are holding hands and others are extending theirs.

Simply put, we’re all different. Some folks have a more private spirituality and others are more communal. Some would say that corporate prayer should maintain some uniformity–where we all do the same thing. I can see the point, but only to a point. Should we all pray for the exact same thing each week? Sure. But again, only to a point.

To repeat a strain from yesterday, isn’t there more that Bishops and all of us for that matter should be worried about? If we’re going to alienate a group of people how about the atheists? How about companies that embezzle? How about war mongers?

I’d also like to see how the Bishop in question plans to enforce this. Perhaps a mild electric shock is given every time someone touches someone else in Covington?

I get that some people don’t want to hold hands during the Our Father. Some are germ phobic. Some don’t want to notice how clammy, cold or warm another’s hands are during the prayer because it distracts them. But some also have a prayer life enriched by it.

We should encourage freedom in prayer. If that means praying with one’s hands extended, or holding the hand of someone else who is willing then there’s no harm done. If that means we close our eyes and keep our hands at our sides, then again, no harm is done.

It’s not like someone decided to breakdance to “One Bread, One Body.”

With all due, respect…get over it, Bishop. You can’t force people to pray in the way YOU’D prefer them to.

And if I’m ever in Covington, I hope you come and say hi. You’ll find me at mass holding my wife’s hand.

Have We Become the Pharisees?

I took a random straw poll of friends asking them what are the priorities of the Catholic Church? I asked them what their Bishop has asked them to concentrate on? Almost none of them even knew the Bishop’s name. One didn’t even know the diocese they lived in. I asked about their local parish which whom they were more familiar and they equated those priorities mostly with the sacramental preparation of children, some said a Catholic school linked to the parish, marriage was mentioned by some and a handful said that they were looking at how to get younger people involved at mass.

This week we’ve talked a lot about the new liturgical translations. And while our experience of worship together is not unimportant, I wonder why we don’t look outward more as Catholics? We spend a whole lot of time looking inward at ourselves and at the experience we provide inside the church. I would argue that we probably spend 75% of our time looking inward and maybe 25% of our time looking outward at best.

If we want our pews filled that needs to turn around. We need to spend more time outside those four walls of the church. We need to be more active in neighborhoods and with city planners and mayors and councilmen (even if they are pro-choice) talking about how we can lend a hand to fight urban blight, poverty, the lack of health care and how we might provide better education.

We need to be with the poor and hungry and reach out to those in need. We need to see priests and nuns and lay ministers and parishioners with firefighters on the scene as they choke back tears from the child they found burned to death. We need to send our parishioners to the soup kitchens and shelters and to make sure that they are safer and providing for the basic needs of humanity. We need to support the mentally ill who often are pariahs in our culture.

We have to ask parishioners to take in a foster child or support a woman who wants to turn to abortion out of desperation. We’ll be an easy alternative that folks just might be eager to find because we’re out there–visible.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta did just that. She reportedly spent at least 3 hours in prayer per day (an hour for mass and 2 hours of personal prayer per day. If she got eight hours of sleep per night that still left her with 13 hours in her day where she looked outward to the slums. Prayer wasn’t unimportant to her, nor the mass. She needed those things to be able to do the work that she was called to do.

I think she brought a lot of people to the Catholic faith because of that.

And it was a pretty simple solution, it was right there under her nose all along. And it was hard. Doing the right thing usually is.

Jesus also pointed out to the Pharisees that they were way too self concerned in Matthew 23:

“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’.”

He goes on to say that we instead need to be servants to be great.

Indeed. And that service needs to inspire others for God’s kingdom to reign.

Where are our Mother Teresa’s today? Why are those stories not being told? Every time the church is in the media it’s almost always about something insular. Mass changes, child abuse, embezzlement, school and parish closings.

Where is the good news? Perhaps we’re not providing enough of that. Couldn’t we all do just a bit more as parish communities?

Perhaps we have found the Pharisees again. And perhaps it is us. I know I can do much more than I’ve been doing.

Granted, that when we are inside of our churches we need to take more care of how we execute the “performance” of liturgy for lack of a better word. How are we inspiring others with ritual and song and preaching?

But that’s only 25% of our time. What do we do with the other 75%?

It seems to me that a “movement” is at hand. That priorities have to be made to look outward as a Catholic community. We won’t all be Teresa of Calcutta–and that’s good, she’s already been here.

But we can be great. We can challenge ourselves to stretch far beyond where we think the limits of the human heart can go. We need to give the media something ELSE to cover–something that they can’t ignore because it’s just too inspiring to let go by.

