Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More New Translation

Can you read that? Me neither..."rational"..."tunic"..."holocausts"?...willya just speak English?

 In 6th grade Wednesday Sunday School™ we spend 3 classes on the Mass, taught from the Missalette. The Mass quotes from the Bible extensively, and I expect the kids to recognize some of those instances, and figure out why they matter. Unfortunately, the current English translation of the Latin text isn't reliably close to the 'original' 1970 Latin Mass, nor to the English of the New American Bible, which can make the Scriptural sources hard to figure out. For example, the children are taught the story of the Centurion. In the NAB, he says:  "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed." But as we approach Communion in the Mass, we say: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed," which is so paraphrased I have to coach the kids into seeing the connection. And I wonder: what's the point of quoting Scripture if the quote can't be recognized by the typical layperson at Mass? I assume the prior translators wanted a more accessible text for the peeps in the pews, even if there was a corresponding loss of meaning and Biblical context. But if 11-year-olds can and do rise to the occasion, then their elders should be able to manage as well...which reminds me of the KJV/ Douai Rheims translation brouhaha in the early 17th century. 

Digressing already I see.

Anyway, I've been periodically keeping up with news about the final text of the Roman Missal, Third Edition; what I'd call the New & Improved English Mass. I've hoped for a text which is closer to the Latin Mass and closer to Scripture, which makes the catechist's job easier. For those who must know every detail, here's the link to the approved revised text:


The USCCB subtitles its Third Edition webpage "New Words: A Deeper Meaning, but the Same Mass," and they are absolutely right. I might've said "Back to the Old Words: A Deeper Meaning, but the Same Mass," but I wasn't on the committee.

And for those who simply must access the 1970 Latin text (you know who you are) here it is:


Out of the blue on Saturday (8/21), I learned from the pulpit that our parish would be hosting a lecture on Sunday by Msgr. Bruce Harbert on the New Translation of the Roman Canon; he's the executive director of ICEL (International Committee on English in the Liturgy), and superintended the translation. On Sunday his lecture covered the new translation in general, and specifically the first few lines of the Mass as examples. I was already familiar with the newly-revised Centurion's quote and preferred it to what we have now, and during the Q&A I asked him to comment on that particular bit of revision.

First, he said that to comment on the Centurion's line, he should back up and cover that whole part of the Mass. He started here: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," which is replaced by "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world." Catechetically the new version is much better, since it more closely aligns with John 1: 29 & 36.

The second line we have now is "Happy are those who are called to his supper." The new Third Edition says "Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb," which is closer to its source, Revelations 19:9. I would truly prefer "Blessed are those called to the wedding feast of the Lamb," per the Bible verse, but the 1970 Latin text says 'supper' not 'wedding feast'. So I'll still have to do some explaining as we go from the Missalette to the Bible. I do wonder why the writers of the Latin text didn't say 'wedding feast,' which is so much richer a concept than 'supper,' (Jesus marrying His Bride, the Church) but I wasn't on the committee. Think supper; now think wedding feast. Which one seems Heavenly to you? Uh-huh.

Last comes the Centurion, who now says, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed," and will soon say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." (Mt 8:8, Lk 7:6)  Again, I'd prefer the verse, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my servant shall be healed," which is what he like, said to Jesus, y'know? But I wasn't on the committee.

[Here are three texts in Latin: Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi/ Beati qui ad cenam Agni vocati sunt/ Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea.]

Msgr. elaborated a bit on each, and why the new translation was better. Then he paused...and said, "Does this answer your question?" I responded that it was a bugaboo every year in Catechism class to teach that chunks of the Mass are taken from Scripture, but the quotes in Mass are so altered that it's hard for the kids to make the connections without lots of explaining. The new translation will make my job easier. He then said that was really the point of the whole lecture: that the Third Edition will make the connection between the Mass and the Bible more explicit. As the meeting broke up, someone came over and said he had never realized that "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed" was intended to recall the Centurion. Imagine that.

(As it turns out, these three lines that he discussed are the same three that get most of the attention in my Mass classes, per this link: MassDensity.)

There's one other revision I'm aware of that will also make for better catechesis, which occurs in the Eucharistic prayer:

Currently: "Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven. Then, as we receive from this altar the sacred body and blood of your Son, let us be filled with every grace and blessing."

New: "In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, so that all of us who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing." In this case I'll be able to emphasize "participation." And the new text is much more vivid, which helps 6th-graders if not jaded adults.

