BBC Thought for the Day – updated

A reader in England informed us that BBC Radio 4 has a podcast in which Tablet editor Catherine Pepinster discusses the new translation of the Roman Missal.

Listeners outside of the UK do not have access to the podcast, but we are posting a link here for those of our readers who may have access.

HT: Mark Coley


The BBC thought for the day may be downloaded as a podcast, even outside of the UK, from here.

HT:  Dan McCarthy, OSB

35 thoughts on “BBC Thought for the Day – updated

  1. Since the translation is imposed, there is no choice of an English version these days for most people. (I do know an ancient priest with manifold health problems, including abysmal sight, who says the older (OF) form still for his residential home companions).

    During the 18 months since the Imposition, most people have managed to dispense with the laminated response cards provided and most priests just get on with it. Familiarity has brought its customary unconsidered auto-responses. “Acceptance!” Some hardy souls refuse the tangled harkbacks of the Imposition and respond with the former version in plain modern English.

    And some of course have departed and gone other ways in order to pray as they can, and not as they can’t. This number includes both Tridentinists and others whose lives were fired and enriched by the Vatican 2 reforms.

  2. One keeps hearing about IMPOSITION and lack of CONSULTATION and so on and so forth. It’s enough to make one weep over such blatant cruelty and despostism. But wait! Has there every been a liturgy, a reformed liturgy, or a translation or ANY other such thing that was NOT imposed (If one insists on tossing that word around!), that WAS accompanied by consultation, etc., etc.? Well, no! There wasn’t. Why all this carrying on as if some tradition had been tossed to the winds, or as if some procedures hallowed by centuries of use had been discarded by this or that bad old congregation, or the curia, or who knows else. We can be thankful that the church’s liturgy has never been the sort of committee, consult, and vote system that many seem to want. It would be worse than it is!!! The only way to get the liturgy we need is to hand it to the world’s most brilliant modern English poet and tell him (or her) to fashion it according as his art and as the Holy Spirit leads him… and then… IMPOSE it.

    If we are given something that some don’t like, they grumpily chortle that is was imposed. If something had been given to these people that they liked, they would be extolling the Church’s wisdom and saying (because they got what the wanted) that the Holy Spirit had FINALLY been heard.

    Am I the only one who has noticed that it is only a certain category of people who seem always to know (or so they think!) precisely what the Holy Spirit wills for the Church and everyone else? And (this is the uncanny part) THEY always know, in advance, what the Holy Spirit wants, and are able to inform the rest of us that the Holy Spirit has or hasn’t been heard! Astonishing, isn’t it!

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #2:
      In general terms, I think your observation is fair. But what made the exercise of authority as regards the 1998 translation particularly odious, in such a way as to justify the term “imposition”, was that Rome unilaterally bullied the relevant bishops and the commission that was acting in their name, effectively setting aside any meaningful sense of collegiality. The charismatic office of the papacy does not extend to telling us how to speak our own language.

  3. @M Jackson Osborn: So, the Celibates behind the closed Vatican walls are more in touch with the Holy Spirit then anyone else? We all know this was “pushed” through at the highest levels. Can we stop pulling the Holy Spirit card?

  4. The 1979 Book Of Common Prayer was a product of much experimentation and discussion. I understand that poets were also consulted. In an earlier time both C S Lewis and TS Eliot were involved in revising Coverdale’s version of the psalter.

    I am sure that other branches of the Anglican Communion have followed like policies.

  5. I suppose that the 1969 / 1973 versions were imposed by the authorities on the faithful. The trouble here is that the choice of the word implies a view about how good it is. Would a description such as “decided upon centrally” be more neutral?
    Incidentally the BBC frequently uses Tablet writers but almost never those from the Catholic Herald. Luckily Pray Tell gets commenters from different perspectives so a range if views is presented.

    1. @Peter Haydon – comment #6:
      Well, yes and no. In 1969 and 1973 there was nothing like the widespread opposition among so many main-line liturgists and clergy and bishops as we say with the 2011 text, so the comparison isn’t really fair.

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #7:
        Thank you Father
        I was trying to find a neutral term that did not convey any comment on the text chosen. As you say the response may well have been different but that is another matter. I was too young to notice.
        The problem is that by using loaded terms the readers seem to set each other off against each other and this seems to me to make it harder to agree with each other.
        As for the reaction to the texts I wonder if the strength has been increased as modern communications allow those of like mind to communicate. These did not exist in the 1970s.
        I do think that you are likely to be right in part: I suspect that there is less deference to authority now than 40 years ago.

