Why Pope Francis is right to revisit the new Mass translation

Pope Francis greets the crowd before celebrating Mass at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia, Oct. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

Recent news out of Rome that Pope Francis has given his blessing to a commission to study “Liturgiam Authenticam,” the controversial 2001 document behind the English translation of the Roman Missal, was surely music to the ears of many who love the church’s liturgy and to just about everyone who loves the English language. Seven years ago, I did my best to see that the translation got a test run before being mandated for general use. But, as the saying goes, timing is everything. Had Francis been elected just a few years earlier, it is likely that “Liturgiam Authenticam” would have died in committee.

At this point, I am not sure who to feel sorrier for: those members of the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, who, back in 1998, offered a worthy translation—the fruit of 17 years painstaking labor—only to have it unceremoniously consigned to oblivion by Vatican officials, or the faithful of the English-speaking world who have had to struggle since 2011 with a wooden, woefully inadequate, theologically limited Missal that is low on poetry, if high on precision.

This much everyone should agree on: The church’s greatest prayer should not depend on awkward, literal compositions that would earn poor marks in any high school English (or theology) class. Think, for instance, of the tone of the prayers, with their exaltation of merit over mercy, their emphasis on human weakness at the expense of human dignity, their “sacral vernacular” (No. 47) that keeps God at a majestic distance. So many times during Mass I have been tempted to stop and ask, “Does anyone know what that means?”—and I cannot be alone. To quote one disgruntled parishioner, “Father, some of those prayers might as well be in Latin.”

The complaints from priests and from parishioners are not just hearsay. A 2014 survey conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate revealed that only 27 percent of priests in the United States believe the new translation has lived up to expectations. More than half said it needs urgently to be revised.

But there is more to consider here than style and syntax and questionable theology. There is Pope Francis and the transformational moment he has ushered in for the church—the fresh air, the invitation to dialogue, the resetting of priorities, the quest for simplicity. And there are also his writings, especially “Evangelii Gaudium.” Although the pope does not focus on the Mass or the Missal, he does talk about language, communication, modes of expression, and cultural adaptation—all of which have significant implications for the way we pray.

Pope Francis points to the importance of simplicity, clarity, directness and adapting to “the language of the people in order to reach them with God’s word…and to share in their lives” (No. 158). In light of this, how can we justify using words like “consubstantial,” “conciliation,” “oblation”or “regeneration”?

Pope Francis also goes after the sacred cow of ancient Latin texts. He writes: “We cannot demand that peoples of every continent, in expressing their Christian faith, imitate modes of expression which European nations developed at a particular moment of their history, because the faith cannot be constricted to the limits of understanding and expression of any one culture” (“Evangelii Gaudium,” No. 115).

The principles of “Liturgiam Authenticam” run precisely counter to Pope Francis’ vision.

The principles of “Liturgiam Authenticam” run precisely counter to Pope Francis’ vision. Far from drawing on the gifts of culture, it stifles them in favor of a monoculture. Contrast the words of Francis with the directive “Liturgiam” gives to the church in the developing world: “fidelity and exactness with respect to the original texts may themselves sometimes require that words already in current usage be employed in new ways, that new words or expressions be coined, that terms in the original text be transliterated” (No. 21). This is precisely the kind of cultural imperialism that Pope Francis has called into question.

As an antidote to this, Pope Francis speaks of the importance of local bishops’ conferences, respecting the authority that should be theirs when it comes to deciding matters that pertain to the local church.

Now his encouraging words have been backed up by encouraging action. Will the controversial document be radically revised—or even revoked? This would be a game-changer. The bishops’ conferences of Germany, Italy and France, wisely dragged their feet on implementing “Liturgiam Authenticam.” Now a wonderful opportunity seems to have opened up for them. Perhaps other language groups, thanks to our experience, will be spared questionable translations like ours.

How this new development will be received by the bishops of the English-speaking world remains to be seen. But I feel certain that the majority of priests and people will be praying that the newly formed Vatican commission liberates future translations from the straight-jacket of “Liturgiam Authenticam” and that their bishops will be open to the commission’s findings. No matter how weary of the topic our bishops may be, they should reclaim their rightful role in preparing and approving liturgical texts. And for the time being, they should put the brakes on translations currently in process (including the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the Rite of Baptism, and the Liturgy of the Hours). And they should swallow hard and begin to take another look at the Roman Missal. If they do, they will quickly realize that we can do better. We can hardly do worse.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

There is no liturgy more banal than the modern American liturgy served up by modernist 'thinkers" and their apologists represented here. It is derisable that the author argues for "poetry." There is not a poet alive (or dead, for that matter) who argues for a paring down to a third grade level the available and employable vocabulary. Poets don't employ etymological (liturgy) police to neuter language. Poets don't argue for the pedestrian over the language of the inspired; the language of earth over that of heaven, the language of self obsessed over the language of the God lover.

It was in church that I encountered many of the fantastic words and concepts that I can
now claim as my own. That was, to be sure, before such "translators" and translations of which Fr. Ryan is so fond got their mitts on liturgy and its contemporary modes of expression.

Here's a good article that counters some of the pap these modern liturgical "Solomons" advocate. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2010/09/06/3003796.htm

Once again, the spirit of modernism, with all of its desire for a pedestrian approach to everything liturgical, with its own pedantic muse, is given voice by Rev. Fr. Ryan. There was no poetry in the previous translation, or very little. More often we've gotten a distilled theology that places man at the center of the action; man and his Id as the reason for the liturgy. Contemporary American culture, with its paucity of language skills, arguing for a more dumbed down, less precise language that they can be spoon fed, instead of seeking that they rise to the challenge of learning to digest such discombobulating terms such as "ineffable." Heaven forbid that that might increase there "football and beer on Sunday" parlance.

