Church must speak the people’s jargon
23rd September 2013 · 0 Comments
By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Among numerous other things a half-century ago, on November 29, 1964, use of the vernacular as the ordinary language of the Mass, as allowed by the Second Vatican Council, went into effect. In view of the current mangling of English in the Roman Missal, should we call what we are reading now not the vernacular, but Langlish, as in a Latin-English hybrid?
In the new translation of the Roman Missal (Sacramentary), the translators stated that they set out to be true to the original Latin text. That is all right and good, provided one does not end up with a translation that is slavish and very stilted. Well, folks, for the most part, the translators were so true to the Latin that the result is indeed slavish and very stilted.
For a while, I wondered whether I was one of a few lone wolves who struggled to articulate what I was reading in the new translation of the Roman Missal (Sacra-mentary), but I soon discovered that our name is legion, and that is likely understated. Sometimes, one gets the feeling that he is reading a series of tongue twisters put there specifically to torment him.
Perhaps it is worst for those of us who know Latin well, for one’s knowledge of Latin is just an additional annoyance when struggling to read the prayers and prefaces in what is alleged to be English, but is actually Latin dressed up in quasi-English clothes and frills.
Realizing that all my words will probably fall on deaf ears for the next two decades or so, I nevertheless pose the question, “Is it asking too much to ask the Church’s brain trust to give us English – correct to be sure – that we do not hesitate to use in everyday life?” I write all the time, but I would be ashamed to use clumsy, stilted Langlish in any of my writings. Positioning of verbs and adjectives in Latin prose depends on the desired emphasis of a word and the flow of the language. To put it mildly, there is no good matchup of Latin word order emphasis with a word order that flows in English. They cannot be married.
Herewith, I present to you a priceless nugget from the first prayer of the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, “Almighty, ever-living God, whom, taught by the Holy Spirit, we dare to call our Father,…” Incredibly, we are talking directly to God with that objective case “whom.” How can we speak directly to another and address him/her with a clausal whom?
The equivalent would be to tell someone, “Fred, whom, through the courtesy of your parents, I am able to call friend, listen to the request I have for you today.” We do not pray to God privately in this manner. So, why should we speak to God thus in public prayers? We are reputedly praying to our Father in heaven, folks. Would you speak to your earthly father in such stilted, stiff language? So why should we pray so aloofly to our heavenly Father?
Granted, God understands us in whatever language we speak – or don’t speak, such as our raw thoughts. Still, by what rationale should be speak to god in Langlish and to each other in English? In case the translators have not heard, Lang-lish is not our vernacular.
Annoyingly, the translators were stuck on the generic man/men that troubles almost as many of us males as it does our female counterparts. It is understood that there is a time and place to use the generic man/men, but the Mass is not one of those times or places.
The Creed says, “for us MEN and our salvation.” Come on, just leave MEN out since US is all-inclusive. Frankly, we have to go out of our way just to add men. It is more than obvious that there were no women in the advisory, let alone the decision-making body. I am more convinced than ever that the all-male brain trust of the Church is its worst flaw.
Again, in some prefaces, sin came through man (US) and through man (US) Jesus redeemed us. Just leave MAN out, please, and replace it with US. It can be uncomplicated!
Did the translators in all their wisdom about the Greek “homousios” have to change “one in being” to “consubstantial,” despite the fact that “one in being” is simple and easy? I certainly hope that the folks in charge are not going out of their way to complicate our lives.
That consubstantial twist still wrings a grimace out of me every time I read/recite the creed.
Of some interest is the fact that liturgy (Greek λειτουργία) is the action of the people. In support of this, Church leaders must focus on writing and speaking the people’s language.
I harbor scant hope that the illustrious scholars who engineered the new translation will note the remarks I make here. However, they may eventually heed statements like that of our OMM Church member who said with a wry smile, “None of us like it!”
This article originally published in the September 23, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.