  6. With genuine respect, Fr Anthony –
    It doesn’t seem to me that the lack of ‘widespread opposition…’ to what we were handed in 1969 and 1973 says much for those who were so widespreadedly quiescent… or aquiescent!, !, and ! again!

    Most priests through those years to whom I expressed anguish over what language the poor Catholics had for mass told me that they agreed that it was awful. Always, they would assure me hopefully that a better translation was being worked on and would be out in ‘two or three years’. This went on for decades.

    Finally came (almost) the 1998, lauded by so many, even though the people still would have had a savaged gloria and sanctus, and, and also with yew, and much else. It is a commonplace, isn’t it that principally it was the parts for the clerical caste that were recast in something APPROACHING serious and respectable English. while the lower castes were left to make do with non-inspired language, paraphrased in gossamer cachet. Miracle it is that we didn’t get this 98. It would have been a slapp in the face to all but the clerical caste.
    But! They, good Catholics, would not have known that they had, indeed, been slapped in the face. How pitiful. The 1998 was not what was needed because it only gave those in holy orders nice English. Everyone else, for the most part, was little, if any better off. You should stop pedalling the 98. I was just a paint job on cherry picked sections of the rite. We don’t need THAT.

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #8:
      “a savaged gloria and sanctus”

      Rhetorical overkill, MJO.

      “It was just a paint job”

      What a sadly ignorant comment. I suppose the Sistene ceiling is also “only a paint job” from a certain point of view.

    2. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #8:
      JMO, a note on our present cultural situation: aesthetes who care about “serious and respectable” English are a fairly small minority. You and I may belong to that small group, which is fine, but you argue as if it’s a predominant view. It isn’t. Most laity, whether you like it or not, were not offended aesthetically by the lowbrow 1974 text. Most people today, whether you like it or not, relate best to what is casual, informal, unpretentious, inelegant (witness the worldwide acclamation for Pope Francis, especially around his rejection of Benedict’s high-class dress and ritual).
      Finally, I will pedal 98 if I want, and, with all respect, I don’t need you to tell me what I should stop doing.

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #12:
        Fr Anthony –
        Mea culpa for my seeming to tell you what you should do.
        But, this doesn’t change the reality that th ’98 was not what ‘the people’ deserved. For them, it was almost the same thing that they already had – awful.

      2. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #20:
        JMO, my point is a sociological one: “the people” have a different sense of what they deserve than what you think they deserve. You think 98 is awful – and that’s fine if that’s your opinion. Just note that most of the people probably don’t think that.

      3. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #20:
        MJO, correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be suggesting that the people are only affected by the people’s parts. The ’98 translation left the people’s parts unchanged, yes, but it beggars belief that this would leave the people unaffected by the changes. Unless it is assumed that we sleep the whole time we’re not actively reading our part from the script.

        I find myself in complete agreement with Catherine Pepinster when she suggests that a formal, Latin, style appeals to people who prefer God distant and transcendant and that the more informal, Anglo Saxon, style appeals to people who prefer a more intimate relationship with a loving God. Personally, I’m in the latter camp, and am constantly awestruck that God, the creator of the universe, cares enough to visit me personally and speak to me in a language I understand.

        To some, the ’73 and ’98 translations were an assault on the beautiful language of the Mass. To me, the 2010 translation is an assault on the beautiful language of the Mass. As we find consistently on Pray Tell, opinions on this matter vary.

      4. @Paul Robertson – comment #26:
        Thanks for your observation. I shall simply say, strongly, that I do not at all find the worship, the language, the liturgy or music which you and Catherine Pepinster describe as making God out to be distant and non-intimate to be as you and she so describe it. This is presumptuous and judgmental arrogance. Who in his or her right mind would not wish to have the intimate relationship with our heavenly Father of which so many, mystic and not mystic, describe and experience. I am rather certain that you and I share being awestruck that the Creator of All Things should love us both and speak to us in a language that we understand and speak. Nor would I be so pompous as to imagine that you yourself are incapable of understanding and speaking the language that I myself understand, speak and think appropriate.
        And, to address your other point: I should never have thought that anyone was not as attentive during the priest’s parts as during the people’s parts. But, why, then, would not one wish for Everyone’s parts to be equally fine, for the entire mass to be on the same plane? Should I be expected to use less than the finest English because certain clericalistically minded folk decided that I, being one of ‘the people’, desired or deserved nothing better? This is preposterous!
        Yes, I am very thankful that the much-vaunted 1998 translation fell by the wayside. Not that I think the new translation is anything more than the work of amateurs. But it’s better, so far, than what we’ve had or been offered. At least they were aiming in the right direction.

