Defending the New Missal: A response to Father Michael Ryan
In his essay “Why Don’t We Say, ‘Wait?’” (Dec. 14), Father Michael Ryan describes his involvement in the liturgical renewal following the Second Vatican Council. Let me begin my response to his article by doing the same.
I was a freshman in high school when the “vernacularization” of the liturgy began and a junior in college seminary when the process reached its climax. Having majored in classical languages, I naturally was quite interested in the process and flattered when I was invited by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) to participate in the translation effort. Frankly, I was also surprised that someone of my thin experience had been asked to take part in a project that would influence the spiritual lives of millions of Catholics for decades to come.
When I first reviewed the translation guidelines sent by ICEL, I was disappointed. Ideology, it seemed, had taken precedence over accuracy. Anima was not to be rendered as “soul,” I was informed, because doing so would set up an unnecessary dichotomy between body and soul. No feminine pronouns were to be used for the church, and common words were favored over precise theological or liturgical vocabulary. The goal was to capture the general meaning of the text, rather than a faithful rendering of a rich and historically layered Latin prose. I tried to work within these parameters, but I found it difficult to do and still remain true to the original text. My translations were evidently unsatisfactory because, upon submitting them, I was politely but firmly uninvited from serving on the commission.
When the English Missale Romanum appeared in 1970, it was clear we had been handed a paraphrase instead of a translation. As a young priest required to use these texts, I quickly determined that something needed to be done to return to the people of God what Father Ryan dubs “their baptismal birthright”—that is, an English liturgy that seeks to convey all the depth, truth and beauty of the original Latin. By 1992, I had assembled a team of scholars who produced an alternative translation of the Ordinary of the Mass and presented that effort to the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy in Washington, D.C., and the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome. Hostility was the response from Washington—copies of our draft were gathered and destroyed at the bishops’ meeting—while Rome expressed a guarded interest in our project.
Ultimately, the Holy See came to the realization that many of the vernacular translations of the liturgy were problematic. (English was not the only example, just one of the more egregious.) In 2001 the Congregation for Divine Worship promulgated Liturgiam Authenticam setting forth a coherent philosophy of translation. The document called for revised translations in keeping with these norms and the establishment of an oversight committee, Vox Clara, to ensure the fidelity of future translations.
A new, reconstituted ICEL set to work immediately on a new English missal. The level of input was such that many complained that the project would never be completed because of the painstakingly sensitive consultative process. Yet with guidance from Vox Clara and experts in Rome, the new text was completed and was approved by the U.S. bishops in 2009.
Reclaiming the Council’s Vision
In his essay, Father Ryan argues that not enough consultation has taken place, and that “we should just say, “Wait’” before implementing the new translations. I disagree. As a Web site set up to defend the new translation proclaims, “We've waited long enough!”
Ryan argues that the Roman Curia and other parties are involved in a “systematic dismantling of the great vision of the Council’s decree” and that the Congregation for Divine Worship is raising “rubricism to an art form,” with liturgy being used “as a weapon—to advance specific agendas.” In my view, present efforts are precisely seeking to reclaim “the great vision of the council’s” constitution. Over the years my various apostolates have provided me with a vantage point from which to consider liturgical life in this country and abroad. So much of what I have witnessed or had described to me by eyewitnesses has been nothing shy of a betrayal of the council’s great vision and, in my judgment, largely responsible for the rapid emptying of the pews.
What curial officials and the pope are arguing for, with the enthusiastic support of junior clergy, is not a moribund “rubricism” but a genuine ars celebrandi that makes the sacred mysteries palpable. Not a few observers have noted that much of the liturgical change that occurred after the council—both officially sanctioned as well as in explicit violation of church law—would have been unthinkable to the council fathers. What is required now is a careful re-building process. Is this “turning back the clock”? In some sense, it is. Permit me a mundane example. If a man is told by his physician that he must lose 50 pounds or face serious problems, he must “turn back the clock” to the time when he was lighter in order to save his life. Mutatis mutandis—that is what the church at the highest levels is calling us to do.
Father Ryan writes that “before long the priests of this country will be told to take the new translations to their people by means of a carefully orchestrated education program…” The author makes such efforts sound almost sinister, but in my book he is simply describing the process of catechesis. I hope that this process will be better handled than the “carefully orchestrated education program” that followed the postconciliar liturgical changes. In 1977 priests throughout the country were required to preach for three consecutive weekends, not simply on the issue of Communion-in-the-hand, but on why it should be done. Many priests who balked at the historically inaccurate catechetical materials were harassed by liturgical directors and even threatened by bishops with suspension. It seems that many of those who pushed for the reforms are waking up to find their program repudiated and have now become conservatives, opposed to change.
