On the back of my car I have an orange and black bumper sticker. The Latin motto on it, “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi” means “The law of praying is the law of believing.” I love this idea so much that I have decorated the back of my car with it…although probably next to no one that passes me on the road knows what it means!
Another way to express this idea is “The words we use in our prayer will shape the realities that we believe.”
Yes, this is an important enough idea to put on the back of my car!
Think of it this way: if you put a seven-year-old child in an environment where all the words and ideas he hears are simplified and geared towards a Kindergartner, his mind will not grow according to his ability and development levels. He should be mentally stretched towards maturity: he needs to approach closer to the language and thoughts of the adults he will be joining one day. And there is a worse scenario—if the words/ideas that people use around him are false, he can be led into all kinds of ignorance and error and perhaps never become a mentally mature adult.
I use this example of a child here because Our Lord has called us to be as children, spiritually, having an attitude of learning and trust toward God as He matures us in our Faith. He has given us the Church to be Mater et Magistra, both our Mother and Teacher. The Church has many prayers both for the Liturgy and outside of it; but if the words and concepts we hear and use for prayer are not what they should be, we won’t grow and mature in our Faith as we should.
Here is a concrete example of what I mean. Way back a long time ago in the 1970s (sorry Mom & Dad!) when the prayers of the Mass started being prayed in English in the U.S., a group of translators made very loose, vague translations from the Latin for the Roman Missal. These translations sounded like they could (and should) be used in a Kindergarten classroom! More was done here than just a straightforward change from one language to another: there was also a change of tone, a change of attitude, and a change of complexity. With these weak English translations, the prayers of the Mass sounded informal, casual, and dumbed-down.
This is why 2011 was such an important year for U.S. and other English-speaking Catholics: dioceses started using a new English translation of the Roman Missal, a translation that restored to the prayers of the Mass beauty, dignity, and nobility. Words that describe God’s awesome Majesty are now used, as well as words that describe the nature of Mass as a Sacrifice, and our unworthiness of God’s outpourings of His Love and grace. I’d like to take this opportunity to say that the children who grow up listening to these prayers at Mass each Sunday will grow up with a different understanding of God and His Church than I did—which is a great thing indeed!
When you go to Mass this Sunday, listen even more intently to the prayers that the Priest prays, and to our prayers and responses. With this third translation of the Roman Missal, we pray at the Mass as we believe: we adore God in His glory and majesty and are joyfully, humbly grateful to be counted as His beloved children.