The National Catholic Review
A pastor reflects on the new Roman Missal.
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In December 2009, in an article on the new Roman Missal (Am., 12/14/09), I asked the question: “What if we just said ‘wait’?” I proposed that the new translation be “road tested” for a year before being widely implemented. More than 23,000 people from around the English-speaking world liked that idea and signed on to a Web site to say so. Now, after several months of using the newly translated Roman Missal, I find myself asking a new question: “What’s next?”

On the first Sunday of Advent, after carefully preparing my parishioners, I swallowed hard, read the prayers, chanted the chants and did what I was required to do. I told myself it would get easier over time. Now I am not so sure. The overloaded sentences and convoluted syntax of the collects and other prayers may be less jarring than at first, but by calling attention to themselves they continue to get in the way of prayer, at least for me. The same is true for frequently recurring words like “humbly,” “graciously,” “beseech” and “grant, we pray.” And I have an almost visceral reaction when it comes to “precious chalice,” “oblation of our service,” “summoned before you,” “conciliation,” “consubstantial with the Father” and “shed for you and for many.”

Perhaps it is a bit different for the people in the pews. My own parishioners have joined in the new responses in fairly good spirit (though with some initial eyebrow-raising), and if our varied renditions of “Lord, I am not worthy” occasionally sound like we are speaking in tongues, their “and with your spirit” comes across loud and clear (even if it sometimes sounds like “There, we did it!”).

An Early Report Card

So how does the report card look? Is the worst over? Apart from critics like me, has the new Missal been well received? Can it be called a success? I do not think so. The Missal continues to be an obstacle to prayer and to raise many more questions than it answers.

First, there is the question of justice. In spite of the outspoken concerns of liturgists, theologians, pastors and lay faithful (and some bishops, too), the new Missal, a book as heavy, awkward and clumsy as the new texts themselves, was rolled out right on schedule—in far more timely fashion than the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, although to considerably less acclaim. This was no small achievement given that, after the Missal finally received the approval of most, not all, of the bishops’ conferences of the English-speaking world, its test flight to Rome resulted in hundreds of last-minute, behind-the-scenes changes made by some nameless Vatican editors.

Second, there is the question of language. Some of the Latin originals of our prayers are wonderful compositions—simple yet profound and expressed with classical economy of language. Not so these translations, where “Roman brevity” is nowhere to be seen. On almost every page, there are passages so turgid as to be distasteful and, in many cases, downright baffling. Here are some cases in point:

• Look kindly, we pray, upon the handiwork of your mercy….

• This oblation, by which divine worship in its fullness has been inaugurated….

• As you preserved her from every stain by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw, so, through her intercession, we, too, may be cleansed (Awkward language aside, the clear implication that Mary needed to be “cleansed” should get the attention of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine)….

• Just as the Savior of the world, born this day, is the author of divine generation for us, so he may be the giver even of immortality....

Lent and Easter provided even more egregious howlers that left priests and people scratching their heads and, if not beating their breasts, then perhaps beating their pew cards and missalettes against the pews.

• Accept, we pray, O Lord, the sacrifice of conciliation and praise, and grant that, cleansed by its working, we may offer minds well pleasing to you….

• May the venerable exercises of holy devotion shape the hearts of your faithful….

• [S]urpass, for the honor of your name, what you pledged to the Patriarchs by reason of the faith, and through sacred adoption increase the children of your promise, so that what the Saints of old never doubted would come to pass your Church may now see in great part fulfilled.

• But now we know the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor….

• Grant, we pray…that we who have been renewed by paschal remedies, transcending the likeness of our earthly parentage, may be transformed….

• Overcome by paschal joy (Happily, at this point in the Easter Vigil, most people were so overcome by paschal joy that they failed to be overcome by this rather amusing overstatement)

 To read these prayers is difficult; to call them prayerful is to redefine the word; to pray them is almost impossible.

How Is It Being Received?

Third, there is the question of reception. A large number of the Catholic faithful seem to have shrugged helplessly and gone along with the new program, but can their passive acceptance be read as approval? I think not. An informal, admittedly unscientific survey offered by www.whatifwejustsaidwait.org indicates that 70 percent of those who have responded have a negative or strongly negative reaction to the Missal (in spite of feeling “very well prepared” by their parishes for the transition).

Many mainstream Catholics, the people who fill our pews and our collection baskets Sunday after Sunday, are quietly asking questions: Why? Whose idea was this? Who said it would improve our prayer life and deepen our relationship to God? Who thought this was a good idea, when the church has so many more pressing issues to deal with? Who authorized the massive expenditure of money that was required? And who came up with these awkward, clumsy, tongue-twisting and, in some cases, virtually unintelligible translations?

The acquiescence of priests cannot necessarily be read as approval, either. In many cases, our willingness to go along with the program can be chalked up to: our powerlessness to do anything else, our fear of reprisals or our unwillingness to sacrifice the unity of the communities we serve.

Speaking for myself, it was difficult to make the decision to implement the Missal, but I took hope in the thought that our people, once they heard it, would speak out. Some have. But most people have been quiet. A friend recently asked me how realistic it was to expect the people to speak up about the Missal. “I don’t know,” she wrote, “if you’re right to hope that your people will resist even as you yourself are yielding and going along with a diminished Mass. They trust you and they will follow your lead.” Her question has kept me awake some nights.

More Questions

So I come to the question I hope we will respectfully but insistently ask: What’s next? That triggers a series of other questions.