And, once again, those representing such a view have stooped to "begging the question" points of argumentation. (Not that they would even know what that is). Add to that just out and out falsehoods, as per Fathers assertions of "questionable theology." Dear Father Mike: the language in the original form, and thus a 'true to the intent' translation, however "wooden" should be, logically, devoid of such bad theology unless it was there from the start.

There are more such departures from a logically sound argumentation here. Maybe Father could have benefited by a more sumptuous etymological banquet of a broader vocabulary which - words being the building blocks of thought - increases the breadth and precision of thinking, reasoning and expression. Yet, he argues, from such a shaky perch, for 'dragging of the feet" tactics in order to vacate and rebel against pronouncements from an imperial and pernicious Rome. My dear Lord, the sanctimony of all of this is just too, too rich.

This same approach has yielded that same paucity of "poetry" Father ostensibly argues "for" in our modern "hymns." (More precisely, pop songs with 'Jesus and me" lyrics, we don't really have hymns anymore).

Why don't priests so concerned about liturgy actually promote the liturgy, meaning, how about sing the liturgy, as prescribed by our Church. i.e., have celebrants that can actually intone the prayers, or pastors who will promote the singing of Mass propers, or reclaim our musical traditions, masterworks, which are, according to Farther, unfortunately. mostly attached to that awful dead language, i.e., Latin. Or sing the Gospels and Epistles, after all, that is the way the Church has set forth as an ideal.

The approach Father argues for alienates our youth from and thus denies them anything other than the immediately digestible. In so doing, we are, or had been with the older translation, impoverishing those same youth, and not "enhancing" their liturgical experience.

Tony Phillips
1 month 3 weeks ago

We suffered under a miserable and deliberate mistranslation of the Novus Ordo for 40 years. Even a first year Latin student could see how badly it departed from the text--though until the advent of the internet, most of us had no access to the actual Latin text. Maybe my life's too easy, but I'm still angry about being hoodwinked with that dreadful "translation." Liturgiam Authenticam was a godsend.

The hierarchy seems to forget that 'liturgy' means 'the work of the people.' It doesn't mean 'property of the pope' or 'of the bishops' conference.' And let's face it, anyone who's tried to slog through this pope's writings can tell that language isn't exactly his forte.

Of course, if you don't like the translation, you can do what Sacrosanctum Concilium expected and stick to the Latin.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

That's what they - those who bear the trappings of the Age of Aquarius thinking - don't seem to understand. They think everything is evolutionary, including the RCC and its theology, dogmas and liturgy. They would deny younger people their rightful and deserved patrimony, so they can be comfortable in their chosen language mode. That would be somewhat OK, if we are speaking of translations only as a matter of taste preference, but we're not. Fr. Mike mentions theology, and that is what they are really all about. So, Father, if you're listening, how does an accurate, even if, as you say, "wooden" translation alter theology?

Gino Dalpiaz
1 month 3 weeks ago

HIP-HOP TRANSLATIONS?

I fervently hope and pray that nobody takes Fr. Michael Ryan’s recommendations seriously. He’s on some kind of a crusade against “Liturgiam Authenticam,” having written at least three articles over the years for America Magazine on this subject. I think that, in effect, he wants to jazz up the text of the Roman Missal. He doesn’t want a translation. He wants an “interpretation” of the text.

Sorry, I want a faithful translation of the Latin text. What did the Church actually say in this ancient prayer or that 2nd century prayer? I don’t want a translation doctored up by some liturgist at his desk. I don’t want somebody giving me a paraphrase of the Latin text a là the famous “Living Bible” by Bergen. I say: please translate the original texts simply and literally without a dynamic equivalence synergy approach used to convey the thoughts behind the text. When you translate important books, you don’t paraphrase — you have no liberty to do so. You’d be cheating your readers.

I have a sneaking suspicion that, if he had his druthers, Fr. Ryan would want the original Latin text itself of the Missal updated so that it, too, is a little more hip-hop in keeping with the tastes of our modern post-Christian society.

I vote to keep the present English translation of the Roman Missal, as is!

Joseph O'Leary
1 month 3 weeks ago

"Just" Is not a faithful translation of "iustum" - it's like translating "le mot juste" as "the just word"

Joseph O'Leary
1 month 3 weeks ago

"We acclaim" in the Prefaces is incorrect English. No one tested the translator's cimpetence in either language.

Justin Ramza
1 month 3 weeks ago

Jay, I understand where you are coming from, but I don't see why the original intention of the texts in Latin cannot also be made to read -and be prayed- more comprehensibly by the average parishioner, without making up words or ignoring the syntax and grammar of the native language. You seem to have a predilection for precision. What precision is there in using words contrary to established language rules ("was incarnate of the Virgin Mary").

What is wrong with transliteration? For scholarship, nothing at all. When I studied ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek, I much preferred a transliteration of the texts I was referencing; so too, when I would quote German philosophers and theologians. But this is not an appropriate way of translating liturgical texts for prayer (again, just my opinion). When I have attended Eastern Catholic and Eastern (Bulgarian) Orthodox liturgies, while being true to their ancient liturgical roots, they were none the less vernacular liturgies for the native parishioners. I do not believe poetry precludes a use of the vernacular, nor that certain words constitute a "language of Heaven," while other words cannot. Such is also argued by supporters of the King James Bible; you sound erudite enough to appreciate that koine Greek is not a heavenly dialect.

