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Saturday, November 27, 2010

The New Zealand Approach

In exactly one year from today, the Church in the United States will debut the revised translation of the Roman Missal.  Despite the leaks and the controversy, this revised Roman Missal stands as something of great importance to the Church. 

According to our friends at Chant Cafe, the revised Order of the Mass has already made its debut in New Zealand!   What they have done is a hybrid of sorts.   While New Zealand is using the revised Order, the rest of the current 1973 version remains in use (the Propers and the Commons).  This is actually a good compromise for starters.  It eases the faithful into getting used to new texts.  Why we could not do this in the United States is something that I do not understand.  Considering the fact that composers have had their hands on the revised text for the better part of two years and are already releasing the new settings (although, the ones produced by ICEL are still far superior to the usual OCP/GIA pieces), it might have been a good idea to take the New Zealand approach.  The faithful need to get used to the texts and make them their own.  It's not enough to simply look at something written on what amounts to be a liturgical training manual and just practice the words.  These words should be prayed, chanted, in their proper context. 

We have an excellent example of this in the recent Papal Visit to the United Kingdom.  Although only the revised versions of the Gloria, the Sanctus and the Memorial Acclamation were set to music and used for al of the liturgies (except the one at Westminster Cathedral, which used Latin), the bishops of England and Wales, and Scotland managed to use the internet and other teaching tools to get the faithful to learn these in time for the visit.  It was no small effort, but, this concerted collaboration between the composer, the two bishops conferences, the choirs and the faithful certainly produced something magnificent in so short a time.

I can understand the need for catechesis; however, we had that two-year window of opportunity to do just that, educate the faithful and get them familiar with the revisions.  That is why the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments granted the recognitio to the Ordinary back in 2008 so that, first and foremost, the composers could get their hands on the texts and produce fitting music to accompany these grand words, and, second, to catechize the faithful.

If Scotland and England managed to at least learn some of the new settings in a short amount of time, why can't the rest of us?  If New Zealand can have a hybrid version of the Roman Missal as a starter, why not the United States?  This, perhaps, would have been a better option than having us wait another year.

But, there is another point to consider.  I suppose that I take after my maternal grandfather who was the epitome of German efficiency.  The father of nine children, he ran his household like an efficient, well-oiled machine.  While I do not take after him insofar as punctuality is concerned, I try to be efficient in other areas.  However, this kind of efficiency does not necessarily translate in every area, the Church being one of them.

Rome has her own ways of doing things.  What may be efficient to me does not necessarily mean the same thing to the Church.  Inasmuch as I think that the New Zealand model may be a better, more efficient approach, the Church has chosen not to take that route, at least not in the United States.  I had a long talk with my spiritual director on this topic.  Perhaps rather than whining about not having the translation yesterday, I should concentrate my efforts on catechizing my fellow Catholics on why we will even have this revised Roman Missal in the first place.

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