What If We Just Said ‘Pray’?


The “reform of the reform” is afoot and some folks are none too pleased. How’s that for an understatement?!   

For instance, about fifteen months ago, America Magazine featured an essay by the longtime pastor of St. James Cathedral in Seattle, Fr. Michael Ryan, belittling the new English translation of the Roman Missal; accusing the bishops who are moving to restore sacred language in the Mass of abandoning “their best pastoral instincts” and giving up on “the best interests of their people.”

It was quite a rant against an episcopate that had labored for nearly ten years to get the translations right, but instead of stopping the assault at this Fr. Ryan chose to instigate a revolt. Acknowledging that his cause “might smack of insubordination,” he asked, “What if we were to awaken to the fact that these texts are neither pastoral nor ready for our parishes? What if we just said, ‘Wait’?”

He went on to propose “market testing” the sacred texts, even though he personally had already judged them an “ill-conceived disruption to our prayer life.”

“Why not let the priests who are on the front lines and the laypeople who pay the bills have some say in how they are to pray,” he suggested. “If you think the idea has merit, I invite you to log on to the website www.whatifwejustsaidwait.org and make your voice heard.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Fr. Michal Ryan, pastor of a cathedral church, launched an online signature drive to encourage laity and clergy alike to oppose the liturgical texts approved by Holy Mother Church, and with the help of a liberal media that also considers liturgy-by-popular-vote a nifty idea, the website now boasts over 22,000 signatures!

A few weeks ago Fr. Ryan made news once again for a February 27th homily in which he ostensibly announced a cease-fire; vowing “quiet trust and acceptance” while preparing for the new Missal’s arrival. If true, this would be wonderful news, but the homily itself (which is posted at the Cathedral’s website) raises substantial red flags.

For one, Fr. Ryan doesn’t express even the slightest bit of remorse for the tremendous harm that he has caused, and more disturbing still is the fact that he paints himself as a knight-in-shining-armor; even going so far as to compare himself and his campaign of dissent to those who “told the awful truth about clergy sexual abuse.”

If that were not telling enough, he even gave those with ears to hear a not-so-subtle hint of the agenda going forward, saying, “It is the people who will have the last word on the new missal once it is introduced.” So much for “quiet trust” in Holy Mother Church.

Oh, and did I mention that his online signature drive continues unabated to this day, adding more than 100 new recruits since he allegedly resigned the offensive?

All of this seems to add up to a change in strategy more so than a change of heart, but whatever the case may be with Fr. Ryan, there are certainly others in authority in our parishes that are determined to infect the faithful with their personal biases against the forthcoming translation; e.g., the vocal minority of recalcitrant clerics in Ireland and Australia that have recently been in the news.

As I wrote in a previous column, I sincerely believe that the majority of Catholics, like me, actually welcome the “reform of the reform,” we applaud the bishops for their work on the new translation and we want to encourage them as they attempt to shepherd the faithful more deeply into the Sacred Mysteries being celebrated at Holy Mass. We know the process of implementing the new Missal will not be easy, but we trust that it will be well worth the effort.

If only there was a way for us to make our presence known, to stand up and be counted; to destroy the media-made myth that the new Missal is unwanted and a disaster in the making…

Hey, maybe Fr. Ryan was on to something!

In response to those who are called by grace to serve the People of God in some official capacity yet are encouraging unrest as they seek to derail the reform of the reform, what if we just said, “Pray?”  

What if we just said pray with us for the humility we need to receive from Holy Mother Church and not to dictate to Her; to lead according to Her will and not our own opinions; to serve and not to be served.

What if we were to let the world know that we — the all-too-silent majority of Catholics — appreciate the bishops’ efforts as a step in the right direction and we joyfully welcome the forthcoming sacred texts?

 What if we made a solemn commitment to pray for the conversion of those who oppose Holy Mother Church; that they may come to humility so that the important work of preparing the way for the Roman Missal can proceed in peace?

If you think the idea has merit and if you’re willing to join me in pledging your prayers of intercession for all who are struggling to embrace the new Missal, then I invite you to log on to the website www.whatifwejustsaidpray.org to make your voices heard.

If our bishops are made aware of our faithful solidarity perhaps they will feel strengthened in their Divinely-given ministry of teaching, sanctifying and governing the People of God to the glory of His name.

Can we lift up our bishops by showing them that we appreciate their efforts to restore a sense of the sacred at Holy Mass?

Can our collective commitment to pray for those who oppose Holy Mother Church aid in facilitating their conversion?

Can we exceed 22,000 signatures?

I would certainly like to think that we are the faithful majority, but in any event, it’s sure going to be fun finding out!

(© 2011 Louie Verrecchio)


About Author

Catholic News Agency columnist, author and speaker w/ particular focus on applying the hermeneutic of continuity to Vatican Council II.