My last point, jay : you might want to tone down the acrimony in your post. You love "precision of thinking." The author wrote his opinion on the previous liturgical translation, which he personally found prayerfully poetic. His opinion. He's entitled to that. You then came full out of the gate with accusations of modernism (huh???) and many strange other accusations against the author, that the author never brought up - you assumed he favored these things. I wondered if you and I read the same blog. I do not favor those things, but I definitely favor the previous translation of our liturgy.
Keep calm, brother.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

I appreciate the concern about acrimony, and it is well taken, and part of my own re-reading of that I'd just written, before pushing the "Save" button. That said, some context is in order here. Fr. Mike Ryan is not an unknown quantity in this discussion. He has placed himself squarely and publicly out front and has basically advocated for a "you can't make me" position - from a few years back when these changes to the first iterations of the Roman Missal (which were not accurate - argue about style all you'd want - Ryan at the time was not too concerned about accuracy, if at all. He wanted to keep those flawed translations, so it is only about style, one must surmise) were first proposed, except they can and did. I found that tact to be petulant and disrespectful, worthy of scorn and hopefully squashed, and yet, post Pope Francis - another person of questionable intent and/or wisdom per the "mind of the Church" - it rears its ugly head again, with an "ahah- see, I was right" and wants to still seal off the influence of Rome (unless it is a pope of Francis ilk, never experienced in our lifetimes as far as assaulting Catholic dogma) in favor of local Bishop Conferences who have helped to create more disillusion and confusion than "progress" or a better liturgy. If you add to the mix, the idea that the ICEL has claimed "copyrights" to every translation, and forces, for example, musicians who would set Scripture to music to pay royalties, and sets forth to come up with its own "unique" version that can indeed be awkward, (and here I am with Fr. Ryan) then the whole subject area is awash with mal-intent and there is, in my opinion, no room for any sort of "weighing in" on the subject that is not rooted in fact and speaks with the mind of th Church. Mine is just an opinion, Fr. Mike's is more of a pronouncement issued from someone who's position argues for more acumen than what he delivers. Sorry, the dumbing down of the Church, especially encouraged by those we've entrusted to watch over souls, can make one's blood boil, and I do want that to come through, as harsh as it may come across. It is not unwarranted.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

All of the context/background somewhat out of the way (there is more, but goodness, who has the time or patience for that ?) I don't think the current iteration is the "final word" or only possible translations bearing an accurate reflection of the original texts. I am more reacting to the points of argumentation that the good Father takes; one being that the poor people in the pews just can't handle all of those big ugly words. Don't buy that, it is just a dumbing down at a certain point. Phraseology would be, perhaps, an area where we could agree. The push in the Scriptural texts, not the Missal but the Readings, has been towards a more pedestrian language which has robbed those texts, most often, of any sense of poetry, not the opposite. There is, in addition to all of that, an approach on the part of publisher/translators that also seems to - for the purposes of establishing copyright claims - create a departure from other translation already established, no matter how well loved and broadly shared, not matter how poetic, no matter that they be completely accurate. This adds just one more stumbling block to Christian unity and makes it just that much more difficult to remember, quote and share familiar passages. All, it would seem, to bolster publisher coffers based on claims of "ownership" which seem dubious at best - philosophically and practically. It is not, per se, the point of this discussion, but another element that muddies the waters here.

Justin Ramza
1 month 3 weeks ago

Wow. Ok, well, you make solid points, esp as regards the copyright issue. I had no idea, and I'm definitely in agreement with you there- the text of liturgy has no need of being copyrighted, and this does smack of questionable privilege.

I'm in my late 40's, so I grew up with the previous translation. When the changes were made, it definitely gave me an empathy for those who saw the liturgy move from Latin to English after Vatican II - for awhile, it had an indirectly negative impact on my faith (lex Orandi....) One prays something thousands of times, and when that prayer is changed, even if by just one word, the result is jarring. It brings a certain contemplative / meditative frame of mind to a screeching halt, especially if the syntax feels odd. But while I prefer the older text, I am with the body of the Church, and pray the new translation humbly. That said, there are moments in the new liturgy where it feels like I'm listening to Monty Python ("lord, you are soooo big. Oh soooooo huge."). I do hope a compromise might be achieved. If you are ever in the northern Illinois area, I'd love to talk with you personally on this.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

Thanks for the invite, I will take you up on that, though I am not there too often, (only twice in my life, and I'm sixty!!) You are correct about the jarring. I think there might indeed me more of a middle ground that makes sense. The copyright thing, though I don't understand all of the ramifications, is problematic on its face. It does yield big bucks to the Church, by way of Missalette and music publishing, at least that is what
it is set up to do, though they "claim" it is to safeguard those texts from falsifications, errors and misprints. Hah, that's a good one.

Henry George
1 month 3 weeks ago

It might have been helpful if Fr. Ryan had juxtaposed some of the passages where he felt the ICEL version was better than what we now
use.

For myself, I found the ICEL translations used from the 70's on
to be somewhat questionable and frankly rather fraudulent in
terms of being a "fair translation".

Is there no one who can provide a translation that is accurate
yet beautiful and moving ?