      5. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #27:
        This, really, is the point of divergence. The ’73 translation IS very fine, in my opinion, whereas the 2010 translation is pretentious and self-important. My wish for the priest’s part and the people’s part to be equally fine was met, and the ’98 improved on that.

        As we all agree, opinion is divided so my fine is your inadequate and your fine is my pretentious.

        I note, however, that the language you use on Pray Tell is very much the style of the ’73 and not the ’10 translation.

  7. So good hearing Catherine make use of the word “ineffable” suggesting that LA was prophetic when it asserted that a sacred vernacular will “exercise an influence even on everyday speech” (LA 47).

    I noticed that Fr. Anthony spoke of “mainline” liturgists, as opposed to liturgists at large, when he suggested that critics were few in the 1970’s. Of course, 1969 was not 1973 but I can’t help but wonder if agreement with the zeitgeist was a prerequisite to entrance into the aforementioned “mainline”. Today we see few bishops come out publicly against the new more contemporary translation but we saw similar numbers of bishops publicly lament the 1973 translation. You might cite +Trautman but I’d cite ++Dwyer. You might mention +Brom of San Diego but I’d mention Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles. You might mention “What if we just said wait” and the Assoc. of Cath. Priests and I’d point to the entire diocese of Campos in Brazil, the SSPX, and numerous related movements both clerical and lay (Una Voce). We saw public departure from ICEL then and we’ve seen the same today.
    What we’ve not seen today is a sudden drop off in Mass attendance or dramatic increases in departure from the ministerial priesthood and religious life that we did see accompanying the imposition of the 1973 translation. The well regarded CARA study tells us that the most regular Mass goers prefer the new translation. Of interest is the fact that departures from the religious life seemed to occur most rapidly in the 1970’s in those communities and dioceses most invested in the renewal of the liturgy. We don’t see that today. I imagine that if professed sisters from orders associated with the CMSWR communities left those communities abruptly since the implementation of the new translation we would see much comment about it and connections to the new translation would be drawn.

    1. @Daniel McKernan – comment #9:
      I find these comments bordering on the incoherent. A reasoned reply is all but impossible. Nonetheless, I’ll try on a couple of fronts.

      Widespread departures from religious life, seminaries, priesthood were well under way by the second half of the 1960s, several years before the introduction of the 1973 (in some countries, 1974) Sacramentary. No studies exist to support your assertion, other than isolated parti pris conjecture, most of it written years, even decades, later.

      Cardinal McIntyre and Archbishop Dwyer basically didn’t accept the Council. The former resigned in 1970; the latter in 1974, at sixty-six. Two bishops out of over 200 don’t for much of an opposition make.

      What the SSPX, Una Voce, and the diocese of Campos have to do with the 1973 Missal in English is baffling, to use a mild word.

      “Numerous” related movements is hyperbole. Most of the Church-going faithful were not members of such groups. Nor had they ever heard of them.

  8. @Daniel McKernan – comment #9:
    Anthony can speak for himself, but it seems to me that “main-line” here is intended to mean “mainstream” as opposed to “fringe” or idiosyncratic.

    To suggest that CP is only now using the word “ineffable” for the first time, and it’s because the new translation, is risible. Even its warmest advocates wouldn’t claim something as silly as this.

    Finally, you say the CARA survey “tells us that the most regular Mass goers prefer the new translation.” It does no such thing. They agreed with the statement “The new translation is a good thing.” No one asked them if they preferred it to the old translation.

  9. Apparently not all bishops present when Benedict XVI announced his resignation understood his message in Latin. With Latin skills in decline even among priests and bishops, seemingly English is to be the new source language or lingua franca. The differing requirements of translations to be a good source text and a good text for English speakers to use were highlighted here earlier.

    What is extraordinary is to have been landed with a missal translation which is good for neither purpose.

    I don’t think I have encountered in modern English the 2nd person vocative which occurred in archaic prayers: “who livest and reignest”, or “which wert and art and evermore shalt be”. But now we have to put up with this (to me) jarring mistake: “O lord … who live and reign with God the Father”. The usage if needed should be “you who live”.

    Apart from the drip effect of all this on native English speakers, this translation will surely be a problem for translators into other native mother tongues. They will have as much or more difficulty than the rest of us in unravelling the Latin circumlocutions with their odd vocabularies and constructions.