Can our bishops begin at once to talk about necessary modifications: correcting the most egregious flaws in the new Missal—errors in translation, grammatical problems and theological anomalies? This would provide some temporary relief.

Can our bishops begin to engage scholars, liturgists and poets in a conversation about the art of translation and the principles that should govern it? Can they talk about how to treasure our long tradition while also treasuring the great breakthrough of the Second Vatican Council, which called not just for a translated liturgy but for a genuinely vernacular liturgy? Can they then bring the fruits of this dialogue to Rome?

But it is not enough for the bishops alone to talk. A more general conversation is called for. Instead of carping in private, can we all talk openly and honestly about the texts we have been given? Can we talk about what works well and what clearly does not? Can we talk about tortured texts being forced into lines of music with all the comfort of an ill-fitting pair of shoes? Can we talk about what contributes to prayer and what gets in the way?

Can we talk about a new edition of the Missal, not someday, but soon? (A costly question, for sure, but something tells me that many a priest would gladly help foot the bill.) Can we even talk about the beautiful 1998 translation of the Missal—the product of 17 years of labor by seasoned professionals?

If we do not talk, we may face two very unfortunate outcomes. The first is that the people will simply tune out the texts when they realize how much effort is required to make sense of them. (This is clearly already happening.) The second is that we will see a kind of liturgical free-for-all in which celebrants alter the texts to fit their comfort level—whether theological, literary or both. (This, too, is already happening.)

So can we keep talking, not letting weariness with the whole business or indifference or fear of reprisals prevent us from talking and listening to each other?

We need to talk about what’s next.

Rev. Michael G. Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral in Seattle since 1988, serves on the board of the national Cathedral Ministry Conference.

Comments

Louise Gregg | 7/26/2012 - 10:09pm
"Shead for you and for many"  is the part that gets me (the most).  When did that change?  Has theology made that much of a turn?!  The article was right on target with my experience.
 
Richard Greene | 6/17/2012 - 10:07pm

A priest in our parish had the audacity to read your arrogant article for his homily this Sunday. And just like your opposition to the authority of the Church I found his choice highly inappropriate and UN-Catholic.




Need I remind you that the most basic tenet that separates Catholics from Protestants is our adherence and obedience to the authority of the Catholic Church and the Vicar of Christ? If you, and the rest of your followers (so evident here in the comments) do not wish to follow the directions laid out by it's bishops then you are free to either join one of the thousands of other Prostestant denominations or simply start your own. (Especially you Father as you obviously think you are greater than your bishops!) And I see that some have already done this with some of you still calling yourselves Catholic while partaking in the Anglican Eucharist.




It is doctrinal to say that Mary was cleansed by God through the death of Jesus "as He foresaw." Remember Mary said that she is "the mother of my savior."




You say that we need to change the Missal because 70% of us American Catholics don't like it. Well I guess by that logic you think that Catholicism should now allow birth control because it is reported that 98% of Catholics use it. But on the flipside, over 90% of the Catholic world has been using this new translation by 2000. So by your logic I should hope that our minority of American Catholics just shut up and stop whining!

MARCIA JACINTO | 6/14/2012 - 6:39pm
Thanks to America and to Fr. Michael G. Ryan for publishing "What's Next" (AM., 5/28/12). I am one of the "silent majority" who has found it difficult to pray the Mass from the new Roman Missal in particular because of the language used. Fr. Ryan gave are true examples of the convoluted sentences translated by evidently non-English-speaking Vatican editors. I hope that soon, one of them will write an article in America to explain to us, the laity, what prompted them to enact this change and how they came to formulate the present text from the Latin originals.
     May I suggest that the Bishops Conference designate a website that lay people can use to give their comments on the new Roman Missal, also to compile more examples of "passages so turgid as to be distasteful, and in many cases, downright baffling" (Michael G. Ryan, "What's Next"). To help me pray the Mass, particularly the Collect, I find myself using the prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, which luckily, the Vatican has not translated yet. Even if there is a new Roman Liturgy of the Hours, I will still keep and use the present one.
 
WILLIAM NICO | 6/11/2012 - 11:55am
For many of us the new translation of the community portions
of the  Mass are remarkably familiar: The wording is
essentially identical to what we had in the missals we
used  in the years before Vatican II to follow the Latin
of the priest at Mass. That's why it feels like such a giant
leap backwards!
 
Having some Latin words, notably,
consubstantialem and incarnatus in the
Creed, simply left untranslated makes it worse.

As to complexity, the problem which lectors have
struggled with for years, mostly without success,
when trying to proclaim orally long sentences of St. Paul,
sentences held together in the original Latin by
word endings and a rich collection of personal
pronouns but allowed to ramble in English, with its
almost total reliance on word order, in such a
manner that they can be understood aurally by
a community unaccustomed to hearing, or even
reading, long, complex sentences seems to have
spread to other parts of the Missal.

Inevitably, probably soon, most of us will simply
comply, since we are so very well trained in following
the rules and getting the form correct. Will that be
the end of hope for something better?

PAUL BYRNES REV | 6/5/2012 - 6:49pm

I just celebrated my 50th anniversary of ordination and have often had myself lifted up to God while praying the "old" translation. This new translation is ugly English. I am chagrined at offering God such a shoddy gift. I am still sumbling through it. Since I wanted to pray my anniversary Mass celebration, I used the old sacramentary.


Hardly a week goes by that somebody doesn't ask me, "Why did they do this!" What I have found even more telling is that no one has told me that they like this new translation.