Ronald Roberts
1 month 3 weeks ago

Viewed through the eyes of those who seek the “reform of the reform” the liturgy revisions are an effort to make the English language translation of the mass, more faithfully, a word for word translation of the liturgies as they are published in Latin.

The revised English translations, which we began to use in 2011, were a result of the Instruction Liturgiam Authenticam, which included the requirement that, in translations of the liturgical texts from the official Latin, "the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content”.

However, hidden beneath the requirement of developing a more accurate, literal translation, conservative liturgists sought to “reform the reform of Vatican II” and elevate the language of the liturgy to make it more complex, abundant, lavish and rich and to restore many of the rubrics of the pre-Vatican II, Latin mass.

Beyond the linguistic gymnastics which brought the theological term “consubstantial” to a wider audience of non-theologians, there is an underlying desire to return to the pre-Vatican II liturgy. There is a call by Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who on July 5th of this year, in an address to the third international “Sacra Liturgia” conference, to return, as soon as possible, to the practice of offering Mass ad orientem (mass celebrated by the priest with his back turned to the congregation), suggesting “beginning this on the first Sunday of Advent this year”.

The product of their linguistics efforts belie the stated intention of making it a more exact translation of the Roman Rite. For example, many of those who long for the return of the pre-Vatican II church, cringe at the thought of us standing through the Eucharistic Prayer.
In Eucharistic Prayer II the language of the part of the prayer known as the Anamnesis and Oblation was changed to read “giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you.” The traditionalist minded translators made it a point of ridding Eucharistic Prayer II of that troublesome line about “being worthy to stand in your presence”.
However, if you read the Latin version of Eucharistic Prayer II found in the Roman Missal it reads:

“gratias agentes quia nos dignos habuisti astare coram te et tibi ministrare”

Or translated into English:

“counting us worthy to stand in front of you, giving thanks, and to minister to you”

Coincidentally, a third century writing, The Apostolic Tradition, contains, what many attribute as, the source of Eucharistic Prayer II. Burton Easton’s 1934 translation of “The Apostolic Tradition” from Sahidic Coptic texts, translated this phrase about standing in God’s presence as:

“because thou hast counted us worthy to stand before thee and to minister to thee”

Clearly, Liturgiam Authenticam’s requirement for an integral and exact translation was ignored when it did not fit the desire of the traditionalist, conservative minded, translators.

Now that I have demonstrated that an integral and exact translation was not always promulgated I will reflect on the several specific points.

The language of the translation is excessively and unnecessarily stilted. “Consubstantial” …. “incarnate of Mary”. Need I say more. Linking “dewfall” to the miraculous mana from heaven is probably a stretch when you read it in context of Eucharistic Prayer II which reads “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall”. Easton’s translation of this phrase in the Apostolic Tradition does not include any reference to “dew”.

"And we pray thee that thou wouldest send thy Holy Spirit upon the offerings of thy holy church"

Although I am not sure of origin of “dewfall” in Eucharistic Prayer II, I suspect it was the product of the effort to make the prayer more lavish rather than being a faithful translation.

The Latin version of this phrase in the Roman Missal is:

Haec ergo dona, quaesumus, Spíritus tui rore sanctífica,

The English translation:

And these are the gifts of God, we beseech Thee, the Spirit come upon Thee

Assuming that we keep it in Eucharistic Prayer II, despite it not being in the Latin version, it would be easier to understand if we used phrases that were more natural to our ear. For example “Make holy these gifts we pray, by sending down your Spirit like the gentle morning dew” an analogy we can more easily understand and relate to is better than “dewfall”. Perhaps St. Augustine had our current Roman Missal in mind when he wrote, “Therefore, there can be

The use of “the many” a literal translation of the Latin phrase “pro multis” in all of the Eucharistic Prayers should be reconsidered in light of the thoughts of Pope Francis expressed in an address to a gathering of representatives of more than 220 dioceses of the Italian Catholic churches, meeting in Florence last November.

Pope Francis’ comments to the bishops included,

“Don’t be preachers of complex doctrine, but announcers of Jesus Christ, who died and resurrected for us.”

Relevant to the use of “the many” Pope Francis unequivocally stated “the Lord shed his blood not for some, nor for a few, nor for many, but for all.”

Coincidentally, regarding “for all”, in November 2006, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, in a letter to “To their Eminences /Excellencies, Presidents of the National Episcopal Conferences” wrote:

There is no doubt whatsoever regarding the validity of Masses celebrated with the use of a duly approved formula containing a formula equivalent to "for all", as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has already declared (cf. Sacra Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, Declaratio de sensu tribuendo adprobationi versionum formularum sacramentalium, 25 Ianuarii 1974, AAS 66 [1974], 661). Indeed, the formula "for all" would undoubtedly correspond to a correct interpretation of the Lord's intention expressed in the text. It is a dogma of faith that Christ died on the Cross for all men and women (cf. John 11:52; 2 Corinthians 5,14-15; Titus 2,11; 1 John 2,2).”

Should not our Eucharistic prayer reflect the reality of Christ life and blood being poured out for us all in favor of a translation that inadequately expresses this reality?

Chalice? Although in Latin, perhaps in Roman times, calix might have been a phrase that could be equated to a container that the itinerant band following Jesus might have carried with them or had available to them at the Last Supper. However, in today’s language it means something much different. It is easier to believe that the container Jesus passed to those at the last supper was, what we would call, a cup. To call it a chalice imparts a holiness to a vessel that contained the miraculous gift, the blood of Christ which remained disguised behind the philosophical accident of its appearance as common wine.