Perhaps that’s what we start praying for? Perhaps that’s what the new Roman Missal awakens us to. That it is “our fault, our fault, our most grievous fault” that we all too easily look inward and only even do that superficially. Mass should provide us with the same strength that it provided Blessed Teresa with–and I pray that it does for us.

But I also pray that our work outside of mass can provide the same kind of inspiration for ourselves and others and that we do it boldly proclaiming our Catholicism. We’ve spent a lot of time and money on making our temple a holy place. Maybe it’s now time to actually place our resources elsewhere for awhile.

Perhaps if we do, then just because of that work, our pews just might be a bit more filled because they will know that we are Christians by our love?

What are Catholics known for today? Our challenge is to provide a much better answer to that.

When Was the Last Time We Had to Learn the Mass?

I’m in 4th grade and my mom and dad asked the Deacon in our church how old one needed to be to become an altar boy.

“4th grade or 10 years old” Deacon Al replied.

I beamed. I was in.

One of the first things that we had to do was to “borrow” a missalette from the church and to learn all the mass parts. We were expected to respond especially at the “quieter” weekday masses which we were also required to be a server at once or twice a week at either the 6:45 AM, 8:00AM, or in the summer, 9:00AM masses.

I can remember taking the little book home and memorizing the words. I even started to try to memorize the priest’s parts as time went on. (I was apparently an overachiever).

And I think that was a good practice for me. After all, as Deacon Greg Kandra reminds us, the ENTIRE mass is for us. All of us. While the priest says certain words throughout the mass, we are not passive recipients. We are supposed to be praying along with him. One liturgist I know once said to me that this is why it bothered him so much when priests would change the words in the Eucharistic Prayer. “When you do that, you break my prayer. I want to tell the priest that the prayer isn’t his alone, rather it belongs to all the people of God.”

The truth is that it didn’t take long (now I was also a young kid with a mind like a steel trap back then. These days I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night or the name of the woman whose been sitting next to me in meetings for months).

This past Sunday I used my iPhone to follow the words of the Eucharistic Prayer that was used at mass. The so-called Elevated language that is used at times I find silly, but for the most part I didn’t find it all that different from the old prayer–perhaps just a reordering of words or a different word choice. My initial thought is that this wasn’t really worth all the hullaballoo that we’ve made over it.

As an example, not from the Eucharistic Prayer this time, but a colleague told me that a student asked their Bishop what the word “consubstantial” even means. And without blinking an eye the Bishop said “one in being with.”

That’s what we used to say. Really? This is what we spent time doing? Putting $3 words where there once was four words that people understood? I’m not sure that was worth the effort.

In the Eucharistic Prayers, the word chalice was added to replace cup. While the priest is actually holding a chalice, most historians and theologians think otherwise and believe he was holding a common drinking vessel. The inflated language is far from needed here.

The mysteries of faith are another example. I can live without the simple “Christ has died” refrain. But look closely at this one and ask yourself what’s wrong with the new translated refrain:

The old way: Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of the world.

The New Missal: Save us, Savior of the World, for by your cross and resurrection you have set us free.

The latter sounds like a plea—perhaps even as if the one who says it doesn’t by that the resurrection has saved us. If Jesus has already done the saving then why are we asking him to do it again? The old way seemed to get this point on target. The new way seems like it’s bad theology.

Here’s the one that I still don’t get:

To our departed brothers and sisters
and to all who were pleasing to you
at their passing from this life,
give kind admittance to your kingdom.
There we hope to enjoy for ever the fullness of your glory
through Christ our Lord,
through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.

I call that paragraph “The Divine Ticket Taker” –one who gives us kind admittance. I hope it’s a lot deeper than that.

I prefer Eucharistic Prayer II’s words:

Remember also our brothers and sisters
who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection,
and all who have died in your mercy:
welcome them into the light of your face.
Have mercy on us all, we pray,
that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
with the blessed Apostles,
and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages, we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life,
and may praise and glorify you
He joins his hands.
through your Son, Jesus Christ.

While earlier in the prayer the calling down of the Holy Spirit is invoked and makes reference to the experience being like the “dewfall”–a bit literal for my tastes, but one I can live with. I hope I hear EPII or even EP IV most often.

I’m getting a bit nostalgic for the times when I was a young altar server, when the intricacies of the mass were new to me. I’m not in the same place now. These seems more annoying than anything else–perhaps it will work and perhaps not. Only time will tell.

But for better or for worse, we’d do well to read the entire new translation and figure out what we most resonate with and what other questions they might bring up for us.