Father Ryan shares the concern of Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., the former chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, who has complained that the U.S.C.C.B. did not have a direct hand in the antiphons of the Missale Romanum. In a speech to the bishops conference in November, Bishop Trautman cited paragraph 36 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which he argued gave the episcopal conferences the authority to produce and approve liturgical translations. Yet the paragraph in question in no way calls for what Bishop Trautman demands: it stipulates that episcopal conferences are to approve translations (not produce them), with subsequent approval by the Holy See.
Ironically, the very same paragraph of the conciliar constitution also states that, “The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites....Care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” In other words, if paragraph 36 had been followed in regard to the primacy of Latin, the Ordinary of the Mass would not have been translated into the vernacular in the first place!
Examining the Translation
Finally, Father Ryan highlights as examples of a liturgical agenda “at best trivial and at worst hopelessly out-of-touch” several new texts that are products of “flawed principles of translation.” I am delighted with the examples he proffers because each is, in fact, an exemplar of what is so important about the new translation project.
And with your spirit. The earliest translation of the Mass from 1965 actually used this wording. St. John Chrysostom explains that when the people respond in this way they are affirming the ontological change that has taken place in the priest by virtue of the Sacrament of Order, thus enabling him to call down the Spirit upon the elements of bread and wine, transforming them into the body and blood of Christ.
Consubstantial. There is nothing inherently wrong with the present “one in being” in the Nicene Creed; it is not unfaithful to the meaning of either homoousios or consubstantialis. However, one of the underlying principles of the new translation was to use explicitly sacral and theological vocabulary whenever possible. Does the average Catholic know what “consubstantial” means? Probably not. But that same Catholic probably does not know what “one in being” means, either. However, because the latter phrase contains three very common English words, that person in the pew thinks he knows its meaning and thus passes over it without a thought. Coming upon “consubstantial,” that same person will be forced to pause over the significance of the term; it will give the priest the opportunity to preach about its profound meaning.
Incarnate. The present version is plainly inaccurate (“He was born of the Virgin Mary”). The Latin reads: Et incarnatus est...ex Maria Virgine; the moment of the Incarnation was not when He was born (liturgically celebrated on December 25), but when He was conceived (March 25). The translators could have given us “He was made flesh,” but, again, seeking to use more precise language, they gave us “incarnate,” thus giving the clergy yet another “preachable” moment. Several years ago Archbishop Rembert Weakland boasted that the church in the United States was home to the most intelligent and theologically astute Catholics in the history of the church. Surely, then, our congregations should be able to comprehend words like “consubstantial” and “incarnate.”
Joseph, spouse of the same Virgin. This line comes from the Roman Canon. The Latin speaks of Joseph as eiusdem Virginis sponsi, which is exactly “spouse of the same Virgin.” One reason the church was reluctant to highlight St. Joseph until relatively recent centuries was the fear that his relationship to Mary would or could be misunderstood. And so when Pope John XXIII added Joseph’s name to the Canon, it was determined that no one should be led into error or confusion, thus giving us “of the same Virgin.” Which is to say, that while Joseph and Mary were indeed husband and wife, Mary remained a virgin—a critical theological point.
We are warned by Father Ryan to expect “discredit to the church” and “disillusionment to the people” if the new translation sees the light of day. He tells us of the “chilling reception” it has received in South Africa, in spite of a “careful program of catechesis in the parishes.” I beg to differ. There was no “program of catechesis” to speak of in South Africa and, in fact, some liturgical observers even argue that the translation was thrust onto the faithful precisely to cause a negative reaction. Having conducted several workshops on the new texts over the past year, I can only attest to very positive reactions, from clergy and laity alike.
How did the final texts receive such overwhelming support from the American bishops, if they are so bad? The majority of the bishops saw the merit of the work and were tired of the delaying tactics of a vocal if tiny minority of opponents. Is this translation perfect? Of course not. No translation is, but we ought never make the best the enemy of the good. It is a vast improvement over the uninspiring, banal and all-too-often theologically problematic texts we have been using for nearly 40 years. The New Testament speaks of chairos, an especially fortuitous moment. We are approaching a liturgical chairos for English-speaking Catholics, which we should embrace with gusto.
In addition to Father Ryan’s article and the Web site he set up to summon support for further delays, he has also written to the rectors of all the cathedrals in the country seeking to rally them to his cause. His campaign has provoked a counterreaction among younger clergy and seminarians who have helped to set up the site “We’ve waited long enough.” The site has already garnered thousand of signatures and should give pause to Ryan and his supporters. It is these young priests, after all, who will be using these texts when our generation (God willing) will be participating in the Liturgy of Heaven, where language will not be an issue.
"The goal was to capture the general meaning of the text, rather than a faithful rendering of a rich and historically layered Latin prose."
