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Michael G. RyanMay 28, 2012

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.

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11 years 6 months ago

Can the bishops really do anything? They already had a translation that was a good revision of the previous one, and it got shoved aside, along with their participation in the process of the new translation.

At least, that is my understanding. If I am wrong, please correct me, humbly, I pray.
Mary Sweeney
11 years 6 months ago

Father, you missed out on December 8th's unforgettable "prevenient grace" which besides giving me instant indigestion inspired me to write a note on Facebook: "The 'Steve Jobs' Grace: Prevenient" or "The Securitization of the Gospel", https://www.facebook.com/#!/note.php?note_id=345641362114421

Like kddidit, I no longer say the prayers. I am an observer. I do have one occasion to smile. I know that words mean what they say, and so when the celebrant says "The Lord be with you." and the congregation dutifully answers "And with your spirit", I think to myself - well, no help with your arthritis or your blood pressure or whatever else, Father. So much for choosing the short end of the stick. Good luck with that.

Your original insightful article “What if we just said ‘wait’?” linguistically hides, not through your fault, the problem. In English we use the pronoun "we" with a massive geographical sweep. In other languages, Pacific languages in particular where community and who is in or out is very important, different words distinguish we-the-two of us, we-the-three-of-us, we-all-of-us, we-us-but-not-you. Our problem is that that "we" means "us" but not "you" and it is the all-male, all-wise, all-powerful, all-excluding hierarchy speaking. The biggest threat to Jesus' Church today is not the Girl Scouts, not the Sisters, not the LCWR, but the Hierarchy.

Cody Serra
11 years 6 months ago

"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?"

The sentence I quoted above says a lot about not people's indifference, but the desolation and frustration many of us feel. And yes, fear of reprisal stops many, specially those employed by the Church.

Besides of the unfortunate mistranslation, we still have court battles on clergy sex abuse, the humiliation of the sisters after the Inquisition rendered its sentence, the contraceptives, the girl scouts admonition for alleged misbehavior, and you know the rest.

Personally, I have relegated the Missal translation to the back burner. No, I have not accepted it: I continue to use the old words, except for "and with your spirit" which has always been said in the Spanish translation. But there are too many issues that are vital to the life of our Church that are being questioned and they are disturbing.  

We should be united not only joining our voices for the revision of the new Missal, but praying for structural, policy and pastoral changes of the institutional Church. 
Our Church divisions are the product of most of the problems. It is not the Gospel or the dogmas that are being argued against and dividing us. Faith is as strong as ever in the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit -the Trinity. But the weakness is rooted in the loss of respect for the Hierarchy and its exercise of absolute power, without accountability.

Is the "sensus fildelium" an invention of some lay Catholics?  Did Vatican II make pastoral changes, like inclusiveness and collegiality, spelled out in its documents? Were the 2000 plus Bishops not inspired by the Spirit when they approved them? If in doubt, can we also doubt all previous Vatican Councils documents? 

Weldon Nisly
11 years 6 months ago
A reminder to post your full name with your comment.
John Feehily
11 years 6 months ago
I was happy to spend months to prepare for these changes in the context of a fresh catechesis (for many the first) on the Mass and what it means for a priestly people to offer the Mass. Other priests suggested that a thorough examination of the prayers used at the chair and at the altar would make it possible to pray them well. For the most part, that has not been my experience.  I made a valiant effort to just read what was on the page, bit it proved too painful and distracting.There are a small number of texts which I can manage to pray verbatim, but most require a judicious editing to render them more intelligible not just to the people but to me. I never alter the substance of the prayers since that would require a departure from "lex orandi, lex credendi". As a priest I must pray with the church, but as one who is called to seek holiness and integrity I should not be expected to pray what doesn't make sense. The people have now adopted the new responses and learned the new settings, but no one has said anything like: "I'm so happy for the new prayers, Father." I cannot believe that bishops can't see for themselves the difficulties these texts cause, so I harbor some hope that a movement may arise among the more intellectually honest to come up with a plan of action for dealing with the problem.
11 years 6 months ago
I gave it a valiant effort but I find myself sight reading sense into the nonsense.  I take comfort that Benedict XVI, in his former post, once said that no liturgy once used never becomes invalid.  We need to petition our bishops for permission to use the Vatican II mass, as do those who want to use the triditine rite.
11 years 6 months ago

