Catholic Life Congress

By Lou Baldwin
Special to the CS&T

RADNOR – The theme of Catholic Life Congress 2010 held at Archbishop John Carroll High School Nov. 13 was “Sacred Mysteries Ever Ancient -Ever New,” and Cardinal Justin Rigali focused on it during his homily at the Mass at the congress opening.

First the Cardinal mentioned how the word mystery is applied in common usage – mystery novels, mysterious crimes, the mysteries of the universe, and with a touch of levity, “the mystery why the Phillies failed to win another World Series.” {{more}}

In a spiritual sense, “When the term mystery is applied to elements of faith or religion it has a far more profound meaning,” the Cardinal said. “Sacred mysteries, including the most fundamental mysteries of the Most Blessed Trinity and the incarnation, are all rooted in the fact that God Himself dwells in inaccessible light. His life, the life of God, cannot be fully grasped by human beings. God is He who no one has seen and whose free action towards human beings is a mystery. Rather than attempting to solve the mystery of God, we are invited to exercise our freedom in loving God and accepting the future as God’s future.”

The Cardinal’s Mass was followed by a keynote address by Father Paul Turner of Cameron, Ohio, a prolific writer on liturgical matters and a former president of the North American Academy of Liturgy. His topic was “The Roman Missal: Preparation and Reception,” which discussed the revised English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal that will be implemented the First Sunday of Advent 2011.

“I don’t mean to shock you, but in case you haven’t heard, not everyone is looking forward to this new English translation,” he said at the outset.

He then went on to explain why we are getting a new translation of the Mass and what we will get from it.

He noted the Roman Missal, as written in Latin, the official language of the Church, has not changed dramatically in its new third edition. It is “like upgrading a computer program from 2.0 to 3.0,” he said.

The greater change Americans will see is in the English translation because “The Vatican has changed the rules of how translations to the vernacular should be made.”

In previous editions the translators had much more leeway in their phrasing, now the Vatican is insisting on “the rendering of the text faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language.”

Father Turner went through a dozen objections that have been voiced by critics of the new translations, most, but not all of which, he thought were groundless.

He did not agree with those who believe, compared to so many other Christian concerns, liturgy is unimportant.

“Celebrating the Eucharist is the single most important thing that Catholics do,” he said. “If you make time for other issues but do not make time for the Sunday Eucharist, then you have carved the heart out of any apostolic activity you embrace.”

Robert Batastini, an expert on liturgical music who came in from Michigan to give a workshop at the congress on the changes in liturgical music, thought Father Turner “addressed the topic beautifully and raised the issues.”

As for the new music being developed for the changes, he believes it is still a work in progress. “Candidly,” he said, “it covers the full spectrum from ‘great’ to ‘it shouldn’t have been written.'”

John Romeri, Philadelphia’s recently appointed director of the Office for Liturgical Music, said the need for composing new music is “amazingly challenging. All of the musicians are very excited.”

A first meeting of the Common Repertoire Committee was to be held Nov. 15, he said, adding, “We will all be learning at least one new setting and over the next few years learn a few more.”

In all there were about 1,300 lay men and women, priests and religious in attendance at this year’s Catholic Life Congress. In addition to Father Turner’s keynote address there was another in Spanish given by Miguel Arias, an editor of Spanish publications at Loyola Press, and 33 other presentations on various topics over the course of the day.

“I’m excited about this year’s program,” said Maryanne Harrington, director of the archdiocesan Office for Formation of the Laity. The focus on the new English translation of the Roman Missal is especially important, she said, because “we will be talking about the liturgy and begin to better understand what the translation will mean to us as a community.”

“I thought it (Father Turner’s presentation) was very timely,” said Immaculate Heart Sister Judith Kreipe, assistant director of the archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. The new translation, she said, “is something we have all been praying for, working for.”

Among other women religious in attendance was a group of Religious of the Assumption from St. Stanislaus Parish in Lansdale.

“It’s a joy for us to be present. It shows there is life in the Archdiocese,” said Sister Cecelia, speaking for the group.

But of course most of those in attendance were lay men and women, some religious education teachers or parish workers; others just committed Catholics and members of their congregation.

“I was an altar boy when they had the Mass in Latin and the priest turned his back to the people. The changes are good,” said William Precise, who came to the congress with a group from St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in South Philadelphia.

Julie Clymer of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Hatfield brought her two young adult sons, Gregory and Michael, with her. “It’s great to learn about the new changes,” she said. “We are also attending Father G. Dennis Gill’s presentation (A New Translation of the Roman Missal: Clarifying and Amplifying the Faith).”

Her son Michael, a student at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said, “I’ve gotten a look at the new translation and it’s really cool. I’ve seen the prayers, I’ve heard the music; I’m really impressed with what they’ve come up with.”

As for the congress, “it’s been a great day” he said.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.