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The new translation and a culture of vocations

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January 10, 2012

By Father Kyle Schnippel

As the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal neared, I was often asked what affect I thought it would have on vocations to the priesthood and religious life.


While it seemed that some felt the new, more elevated translation might drive some away from pursuing the priesthood, it is my thought that it will actually do the opposite and draw more young men and women to recognize the possibility of a priestly or religious vocation.


There are several reasons for this possibility. First, over the last two years, we have had such a focus on the importance and centrality of the eucharistic celebration in our identity as Catholics. Hopefully, this has led all of us to a deeper and more profound love for Christ and His church. This love is what ultimately creates those initial stirrings of a vocation and provides the strength to overcome those sometimes tedious moments during formation when it all seems too much.


Also, a priest friend recently relayed an encounter he had with a parishioner, who admitted that the new translation was forcing her to listen with a more attentive ear. She also admitted that this was not a bad thing! Yes, the language is “higher,” more poetic and the syntax can be difficult at times, but these are the exact attributes that engage the mind, the heart, the imagination, the desire to learn and grow deeper into what is being celebrated. As we have now entered into these changes, we (priest and laity alike) can no longer just skate through Mass easily; we have to be much more intentional about the words we are praying. Again, the words will shape the heart, which will ultimately engage it in the stirring of that desire to know Christ personally and profoundly.


On a further note, the language of the new translation is one of supplication and pleading, rather than the sometime presumptuous language found in the now outdated translation. I think this is mostly a result of the change from active to passive voice in the newer translation. In reading the prayers, in meditating over them, as a priest, I get the sense that I do this with a certain amount of fear and trembling before the God of the universe.  It strikes me that the recognition of a vocation often requires a similar approach. One does not presume to take on the priesthood for oneself, but has been called forth to this life by God himself; mystery surrounds why I was invited to this and not my brother, for instance.


(To be clear, I am not denigrating the outgoing translation that nourished my own priestly vocation. I’m just trying to understand the differences between the two.)


It is this encounter with the living God that is the source of any true vocation: priesthood, consecrated, single or married life. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was quoted as saying that men, in discerning the priesthood, will not give their life to a question mark, but they are willing to give their lives to a mystery.


As we grow more accustomed to this new translation, as we are formed by the words and actions of the sacred liturgy, as we meditate and pray over the mysteries being celebrated, let us all experience that awe inspiring mystery of the one true God, that He might lead us all through our pilgrimage of life closer to himself.


Father Schnippel is the vocation director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

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