There was a story on NPR yesterday about how high school students today are reading books intended for much younger children rather than growing into meatier, more sophisticated books. According to Eric Stickney of Renaissance Learning, "The complexity of texts students are being assigned to read has declined by about three grade levels over the past 100 years. A century ago, students were being assigned books with the complexity of around the ninth- or 10th-grade level. But in 2012, the average was around the sixth-grade level." Students have always had difficulties with hard books, but rather than challenging them and -- heaven forbid! -- educating them, the response has all too often been to lower the expectations and find "fun" or "relevant" books at a lower level.
I couldn't help but see the parallel with what has happened to the Mass over the same period. Latin was "too hard", so now we have the vernacular -- and specifically "translations" that were dumbed down in a way that frequently changed the meaning and lacked any kind of beauty. When the translations were recently improved, there were many complaints by lazy priests that the laity could never understand big words like "ineffable" or "consubstantial", as though teaching the Faith were not the responsibility of priests. And heaven preserve us from "relevant" liturgies. If the argument has been that "relevant" liturgies in "simple language" would encourage participation and enhance understanding of the Faith, the results have been exactly the opposite.