In the Eucharistic Prayers, we make the container more outwardly holy than Christ made his presence in the transubstantiated presence in the wine.

Perhaps we should eliminate all references to the container (just as there is no reference to the ciborium or basket containing the bread) and rewrite the words of consecration of the wine to read “Take this, all of you, and drink it, for this is my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for all, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me”.

Ryder Charles
1 month 3 weeks ago

Consubstantial? Incarnate of Mary? These terms reflect the beauty of the reality of who Jesus is -- true God and true Man. Every believer has a right to know about the wondrous love that God has for us in Christ.

"Like the dewfall" has its origin in Numbers 11:9 -- "When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it." The Holy Spirit came like a mighty wind at Pentecost but during the liturgy He comes imperceptibly and quietly, like the dewfall.

What we really need is a new translation of the Scriptures to be used in the liturgy. The New American Bible in its various editions is a syntactical nightmare and is the flattest, least poetic translation of the Bible that exists among the major translations. As a lector, I cringe at some of the language that I have to read from the NAB.

Joseph O'Leary
1 month 3 weeks ago

"Rore", ablative of " ros", means "with the dew"

Ryder Charles
1 month 3 weeks ago

In the 1969 Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI, the official Latin text reads, "Haec ergo dona, quaesumus, Spiritus tui rore sanctifier". The 1973 ICEL translation dropped the "rore" or dew. Again, dew is mentioned alongside manner in Numbers 11:9. Moreover, the dew is an important metaphor throughout the OT. But here is another reference that links dew with the "bread of God".

"In the evening, quail came up and covered the camp. In the morning there was a layer of dew all about the camp, and when the layer of dew evaporated, fine flakes were on the surface of the wilderness, fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground. On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, 'What is this?' for they did not know what it was. But Moses told them, 'It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.'"

Exodus 16:12-17 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Joseph O'Leary
1 month 3 weeks ago

The dewfall is meaningless

Ryder Charles
1 month 3 weeks ago

"Dewfall" is pregnant with wonderful meaning.

Justin Ramza
1 month 3 weeks ago

Great reply, expressing many of my own sentiments - but more scholarly than I could.

As an aside, I went though a time of weak faith shortly after the new translation, and I would cringe every time I heard that phrase (descend like the dew fall) as, scientifically, dew does not "fall." This was a long held belief that is now known to be false. Every time I heard that phrase, asking the Spirit to come down just like something which does not come down, it made me reflect on the reality of my own beliefs.

Henry George
1 month 3 weeks ago

Robert, where are you getting your translations of the Latin ?
I can't say they are faithful to the Latin.
Is there anywhere one can read the 1998 ICEL Missal ?

Corinna Laughlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

If you read carefully, you'll see that Father Ryan is not advocating for a return to the 1973 ICEL, but rather is suggesting that we might turn to the 1998 ICEL translation which was approved by the English-speaking bishops of the world but never published because of "Liturgiam Authenticam." The 1998 translation is very faithful to the Latin and has the added advantage of being in natural, prayable English.

Luis Gutierrez
1 month 3 weeks ago

In addition to improving the verbal language, we need to improve the *body language* of the Catholic liturgy. The patriarchal body language we now have is neither divine law nor adequate to make visible the entire truth of the "Word made flesh" in today's world, which should include making visible the divine "feminine genius" in Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

Ryder Charles
1 month 3 weeks ago

What "patriarchal body language" are you talking about? Can you give some examples?

Joseph O'Leary
1 month 3 weeks ago

The frozen posture of the girdled priest?

Ryder Charles
1 month 3 weeks ago

Nope. That's not the answer. It's not even an answer.

Joseph O'Leary
1 month 3 weeks ago

Or just the absence of bodily movement except sometimes at the pax?

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

Liturgy is not some zero sum game where sides vie to promote agendas, class, gender roles etc. Liturgy is "thus saith the Lord" and you can take that all the way back to Genesis where we see one sacrifice made to God - Cain's - rejected and Able's accepted. God's ordering. not man's. We see that same sort of Divine ordering of worship in the instructions to the Israelites as to how the Arc was to be moved, approached, by whom, etc., or in the instructions to Solomon on how to build the Lord's Temple, who were to be the priests, from which tribe, who could be in the "Holy of Holies." Our worship is a reflection and and extension upon the worship of the ancient Jewish Temple and synagogues. The first liturgies of the Church were actually held in Jewish synagogues, as you may well know. The Jews themselves put an end to all of that, but that is our roots. None of these things are arbitrary or left to chance or man's deciding how or when or with whom or on what day to worship the Lord God. Respectfully Luiz, in the light of all of that, please reconsider what you are proposing, and maybe why. (although I am sure your intent is well meaning) and is it, really, high time to purge God's Church and her liturgies of those awful vestiges of patriarchy, (though we're none to sure what that might entail). Is it? Says who?

Other than that, the point of contention on the table today, the acceptability of the various translations of the established liturgical texts, is really not, per se, any sort of question of improvement, as such, speaking of the original texts - those, at least per this discussion, are not in need of fixing, Our liturgies, at this point, are not constructs, (although that is one of the most serious criticisms of the Novus Ordo, that it is not a natural extension, but a whole new Mass) but faithful renditions and testaments to what has been handed down from the Apostles and Church Fathers. Liturgy may extend, may be more faithfully rendered, it does not, or should not, disgard, any prayers or rites valid at an earlier time remain so, and so any sort of adaptation, especially given the context of some sort of socially acceptable construct to match this or that social 'evolution' runs counter to the more natural development of the liturgy, to render more faithfully the works of our Lord at the Last Supper. God's Liturgies are timeless. In their essentials they are not "culturally infused." Maybe in some accidentals. That is a fundamental misinterpretation, however widely disseminated, as to what the Church's Liturgies are and to whom they belong.