(More on this part of the Mass here: Samson&EucharisticPrayer#1)

So I'm happy with the Third Edition Mass, and will be using it this year in Wednesday Sunday School™. By the time it debuts in November 2011, the kids'll be prepared, and may even explain some of it to their parents.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Translation Intermission

Between the last post and the next one, I'm adding this useful observation by friend, fellow blogger, and Latin translator extraordinaire, Magister Christianus, co-author of the book shown above. Magister writes in response to the issues involved in the latest English translation of the 1970 Latin Mass:

"If the English were not over their heads, I would share this with my students to help them see the importance of precision in language and all that goes into issues of translation. At some point I usually tell them that I do not know how to translate Latin myself. They are shocked, and then I explain with a simple sentence like:

Puella aquam portat.

My first year Latin students, who are just two weeks into the year, could translate this as "The girl carries water," but I point out some variations. Which of these is the best translation:

The girl carries the water.

The girl carries water.

A girl carries the water.

A girl carries water.

"This can go on and on until you have produced 27 distinct translations, several of which are not Standard English, but all of which incorporate some, though undoubtedly not all of what is going on in the Latin. The closest thing to a full translation is something like the following monstrosity:"

"A girl, perhaps one in particular or one in general or even the concept of girl, but no matter what understood as a smaller or lesser boy and thus significant for her attention-getting placement in the sentence, though the attention may simply be to connect the lesser boy with the servile content of the sentence, is now in the process of carrying or in general transports, but at this moment or in general does nothing else with, water, whether that be aquatic fluid in general, a particular yet unidentified container of water, or the specific container of water that had taken the speaker’s attention."

Magister blogs in English at Bedlam or Parnassus, and in Latin at Ecclesia Latina.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Translation

Yes, yes, it's completely exciting that we're getting a New (and unlike New Coke, improved) Mass in English, which will make catechizing the little pagans much easier, and which I'll post about in more detail later. In the meantime, get ready for whining from the pews and desks about having to, like, learn new stuff, y'know?

Just to show ya how old this Anglophone complaint is, let's look at the Preface to the 1611 King James Bible, which followed hot on the heels of the Douai-Rheims Bible, which was the English translation done under the auspices of the Catholic Church. In trying to stay faithful to the source text (St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate), the D-R translators borrowed some Latin words (some of which had first been borrowed from Greek) into their English Bible. The KJV translators, however, objected to putting such scholarly, unfamiliar words into a book which the common man should be able to understand, and said as much.

First, unlike the Puritans, they aren't gonna fiddle with what already works:

"Lastly, we have on the one side avoided the scrupulosity of the Puritans, who leave the old Ecclesiastical words, and betake them to other, as when they put WASHING for BAPTISM, and CONGREGATION instead of CHURCH..."

That is, Greek words such as 'Baptism' βαπτίζω are ok when everybody already knows them, and there's no point in replacing them with plain Anglo-Saxon stock such as 'Washing.' Which makes me wonder about those Puritans: 'washing' wouldn't translate 'baptize' all that well for the full-immersion-no-sprinkling crowd. And sturdy Anglo-Saxon 'Church' beats the Latin-sourced 'Congregation' any day. English people are familiar with Baptism and Church...leave well enough alone. (I wonder why they didn't try to translate Shakespeare into English? That's a little joke.)

Nor will they get hoity-toity like the Catholics across the Channel:

"....as also on the other side we have shunned the obscurity of the Papists, in their AZIMES, TUNIKE, RATIONAL, HOLOCAUSTS, PRAEPUCE, PASCHE, and a number of such like, whereof their late Translation is full, and that of purpose to darken the sense, that since they must needs translate the Bible, yet by the language thereof, it may be kept from being understood. But we desire that the Scripture may speak like itself, as in the language of Canaan, that it may be understood even of the very vulgar."

And to some extent they are right: who knows what azimes are? But then again, tunic, rational, and holocausts have been regular English words for a long time now, and thank ya Douai-Rheims for them; I suppose the KJV translators roll over in their graves every time an Englishman says "rational." Even Paschal is standard Church vocabulary on both sides of the Atlantic. Regarding praepuce...well, this isn't a blog about plumbing, and even to mention it is to say too much.

So the little effort it'll take to get acquainted with the new Mass in English should be worth it, and I can already assure you, neither azimes nor praepuce makes an appearance, thank goodness. We sure don't need no stinkin' azimes: if English was good enough for Jesus it's good enough for me.

This article has also been posted at Amazing Catechists.

Friday, August 6, 2010

2,000 Words

This article has also been posted at Sunday Snippets http://rannthisthat.blogspot.com/

I have pictures of my kids all over my office, from newborn to college to children of their own. I also have pictures my children drew all over my office, which prompt some thinking about catechism.