EXACTLY Father! Please, we want to know the "general meaning of the text". We don't need to hear a performance of a "rendering of Latin prose."
I agree with this, intensely. All due respect to Fr Ryan, whom I do respect as a person, but I simply do not agree with his assessment of the situation. Fr Stravinskas has articulated this perfectly. Precision in langauge is needed if we are to accuratly pass on our faith, lex orandi lex credendi and all, and people are intelligent enough to learn what does not make sense at first. I especially support the idea of more precise language in times when a more colloquial articulation would lead people to think they grasp a concept when they actually do not.
It was not trated in this article, but I also find the charge that the new texts are "unproclaimable" very odd. People always provide some supposedly shocking example of an unproclaimable collect, but each time I have found myself very able to read the text off the screen with a smooth tone and cadence on my first attempt. There may be awkward phrasing among the prayers in the new missal, but none of the presently available examples are among them.
The translators could have given us “He was made flesh,” but, again, seeking to use more precise language, they gave us “incarnate,” thus giving the clergy yet another “preachable” moment.
Encoding words and then inviting preachers to uncode them is not the sort of "preachable moments" we need. Considering that the assembly is in constant flux, with people joining and returning over a period of generations, how often must we have this "preachable moment" in order to reach everyone? Once a year? Twice a year?
Homilies are meant to exound on Scripture and relate the mysteries of the Faith to the everyday lives of the faithful. They are not supposed to be vocabulary lessons. Spare us the manufactured "preachable moments."
13. Indeed, since the use of the vernacular in the Sacred Liturgy may certainly be considered an important means for presenting more clearly the catechesis regarding the mystery that is inherent in the celebration itself, the Second Vatican Council also ordered that certain prescriptions of the Council of Trent that had not been followed everywhere be brought to fruition, such as the homily to be given on Sundays and holy days and the faculty to interject certain explanations during the sacred rites themselves.
65. The homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.
The text of the Mass itself may be the subject of a homily. No problem, indeed a homily (as well as explainations between rites as per 13) is a perfect place for a teachable moment, and is apparently what the Church intends.
Now, that is not exhaustive, of course.
Kudos to Father Stravinskas for a very lucid and compelling argument for accurate translations of the Roman Mass. I too, was in high school when these banal and inaccurate translations of the Liturgy were promulgated and I was shocked by them. They denuded the Liturgy of beauty and confused its theology. Beyond the idiocy of "and also with you" rather than "and with your spirit" were such goodies as "Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed" rather than"and my soul shall be healed." With that licentious translation I thought the Church was turning to Protestant fundamentalism, suggesting the Eucharist brought bodily healing rather than spiritual. Also overlooked was the fact that these words were those of the Centurian to Christ. Such historical and contextual matters made no difference to the promoters of dynamic equivalency. It appears that the revolutionaries of the 1960s/70s are today's reactionaries, trying to canonize one brief moment in Church history. Moreover these "sensitive" folks conveniently forget that the new translations were shoved down the throats of the faithful just a few short years following the Council. The time for implementing the new translations has come.
All I can say is BRAVO, Father Stravinskas!
Well done, Fr. Stravinskas. May the new Mass text be a great watershed for the English-speaking Church, rich with "teachable moments" and "preachable moments" for clergy and catechsist alike.
Rev. Peter Stravinskas was a participant in the process of revising the translations for the Mass, and he clearly describes in this article how the texts were altered and the translators forced to suit the prevailing ideology. In this article, the texts of the actual Vatican II documents are quoted to great effect. I am impressed at how well written this is. Looks likes it has been more than 40 years in preparation. The voices of those who wanted to speak out against the misimplementation of Vatican II have had to wait a long time. But the time has finally come.
Fr. Stravinskas's article ignores a major point. The new translation of the Mass is different, to be sure, but it's based on an assumption that is not in evidence: the closer the English version is to the Latin version in all respects - including vocabulary, grammar, and syntax - the more appropriate it is. Such schoolboyish touches as literal translation of the ablative absolute, as is present in the absolution prayer in the penitential rite, do not lead us to an English text that conveys the cognitive and affective substance of the Mass in any kind of effective manner.
The text we've used the last 40 years is in no way artistic, but neither is this new version. This whole project needs to back to the drawing board, with our best artists in English prose fully involved. Otherwise it is nothing more than a liturgical version of laetrile: a quack remedy that will not cure what ails the celebration of the Mass in most places (poor music and poor preaching).
biggest problem I have is that some priests ad lib the prayers when most lack the talent or verve for doing better than the actual texts. Moreover, much of the ad libbing is ideological, and that's a serious matter. Because of the paucity of the current translations, I avail myself more and more of Latin language liturgies (also the music is usually terrific as well).