    Another consideration may be the difficulty of the current translation for many speakers of English as a second language who attend English speaking churches around the world. A cleaner, simpler language is needed.

  10. John R. Francis:

    I see little value to addressing your quip about coherence. Your “two bishops out of 200 not making for much opposition” could be applied to the episcopal critics of the new most contemporary ICEL translation now being faithfully used throughout the English speaking world. It is helpful for us all to remember that. That is partly why my point remains that it is an overstatement to suggest that opposition to the current translation is more widespread today to what was unhappily experienced in the 1970’s. This truth rings even louder when we recall that there was no internet in 1973 & that communication about liturgical goings-on took place within small groups usually only being released to the press as a fait accompli. Opposition was, therefore, more easily muted in the 1970s.

    We know that liturgical tinkering began before 1973 JRF and the departures from religious life only increased with the introduction of the 1973 edition. Helen R. Ebaugh’s study (Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 1993) points to the years of rapid decline in women’s religious orders as essentially paralleling the implementation of the liturgical renewal in the US. She also shows how the decline took place most dramatically in the same places where we saw the most active implementation of that renewal. Even if one accepted your premise that the catastrophic decline began before Vatican II the undisputed history shows us that the post V2 liturgical renewal failed to stem the tide of departures especially in those communities most invested in the reform.

    It is also an overstatement to suggest that Cardinal McIntyre and (either one of the) Archbishop Dwyer(s) did not accept the council. They may not have approved of your or my interpretation of the council’s documents but they did accept the council. Given contemporary events it would seem that they were prophetic in their criticism of the ICEL of their day, especially of ICEL’s former translation of the canon.

    1. @Daniel McKernan – comment #17:

      There is a problem with your commenting at Pray Tell: you make things up and repeat things over and over.

      The article “The Growth and Decline of Catholic Religious Orders of Women Worldwide: The Impact of Women’s Opportunity Structures” by Helen Rose Ebaugh in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion is about female opportunity in society as the primary correlation with religious life demographics. It does not treat liturgical renewal at all, in fact the phrase “liturgical renewal” doesn’t appear once in the entire article.


    2. @Daniel McKernan – comment #17:

      Your “two bishops out of 200 not making for much opposition” could be applied to the episcopal critics of the new most contemporary ICEL translation now being faithfully used throughout the English speaking world.

      You should hear what the bishops say privately, as I have — many of them. I regret that they do not have the cojones to stand up and say publicly what they are saying in private, but the fact is that there are far more episcopal critics abroad than you realize. It may be that the new spirit of Pope Francis will encourage them to come out of their shells.

      As far as the rest of your post is concerned, please remember the devastating effect of Humanae Vitae on the Church. When thinking about those who left in the early 1970s, it is simplistic in the extreme to blame it on the 1973 translation of the Missal.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #24:
        Agreed, If people are unwilling to blame the Beatles instead of Vatican II, they might consider that only in 1975 did American Catholics think better of their hierarchy than Protestants their pastors. Is it coincidence that recent low points for the Vatican and the bishops–2002 and 2007 happen to coincide with breaking scandal on sex abuse cover-up and on Summorum Pontificum?

        German-speaking bishops seem to have some spine when it comes to the curia and the imposition of a translation in central Europe.

  11. Daniel McKernan:

    Please go back and read what I wrote, not what you want me to have written.

  12. The people’s parts are limited by the Latin text which gives them very little to say. The alleged difference in linguistic quality between priest’s and people’s parts in the 1973 translations is a myth; the people were never asked to recite the sawdust preces for example. The children of God should enjoy much more freedom and creativity in how they address God in liturgical prayer. A church that has brought into phobic attitudes to inculturation and that has bent over backwards to humor cranks has lost the plot.

    1. @Joe O’Leary – comment #28:
      The alleged difference between priests’ and peoples’ parts to which I have alluded is that found in the overrated 1998 translation (the ’73, which you mention, was uniformly poor for all). And, it is not mere allegation: it is reality. There is no reason at all for all the ritual text of the mass not to be of the same register and quality. This goes for ordinary parts, proper parts, and the lectionary; it goes for all who participate.

      1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #29:
        “There is no reason at all for all the ritual text of the mass not to be of the same register and quality.”

        Sure there are reasons. Some parts address God. Others address people. Some recount the words of Scripture, and some are paraphrases. Some are truly important moments of the liturgy. And some are not.

