Tuesday, November 11, 2008

USCCB and Liturgical Translations

The Bishops have been debating translations again. I can remember as a child hearing the word, gibbet, a strange and ugly sounding word whose meaning I could never figure out. I was too young to check the dictionary. So I have done so now...

From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

gib-bet
Pronunciation: \ˈji-bət\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English gibet, from Anglo-French
Date: 13th century

1 : gallows 1a 2 : an upright post with a projecting arm for hanging the bodies of executed criminals as a warning.

Comment: Do we really need to use a 13th century word in a 21st century world?


in·ef·fa·ble
Pronunciation: \(ˌ)i-ˈne-fə-bəl\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin ineffabilis, from in- + effabilis capable of being expressed, from effari to speak out, from ex- + fari to speak — etc.
Date: 14th century

1 a: incapable of being expressed in words : indescribable b: unspeakable

Comment: Believe it or not, with all the reading that I have done over many years, I doubt if I have seen this word more than 3 or 4 times and it apparently was never important to the meaning of the sentence because I never knew what it meant until now.


We'll be seeing more of ineffable since it was voted to be used. I don't know about gibbet though.

19 comments:

Stu said...

I suppose we could get rid of vocabulary class in schools too.

I'm in favor of the language uplifting us in more than one way and relish the opportunity to increase both my faith and intellect. However, yet another good reason to return to the Old Mass in Latin.

standing maryanna said...

I certainly agree that liturgical language should be uplifting. But I also think that words need to be understood and in use by the people who speak or pray them.

The word, gibbet, is not one of them. Ineffable is fine.

I don't think that Latin words will bring us closer to God.

Mark said...

Etymology and philology are fascinating endeavors, and are didactic far beyond their own fields. I encourage everyone to be interested in words, their meaning, origins, and in how they change over time. Such knowledge also makes one sensitive to fraudulent use of words, when they camouflage rather than explain.

I think we all need to make greater efforts to increase our vocabularies, and be able to comprehend not only current forms of a language, but also its past usages. In other words, we the people, need to improve in this area.

One of the objectives of teaching is the introduction of new words to students, and then encouraging their usage. I find that most students welcome this challenge, and then feel more at ease discussing more complex subjects.

Stu said...

standing maryanna said...

I certainly agree that liturgical language should be uplifting. But I also think that words need to be understood and in use by the people who speak or pray them.


That's what a robust CCD program serves to remedy unless of course one's parish has given way to "Faith Formation" filled with wasted hours playing with felt and glue.

I don't think that Latin words will bring us closer to God.

Over a thousand years of the Old Mass producing our most notable Saints and building Western civilization would say otherwise in my opinion.

Anselm said...

I have to say that I agree with stu and mark on this one. The liturgy - and the Church by extension - should challenge the faithful.

"Dumbing down" the liturgy so that people "understand" it is not the way to go. After all, when was "understanding" an absolute requirement? Trinity, Paschal Mystery, Real Presence, Incarnation?

Perhaps if our linguistically challengened brethren spent some time studying that which they did not understand, they may learn something.

Jesus met people where they were, but he never, ever, simply accommodated them. He always challenged them. Where is the challenge in all this?

Ask 99.999% of Catholics who actually show up to Mass on Sunday how much time they spend each week learning the faith and in prayer. Then ask them how much time they spend watching TV and surfing the net. What will the answers be?

There was a time when the average Catholic was illiterate and had to spend almost every waking hour laboring to survive. In 21st Century America, what is our excuse?

standing maryanna said...

Don't forget that Jesus used parables to teach the people about the Kingdom of God. From my understanding of scripture and history, it was through parables and storytelling, that the ordinary people of the time learned the meaning of more complex issues.

Thus I would not put down efforts to help people of the 21st century grow to a greater love and understanding of God, the Trinity, the Real Presence, the Paschal Mystery, etc.

Interesting discussion...

Mark said...

Dear Standing Maryanna:

I seems that we all agree on this issue.

I teach Catechism (Baltimore, of course), and find that young people have a great, if sometimes unarticulated, expectation to be challenged. I routinely introduce new words to them, and then weave them into my instruction. For example, we've disassembled and reassembled the word "transubstantiation" several times, and none of the kids had any problems with understanding it. In subsequent discussions they used it correctly, i.e. it entered into their vocabulary.

