A Priest Lost In Translation
What could possibly make a priest so angry?
I went to a wedding in New Jersey last week and I ended up sitting at the same table as the priest who presided at the wedding. I could tell from some of Father’s, ahem, liturgical stylings, that this priest and I wouldn’t see eye to eye on many issues. Since I was there to wish the happy couple well and to have a little fun, I determined not to engage Father on anything more meaningful than his preference for Dewars over Johnny Walker Red.
I forgot to send my wife the memo.
Half way through reception, my wife innocently decided to make conversation with Father.
“Father, are you ready for the new translation?”
Father turned toward my wife and let let loose a loud and theatrical harrumph worthy of a Mel Brooks movie. Then, with his diaphragm fully engaged, he bellowed out his discourteous response.
“Oh, whooooooooo caaarrrees?”
Before reading what comes next, you need to understand that this man was just very discourteous to my wife in order to make a point about how much he disapproved of the change. And I had my drink on. And like I said, he was discourteous to my wife, drink or no drink.
My wife looked at Father and then at me with stunned eyes that said “What did I say?”
At this point my eyes said something else entirely. I raised my hand.
“I care Father. Don’t you think that as a servant of Holy Mother the Church and a pastor, you should care too?”
“No, I don’t care,” he said. “I took the class because I had to. Fine. I did. But I think it is silly and I don’t care.”
“You don’t think it is important to have a proper translation Father?”
He said, “A translation of what?”
“The mass as it is composed in Latin, Father.”
“Aha!! See! The mass is composed in Aramaic!! Who cares about Latin? The mass was in Aramaic! Why don’t we go back to saying it in Aramaic? Huh?”
“Ummm. Father, the mass is composed in Latin not Aramaic.”
“No it’s not. Its in Aramaic. Why don’t they just go back to saying it Aramaic? Huh?”
“Father, are you suggesting that that Novus Ordo mass of 1970 was composed in Aramaic?”
“No. I am saying that if they are so interested in going back to Latin, why don’t they just go back to Aramaic?”
(You see what’s happening here, right?)
“Father,” says I, “Nobody is talking about going back to the Latin here. This is the same New Mass in the same language. English. This is only a moderately more accurate translation of that same New Mass. Latin and Aramaic have nothing to do with it. Why would you be so opposed to slightly different English words for the same mass?”
“Father. Don’t you believe that the liturgy is a living and breathing thing shaped by each generation that has prayed it?”
“Yes, absolutely!! Exactly.’
“So the liturgy was a changeable thing for centuries—changed by and for generations?”
“Yes, I do!”
“But now that your generation has its input, no more changes allowed? Don’t you think that is kinda selfish?”
“Oh, who cares?”
Again, I raised my hand and said “I do.”
My wife’s uncle who listened to this whole exchange then raised his hand and said “Me too!”
This was Friday. On Sunday my young pastor announced in the bulletin a series of courses to joyously prepare for the new translation. Moreover, he announced that along with the new translation, that all the music sung from now on at regular Sunday masses will be from Franz Schubert’s mass. I guess he cares too.
The times, they are a changing.