Monday, July 17, 2006

Misericordiae

I have more important things to do than taking time to gripe about things that I can’t do anything about. And you have more important things to do than taking time to read my gripes about things that none of us can do anything about. But for the sake of therapy I’ll gripe anyway.

The cause of my present anxiety is my beautiful, new, leather bound, gold trimmed Daily Roman Missal. You see, this version, in response to the Vatican’s encouragement to reacquaint ourselves with the universal language of the Church, that being Latin, and indeed, Vatican II’s own dictate: “…the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites (SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM 36.1), actually has many of the prayers and responses printed also in Latin.

Now why should this cause me anxiety? Well because now I can see what the original text ACTUALLY says whereas before I just ignorantly babbled (prayerfully of course) the given English translation. I’m no Latin scholar, but I know just enough to be bothered by what I see.

One of the responses that is always accompanied by the Latin translation is the Psalm response. This week (15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B) the response was “Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” It is a verse I’ve repeated many times. But now I feel cheated. Why? Because that’s not what the text actually says.

The word translated as “kindness” is “misericordia” which actually means “mercy” or even “an appeal to pity”. In fact, a literal translation would be: “Lord, pity us…” The Latin word for “kindness” is “beneficentia” or “benevolentia”.

A few weeks ago, (12th Sunday) the psalm response read “Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting.” Again the word “misericordiae” appears in the Latin, but this time is translated “love”. The fact that there are many Latin words for “love” testify to the great ambiguity of the word “love” in English. Here are a few: “adamo” (as in to fall in love), “amor” (to love passionately), “cupido” (physical desire), and even “lucrum” which is love of gain or avarice, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

“Misericoridae” is obviously a very different word than the tepid “kindness” and the ambiguous “love”. The fact that “misericordia” translates as mercy and even pity implies that there is a NEED for mercy and pity. It cries out from our fallen nature. It affirms our complete and utter reliance on Him and our truly desperate sinful state.

It is my opinion that more and more Catholics are increasingly morally, doctrinally, and spiritually confused, if not neurotic. This, I think, is a direct consequence of our being increasingly shielded from the full conscious horror of sin and our dire need for sacramental repentance. Fulton Sheen once said that not to go to confession is like not changing a dirty diaper. We may pretend not to see the problem but the stench eventually overwhelms.

The effects of sin and the consequences of neglecting the confessional are better documented elsewhere. My point here is to suggest that it is not only the much discussed lack of authentic, consistent orthodox catechesis that is at fault in our society’s “slide to Gomorrah”, but the whitewashed text that we in the American Church have adopted as our official translation.

As stated at the outset, there is nothing a poor layman can do about an officially approved translation. We must say what it says. But there is no law against complaining about it…the squeaky wheel, you know. There is also no law prohibiting me from reading the Latin, knowing the Latin, and teaching my children the Latin. And so I do that…and encourage you to do it also.

Yes, Lord, let me know your kindness and love, but moreover, hear my cries for “misericordia”.

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