To Deacon Eric Stolz,
You wrote, "Homilies are meant to exound on Scripture and relate the mysteries of the Faith to the everyday lives of the faithful."
Are these the same homilies that generally involve telling a story about a little boy saying something funny or making an unintended wise comment, or a joke about how St Peter and God are planning something upstairs when something goes amusingly awry? And then follow it up with telling us to be good to others and don't hate ourselves when we mess up? Because if they are, please spare me. Apparently that's all the homiletics that anybody learns in seminary or deacon class these days. Whoever came up with this idea of a homily needs to be shown the door. Soon.
I'm not asking for fire-and-brimstone, but it would be nice if our enlightened liberal pastors treated us as adults some times and gave us real spiritual meat to chew on instead of pablum (to paraphrase St. Paul).
The best homilist I've ever heard is Fr. Christopher at Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio. He brings so much to the text, explains the words, AND makes it apply to daily life. Reminds me Fr. Ronald Knox's homilies. Pick up the print collection of his homilies for a real example of making the Bible come to life without dumbing it down.
Tom, the attempt to combine English words with Latin syntax has all the elegance of ketchup and liver on vanilla ice cream. They simply do not fit together.
R,P Burke: Loquorisne latinam linguam?
Strangely, Father Stravinskas passes over the fact that ICEL engaged in a total revision of the 1973 Missal during a fifteen-year period, from 1982 to 1997. Eleven conferences of bishops gave their canonical approvals to that thorough and careful revision. After a four-year review, Rome refused its confirmation of the eleven conferences' canonical decisions and also refused to enter into dialogue with the bishops' conferences on the rejected text. As a text that was literate, memorable, uplifting, the rejected text was far superior to the present proposal, which is often rhythmically insecure and syntactically disjointed. It is a slavishly literal translation that so exalts the Latin that the result is in too many instances scarcely recognizable as English.
If Rome had only allowed reasonable dialogue, a workable compromise could have been achieved several years ago. Instead Roman power prevailed, and the whole process was begun all over again. The money, the people's money, that has been wasted and continues to be wasted is itself a scandal, which no one seems to be addressing.
So what would be a more elegant solution? From those opposed to the new rendition of the current missal, you seem to be voicing the most-used concerns. I do think the new renditions sounds awkward at times. It also seems worlds better than what we currently have. What would you suggest instead? Take a few phrase being revised and let us know how they would change and keep the original meaning.
Wow. John Stone goes for the ad hominems at first then moves on to complaining about what's over and done with. John- if the previous revisions were unworkable enough to warrant refusal from Rome, then who was really wasting the money?
In any case, the argument Fr. made is a good one. I'm not sure how his "service record" affects the argument. I would have bought it from a Rabbi.
Vere. I'm a graduate of the Boston Latin School. You'd get 6/10 for a literal translation of an ablative absolute there.
I am not one of the best artists in English prose - or even English poetry. The translators failed to employ any of these, and the weak result is no surprise. What if the Church of England had, at the turn of the last century, employed someone like Marty Haugen rather than Ralph Vaughan Williams as musical editor of its official hymnal?
Thank you for this article, It tells the truth of what has been going on, even if it is brief. Whole books have not been large enough to encompass the entire fifty year spiritual and earthly war over the Sacred Liturgy. The truth of it is in the Vatican II documents themselves and not in the misguided and unwritten so called spirit of it's intent. I am sure the enemy of the church, (and those who oppose this are aiding the enemy) would like to see more delays, and the lies (to come) about what took place, and where we are going next. I am pesonally hoping this will lead back to more genuflections, communion on the tongue, and even meatless Fridays. If the church gets it's health back, so will society and we may even see the end of legalized abortion. I don't think it is a coincidence that legal abortion came right on the heals of the "modern" Mass.
I absolutely cannot assent to the notion that a version of English barely above a transliteration is "elevated". We have before us a poorly constructed text fully as devoid of art and beauty as the 1970 version, with a single beneficial change: more clearly laid out scriptural allusions. Remember, too, that this is a text intended for oral proclamation, not to be read silently from a page as priest and servers mumble the Latin original from afar. An amateurish effort it is, and it needs to be sent back to the drawing board.
R.P., I think we will have to agree to disagree. The new translation is far better than the current ICEL. Could it be more poetic? Yes. I am at least content that you believe, as I do, that the current version needs much improvement. Please note, that many priests who used to translate the Mass for the various
Missale editions in the US prior to the Council, Father LaSance, St. Joseph Daily Missal, etc., didn't do a bad job. Perhaps those translations should be revisited. Regards, Tom
Ok....I get it again....poor translation, haste, etc with the previous translation. Just two small points from a pastor in an ordinary parish: Priests and laity still have not gotten their heads around how much is about to change. Here in Canada, it means that our national hymbook, CBW III will be useless when it comes to the sung parts of the liturgy. And, we also must change the translation of the Psalms in CBW III but that is another story. Point number two is more serious: now that we have come to rely on more and more clergy for whom English is their second or third language and who already have difficulties with the present translation, how do we expect them to pray the liturgy with any sense of reverence and undsrstanding of the words when it challenges native English speakers? Have you tried to pray Eucharistic Prayer I and come to the doxology and say, with confidence, that I have been engaged in and understand everything that I have just spoken? The poor people of God in the pew......