I wonder if this insistence on an exact translation from the Latin doesn't smack of idolatry, putting Latin in place of God. It shows no concern for helping our Catholic people to grow in their relationship with God, no concern for helping them to lift their minds and hearts to God in worship.


 


 

Helen Hoeffel | 6/4/2012 - 12:42pm
The mass has completely changed for me.  My head tells me to keep attending mass and try to get past it, but my heart is slowly drifting away.  I am sad and angry and very discouraged by the changes.  There is one parish that is not mine where the priest said the "old" Eucharistic prayer and my heart leaped with overwhelming joy and was comforted and warmed.  Alas, it was only temporary.

By your title of the article, I actually thought you meant "What's Next?" in the broader sense, like what are "they" going to do to us next?  (I had a hard time not making that last sentence more colorful. I am trying to make a point, not vent.)  If "they" can make these top-down changes, especially without a test run, I fear for the future of the Church.  I don't want further cracks made before we can begin repairing the current vast and wide ones.

That leads me to the conclusion that we must respond and VERY LOUDLY.  We cannot afford to give the impression that massive, unwise and disconnected changes like this are acceptable to us.  I want a warm, nurtured heart. Not a sad, distant one.
MCCLOSKEY | 6/4/2012 - 12:08pm
Thank you Fr. Ryan for your article.  You capture the frustration that I and many other priests feel as we are attemp to "celebrate the Eucharist."  In fact, I feel embarrassed when I try to "pray" these texts, when I can scarcely make sense of them for myself.  Yesterday (Feast of the Most Holy Trinity) when I came across the text in the Preface that referred to "a Trinity of one substance," I could only wonder: What is that?  What is it in Latin?  The sooner we can mount an outcry for change, the better.  Please, Fr. Ryan,  keep up your crusade.
JOSEPH KEENAN | 6/4/2012 - 8:49am
Rev. Michael Ryan's article on the glaring defects in the New Missal are well presented.  However, considering that little, if anything, will be done to correct these faults, I suggest we make our non-liturgical prayers to conform more closely to the convoluted type of prayers we now hear at our Sunday liturgies.  Let's begin with the traditional prayer before meals:

We beseech you, O Lord, to graciously bless us, we pray, and these Thy gifts which we assume to receive by your gracious and merciful bounty.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Even if no one else sitting around the table understands what was just said, God knows. 
Janet Hauter | 6/3/2012 - 5:32pm

REPORT CARD:


JUSTICE: Failed miserably to serve the needs of the constituency by not listening to their concerns and needs. Imposed on us so to earn anything more favorable than an F is nothing short of untruthful.


LANGUAGE: The language is bizarre and challenges most English speaking people to know anything about the intent, the message or how the words awkwardly strung together have any lucidity at all. Another F.


RECEPTION: The sheeple accept it though awkwardly and falter now and again but they trudge on as obedient Catholics who obey and pay no matter the cost to them. Those, like myself, refuse to mimic this nonsense and continue the old responses bristling now and again when we welcome Jesus under our roof and gag at the non-inclusive language. The people do not like this blather evidenced by the raised eyebrows, the giggles, the faltering... which has earned it a universal F in my book. I say "Take it to the curb!"

REV JOHN OHARA | 6/2/2012 - 3:14pm
I WAS SO PLEASED TO SEE AMERICA MAGAZINE DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE.  THIS NEW TRANSLATION WHICH HAS BEEN IMPOSED ON THE ENGLISH SPEAKING CHURCH IS ATROCIOUS. TAKING A 50,000 WORD LANGUAGE AS STANDARD AND SUBSTITUTING IT FOR A MILLION WORD LANGUAGE HAS SERIOUSLY DUMBED DOWN THE LITURGY. OH. IT MAY SOUND MORE NOBLE AND ABSTRACT BUT ONLY ARTIFICIALLY SO. THE ORATIONS ARE LIKE PRETEND PRAYERS, FULL OF REPETITION AND OBFUSCATION. IF THE EARLIER VERSION WAS RUSHED, IT WAS NONTHELESS INSPIRED AND SPIRITFILLED. THIS IS SOMETHING THE CURRENT VERSION LACKS. IT IS STILTED AND AWKWARD AND PAINFUL. PERHAPS, I HAVE BEEN WRONG TO BELIEVE THAT INTIMACY WITH GOD IS THE GOAL OF LITURGY . THE CURRENT PRAYERS SEEM TO CONVEY A SENSE OF DISTANCE WITH A HEAVY DOSE OF OUR UNWORTHINESS.
Roxanne Schwab | 6/2/2012 - 1:10am
I agree with Fr. Ryan that the new Roman Missal is awkward and unintelligible.  If this translation was supposed to bring the faithful closer to God, I must add that, for my part, it's done exactly the opposite.  The aspect I most loved about the Roman Catholic Mass was that it allowed me to mingle my voice with all others in the congregation.  There was comfort in saying those same words that I'd repeated since my post-Vatican II childhood.  In joy and in sorrow, those familiar words brought me unity with God, the celebrant, and the faithful.  Now, I feel no connection with these new, superimposed words.  I've tried mightily to follow along on the prompt card, but it's like reading lines from a script to which one has no connection.  Unfortunately, I can't get beyond the idea that the hierarchy ordered these changes to deflect attention from the Church's more serious transgressions.  I have since given up and gone back to speaking the responses that once made my heart soar.  As to Fr. Ryan's concern regarding why congregations haven't voiced their objections to these off-putting changes, my response is "What good would it do?"  Many of us have spoken out, to no avail, against the sexual abuse, misogyny, and intolerance exhibited by some religious.  What makes anyone think the Roman Catholic leaders have any interest in the opinions of the people they supposedly serve?
Eileen Gould | 6/1/2012 - 3:24pm

At 86, I don't have time to waste parsing the New Missal. I am quite satisfied with the Old. What I would like to see is the High (and I do mean High) Hierarchy deal with the more important problems of the Church (which I do not have time to mention; we all know them.)