Joseph O'Leary
1 month 3 weeks ago

Ideological fulminations are misplaced. The old ICEL had a pamphlet explaining line by line their splendid translation of the Roman Canon. This prayer has been reduced to junk in the new translation so that one never hears it anymore. The ideologists should read the texts they defend, or should listen to them when they go to church.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

Only in the absence of dedicated ideologues. Sadly, we have not that situation in Mother Church today. If the "language wars" waged in the Church have shown us one thing, it is modernist thought loves to parade its "discoveries" and novelties through the appropriation of texts. Don't think people are so stupid not to have noticed. Like a big fly on one's nose, the average lay person may not know its particular phylum or class, but he does know that it's a fly and it needs to come off.

geraldine Henry
1 month 3 weeks ago

Along with the silliness of "consubstantial" there is the very sad "encarnated" of the Virgin Mary. My children were born not encarnated, and when It came to that lovely phrase at mass, "born of the Virgin Mary", my thoughts always went to that time right after giving birth, when all was peaceful and I lovingly held my new baby in my arms, sharing that memory with Mary. Let us hope they replace that awful word with a true recognition of the very human, beautiful birth of Jesus.

Ryder Charles
1 month 3 weeks ago

Ms. Henry,

I find the term incarnated to be a beautiful expression that conveys the marvelous love that the eternal Word of God had for us by being a human. It wonderfully captures the "divine condescension" that God underwent for us by "emptying Himself" and becoming like us in all things but sin. Jesus is fully man and He is Fully God. He is born of the Virgin Mary but He is conceived by the Holy Spirit. "Incarnate", I think, captures this great mystery of love.

I also prefer "consubstantial" to "one in being". The Word of God is of the same substance as the Father. I am not against saying "one in being". I just think that "consubstantial" helps the average Catholic to better understand the marvelous community of Love that exists between the members of the Trinity. Of course, this should be accompanied by a some brief catechesis on the part of the priest / deacon / DRE. On the other hand, the "phrase one in being", requires catechesis as well.

You have a right to your preferences but I think you could do better than call the use of consubstantial as "silliness". There are those of us who love the Lord and are involved in service to neighbor who don't find this word silly.

Justin Ramza
1 month 3 weeks ago

It is not a silly word, but it's placement within a statement of faith, within a liturgy where that statement is also meant to be prayerful - I think it feels odd and awkward (and I have a BA and MA in theology- I appreciate its value to precision.). But precision is for theology; when it interrupts a prayerful mind, it ceases to be helpful. And honestly, all of those commenters who defend these more precise words- they always go on to use more common words to explain them (consubstantial, of the same substance). So why not just say "of the same substance?" Did not Gregory of Nyssa do so himself?

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

*

Ryder Charles
1 month 3 weeks ago

Justin,

Many theologians don't believe that "precision" is for theology. Father Antonio Spadaro, a collaborator of Pope Francis, said that "Theology is not Mathematics. 2 + 2 in Theology can make 5." Moreover, there is some pretty wild creative thinking in some theological constructs (e.g. - Richard Rohr's assertion that it is absurd to think that the Atonement is substitutionary in nature). To come to this conclusion you have to disregard much of the what the Scriptures say about the Messiah's sacrificial love. Jesus (whom John calls "the Lamb of God") said that "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." Did God have to achieve the Atonement in this way? Aquinas says "no". But Aquinas goes on to say that God chose the Atonement precisely to show us the unimaginable love He has for us.

Since you remarked about "commenters who defend these more precise words" let me say I have heard a priest who dislikes the "precise words" say (from the pulpit) "Baptism is not about sin because Jesus was baptized and He was without sin." Do some people object to the current translation simply because it is "clunky" or are they nervous about doctrine?

I don't find that the term "consubstantial" gets in the way of my prayer. I think "of the same substance" is fine. I agree with the adage that the more we understand God, the more we will want to love Him and the more we love God, the more we will want to understand Him. My goal as a catechist of both adults and youth is to help people to believe in the immensity of God's love for them.

May the Lord's peace and blessings be upon you.

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

The Church uses the language that is most encompassing of a particular reality and leaves not room for misinterpretation. Incarnate, ( not a language scholar, but if I may) is allowing that Christ is not 'born' of a virgin in that he pre-existed, from eternity, He is literally her Creator, but he was given a fleshly body through Mary, (like the words "carnage" - death of the flesh, or "carne" in Spanish, for "meat.") and just as the sun does not actually rise, we may use the word "rise" and it is fine, just imprecise. Same with "born." We have, from John 1, the most detailed description and theologically rich of who Jesus actually is, in Verse 14, "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." So no "born" there as well. The importance of precision is heightened in that the 'Creed is a declaration, publicly, of what it is we actually believe. You were born, I was born, Jesus was made flesh.