  13. Interesting that you should say that. Some have pilloried my writing for perceived similarities to the new translation. Some have, with great amusement, even thought that my writing was a deliberate parody of it. It isn’t. It is as it has been always. If, however, anyone thought that my speech or writing resembled the ’73, I shouldn’t think it a compliment. If it did it would, indeed, be a parody.

    I shall try to stop excoriating the ’73 because, to my astonishment, some people actaully do cherish it. This is dumbdfounding to me, and is so probably because I was reared on Cranmer, of whose hieratic English there is, as yet, no equal. It is quite astonishing to me that one could speak and hear the BCP and go straight to the ’73 and say it with a straight face. But, they do; and I am learning not to bash something that is treasured by others. It has been said that a wise man will respect what is holy to others. This extends, I should think, to what is valued by others. So, Rita, I shant refer (at least not here) to the Gloria for which you seem to have fond feelings as ‘savaged’. I will, however, point out that the Anglican translation is the one that is faithful to the Latin in form, construction, and meaning – and emotional impact.

    A final word about Cranmer: Exquisite, hieratic, poetic, and superb English of our day need not be a parody of Cranmer. But, what we really, desperately, need is a translation fashioned with English that will inspire by its sheer beauty all people of our time and their childrens’ children for ages to come; one that will, like the BCP, be the standard by which written and spoken English is judged for centuries; and, finally, an hieratic language of such power that it even influences the spoken vernacular, just as the BCP has done and still does. This is what a liturgical language should be like: excruciatingly beautiful. I have had numerous priests comment to me of the ’73 that he had been using it for forty years and there was not one memorable phrase.

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #32:
      Your vocabulary is advanced, I admit, but your sentence structure is simple and understandable. You do not interrupt yourself endlessly, then hope that your listener can still remember the subject of the original sentence. You do not repeat yourself unnecessarily. Your communication, in a word, is clear.

      I find that the 2010 falls down on all of the points I just made. I can see that it is aiming for lofty language (in spite of what Sacrosanctum Concilium says on the matter) but, in the end, what it hits is convoluted grammar and lost meanings (what is the joyful hope that we await, in addition to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ?).

      Shall we say that the ’73 is simple yet modern and the BCP is lyrical yet dated. The ’10 doesn’t seem to manage simple, lyrical or modern. Personally, I don’t think the way forward is to use ancient English, so any fix of the ’10 will have to use modern usage. By no means does this preclude elegance or beauty.

      I don’t think any translation is going to satisfy everybody, but there should be a middle-ground where the language is sufficiently simple for people to understand easily, yet sufficiently elegant to be beautiful.

      1. @Paul Robertson – comment #33:
        While our respective estimations of the ’73 remain almost polar opposites, I suspect that we are in some degree of agreement about the new translation – with, however, some differences in our ‘appreciation’ of it. I am truly thankful for it because it isn’t what we had; nor is it the ’98, which some wish we had, but for which I am thankful that we were spared. The new, as I have remarked elsewhere, is the work of obvious amateurs. However, it is obvious that they were aiming in the right direction but weren’t really up to the task. Actually, I have come to enjoy taking note of particular passages at mass that Cranmer would have said that better, or, thinking that it is too bad we were denied what Tolkein might have done. Some locutions, such as ‘the dewfall’, I have come to regard as rather endearing. To me, our new translation is really so much more engaging, enlightening and rich than what we had that I (sometimes chucklingly) overlook its obvious shortcomings. It does manage to challenge, it does invite one to grasp it. The ’73, to me, had no such qualities. But, please never do me the injustice of thinking that I believe a modern hieratic English should be warmed over Cranmer. My comments at No. 32, above, should make clear what I desire of the language we use at Divine Worship.

        Deacon Fritz –
        Thanks for your examples. There is, indeed, power and grace in how they are couched.

  14. MJO, I would rejoice if the collects of the new translation were as clear as any one of your sentences.

    As to “not one memorable phrase,” I find that a bit incredible. I can think of several from EPIII, for example:
    “Look with favor on your Church’s offering, and see the victim that has reconciled us to yourself,”
    “Lord, may this sacrifice, which has made our peace with you, advance the peace and salvation of all the world.”

    Or from the prefaces:
    “You sent him as one like ourselves, though free from sin, that you may see and love in us what you see and love in Christ”
    or ”
    The virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling”
    “To his open heart the Savior invites all men, to draw water in joy from the springs of salvation.”

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