Also, why have we as a Church come to disregard the articles of Vatican II which were ratified by the Council of Bishops. I prefer to follow these wonderful precepts than anything that has come out of Rome.


There, I said what I mean and I mean what I say! Eileen

Margaret Bitz | 5/31/2012 - 2:59pm

I like the idea of requesting the right (as the Tridentine advocates did) to continue with the texts we have had up to now.  I think we should seriously take action to obtain this right.

Talking about accurately translating words, I wonder how they dared to deviate from Jesus' words of consecration in using the word "chalice."  Can the aramaic be translated as "chalice."  If we are going to be purists, can we not then begin to question whether the consecration is "valid" if we are using an incorrect translation of Jesus' words?  Talk about doctrinal error!!!

Katherine McEwen | 5/31/2012 - 1:03am
I'm fortunate; I attend a local Episcopal church where our liturgy is still in the older, more accessible English. Many post-Vatican II Catholics would feel more at home linguistically at an Episcopal Eucharist (and they might be pleasantly surprised at how close to a Catholic Mass an Episcopal Eucharist is; basically the sign of peace is moved to just before the Offertory and some of the smaller words would possibly trip someone up.) However, the previous English translation of the Mass from the Latin left a bit to be desired; the translation was not linguistically accurate: "Et cum spiritu tuo" translates as "and with your spirit" not "and also you". There are other places as well, but this is the one English-from-Latin translation that I've noticed is not totally accurate. And I'd like to see the English translation true to its Latin origins albeit with a less stilted, more accurate and prayable version of the Mass. So, let's get the English-speaking Latinists doing the translations. Liturgical experts at the Vatican, are you listening?
Anne Maura English | 5/30/2012 - 3:19pm
My own painful experiences with the "new" liturgy echo many comments here, but I have another concern. Before pursuing a theology degree, I was an English major and was introduced to the power of language to shape our thought and feelings. Semantics it's called and politics and culture abound in examples. Not only do non-PC labels demean those so labelled, such words shape the way USERS of those words think and act. Similarly, the term "war chest" for corporate takeover money perpetuates, as well as expresses, an attitude-one in which laid-off employees become "collateral damage," not people whose lives have been shattered. 

My fear is that the ancient rule "Lex orandi, lex credendi," (the rule of prayer is the rule of faith) will prove all too true and we will begin to image and relate to the formal, distant deity enshrined in our liturgical language.

This is a particular concern with the young. I volunteer as a middle-school religious ed teacher and also work with young teen confirmands. I work very hard to help them develop a personal prayer life with a loving God they can trust and a vibrant God they can be excited about-one who both cares about the minutiae of their lives and also invites them to be co-creators and co-redeemers in refashioning world and church. Until Advent 2011 I felt I had a fighting chance of helping them to find that God at Eucharist as well-despite the fact that (a) the language was already formal and (b) theirs is not a culture of listening to words at length.

How am I supposed to teach this abominable language without letting it influence the way they image/think about God?  Back to the '50's? "Just block it out, pray your own prayers if you can and hang in there until Communion and you get to have Jesus come to you"? I'm fairly certain such a "Close-your-eyes-and-think-of- England" approch is not what Vatican II hoped for. 
C Walter Mattingly | 5/29/2012 - 5:56am
While there is some substance in the objections to some of the changes in the wording changes of the Mass, for the most part, as Louis (#39) remarks, the laity was discomfited with the changes of Vatican II and are discomfited now. While some may be upset with such changes as "and with your spirit/And also with you," this suggests more than anything that we as a group are uncomfortable with faith and liturgical change.
More importantly, half of all Catholics, according to a recent study, don't know what Transubstantiation means. In other words, half of us don't even know what is transpiring should we be present at the Mass, the central communal act of our faith. 
It would seem to follow that anything that would engage us, spur us forward in catechesis, would be critical. Anything less would be off point.
 
LOUISE MANCINELLI | 5/24/2012 - 7:20pm
Thank you for a well written, respectful, and thorough commentary on the new missal translation.  I agree with the whole of it.  The new translation seems to have been designed to decrease any kind of active participation in the liturgy.  It has been painful to watch people just seemingly drift off to ..... where?  while the "prayers" go on,  unheeded.  If participation is meant to draw us to a serious union with Jesus, and to the living out of His life and message wherever we are,  this translation is guaranteed to make this impossible.  When did driving people away from church become the goal of the powers that be?  And how can we stop it?
Patricia Nicholson
Shirley Adler | 5/24/2012 - 2:01pm
After moving back to Seattle from another state with mostly "dead" Liturgies, I felt a "Whew" when I joined the loving, giving, inspiring, prayerful parish of St. James Cathedral and the  example and leadership of our pastor, Fr. Mike Ryan.  The way he reaches out to all kinds of people, his committment to justice issues, his sensitivity to peoples' needs, his insights into the important issues of our society, our church, our world family, etc. are what I believe our whole church needs.