Justin Ramza
1 month 3 weeks ago

I totally agree, Jay. And theologically, while I suppose one could argue that he was "born" upon leaving the womb, this point of faith, as made by Nicea I, was really to emphasize your point. But I think, in liturgy, expressing it in more words, as you did, would be more apropos: instead of saying he was incarnate (or incarnated), say "he was made flesh/ took on human flesh, through the Virgin Mary." Or even "from the flesh of the Virgin Mary. ". Likewise with "consubstantial;". If memory serves, this was a concept borrowed from the Eastern fathers; I don't think the term itself is critical, only the concept - of the same substance.
I admire the way the Eastern Orthodox believe that liturgy is both prayer and instruction. A large word, regrettably, baffles many. I think a sound, simple elucidation can be more instructive and prayerful, than a "fully loaded" theological term. Just my opinion.

Bruce Snowden
1 month 3 weeks ago

Jay, Surfing the many responses has been an interesting trot, but the final line of your post made me pause with a question. You say, "You were born, I was born, Jesus was made flesh." What's the difference in being "born" and becoming "flesh?" As I understand the Incarnation, when the Spirit of the Father "overshadowed" the girl Mary, "came upon her" as is sometimes translated, through this overshadowing, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word, "became flesh" en-route to birth, following her Divine impregnation, this as truly as when your Father, or my Father, "overshadowed" our Mothers by "coming upon her" subsequently making us "flesh" destined to be "born" just as Jesus become flesh was born. So, I don't understand the difference you make between Jesus becoming "flesh" and being "born." I hope I have managed to clearly present my question seeking an answer. Thanks!

Jay Zamberlin
1 month 3 weeks ago

I won't pretend to be a theologian, but, when language precision is in play, there is, as far as I have observed over many years, a reason. The Church -and God, we must assume - does nothing of import in an arbitrary mode. So, if she differentiates, and talks about a fleshly "incarnation", as opposed to being born we have to ask why. We also have in front of us the idea that Christ is a pre-existing being, not needing to be born, and His mother is His creation, and so 'given a fleshly body, or incarnated, is set aside for Christ, who does not require such, as opposed to our needing to brought into being/existence by way of an earthly birth, which is what happens with us, even if that birth is short
circuited by miscarriage or abortion.

Some have even suggested that contraception would be a greater evil than abortion, in that those souls are never allowed to come into being (and I am way above my pay grade here) by unnatural frustration of the sex act's Divine purpose. In other words, at least the aborted child has been given life and may see a life with God for eternity. Again, I am reiterating what other thoughtful Catholics have suggested, it is outside of my level of Church guided understanding. Cheers.

Bruce Snowden
1 month 3 weeks ago

Jay, Thanks for taking time to respond to my question. As I understand the meaning of the Incarnation, yes, Jesus God pre-existed without beginning, or end, as truly God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit and in that sense it may be said he became "flesh" and wasn't "born." However, Jesus God, did become fully human when at her "fiat" Mary conceived in her womb Jesus God the man, and as a man had to be born, becoming "like us in all things except in sin." I think it was Bonaventure, or Scotus, using speculative theology to focus in on the reality of Jesus God as man, by suggesting that it was precisely the humanity of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity that caused the angelic rebellion, because the rebel angels refused to worship God in a nature lower than theirs. Clearly the assumption is that Jesus God had accepted membership in the animal kingdom as a man, and in that nature had to be born as all animals are. Incidentally, Bonaventure or Scotus, maybe another, went on to explain that after the angelic rebellion in an act of Divine Mercy God created Hell, as for the fallen angels to remain in the Presence of God whom they now hated with vengeance, would have been a greater Hell, so mercifully God "cast them out." An interesting point of view. Having said all of this, I have to acknowledge that I am only an ordinary Catholic who knows a little about many things, but not very much about anything and I am not a theologian. As you mull over what I've said keep that in mind. And again thanks for respecting me by taking time to respond.

Theresa Maccarone
1 month 3 weeks ago

I hope someday I won't have to hear the words "This is my Chalice" during the Eucharistic prayers.

Jack Rakosky
1 month 3 weeks ago

Father Ryan’s call for a test run was a good idea. As part of the synodal process Francis has encouraged questionnaires for lay input. Why revise or replace Liturgiam Authenticam or do another missal translation without soliciting pew members reactions to our existing translations.

I propose using the Old Missal, the New Missal, and the 1998 Missal approved by the American Bishops (but not by Rome) for a year or more in some or many parishes and dioceses, using surveys to evaluate the reaction of parish members.

Begin simply by using the three different versions of the Eucharistic Prayers. If that proves useful then expand to the collects, etc. Begin simply by asking for dioceses, parishes to volunteer. As we learn more and develop more sophisticated instruments for measuring we might want to use random sampling of parishes to make sure our results are valid and reliable.

Why rely solely upon the experts to get it right? Many have been unhappy with the last two translations. Why not begin to understand what people in the pews are thinking and experiencing? Let that influence our translation principles and products.

John Boyle
1 month 3 weeks ago

Asked after Mass this morning by a worried parishioner about the prospect of a review of the new translation and what I would do if yet another translation of the Missal was forced upon us, I replied I would switch to Latin. "Thank you Father!" she replied. Most of the faithful I know suffered the banal translation we had to make do with for decades and they appreciate the more exalted language in use now. What we need now is no further changes to the Mass for a long time!

Drew Meikle
1 month 3 weeks ago

Maybe instead of a translation revisit we should attempt a more organic evolution from the 1962 Missal. Otherwise would it not be better just to use the Lutheran Order of Service - it would be more honest at the very least. Otherwise let's just return to what is Catholic in the interim.

