Sunday, February 26, 2012

The long road to the vernacular...

For some background, you may want to read this: http://www.pieandcoffee.org/2011/04/26/bernard-e-gilgun-worcester%E2%80%99s-catholic-worker-priest/


After Gilgun's passing, some of his library was bequeathed to me. This afforded me some insight into an aspect to the many that many had often noted to me in conversation - his liturgical scholarship. After his death, Dr. Michael Boover noted that Gilgun had been anticipating the introduction of the vernacular into the Roman liturgy in 1953. His library held a small treasure of liturgical books, pre and post Vatican II. Two things occurred to me. Gilgun never saw the rupture in the liturgy so often promoted by those parties both pro and con the liturgical revision after Vatican II, including the current pontiff. For Gilgun, changes between the Missale Romanum of 1962 and that of 1970 failed to disrupt the continuum of authentic worship nor break with a spiritual tradition solidified over a thousand years previous. While reviewing some of the volumes of Gilgun's library, this excerpt from one of the hand missals seemed notable:

"A re-issue of the Daily Missal is a welcome sign of the renewal of liturgical piety among Catholics. The Church is calling all her children to a deeper understanding of her sacred liturgy. It is her wish that all the Catholic people should take an active part in the sublime sacrifice of the Mass..."

The above was written in 1937 and is notable. Missals, either vernacular to Latin or those nearly completely in the vernacular, were hot sellers. More often than not, they were edited by some of the crucial figures of the liturgical movement. Many of the figures behind the liturgical movement made the argument for the vernacular and, unless one was the most clerical and aloof of priests, one couldn't help but notice the benefits of the vernacular. In that respect, it wouldn't be hard to imagine the vernacular finally setting itself as the normal language of praxis in the Roman liturgy.

Now, has the vernacular been done correctly? Well, that's another question. Questions still remain over translation technique and the new translations haven't quite established themselves as perennial. The context of the vernacular's emergence must also be reckoned with. One of the benefits of the vernacular in the thirties and forties was its ability to provide a voice and cultural cohesion to the children of immigrants. Figures such Santa Rita could translate into St. Rita, translating a religious tradition to a new generation as well as passing on one's ethnic inheritance.

The vernacular, ultimately, is here and here to stay. Undoubtedly, the establishment of the vernacular as the normal praxis in the Roman liturgy opened a set of floodgates and let loose a deluge that had been building for since the rise of the mendicant movements, if not a little longer. There are, then, numerous challenges that, contrary to some opinions, will have to be wrestled with. Every language is its own world and seldom do worlds collide peacefully. Taking stalk of things, it's the long road towards a language of faith.

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