Mass—Ritual Missal Translations
SIR.,—There are those who say that but one in three Catholics go to Mass, and of those who do. not one in a hundred knows what is going on.
Fr. William Raftery's attempt to restore an understanding of the Fore Mass. which as he admits was losing its raison d'être at the time of Luther hecause the Latin was no longer understood by the people. is hound to he limited in its effect. Until the liturgy can be rendered intelligible to the laity— as a whole—no amount of didactic articles in the Press to certain literate sections can by itself overcome the general lack of understanding and consequent active participation of Church-going Catholics.
His own limited claim for the unimpeded proclamation of the Word of God I find somewhat of an anti.climax, especially after his appeal for the understanding of the whole Mass of the Catchumens.
Glancing through the pages of 1 HE CATHOLIC HERALD, 1 find in Fr. James' deploring his lost opportunities in administering Baptism because of the insurmountable difficulty of the Latin; Canon Thorp's attempt to enlist the intelligent participation of the laity in the Offertory: Clare Simon's description of Mass at Loyola, where she was driven to decide at the Offertory whether to follow the Mass or the sermon or the organ; and Fr. Howell's comment on the failure to prepare flocks for the spiritual riches of the Paschal Vigil —far more pertinent hints as to the solution to this widespread problem of the impassive and unintelligent behaviour of many Catholics at Mass.
H. H. Stevenson. 35, Sheppard Avenue, Liverpool, 16.
The Heart As Well As The Head.
Sir,—This afternoon. I attended a Baptism in my parish church. There were three babies to receive the Sacrament. and in each case younger children of the families concerned were present.
The priest was most punctual as were we all and the Ceremony was carried out beautifully with dignity and care. We were all given a leaflet with the translation of the prayers and from the liturgical point of view everything was perfect. But of friendly contact and warmth there was not a spark. and surely there could and ought to have been.
Here was a great occasion and cute for rejoicing—the parish priest receiving into his community three new Catholics, new members of the Mystical Body, three precious souls become children of God. It was a very cold, very wet afternoon and the church was very dark. How nice a friendly greeting would have been, a smile at the babies. a kindly word to the families. Rut there was nothing. We stood in the sacristy shy, slightly ill at ease, and not an unnecessary word was said. It was as cold and as impersonal as a government office, and the priest might have been an efficient civil servant, Now I know and love my parish and am perfectly at home in the church and I know full well that the priest is a most conseientious and devoted man, but I know also that the mother of the child for whom 1 stood sponsor is a rather critical non-Catholic and I know that in this ease the father is bringing up a Catholic family with much difficulty and that the Baptism in this case was not easily achieved. Who knows what good might have been achieved, how the father might have been encouraged in his struggle and the mother perhaps touched by an expression of friendliness.
I teach in a London Catholic school, and many of the children, ales. come front homes where the Faith has ceased to be practised. Still, these lapsed parents do at least send the children to the Catholic school and 1 have many opportunities of meeting them. More and more I find they need kindness and immense sympathy and understanding in their often great difficulties. They must be won back to God through the heart as well as the head. Do we lose opportunities to let them feel the warmth of love human and Divine '? Too often I find they are repelled from their Mother the Church by the unintentional coldness and formality they meet with in those who are of the Household of the Faith.
I know you deplore anonymity but as 1 have no wish to hurt my parish priest nor to indicate his whereabouts. I hope you will allow me to sign myself, Godmother.
Ritual in English
Sir,—Could you please explain your reply to a recent letter on the above subject that, " We understand that the original plan to obtain permission for the use of the Ritual in English has not been carried through."
Some time ago one of our illustrated weeklies featured the fact that one diocese in the United States uses English for the Baptism ceremony. Recently we read that Bishop Sheen has offered Mass in English. Are we to believe that some of the Faithful are favoured in this very important matter'? Joseph Galvin. 61, Isaac Walton Street, Stafford, We understand that while there is a desire in some dioceses for permission to use the Ritual in krtglish, others do not agree. Hence the hold-up in the plan for seeking that permission. The Mass in English celebrated by Bishop Sheen was in n non-Latin rile, hence it forms no precedent for us.— Ern roa, " C.H."
Sir,—I think Fr. Howell overrates the opposition to the reforms he wants.
With precious little suggestion (let alone encouragement) tnany more laity do use the missal.
To nearly all of us the missal is a strange book—something almost stolen out of the plesbytery. Fr. Howell doesn't seem to realise it. People think they look as if they arc trying to swank if they bring forth a missal; exhibiting a superior education among their fellowparishioners.
Nobody tells us how to use a missal: it is a secret shared by the priest and the master of ceremonies who put the ribbons in the right places in the missal on the altar.
People want to pray during Mass, but they don't know the prayers of the Mass or where to find them.