David Justin Lynch
1 month 3 weeks ago

As an independent catholic community (valid orders from the Old Catholic church of Utrecht), we have the freedom to adapt our liturgy to pastoral realities "on the ground." We use a hybrid of Roman Missal Third Edition, Roman Missal Second Edition, the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, an English translation of the German Old Catholic Missal, and locally-produced material. Our music comes from OCP, GIA, CCLI, and Ritesong, We also compose a substantial portion of the music we use, much of that out of necessity since we sing our entire liturgy, everything except the homily. For us, liturgy is something that should arise from the ground up, not imposed from the top down. After all, the very meaning of "liturgy" is "work of the people." That's what it is for us in the truest sense of the term. As a priest, my role is servant, not ruler, of the community.

Kimberly Fleury
1 day 6 hours ago

In charity for the Holy Father, I respectfully question his assertion that the method of formal translation of Latin into vernacular is an "imposition of a European language of a certain time in history" into the various current cultures and languages of Catholics around the world.

To begin with, the entire idea of Christianity is considered as an "imposition" by many, if not most, anti-colonialists. I grew up being taught to be apologetic (as in, "I'm really sorry") for Christians "imposing" the religion on native cultures, who were presumably living ideally before the "violence" or "condemnation" of Christianity was "imposed" on them. Considering the Holy Father's personal background as a non-European from a former colony, and being a child of his age, it's not surprising that he is sensitive to local culture and language. That's a fine value in that it respects the dignity of the person by accepting each one as God created him, in his time and place. I just think we can go overboard when we don't acknowledge that the Good News is intended for each one in every culture and language, and it's nothing to be sorry for.

Secondly, all translations come from the original, which again points to the "imposition" of Christianity through the Gospel. If we're using the original written word, or the earliest one(s) available, it's because we want to preserve something -- otherwise, we could just translate the last translation and let it evolve over time and in each culture. Since Pope Francis is fluent in numerous languages, he is perfectly aware that word meanings and expressions don't translate exactly, and sometimes, not even ideas translate exactly. Non-fluent speakers often perplex native speakers with certain idioms, and vice versa. Idioms also evolve over time, but the original is locked in place. If our intent is to preserve the original meaning, then we might have to introduce ways to convey that meaning, either through loaning words to other languages, or coining new words and expressions. There is no locking living languages -- France and Spain have tried it, and failed because, linguistically, people are naturally anarchists. The Holy Father, being from a former Spanish colony whose official language is Castilian Spanish, should know better than to attempt to preserve local language at the expense of the Gospel and prayers of the Church. Rather, as a good teacher does, he (I think) should encourage people to grow in knowledge and understanding, aspiring to the Gospel -- and not "dumb down" the language of the Good News to avoid offending those who cling to modern language traditions.

Thirdly, my personal experience: I was a young child when the 1969 Missal was adopted in the U.S. It took me some time to memorize the new translation -- a translation which perplexed me. I was all of 10 years old when it was introduced to my parish, yet I recognized that the meanings of the prayers had changed. When we returned to the form that I first learned, it all made sense again. I had no trouble with "consubstantial" -- and there's nothing wrong with encouraging the Faithful to grow in their vocabulary. While we must certainly be charitable in accepting those who are cognitively delayed, we must never encourage all others to stunt their own intelligence. This is as true in classrooms as it is in the Faith. It is a false sense of charity that would deny intellectual growth in order to keep everyone at the same level. Besides, people learn language through using it -- especially children. When "big words" are the common vocabulary, even cognitively delayed people use those words naturally. But when "smarter" people stick to small words, that's all children with cognitive delays learn, which only ends up making them look even less intelligent. It's true that older people generally have a harder time learning new words, but that's not a reason to avoid introducing them to the young people who will make up the future Church when the older parishioners are in their graves.

Finally, with all respect to the author's age and dignity, we have different perceptions about theology expressed in the Great Prayer of the Mass as it is currently celebrated. Father Ryan writes: << Think, for instance, of the tone of the prayers, with their exaltation of merit over mercy, their emphasis on human weakness at the expense of human dignity, their “sacral vernacular” (No. 47) that keeps God at a majestic distance. >> What Father Ryan complains about is exactly what brought me into the Church. I was baptized Catholic as an infant and grew up in the Church, but I was headed to hell in a handbasket because I had been taught that God's mercy was so great that we don't need to go to Confession because there's really no such thing as sin and nobody's perfect. God's a good guy, Jesus invites everyone to the Table of the Lord's Supper, no matter what we've done. He won't condemn anyone. (True, He doesn't -- it's only those who won't accept His mercy who go to hell, but there IS a hell, trust me -- I won't tell you how I know, just trust me). I'm not really sure what Father means by "emphasis on human weakness at the expense of human *dignity*" -- I suppose that goes along with the view that there's no such thing as sin ... other than a general, "Yeah, we all sin" kind of thing. Unless it's the (false) idea that we are equal to God? All I can say is, I'm sure Father means well, but reversing the roles of God and Man isn't going to help anyone achieve sainthood. In fact, that's Original Sin, which rightfully condemned everyone to the legal control of the enemy. The Sacrifice of the Cross means something more than a heroic gesture. By the merits of Christ's Sacrifice, by the merits of the blows to the Holy Face and the Crowning with Thorns, I offer each Holy Communion to make reparation for priests who teach error, encourage sacrilege, and offend His Holy Body in the Eucharist.

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