Bonus point: I think that everyone is just plain tired of this whole process and will just grin and bear it and get on with it. But this issue is far from over and some are already musing on the translation that corrects the translation that corrected the translation.......by then......oh well.....will it matter.....
oops.....I mean the new translation of Eucharistic Prayer I.....
Cornelius, I wish a person of your sensitivity had been around in 1964 when the "reforms" were been shoved down our throats by liberal clerics. Look, if the faithful could adopt truly radical, iconoclastic changes that we we're forced to accept, surely the brilliant, intelligent, and "inclusive" Catholics of today can accept this. After all, it's in their native language.
This article is not my cup of tea.
Stravinskas seems to be of the mindset we were better off without Vatican II. He speaks from a curial stance, not a pastoral one. He ignores the history of ICEL from 1982-1997, which Tom McFadden outlines in Response No. 16 above.
I find the author's observation on the junior clergy interesting. A curious phenomenon: priests, who have had no experience of our preconciliar church and its Latin liturgy, enamored of its Latin heritage. One wonders if more than language is at work in this phenonmenon.
If the missal texts we've prayed the last 40 years are so uninspiring, banal, and theologically problematic, how is it that at places like St. James Cathedral in Seattle and other gathering places for worship across our country these texts have generated such active conversion and powerful apostolic outreach?
I find this article defensive and retrenchant, even as the author argues that the new translation works in his experience and can be effective with ongoing catechesis.
Its the mindset behind what he writes that troubles me.
Thank you Fr. Stravinskas. The truth is refreshing, especially when coming from a Catholic Priest. I am 54 years old and remember well the not so sublte efforts of the clergy in the Archdiocese in Portland, telling us to "grow up," and stand for communion etc... ad naseum. I watched while droves of people left the Catholic Church, almost all over the New Mass. The orchestrators of this debacle knew full well that if you change the way a people worship, you will change the way they believe. The part that is most difficult to understand, is that after all these years and their obvious failure, they cling to the lies like a sailor adrift on a raft in the ocean. The good news is as you intimated, that so many of the younger priests coming along want more than the drivel we have been fed and are poised to take the reigns of the Church with hearts of fidelity to the Pope, devotion to the Magisterium and great desire to render a true translation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. All of the old guard is passing along with their infidelity and their scorn for things good and holy. I thank God that I have lived long enough to see the begining of the "Reform of the Reform of the Mass." I just pray that they who have led so many astray over the years experience a conversion of heart and a return to their "first love" before they die. God's Mercy endures forever, and so does His Justice. Eternity is forever.
You make some wild, and indeed, I fear, slanderous, accusations about the changes in the form and language of the Mass made as a consequence of the Second Vatican Council. I take it then that you are accusing the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, as well as the bishops of the Church worldwide of deliberately subverting the Faith of the Church. Evidence, please.
As for people leaving the Church "in droves" largely because of changes in the Mass in the same period, can you cite reliable statistics? Wholesale assertions and random anecdotes are simply no help. That Mass attendance did decline is a fact. That changes in the Mass were the principal reason for this decline has not been demonstrated by any surveys that I have read.
Over the last ten years alone, 150,000 adults in the United States have entered the Catholic Church each year through The Rite of Christian Initiation. Well over one million! Many of those entering the Church have instanced the Mass in its present form as their PRIMARY reason for becoming Catholics. And I speak only of the United States.
Caritas Christi urget nos!
As always, Father Stravinskas is on target. He succintly answers the question "why don't we wait" and also in an erudite fashion poses the logical response, "we are we still waiting?" Had accurate English translations of the typical Latin text been given in 1970 to the USA and other countries under ICEL control, we would not be in the state of 'high anxiety' we find ourselves today in 2010. Father Stravinskas has been writing and speaking for many years on the elegance and beauty of the Novus Ordo (now known as the Ordinary Form) in the Latin but also has equally discussed the possibility of the vernacular achieving the same IF the proper text is available. Once an accurate translation arrives, then the goal is (as Father Zuhlsdorf coined so well) SAY THE BLACK AND DO THE RED. In other words, we priests need to follow the rubrics and do what is required AND say the proper words so LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI can take place. I wrote an article in Homiletic & Pastoral Review back in 1993 entitled "The Desecration of Catholicism". The systematic removal of sacred vocabularly is self-evident. That led to the loss of the sacred and the entrance of the pedestrian. Banal ceremonies replaced reverent worship whenever liturgical abuse is tolerated. The faithful DESERVE the best Holy Mother Church provides, not just in valid and licit sacraments and orthodox doctrine but also in accurate translations of Scriptural and Liturgical texts. Thankfully, we have some Stravinskas and Guido Marini's around.
