Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bishop Trautman on Language and Liturgy

In the Roman Catholic Church today, there is a passionate debate over the appropriate translation of liturgical texts, such as the readings from Scripture (Lectionary) and the prayers used at Mass (Sacramentary). Over the last several years, the Church has been retranslating the liturgical English texts that have been in use since the end of Vatican II. We now have a new English translation of the Lectionary implemented in 1998 (not without controversy), and a new translation of the Sacramentary is in the works.

This latter project, along with the instruction, Liturgicam authenticam, has prompted much discussion among the American bishops and liturgical scholars throughout the English-speaking world. And justifiably so. The fact is that whatever the result of this debate may be, a new translation of the Sacramentary will change the way we pray. The change could be as subtle as minor modifications to the priest's words, or it could be as major as changing the texts of the Gloria, the Creed, and other prayers we have learned, sung, and known by heart over the last 35 years.

For Bishop Donald Trautman, bishop of the Diocese of Erie, new translations do not simply change words; they change the way we participate in the liturgy. On March 27, 2006, he gave a lecture at Saint John's University, School of Theology-Seminary, in Collegeville, Minn., on the relationship between liturgical translations and the active participation of the assembly in the liturgy. In his lecture, he stated:
A translated text is intended for prayer, worship, lifting up the heart and mind to God. If a translation--no matter how exact--does not communicate in the living language of the worshipping assembly, it fails as a translation; it fails to lead to full, conscious, and active participation. This is the essential criterion and ultimate goal for all translations of the Sacramentary and Lectionary.
Read more about the debate and Bishop Trautman's entire lecture here.