Long before Fr. Ryan asked if we could "wait" for a change in the words of the Liturgy, I have had problems with many of the words of the Liturgy.  The sexist language among the words has been very painful not only for women, but also for men.  Fr. Ryan and all who lead the liturgies, give such inspiration and prayerfulness to the experience with all who participate.

Jesus came for ALL, not " MANY" as the new wording says. Also who really knows what "consubstantial" means, the "roof of my mouth" and so many words that keep people from being a part of a prayerful  liturgical experience.  Those distractions do not offer inspiration or good theology to our worship.

The Holy Spirit and our patience will continue to bring about good changes, perhaps not in many of our lifetimes, but as we continue the process of speaking out and acting depending on the Holy Spirit's guidance, change happens. Committment of words to action has brought about many good changes to the Liturgy and the life of the church (we the people) and our focus on the poor and disinfranchiesed will continue to heal people as the Holy Spirit is alive and well!! 
?
RUDOLPH KOSER REV | 5/23/2012 - 10:37pm
AMEN. How hard can it be to have a translation that is accurate, modern, and done in beautiful English? That's what the committee who translated the King James Bible were tasked with (sorry to end the sentence with a preposition). I guess they succeeded. It has become a classic of Elizabethan English.
6466379 | 5/23/2012 - 6:32pm
Respectfully, to the few who may be interested, correcting #38 post to read, "as written elsewhere on appropriate site  (not this page" in AMERICA current isue.  
Louis Macchiarulo | 5/23/2012 - 2:46pm
Dear Fr. Ryan:

In your "exegisis" you seem to suggest that Catholics are traumatized by the new translation and that a "period of waiting" is called for in order to allow the Faithful time to acclimate themselves to a translation that inhibits rather than promotes active participation and worship at Mass.  Yet all of this pales in comparison to the trauma suffered by Catholics when Latin and the "vetus ordo" almost over night were tossed out the window.  To this day traditional Catholics are reeling from that.  Yet we conformed and went along, to a large extent.  Please do not suggest that a new vernacular translation will drive Catholics away.  Let's reflect for a moment on the damage liberal Catholicism has done (spearheaded by the Jesuits) to divide and undermine "unam sanctam apostolicam."

In nomine Domini,
Louis Macchiarulo
6466379 | 5/23/2012 - 9:58am

It matters how you say it! Years ago I heard a funny Jesuit joke about a Jesuit Superior who wrote to the Holy See asking if Jesuits could “Smoke" (that was before smoking was recognized as a grave health hazzard)  while they prayed” and the answer came back “No!” The Superior made a second try this time asking if Jesuits could “PRAY while they smoked” and the answer came back, “Yes!”


So, it does matter how you say it and when it comes to liturgy, it also matter how you pray it and how you say it, plays into how well you pray it. That’s where the big mistake was made in the liturgical changes – the “saying” is clumsy, so the “praying” is also clumsy.


Words here and there may be good and for me, as written in a posting elsewhere on this page, I find the words “dewfall” and “roof” pleasing for reasons explained. But for many “dewfall” may be a blah, or even comical expression and for the millions who live in apartments, the idea of “roof” farfetched.


 Yes, it really matters HOW you say it!   


 


 

Catherine Le Roux | 5/22/2012 - 11:44pm

Amen to Fr. Michael G. Ryan!  In reading this article I laughed in acknowledgement of some of the contorted phrases and images and cried for the way this translation is now distancing our assemblies from full, active, conscious participation.  I remembered how in the weeks of Advent I longed to just pray/chant the Mass in Latin rather than in this tortured translation. 

I am very aware that many people who participate in our liturgies have many other pressing worries, with the new missal translation being very low on their list of priorities. However, this does not give those of us who preside at liturgy or who prepare liturgy or who find ourselves closer to the center of this new missal translation an excuse to " just go along." 

Language is everything. It shapes our imaginations, our self-understanding, our hopes, our longings.  It shapes our actions and responses.  Whoever controls the language controls the people, be it the language of prayer or that of political power. We know from history that when the conquerors came, they imposed their language and worldview.  The conquered lost their voice and their self-understanding.

I am wondering if this new translation is a first step in a carefully crafted campaign leading us all away from our Vatican II understanding of who we are-the People of God at worship, gathered in our baptismal dignity in Christ, actively and consciously participating, responding, lifting up, being transformed, receiving who we are called to be, and sent forth as Christ to the Body of Christ awaiting us.

I am wondering what will become of our self-understanding, our vision as Church, if we continue to pray with this translation over the long haul.  Will we unconsiciously let go of our baptismal power and instead wake up to find ourselves wrapped in the language of unworthiness and passivity or just indifference?

What I love about Fr. Ryan's article is that this is a wake up call and an invitation to say now, before we become forgetful of Vatican II, "This new translation does not reflect who we are as the People of God."  He also calls us beyond mindless or wearied obedience to something much more challenging for hierarchy, clergy and laity-honest and prayerful,discerning conversations about this pastoral issue, like those experienced by Peter and Paul, and the fathers of the Second Vatican Council. 

I agree with Fr. Ryan. The People of God not only deserve better, but can, with the power of the Spirit, through discerned pastoral listening, do better.  We can reshape this prayer so that it can more adequately hold us and carry us into a broken world that needs the most empowered, enspirited, embodied presence of Christ imagineable.  I hope this article can ignite some lively conversations all over the English speaking Catholic world, and lead to some creative responses.

His is a prophetic call, and we ignore it at ours and our broken world's peril.