Trying to be well informed, I have read both this and Msgr Ryan's articles. I find Father Stravinskas' to be mostly rubbish and entirely off point. Citing from original Latin (and I took 4 years in high school) is meaningless and unfruitful towards persuasion. Christ spoke Latin not. The language itself is a translation from something else. Fr Stravinskas merely wants a stahre decisis to another era. I wish him well, but his argument is not persuasive - and as of today he is being out-voted 3 to 1 by those who propose we "wait". Not as great a majority as the 2,147 to 4 count of bishops who approved vernacular in Sacrosanctum Concilium in 1963, .... but impressive nonetheless.
Rev. Peter Stravinskas seems to misunderstand Fr. Ryan’s point. Fr. Peter’s effort to counter what he perceives as a distortion of the Vatican II vision of sacred liturgy will certainly inspire our nostalgic fundamentalists. The “We’ve Waited Long Enough!” effort focuses on the accurate and faithful interpretation of words while the “Why Don’t We Say, ‘Wait?’” focus is on the accurate and faithful interpretation of “aggiornamento” as the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Following Fr. Peter’s logic, we ought to just go back to using Latin in our liturgies. Nothing could be more faithful than to just use the Latin. Once again, we have a bright example of a solution to a problem that only has logical existence, but questionable ontological existence.
I feel certain that all those involved in this decision-making process (hundreds? a thousand?) are all intelligent, sincere, faithful servants of Christ and His Holy Church, whose mission is to bring the faithful (and, moreover, the not-so-faithful)closer to redemption. Will the new translations help to achieve that mission? Maybe a little. Maybe not. Is all the time, energy and money spent on this issue justified? Certainly not. I agree that the translations were not perfect, but if this is what it takes to make a few minor corrections (and, in the big picture, these are minor corrections), then don't bother. We have bigger problems. Imagine if all of this intelligent, sincere and faithful energy (not to mention financial resources) had been directed toward some of those. That would have been great.
I have read most of both sides of this issue on the respective web sites. There are good points on each side. But the bottom line is that the Church and the Magisterium has the authority to do this. They are not just a bunch of power mongering morons are they? I'm sure that their positions are at least as well thought out as the positions of the opposition. Am I wrong on that? Then, it all boils down to obedience and to being obedient. The Magisterium has heard the opposition and I am sure their reasoning was seriously considered. But, the Magesterium's conclusion was different from the opposition point of view . Therefore,now is the time to shut up and be obedient! Why don't you take the example of St. John Vianney, (This is the Year of the Priest! Coincidental? I think not!) a guy thought of as a simpleton by fellow Priests, so they threw him out in the boondocks and all he did then was live holy, and hear confessions, and was obedient to his superiors ( What a novel idea!). We all know the rest of that story. The Church will survive with or without your accedemic distain. Also, I don't think that the Church is a democracy! Every decision is not up to a "Vote". To borrow a corporate metaphor; Priests are not in management they are in sales. Get in line and make this work!,and it will all work out. I have no doubt there will be eventual give and take on this issue, but as for now that is the decision Fellas! Learn to live with it! And, anybody that says that Vatican II's decisions and directives were not abused, especially in this country, has been asleep for the last 40 years. Let the process work! History is bigger and mightier than all of us!
"And that's all I have to say about that!" ( Go get'em Forest!, Go get'em St. John Vianney!)
Will this change fill our pews, bring back our young people, increase our faith, make any difference in the world around us? Or is it silly infighting about who is 'right' about words. How many priests regularly use the alternative Eucharistic Prayers to bring a 'freshness' to their liturgy? How many proclaim the prayers with true passion and sincerity? Do we pay such detailed attention to all the other aspects of the worship experience from music to environment to full and active participation? Will a diminishing clergy and reliance upon missionary priests from other cultures and languages ever reverse a trend of disatisfaction and disullusionment? We have far more important issues to address than trying to recreate a museum church.
All points well-taken. However, to maintain that the emptying of the pews is a result of a poor translation is simplistic at best and ludicrous at worst! The complexity of reasons why our pews are "empty," if indeed they are- that could be debated- precludes any significant discussion here. Suffice it to say that there are numerous societal and religious elements to that situation.