I think we do a great harm to the young generation by not challenging them to a higher standard. We need to set high expectations for them, but always help them when they stumble.
I submit myself to this discipline as well, and seek help when I stumble.

mary ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
standing maryanna said...

Mark, I don't disagree with you guys about challenging our young people. What I don't care for is calling attempts to make prayers understandable "dumbing down." I also see no reason to use archaic terms like gibbet. I don't think words like that enhance a prayer.

anselm said...

maryanna,

This is a very interesting thread, but I would 'challenge' all of us to be more practical than theoretical.

What are some specific, concrete ways you would suggest we help people? People who view Church as something they "do" for an hour a week, because they get so much out of the music, or the preaching, or the social aspect. People who are conditioned to view Community as a collection of like minded people who get along. People who see no connection between the life of the Church and their lives in the world.

Also, I would ask that we move the discussion away from "young people." It is my experience the "old people" are in need of as much faith formation as the youngins...

The biggest scandal that arose out of Vatican II was that there was woefully inadequate catechesis. Changes were made, but were rarely explained. When they were, they were described as being in the 'Spirit' of the Council.

Bringing this back to initial topic, the bishops repeatedly mentioned the need for strong catechesis to accompany the changes to the translation of the missal. I am very curious how that will be accomlished. It will take more than a few 'Catholic Updates.'

Sorry, I get a bit passionate about this stuff. But I would humbly suggest that perhaps if we focus on concrete ways things we can do (as opposed to theories or opinions). The dialogue will be all the more productive!

In Christ,

Anselm

standing maryanna said...

Anselm,I would like to lift part of your comment and make a new article for the blog about Christian Education. May I do that?

Here is what I would like to use:

"What are some specific, concrete ways you would suggest we help people? People who view Church as something they "do" for an hour a week, because they get so much out of the music, or the preaching, or the social aspect. People who are conditioned to view Community as a collection of like minded people who get along. People who see no connection between the life of the Church and their lives in the world."

and...

"The biggest scandal that arose out of Vatican II was that there was woefully inadequate catechesis. Changes were made, but were rarely explained. When they were, they were described as being in the 'Spirit' of the Council.

Bringing this back to initial topic, the bishops repeatedly mentioned the need for strong catechesis to accompany the changes to the translation of the missal. I am very curious how that will be accomlished. It will take more than a few 'Catholic Updates.'"


************
If you wish to write an article combining the ideas I quoted above, I will be happy to place it on the blog. Or, if I have your permission, I will simply put these quotes there myself under your name.

I won't be able to do anything about all this until tonight though because I have to go to work in a few minutes. :)

I think it would be a very productive discussion if many of the other readers of this blog would chime in. It actually could be helpful to our diocesan people too, if any of them read the blog.

Thanks, Anselm...

Mark said...

Dear Anselm:

I believe the Church in our country is in such serious trouble, that those of us who care about Her future, and are inspired by Her past, need to deploy our forces very carefully. I would like to see better catechisis being directed at the Vatican II generation, but by whom? Also, realistically speaking, what kind of returns do we expect from this generation?

I see a need to create elite groups of young people, lay and ordained, who know their Faith, are inspired by it, and are courageous enough to live it 24/7. In addition to their Faith, these young people need to be able to speak in a logical and gracious manner, need to know history inside out, not be intimidated by insults, and keep impeccable manners in all situations. In the decades ahead they may be able to rebuild what previous generations allowed to be destroyed. A pastor working with like minded parents and catechists can achieve much in this area, thru combination of home instruction, organized activities, and catechisis.

What I wrote is harsh, but I stand by it. If you have a plan for an effective catechisis of the "old people", let's discuss it.

Mark said...

I've stumbled, please allow me to correct myself:

I've mispelled "catechesis" as "catechisis".

Mea culpa.

Anselm said...

Maryanna,

I do not think I will be able to write an article, but I would love to continue the conversation!

Mark,

Thomas Groome once wrote, “People are more willing to listen to witnesses than to teachers. And if they do listen to teachers at all, it is only because they are also witnesses.”