  • goral

    Ryan is just a pawn on the chessboard. He serves the media and not the Church. There are many more like him who’s Roman Collar really irritates them.

    Thanks Louie for keeping us informed.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    There’s a Q&A about the new English missal over at Aquinasandmore: http://catholicinformation.aquinasandmore.com/2011/03/23/q-a-about-the-new-roman-missal-translation/ . All-in-all, it’s not bad, but they seem to be falling over themselves to avoid making anyone upset – very commendable, but that Q&A prompted me to do some thinking (as any such document should, if it is well done).

    One citation: “For example, the words of consecration for the Spanish missal will be changing to match the Latin.”

    This is actually quite amusing. The words used in Spanish translations of the Mass will be changing very little because they already match very closely what is said in the Latin. I first learned the Spanish responses and generally found the English responses to be quite odd. While I was in RCIA, I had the habit of asking, “Do you guys say…?” from time-to-time because some of the differences were quite significant. This, of course, begs a question: given that a surging and soon-to-be majority of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic, why in the world would you make it more difficult for them to learn the English missal? The new missal is better because it more closely matches the way many Catholics already pray the Mass when they pray it in Spanish.

    Then there is the question of why the translations changing. The Q&A says, “When the official English translation was issued in the 1970’s it was translated using a principal called ‘dynamic equivalence.’” I have a different answer. To be blunt, the translations done in the 1970s were done incompetently, and a necessary correction is finally being made. Speaking of “dynamic equivalence” and “formal equivalence” as if they were supposedly two equally acceptable approaches to translating texts simply betrays a reluctance to call a spade a spade. I’ve been doing translations for years. A good translator will always attempt to translate the actual words; a bad translator will take the meaning, process it internally, and then rewrite the meaning in the target language. The former produces an objective result; the latter always produces a subjective result. Good translations occasionally require a few changes in wording to get the correct meaning in the target language. This what was done in the 1970s when the Latin Novus Ordo was rendered as Spanish vernacular, and some of those words will be changing back to a closer word-for-word result*. Bad translations are often unrecognizable when compared to the original. This is what was done in the 1970s to render English vernacular from the Latin texts. It was a bad translation and a far better one is finally coming along.

    The Q&A also states that “the English translation conveys the general meaning of the original Latin instead of being a word-for-word translation.” However, this statement is false in some circumstances. Take the English rendition of Domine, non sum dignus… In Latin, it literally says, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter into my house but a word from you will suffice to heal me.” We have always said this in Spanish vernacular — and rightly so because it is written in an active verb tense in which the actor very specifically is Domine. The Lord heals; my role is to assent to Him so He can use His word to heal me. In English, we have concocted a passive voice rendering in which I am the central actor. Somehow, I am the one who must do something in order to receive the Lord rather than simply assenting to the Lord’s action in coming to me. Somehow, an unnamed antecedent — presumably the Lord but not necessarily so in a strictly syntactic sense — will be the means by which I am healed. To call this dynamically equivalent to the original Latin is to say something that is linguistically untrue.

    * And yes there are claptrap translations to the Spanish vernacular, particularly in the response to the non-Gospel readings. The reader says, “The Word of the Lord,” and we respond, “We praise you, Oh Lord.” In Latin, of course, the response is Deo gratia, which has a double meaning. First, there is the literal sense, in which we give thanks to God. Then there is the figurative sense because the Latin word, gratia, means both thanks and grace. Thus, a simple statement, Deo gratia, says, “Thanks and grace be given to God.” The grace we give back to God in this statement is the same grace He has freely given us, and it can take the form of praise. Thus, the bad rendering of the Spanish vernacular response — which is made even worse because Spanish can actually preserve the double meaning by using the singular form, gracia, in place of the Latin, gratia. Gracia, in Spanish, means grace. Its plural, gracias, means thanks. But one of the better translations would be, Gracia se da a Dios, and in this translation, the s from se “sticks” somewhat to the singular, gracia, thereby keeping the double-meaning that exists in Latin. Even better might be, Gracias a Dios, because gracias is also the plural of gracia and therefore means graces as well.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    I suspect that the underlying reason for all the turmoil is the decision to translate pro multis as for many rather than for all in the Eucharistic prayers. Father Z. has a note on the matter from a couple of years ago: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2007/06/two-german-presbyterates-refuse-pro-multis/

    Everything else may be just build-up or red-herring. The fact is that for many respects human freedom in a way that for all does not. For many says two things: A) God died for all of us; and B) He nevertheless respects our freedom and dignity so much that he will not force himself on any of us. For all implies that we might as well be automata because God is bringing us to him whether we reject him or not. Now God is certainly chasing after every person, and especially after those who reject him. But in the end, the decision to enter heaven is ours: we can repent or not; we can believe in the Gospel or not; we can love or neighbor or not; we can love God or not. For all really steps on the or nots in a way that for many avoids.