And it makes me crazy to hear people continually make reference to the "original" Latin when it comes to the translation of the Nicene Creed. The original language of the Nicene Creed was Greek, not Latin, because that was the prevailing language of the time. When it was translated into Latin for the Latin-speaking population of Roman times, that, too, was the prevailing language of the people-not a so-called "sacred" language prevailed upon to give the people praying it a sense of reverence, as if it were impossible to be reverent in one's own language.
The science of linguistics used to maintain that language was fixed and that proper language was forever proper language. This thinking has changed significantly and it is now know that language is a living, constantly changing phenomenon-words do not always mean what they did when they originally entered the language-that is, if we are speaking of a vibrant, living language and not of a "dead" language that has not been spoken by anyone on the face of the earth for nearly two thousand years.
Reading Fr. Stravinskas makes me believe Teilhard de Chardin was right when he wrote in 1926: "...there is developing within me, an inborn and profound opposition to what is usually regarded as the form, the hopes and the interests that are Christian. What can you expect: in the Christian world as it is presented in our ecclesiastical documents and the catholic gestures or conceptions, I suffocate absolutely, physically...We are no longer in fact 'catholic'; we are defending a system, a sect."
Father Peter's closing comment that it is the young clergy who will be using the text is typical. I would like to remind him that there are many millions more Catholics, besides the young, yet to be experienced clergy, who have a stake in this. As best I can ascertain, no one has asked us.
It is surprising that only one comment, that of Angela Marchewski, #35, points out what should be obvious: "And it makes me crazy to hear people continually make reference to the "original" Latin when it comes to the translation of the Nicene Creed. The original language of the Nicene Creed was Greek, not Latin, because that was the prevailing language of the time. When it was translated into Latin for the Latin-speaking population of Roman times, that, too, was the prevailing language of the people-not a so-called "sacred" language prevailed upon to give the people praying it a sense of reverence, as if it were impossible to be reverent in one's own language."
The Mass was celebrated in Koine Greek and other dead languages before Latin.
So there is no "original Latin" from which to translate, and efforts to offer "a faithful rendering of a rich and historically layered Latin prose" are misguided.
"Father Stravinsky makes an excellent case for the changes in the Missal. I truly understand the need for the accuracy and for the fullness of the meaning originally intended in the Latin version." So writes Deacon Peter.
One would hope that the meaning "originally intended in the Latin version" was an accurate and colloquial translation from Koine Greek into the Latin spoken in the daily lives of ordinary people.
As I read the article defending the new translation of the Roman Missal and the commentaries pro and con I found myself wondering what is really going on here. Is this merely an exercise in semantics or, as I suspect, does it reflect a far deeper divide over the legacy of Vatican Council II? Those of us who had completed our studies in theology and were just beginning our parochial ministry were consumed with the substance and the message in the conciliar documents that were then in the process of being published. It was a most exciting and hopeful time. Even now, after the passing of many years, I recall an occasion when Albert Cardinal Meyer, Archbishop of Chicago, appeared before a large gathering of his priests to brief them on what has transpired at the Council. As he entered the roon we all stood up and sang a rousing chorus of "Ad multos annos ... " in regognition of him and the contributions he had made as an active participant in the discussions. That had never happened before, indeed those meetings were best known for their solemnity. We are all older men now and the times have changed. The mood of the Church or at least many churchmen also has changed. Our generation is often now being labeled as "misunderstanding" or "misrepresenting" the true teachings and the intent of the Council. Well - says who? For us the Council was living history and we grieve over what we see as a subtle revisionism now gaining popularity.
I hope any changes are first tried out before the final printing. If memory serves correctly, the creed when it came out in English way back when contained the words "You who" a number of times in repetitive fashion. Of course it sounded like "Yoo-hoo" when read by the congregation. It was changed, dropping the Yoo-hoos.
I am aware that use of the vernacular was promoted by the insistence that most people do not understand Latin. My answer to that was that most Americans don't understand English either, particularly priests who recite the beautiful greeting that begins "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ..." either preceded or followed by "good morning," or the celebrant who, in the section of the Mass preceding communion, for the unrestrictive "Those who are called" substitutes the limiting "we who are called."
Oh, Father, I'm so glad you wrote this article! I have seen for myself, now, the new translation, and it is beautiful! This has been even more underscored by your explanations; I know Fr. Ryan has an excellent aesthetic sense, having been part of the liturgy at his pastorate-but his feelings about the translation-not to mention the website-were so divisive, I wanted to cry. I LOVE my Church and her traditions and Traditions; why do we (me, too) do this to each other?