I would suggest that the students in your Catechism class are learning the Truth you present because you are authentic when you teach.

I believe that the rupture that took place as a result of Vatican II has created a community that finds it difficult to teach authentically because the teaching contained in the Council Documents was never authentically articulated.

The baby boomer generation grew up in one Church and were expected to raise their children in what appeared to them to be an entirely different Church - one they never really understood (to use that term).

Ask someone in the pew what the "Spirit of Vatican II" means and I am sure you will get a million answers. Ask those same people to name the four Constitutions of the Council, you will most likely get a blank stare.

Ask someone what they think of the Church's teaching on artifical contraception, you will most certainly get an earful. Ask them if they have actually read Humanae Vitae, not so much.

Catholics are among the most educated Americans, and these documents are a mouse click away.

I recently heard someone say that one of the biggest challenges the Church faces is that obligation has trumped desire as the primary motivation in the life of the faithful.

My question is, how are some ways we can reverse that development?

standing maryanna said...

Okay, Anselm... we'll just leave the conversation on this thread...

Mark said...

Anselm:

I think you should teach catechism.

In my mind, the content of the catechism being used is of paramount importance. I think that many contemporary catechisms (I'm familiar with RCL-Benzinger products) come up short when compared to the Baltimore Catechism. In essence, modern catechisms primarily aim at creating a feeling in the child that God loves them (as they should), but then they don't support that feeling with sufficient knowledge of our obligations toward our Creator. The child can then easily conclude that no matter what he or she does, God is somehow always obligated to affirm their choices.

In comparison, the Baltimore Catechism has the content, the nuts and bolts of our Faith, and touches but doesn't dwell on, feelings. The problem that may sometimes develop here is that this content may be taught mechanically, with emphasis on rote memorization to the detriment of understanding. That's the criticism I've heard from many in the Vatican II generation, and I take it seriously. I get the impression that many of them have rejected the Baltimore Catechism because of the way it was being taught, and then never tried to grasp its content.

After teaching the content of each lesson in the Baltimore Catechism, I then try to make the children conversational in it. That sometimes requires the use of history, geography, logic, expanded vocabulary, etc. I also invite questions. I think this learning process has to be repeated several times, since children learn by degrees as they mature.

standing maryanna said...

Mark said "The problem that may sometimes develop here is that this content may be taught mechanically, with emphasis on rote memorization to the detriment of understanding. That's the criticism I've heard from many in the Vatican II generation, and I take it seriously. I get the impression that many of them have rejected the Baltimore Catechism because of the way it was being taught, and then never tried to grasp its content. "


YES!!!! You are exactly right, Mark. And I am glad you take the criticism of the Baltimore Catechism seriously.

I grew up with the Baltimore Catechism. I remember it as all rote memorization. I could never internalize it at such a young age. My memory of religion classes in elementary school was not much on God's love for us but on sin and damnation, rules and regulations. That's not the way to teach religion to children.

Mark said...

gDear Standing Maryanna:

The criticisms of the Baltimore Catechism I've heard dealt primarily with the ways it was sometimes being taught. It seems to me that a dislike for such ways may have morphed into a general dislike for the contents of this Catechism, a grave, if understandable, mistake in my view.

The problem was not with the Baltimore Catechism, but with some of the teaching methods that were being used.

I find that children of grade school age are perfectly able to understand the Faith as presented in this catechism, but some of the concepts may have to be supplemented with material from the Bible, history, logic, etc. Plus repetition (in months or years) works as well, since their minds are still maturing.

At any rate, I'm not aware of any contemporary catechisms that come anywhere near to the clear and comprehensive ways of the Baltimore Catechism. The consequences of this sad fact are around us. Why don't you give this wonderful catechism a second look?htmiden

standing maryanna said...

Mark, When I was a child, the Church was going through a very legalistic period in the United States, so I am sure that this is why the Baltimore Catechism was taught as it was.

I believe Vatican II and the teachings that came out of it were a reaction to this legalism. It surely was a welcome change for me because that legalism caused me, as an impressionable child of immigrant parents, untold misery; and affected me in ways that I am still trying to come to terms with.

Yes, I am willing to take a look at the B. Catechism again. I am sure I can google it and find it online somewhere.