God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Understandable language

Communication can only work out when people use words and phrases in a way understandable to each other. This simple rule applies to all situation in life, be in the sphere of religion or health.
Our HOPE community health worker and doctors of HOPE Cape Town are challenged every day to break down medical conditions , adherence and compliance rules into words which can be understood by those on the receiving end. It is essential to know what has been talked about during consultation or a brief of patients by all present.
The same should go for the religious sphere but since the former pope Benedict XVI insisted of changing the translation of the liturgy in the Roman-Catholic church this rule seemed to be out of favor. In a bid to “latinize” the English we priests now had and have to battle with prayers one even can’t get the head around after reading twice, let alone that the faithful would understand what they supported with the “amen” at the end. In South Africa, the South African Catholic Bishops Conference was keen to adhere to the wishes of Rome quickly and the new translation was put into practice even before the necessary time.
I always felt despair when – as a Chaplain @sea – had to say Holy Mass for the hundreds of Filipinos working on the cruise liner, who were simply not able to digest or even answer orderly when confronted with the new English translation. While the German Bishops gently delayed any implementation of any new “latinized” translation of the order of the mass successfully the English-speaking world struggled and still struggles with words and phrases nobody would use in real life.
The decision of Pope Francis to move the responsibility for a good translation back to the local churches is therefore a step in the right direction and hopefully gives rise to a new translation (or going back to the old one) which allows the faithful to worship with knowing the meaning of prayers and petitions.
I certainly do acknowledge that the intention of this effort was to bring back the language closer to the roots of Christianity but as societies evolve and develop so does language as a mirror of society. We can only take to heart what we do understand – even if those thinking more in the backwards direction in our church believe that the Eucharist is a mystery which should remain also mysterious by means of language.
Celebrations should uplift the hearts and minds of people – not make them wish having a dictionary or a “repeat” or “rewind” button to play it again for understanding purposes. A language which is understood from all participating in an atmosphere which allows for the purpose of gathering to unfold in a dignified and good way – this is all what is asked for in any situation of life including church services.
For us Catholics the change in Canon Law by publishing the decree  “Magnum Principium” is also an indication that the stalling of Vatican II has finally stopped and the documents of this important council will continue to be authoritative and permanent. For the liturgy of the church it is now clear: there is no “reform of the reform” and this is good news for all of us.

Source:
Magnum Principium

Filed under: Catholic Church, chaplain, chaplain to sea, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Questionable liturgical translation and some more questions…

As a chaplain to sea on a cruise liner, it is tradition also to supply the crew with Eucharistic services during the festive season.  As most members of the crew are Filipinos I was asked to the service in English. After the first responses it became clear that the new English translation did not make it to the Philippines yet – nor was their English good enough to follow the complicated structure of the new English prayers. Latinised English did not do the trick and one could read on the faces of those attending that for them, all the prayers were spoken in a language not only not familiar, but not understandable. I am not sure the guys who did the translation did really consider those attending the Mass. Being closer to Latin means nothing to those wanting to understand their prayers, confusion does not mean more holiness during the service and this kind of translation is the second worse after the old Latin mass in the extra-ordinary form.

Reflecting over this at night I realized how often our church is speaking in a language not understandable to those meant to be addressed by the words. Jesus used simple words and examples to make his message understandable to those listening to him. Academic word constructions does not help the cause nor has it any long-lasting meaning – it obstructs the truth of the good message of God and hinders people to understand the unconditional love of God.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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