Alex Saunders | 5/22/2012 - 10:13pm
Here are two separate thoughts:
1.  The present translation is so like the Latin Mass we one had in parallel to the English version in our personal missals that I have very little trouble following along.  That does noot mean that I like it.  But it was not difficult to slip into the old jargon.
2.  Fr Ryan is brave and has powerful arguments and lots of supporters.  Yet Fr. Ryan is still locked into his own traditions.  What is truly needed, and soon, is a totally revised Eucharistic Service.  The present format seems to be one invented sometime in the middle ages, to formalize the traditions developed in the first centuries AD.  Time has come to review what is essential ("Do this in memory of me.") and surround it with prayers that are meaningful and well presented to the lay congregation of a very different culture than in the year 100 AD.  A successful version could be as brief as 20 minutes (plus homily time) and would not suffer any loss to inspiring the congregation, because the congregation presently does not relate to the traditions of another era.

If Fr.Mike Ryan is to succeed, there is much more to do than just change a few offensive word and phrases.  LET'S GO ALL THE WAY.
thomas tucker | 5/22/2012 - 5:24pm
It is all too easy to make yourself your own Pope, and decide for yourself how you think things should be done, or prayed, as it were.  Yet, I am sure that no pastor would like it if we all started deciding for ourselves how things at our parishes should be done.
Likewise, then , Fathers, don't just decide for yourselves those things that are given to you to be done a certain way.   You expect others to follow your rules at the parish; you should follow the rules of the liturgy, made by the bishops.
D M | 5/21/2012 - 11:01am

Friends, dont forget the Church is the bride of Christ and the Holy Spirit guides the Church. Be patient, pray about any struggles you are having with the new liturgy. Change is never easy, have faith that the Holy Spirit is leading us in this direction.

ron chandonia | 5/20/2012 - 10:07pm
Great follow-up to the original article! This reflection perfectly captures the sense of the faithful in my neck of the woods. At our parish, we PARTICIPATE in liturgy, but some of these texts are almost laughable. It's embarrassing even to hear them, much less to recall that they are directed at our Creator. Pope Benedict will not live forever, and perhaps the next pontiff will speak English or at least remember that he is part of a college of bishops that includes members who speak English. Until then, we can only breathe a silent "Thank God!" when one of our priests "forgets" that "like the dewfall" part.
John Wotherspoon | 5/20/2012 - 1:52am
Thank you Michael for excellent new article. Great to see you haven't given up the fight.
Your article will be linked on May 21 menu of www.v2catholic.com which has many articles about the new translation, including all your previous articles
William Bagley | 5/19/2012 - 6:15pm
Thank goodness for Father Ryan (and for Fr Thomas Reese whose brief comment is right on target).   This is a statement well-needed.

Let me add two examples that trouble me personally.  

In the Eucharistic prayer, where the priest now says "for many" not "for all," I wonder just who is cut out?   My dear and good and faithfilled non-Christian friends? Would Jesus have wanted us to be so dismissive of people for whom he cared so much?  Each time I hear it, I find it jarring.  Why not say "for many and definitely not our Jewish brothers and sisters?"  (I think (hope) the reason's obvious)

Later, we say "... and my sould shall be healed" where we had said "I shall be healed."  An unexpected diagnosis of cancer visited me at the beginning of last Advent.  While I don't consider that saying "I shall be healed" will result in a miraculous cure, in the few days between my diagnosis and the first Sunday of Advent, the language of daily Mass was a comfort to me... and I suspect to others. Now this phrasing is not only odd sounding, but almost hurtful. I really am sure I am not alone (under this "roof").

In the end, this option to use archaic, difficult, inaccessible language is an awful one.   That it was exercised with no input from the faithful compounds its bad nature.  I really have to work up the desire to go and listen to it... the remarkable presence of the Eucharist is what keeps me coming.

Finally, please allow me one other point.   My wife has rightly noted that when we recite the Creed we are now told to say "I believe" rather than "We believe," but in the ONLY prayer given to us by our Lord, we state clearly and emphatically "Our" Father. I think that Jesus surely understood the value of our community of worship... he must be distressed that church leadership is more loyal to a tortured "fidelity" to Latin phrasing (written by others) than we are to the spirit of his own prayer.   How did we come to this point?  Perhaps the bishops should ask "my Father."


Paul Leddy | 5/19/2012 - 2:41pm
Jesus loves me. This I know because I'm losing my hearing.
Such bliss.
Craig McKee | 5/19/2012 - 1:18pm
"What's next?"
I asked the same question when Rome went after the grannies of the LCWR. And I was shocked to see that the answer is GIRL SCOUTS.
Uniformity does not automatically guarantee conformity. And now I find myself purposely seeking out liturgies in any language BUT English!
5436984 | 5/19/2012 - 12:02pm
"And with your Spirit" sends us marching right back into dualistic thinking.  "And also with you" evokes a fundamental understanding that "you" consists of body and soul, which in fact, defines a human being.

It is this fundamental difference in how we are now expected to pray that I cannot, in conscience, ever come to terms with.  I cannot pray words that I do not believe in. Period.

It is with a heavy heart that I approach the weekly liturgy, as I am personally compelled to pray the words I have come to understand and that reflect my belief, but only silently to myself, as the congregation replies with the new verbage.  I believe the Vatican hierarchy  is forcibly thinning its followers, leaving a hefty number of faithful Catholics to fend for themselves.
JAMES GASTON | 5/19/2012 - 12:51am
I was drawn to Fr. Ryan's article, as he accurately expresses my personal thoughts and experiences with the new Mass texts.  I have been unable to even raise the issue in conversations with other priests. It's as though it cannot be discussed without appearing disloyal or suspect.  What is the fear?  Even more perplexing is the fact that there is no person or place where official pastoral concerns may be registered.  Apparently it's a done deal so...  Strange indeed.