This one's typical:

This was drawn by two of my kids, Michael and Francesca. I think they were about 12 and 9 years old, but hey, tempus fugit. It's a little window into the mind of kids who are about the age of the young'uns I teach in 6th Grade Wednesday Sunday School ™.  This and other pics I have around me at work are a constant reminder of what 6th graders are capable of, and how class has to be structured to maximize their learning.

Right off, what does this drawing tell me about its young artists?
  • They have big imaginations, which play a major role in their thinking processes.
  • They can focus for a long time if they are interested.
  • They can handle detail.
  • They can be patient.
  • They don't need to be babied.
  • They will set their own high standards.
  • They believe in themselves and their own abilities.
  • They aren't self-conscious yet, not worried about being cool, or what their peers think.
  • They won't get tired if they aren't bored.
I mention their imaginations first, because I believe if you can charge your students' imaginations, the rest will follow. I'm reminded now that this wasn't true of the adults I used to teach in RCIA: I had to stimulate their intellects. The information both groups learn is basically the same: the Church, the Bible, Sacraments, the hierarchy; but the tactics are way different.

"Catechize" comes from the Greek word catechein, to re-sound, and is related to "echo," itself a re-sounding. Built into the meaning of catechizing is its spoken nature. For most of human history, oral catechesis  has been the norm. It's too bad that when we adults think "catechism" (κατηχισμός), we think of a thick, dry reference book, instead of the excitement of faith taught orally by one living person to another.

So for starters, I usually don't read more than a sentence or two at a time from any source without asking the kids a question or making an observation. And the questions can't be open-ended, or I won't get the answers I need to maintain the momentum of the discussion. Plus if the kids can be part of story that's good too. The Healing of the Paralytic is a great example with many themes (see my prior post). I used it in RCIA years ago and use it now in 6th grade, but differently, imaginatively. Like so:

"Hey, I need two sturdy volunteers, you and you get up here, I volunteered you. OK, now daughter, you next. Lie down over there on the floor. What? Lie down , it's carpet, it's clean. Don't be fastidious. What's fastidious? It means fussy. Lie down. Why? You're paralyzed, all you can do is lie down, stop arguing with Jesus. You aren't Jesus! That's right, but I'm playing Jesus right now. Hey y'all, what is this story we're about to do? When Jesus heals the paralyzed man!  That's right! So you're the paralyzed man, lie down. But I'm a girl!  Yes I know...you're light so these two friends of yours can pick you up. C'mon y'all, why do they pick him up? To put him through the roof! Yes. OK you two, get ready to pick up your friend...don't pick him up yet! You're still outside the house where Jesus is. Paralyzed man, is Jesus a miracle worker? Yes. Why don't your friends just stand out here and pray for Jesus to fix you? Umm...I don't know. That's OK...friends, why do you think you have to go through the roof? Cause it's crowded? Yes. Let me ask it this way: why do y'all have to get your friend right in front of Jesus? If Jesus is God, he must already know you're out here, right? Yes. In fact, why didn't you just stay home and pray instead of toting your poor friend across town in the hot sun? Anybody in the crowd? No guesses...it's a tough question. Let's see what the Bible says: "And they came, bringing to him a paralytic. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And...Jesus saw their faith..." What's that mean, "Jesus saw their faith?" Well, that he saw them put him through the roof? Yes...why's that important? Still a hard one I see, let's move along and come back to it later." (Hint to the reader: it has to do with Sacraments.)

"OK two friends, go through the roof and put Mr. Laydown in front of Jesus...hey, you're interrupting my teaching, Jesus is busy! We're sorry! That's ok, maybe Jesus can turn this into a teachable moment. Mr. Laydown, what do you want? I want to be healed! Yeah? From what exactly? Well, I'm paralyzed, fix that. Two friends, what do you want? Well, the same thing, fix her, umm, please. Fix him. Ha, yeah, him! Crowd, whatcha want? Heal her, him! Mmm, ok, let's see what Jesus says: "...they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Mr. Laydown, is that what you want, forgiven sins? Are you happy now? Well, I guess so...but I'm still paralyzed. Oh. I'm sorry, I must've fixed the wrong thing!...

I'm stopping here. This isn't about the Healing of the Paralytic, but about technique. If you know what you want to teach due to good preparation (which I suppose goes without saying), then by guiding the class through acting, reading, telling, asking and directing, you can fire their imaginations, make their brains work hard, and have them learn stuff they'll never forget.

Oh yeah.... a picture is worth 1,000 words. Here's the other picture the title promised:

Michael and France are bit older in this pic, but you can tell from their creekboats that God's imagination & creativity still burst right out of them.
This post is also available at http://amazingcatechists.com/