It is somewhat painful to see Fr. Stravinskas and others who struggle to present compelling support for the dreadful new translations. But the fundamental problem is Liturgiam Authenticam, the founding document for these translations. The founding document is filled with mistakes and assumptions. Liturgiam Authenticam (LA) is to liturgical texts what an English grammar book is to the English language. If the grammar book is faulty, then you can expect the English language to be faulty and awkward. Peter Jeffrey of Princeton University, an expert in the history of Latin liturgical texts, points out in his thorough study of the document that LA is full of misstatements about the roman liturgical tradition: “Inaccuracies, misrepresentations and contradictions so abound in LA that anyone who tried to obey it religiously would find himself hopelessly mired in absurdities, demonstrating fidelity to Roman tradition by doing and saying things that are neither Roman or traditional.” The document was imposed, too, with little consultation: “It is particularly embarassing that all this muscular Christianity comes to us vested and mitred in the most ignorant statement on liturgy ever issued by a modern Vatican congregation.”
You may be entirely correct that the current translation is not literally or technically correct in places - I am not a Latin scholar. Whether it is or is not entirely misses the point, in my view.
What troubles me is the notion that there is some “pure” form of the Liturgy that exists only in Latin, and translations that technically stray from the Latin to capture the beauty of the Liturgy in local language are somehow “illegitimate.” The Mass is treated as nothing more than a series of magical incantations that must be correctly invoked in order to pray properly, and the priest is simply a magician. Say the incantation properly and “poof,” Jesus appears. I enjoyed the Harry Potter series, but I don’t want my Mass transformed into a Hogwarts classroom!
The petition response numbers you quote in your article are meaningless. The entire process has been so shrouded in secrecy that very few of the millions of lay people that are the Catholic Church even know it is occurring - if they have some inkling, it is just the vague notion that change is coming, but details are quickly hushed up. Support is quietly cultivated among those pushing this change, and the "positive" response is then presented to give the appearance of universal acceptance.
I realize that there are many who never liked the Vatican II reforms, and relish the opportunity to turn back the clock. However, we are three generations removed from Vatican II, and those of us who grew up in the post-Vatican II Church are left to pray that the beautiful Liturgies that we grew up with will not be thrown onto the scrap heap.
I appreciate Peter Straniskas' well-written article.
While it raises some good points, I trust his logic will not prevail. For instance, quoting Sacrosanctum Concilium 36, he says: " “The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites....Care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” In other words, if paragraph 36 had been followed in regard to the primacy of Latin, the Ordinary of the Mass would not have been translated into the vernacular in the first place!"
His conclusion does not follow from his quotation. I agree the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. That can be done whether or not one celebrates the liturgy in Latin. More importantly, however, "Care MUST be taken to ensure that the faithful MAY also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary.." Nowhere does it say that care must be taken to ensure that the faithful MUST also be able to say, etc. They MAY. That the vast majority of people have chosen to celebrate in English is not the same as saying they cannot celebrate in Latin - though it does speak to the value of being able to pray in one's own oral language.
I can also appreciate the beauty of Shakespearian English, the language of the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church. At the same time, I think it's safe to say few of us would pray in that language, choosing instead to converse with God in language which is 'common' to us, not common as the lowest common denominator, but common as in being in use by, and understood by, the majority of Anglophones. Doubtless if we follow Stravinskas' logic of appealing to a language of beauty over a language of understanding, we should revert to the use of 'verily', 'forsooth', and all the 'thee's and 'thou's common in Shakespeare's day. Let's not forget, however, that words now seen as somehow of a higher mystical value than our everyday speech were at the time the everyday speech of the people.
Doubtless, too, we will have ample opportunity for catechesis, as we explain the prayer "Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help : that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life", letting the people know that the 'Prevent' comes from 'prevenire', to go before, and that we are actually asking God to go before us in all our doings - something most people would, I'm sure, be quite surprised to hear.
Finally, while I can appreciate a desire to use language which authentically reflects our earlier liturgical language (though not necessarily to literally translate it), I suggest the language we should translate from should be that of the original liturgies themselves, i.e. koine Greek and other languages, rather than the language of empire.
The language of our sacred liturgies is not perfect. But then neither is Latin a perfect translation of earlier languages used for the celebration of our liturgies. Whatever language we use, it will always fall short of the mystery and majesty and incarnate reality of God. By all means, too, let us have catechesis on the language, so we can better understand the mysteries we celebrate. But that can be as well resolved in many cases by catechesis alone, as by a combination of new translations and catechesis to explain those new translations.
With all this talk of Latin, (the language of Nero and the language despised by the Jews of Jesus's time) and the need for catechesis, we need to look at what Sacrosanctum Concilium said:
From: SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM
21. In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.
34. The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.
*37. Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples…..Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.
If we need catechesis to explain words that are outside of people's comprehension, repetition (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa) and so forth then we are not following the dictates of Vatican II. But we all suspected that anyhow.
When told that vernacular would replace "holy Latin" in the English Reformation St. Thomas More was quated as saying "who said latin was holy?" We need more like St. Thomas More.