The laity, in my view, have too many other matters to face in their daily lives to be concerned with liturgical texts. However, if they expect homilies that make sense, why wouldn't they want prayers that make sense?   I have also noticed that they don't sing chant with much energy or enthusiasm.  By the way, whose idea was it to emphasize this one option over so many other wonderful musical forms?  Such restorationism is a distraction.

On a separate but related note, how does this and the next generation of Church folk intend to achieve the "new evangelization" being called for by the Holy Father?  The answer to this critical challenge to the Church is not in some restored past or in some other worldly realm - which is "symbolized" for me in how priests are expected to lead God's people in prayer these days.  

As Pentecost nears it is a reminder that the Holy Spirit continues to push us toward an unimagined future.  So be it (i.e. Amen)!
charles smith | 5/18/2012 - 8:45pm
Change is difficult Father, but with patience and prayer we may grow to love the changes. Now we have to do something about that banal music.
thomas tucker | 5/18/2012 - 5:18pm
btw, I'm not sure what your theological problem is with the prayer regarding Mary.  She did indeed need a Savior, namely her own Son, and was preserved from sin in anticipation of His merits.
Carolyn Matthews | 5/18/2012 - 4:59pm
Beyond the wording or intent of the new translation, my concern is the amount of money that each parish in the country was required to spend in order to implement it.  Prayers and hymns aren't a big deal financially you may think... but our parish had to replace all of its religious education textbooks, sacrament prep materials, RCIA handouts and hymnals.  No one realizes how interwoven things like The Gloria or The Memorial Acclamation are into catechesis at all levels.  It was a huge Catholic publishing company bailout.  Not to mention all the time and energy spent on workshops and committees to ensure that the translation was properly explained/engineered in the parish.  

Many parishes have already felt the burden of higher 'taxes' and stewardship demands from their diocesan level offices; this was another blow to the budgets of struggling churches.  
Lee Bedard | 5/18/2012 - 4:38pm

If you were to visit Fr. Ryan's cathedral without knowing of his reservations, you would never suspect them from the spirit of his parish. Despite the feeling in the pews that we've been hit with a wall of words,most of them barely definable, we continue to speak up, sing, and generally experience the joy of worship. We had a very extensive preparation prior to implementation, and even though the verbiage is a mess, we are committed to maintaining the beautiful, joyful liturgy that has been a 30-year journey for both Fr. Ryan his longtime music director Dr. James Savage.

But why? Should congregations like ours who go far, far beyond rote worship be forced to OVERCOME the missal? Shouldn't we - the missal authors and the people - be allies in this?

I suspect that the folks in Rome are thoroughly sick of those pushy, insistent Americans.

Better we should show up, and speak up, than just stay home.
Joon H | 5/18/2012 - 4:14pm
Word for word, Ditto, Kait Skyler!
I wish there was something we could do but I doubt it. And that frustrates me! Augh! Before, I would get immersed into mass but now those experiences are just memories. I find myself upset during Mass. It saddens me that the new changes are such barriers. I don't know if I'll ever get use to the new changes (and it's not because they're new). So I try to focus on the more crucial aspects of mass. ~~~Holy Spirit, help us!!!!
John Green | 5/18/2012 - 3:41pm
Even though we have been using the new Mass for a good while now I confess that I do not like it. I have tried, believe me, but the language grates - it is not natural English, it sounds like, and is, a poor translation. However, I don't think anything is likely to change as the Vatican is unwilling to enter into any dialogue whatsoever over any change whether it is to the Mass, the celibacy rules, the way they treat women, the abused or the abusers.

When we, at least in the West, are so short of clergy, they are not even listening to the idea that we should have part-time priests who do a normal day time job whether full or part time, and work in the parish at other times. Clergy are frightened to put their heads above the parapets - and who can blame them when any Bishops who dare to put forward an alternative viewpoint to the Vatican line lose their jobs.

I am getting totally disillusioned with the Catholic Church despite being quite active in my parish, a weekday reader, a eucharistic minister and Benedictine Oblate.
Lawrence Huber | 5/18/2012 - 3:04pm
I have heard so many in positions of authority (priests, deacons, bishops) herald the "beauty" of the translation, yet I find it very cumbersome.  What I find particularly disturbing is some of the punctuation, especially in the creed.  Thoughts that should end have only commas, and continued thoughts are separated by oddly placed periods.

I particularly was impressed by the comment about "praying" the prayers rather than reading them.  That would also be excellent advice for the presiders, lectors and cantors who render some texts unintelligible, unless you follow along in your own missal or missalette (which I prefer NOT to do).  If I were learning English today, from what I hear in church, I would be tempted to spend a lot more time learning prepositions, since they get more than their share of attention in the readings, chants, and prayers. 

"and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessingand gave the chalice TO his disciples ..."
"TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT."

TO and FROM don't seem like the important words in those two sentences/prayers. 
Louise Heatley | 5/18/2012 - 2:49pm
I for one am still deeply unhappy with the new translation. While being clear that I remain a Catholic, most Sundays I now worship in my local Anglican church, where I can participate in the celebration of the Eucharist in a prayerful way. When I go to 'my own' church, which I find it important to do, I have not yet, since the first Sunday in Advent, been able to get through a whole Mass without wincing at the language - and indeed occasionally wincing at the theology too. (And if anyone finds that sentence a bit lengthy, it's nothing to the ones we hear week by week.)