The Rosaryitcs are not " antiparticipationists "; they are praying, and they would say the more appropriate prayers. Not knowing the prayers, not being able to serve at Mass, not having a voice good enough for the choir, they do what they can—the Rosary for most, and the bolder ones take on the job of taking the collection or showing people to their seats—all "participation " as far as the circumstances will allow.
Lead us kindly—we are ready to COM.
The Nine Lessons
Sir,-1 was interested to see the reference in Douglas Hyde's column to the service of nine carols and nine lessons.
At Blackfriars. Llanarth, where I was teaching until recently, we performed this service every Advent, but instead of using solo readers, the lessons were spoken (by heart) by groups of boys who formed a speaking choir. Apart from the enhanced effect, and the sense of participation in the liturgy which it gave, this practice meant that, over a period of a year or two. most of the boys could quote by heart considerable portions of the Messianic prophecies, and of the early chapters of St. Luke.
One parent reported having heard her small son, lying in bed at night, repeating. for his own enjoyment. Biblical passages so learnt.
It would appear obvious, from the nine lessons. that it is a service derived from Matins of the Divine Office, and as such it would surely be most appropriate if, in these days when there is so much demand for the vernacular, this truly Catholic method of preparation could be restored to our churches during Advent, and the words of God's Promise spoken out for all to hear.
Rosemary Heddon. 8, Agnew Street, Lytham, lanes.
Sir,—To a very imperfect Catholic such as I am, the letter from Fr. James, of St. John's School, Apethorpe, Peterborough, in your issue of the 9th December, pleading for the use of the Vernacular, together with the announcement that Mass has just been celebrated in English for the second time in the, United States, is most heartening.
It is frequently .stated that it is the action of the Mass (which is universally understood) and not the words that really matter. That, however, is rather belied by the fact that it is considered necessary at times to explain during the Mass what exactly is taking place. This explanation is all to the good, but it does suggest that the power of the spoken word is largely being lost. I remember very vividly an occasion three years ago when I was extremely ill in hospital. The visiting priest—who was kindness itself—said that he had brought me one of the Church's special blessings which he proceeded to read in Latin. It seemed to me very long and I did not understand a single word of it. After a time I dissolved into a state of apathetic resignation, simply hearing sounds without any meaning. I thought how much more comforting it would have been if I had understood it. this surely applies also to the more infrequent ceremonies of the Church, such as Baptisms, weddings, funerals and the various services particularly at Easter. which very many people are quite unable to follow. Would it not be an enormous advantage not only to hear the Word of God hut also completely to understand it?
F. P. Holmes. 7, Carisbrooke Drive, Mapperley Park, Nottingham.
Sir,—This seems to he an opportune moment to put in a plea for a more intelligible translation into English of the wording of the Easter Vigil. Must we really continue to have " Vere dignum et justum est." etc.. translated as " Right it is. assuredly and most beteeming. duty of ours and our well-being." etc?
Surely I cannot be exceptional in finding this kind of thing more distracting than helpful It seems such a pity to miss any one of the beauties of this lovely Vigil.
(Mn.) Dora Noonan 19. Lansdale Road, Wanstead, E.II.
Sir.The letter ot FF. James lamenting,lost opportunities in the administration of the Sacrament of Baptism somewhat puzzled me. For many years now when 1 have stood sponsor or been present at a Baptism, the officiating priest has made available cards so that any who wished could follow the ceremony in rnglish, and indeed. when addressing the sponsors, has translated part of the Latin into English if occasion warranted. In this way every Baptism can be made a most. impressive ceremony. It is simply up to the priest.
Many Protestants are impressed by the Latin of the Church . its changeless dignity. When one explains to them that the reason of the Latin is that Catholic children are Baptised into a universal Church comprising every race and colour, the unprejudiced quite appreciate the necessity for a universal language.
During the time that I was a S.V. de Paul Brother I was engaged on after-care work for boys. I met with many disappointments and heartaches, but I do not think Fr. James is correct in saying that " boys are obliged to attend a service, the prayers of which they do not understand." Usually C:atholic children are taught what the Mass is from simple prayer books, and deep down they realise they possess the real thing in the Catholic Faith: the trouble is that except for the few, the pull of outside interests is too strong and when parental and school control is relaxed, many kick over the traces. But so many do come hack after being slightly battered by the world, A..1. Freeman. St. Mary's, Zeals. Wilts.
Sir.—Surely it is possible for parish priests who feel the need for mass in English to arrange for a curate or a suitable layman to read the Mass in English. If the reader kept exact time with the celebrant, player by prayer, the conditions of a vernacular mass would be very closely simulated.
It must be borne in mind, however, that if the prayers are to he audibly articulated instead of mentally read a low Mass will last considerably longer. This may entail some " pruning " of nonessentials such as the church notices if existing times of Masses in busy churches are to he maintained.
Graham F. N. Knewstub. 27. Avonmouth Road, Shirehampton, Bristol.