I pray that as we approach Pentecost, the spirit of wisdom will be given in abundance to all those of us who feel that this translation, and the way it has been given to the priests and faithful, is simply wrong. May we discern together 'What's Next'. I am saddened to move into my older years with an increasing sense that the wonderful insights of the Council are less and less present in the reality experienced by most Catholics, and by those who come seeking. 
thomas tucker | 5/18/2012 - 2:08pm
I have to say that I find your whole attitude incredibly arrogant and demeaning to those of us who can easily understand the prayers, if we listen attentively and pray along.  In fact, since they require more active listening and concentration, they are far less likely to fly by without us really paying attention than the older prayers, which were often insipid and flavorless.  Furthermore, and speaking of justice, what the laity are owed is that the Mass be prayed and the prayers said according to the Missal and the rubrics.  You owe us that in justice, not your own interpretation or modification of what the Missal says.
Having said that, I have been to Mass at the cathedral when you were celebrating with the new missal and you did a fine job!
Bryan Ochs | 5/18/2012 - 1:18pm
"On the first Sunday of Advent, after carefully preparing my parishioners, I swallowed hard, read the prayers, chanted the chants and did what I was required to do."

With all due respect, Father, perhaps if you had prayed the prayers rather than just reading them, you would see the beauty in them as many of us have. 
WILLIAM ATKINSON | 5/18/2012 - 12:30pm
What ever happened to simplicity in prayer, Try using the military approved abbriviated form. Say Amen istead of "So be it",
Mike Evans | 5/18/2012 - 11:00am

So it seems clear that the imposition of these new translations and sometimes altogether new prayers have not been well or enthusiastically received. No where do i see or hear people raving "Oh Father, those new prayers are so inspiring!" I know that my kids and their kids are singularly unimpressed. In the end, this imposed prayer style will not enlarge the church nor evangelize the minimally or seldom practicing. And chanting everything as in a high mass does not do much except separate the people from the priest or at best only the priest and choir can participate with everyone else left behind. So many folk have such an inadequate catechetical formation already, it is hard to see how this will help to make them better understand. Ask the question "Why?" and there are no satisfactory answers.

John Welsby | 5/18/2012 - 10:57am
I consider the new translation to be totally unacceptable, the language is poor and I am often amused by the lack of fluency which sadly, causes our priests to stumble whilst trying to present a prayerful experience.  I believe the new missal should be consigned to the dustbin of history so we can return to the previous 'faulty' (?) version as the new one is no inprovement.  Do the people who authorised this to be inflicted upon us consider us uneducated?  That is an insult to my intelligence!
Fr Ryan asks "what's next" - a new version of the Lectionary is what's next some 2 or 3 years away?  What is wrong with the current scriptural content?
Change for change sake is wasteful alas, what redress do we have when our bishops clearly abdicated their collegial power and 'rolled-over' allowing Rome to bully us yet again.
joyce Macnamara | 5/18/2012 - 10:51am
Being at Mass now takes me back to my childhood when no one understood the Latin and people in the pews were in their own worlds.  All we need to complete the
picture is to encourage the rosary again during Mass.  At least those words make sense. 
Amy Ho-Ohn | 5/18/2012 - 10:25am
My pastor wasn't able to stomach the "dewfall." He read it diligently all through Advent. In ordinary time he began moving it around, trying  to make it sound a little less inane ("Send down like the dewfall, we pray, your Spirit ..." "Like the dewfall, send down, we pray, your Spirit ...") He started reading it with a tiny little vocal eye-roll in Lent. Finally he dropped it right after the octave, at least for daily mass.

I would never tell him so, but he gets points with me for his aesthetic discrimination. As far as poetical expression goes, that dewfall is utterly odious.
Kenneth Wolfe | 5/18/2012 - 10:21am

Father Ryan wrote:

"Second, there is the question of language. Some of the Latin originals of our prayers are wonderful compositions—simple yet profound and expressed with classical economy of language."

Sounds like a very simple solution to your problem.

Kait Skyler | 5/18/2012 - 2:28am
Thank you for a great article, Fr. Ryan.  I believe that part of the problem is that so many people feel intimidated to speak up first of all because the hierarchy do not appear to care about or want to listen to the lay people, even the priests, and some bishops.  And you know they do not want to listen to the Sisters!  They care only about themselves and their agendas which they try at every opportunity to force on others.  Secondly, I have observed that it is quite fashionable for a number of conservitive Catholics to condem any fellow Catholic who does not agree with Rome 100% of the time on everything! Those who dare to disagree, are called heretics, satinists, bad Catholics, to name but a few.  It is a wearying job to take those kind of people on, even those I make a humble attempt whenever possible.

As for the new missal itsself, I am still stumbling over even the simpliest responses, and unless I have my nose buried in the cheat sheet, thus taking me away from the really important stuff that I should be focusing on, I mess up 99% of the time.  I am a college educationed woman with an above average IQ, and it seems to make no difference.  I tried to make sense of your examples as to what they mean, etc. and I finally had to give up out of frustration.  Now, I just focus on the Eucharist and the beauty of watching the community becoming transformed as they receive the Body and Blood. 

I am all for open and honest conversation, but alas I am afraid that the minds of the hierarchy are closed even though minds are like parachutes, they only function when opened!

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