Every word written by Cody Serra in the last two paragraphs!
And furthermore, the language is far from the 'vernacular' English of any of the English-speaking regions, and I somehow doubt that even in London is English thusly spoken. What it is in this context is an alienating element that underscores that we, the laity, don't speak in this kind of English at all. It's as if to remind us that we are not 'priestly' in spite of our baptism, here's one more obstacle to realization of our baptismal priestly roles. And it doesn't really convey what the mass is. The clear message I've been getting is that the bishops can make us do whatever they want to make us do. Not a good message this year at all.

But I have to reiterate that the English is so far removed from the vernacular of each English-speaking region that it actually fails to 'tell the story' and that is what the mass is about, telling the story (Do this in memory of me...) and instill in us that we are now His body, all of it. If anything this has been a failure in its alienating effect.

And my final point on the English 'vernacular' translation, we don't speak this way in California, so I have the distinct feeling that we who are English-speaking Latinas and Latinos are being transformed into Anglicans singing Anglican hymns, using the English of the Anglican Church. This is not the English of the United States, and not California. There, I think I've vented.

Roger O'Brien
11 years 6 months ago

As a presbyter I find the new missal language cumbersome, garbled, prolix…and, most of all, other worldly.  It’s like I’m shifting into Elizabethan jargon (maybe that would  be better?).  In any event, it’s not how I speak pastorally (or unpastorally!) with parishioners, nor is it the language in which I preach my homilies.  Kudos to Fr. Mike Ryan, always faithful and a man of integrity, to keep raising the question.  Accept, I humbly beseech you, and graciously hear my plea, which in mortal frailty is all I can offer, that, of course, this is really not about language but about the need of Rome and our episcopacy for power and control.

11 years 6 months ago
I wish someone would do a scientific survey of priests to get their views of what they think about the new missal.
Kait Skyler
11 years 6 months ago
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!
Kenneth Wolfe
11 years 6 months ago

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.

Amy Ho-Ohn
11 years 6 months ago
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.
joyce Macnamara
11 years 6 months ago
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. 
John Welsby
11 years 6 months ago
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.
Mike Evans
11 years 6 months ago

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.

William Atkinson
11 years 6 months ago
What ever happened to simplicity in prayer, Try using the military approved abbriviated form. Say Amen istead of "So be it",
Bryan Ochs
11 years 6 months ago
"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. 
thomas tucker
11 years 6 months ago
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!
Louise Heatley
11 years 6 months ago
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. 
Lawrence Huber
11 years 6 months ago
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 ..."

TO and FROM don't seem like the important words in those two sentences/prayers. 
John Green
11 years 6 months ago
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.
Joon H
11 years 6 months ago
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!!!!
Lee Bedard
11 years 6 months ago

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.
Carolyn Matthews
11 years 6 months ago
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.  
thomas tucker
11 years 6 months ago
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.
charles smith
11 years 6 months ago
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.
11 years 6 months ago
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)!
11 years 6 months ago
"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.
Craig McKee
11 years 6 months ago
"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!
Paul Leddy
11 years 6 months ago
Jesus loves me. This I know because I'm losing my hearing.
Such bliss.
William Bagley
11 years 6 months ago
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."

John Wotherspoon
11 years 6 months ago
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
ron chandonia
11 years 6 months ago
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.
11 years 6 months ago

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.

thomas tucker
11 years 6 months ago
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.
Alex Saunders
11 years 6 months ago
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.
Catherine Le Roux
11 years 6 months ago

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.

11 years 6 months ago

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!   



Louis Macchiarulo
11 years 6 months ago
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
11 years 6 months ago
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.  
11 years 6 months ago
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.
Shirley Adler
11 years 6 months ago
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!! 
11 years 6 months ago
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
C Walter Mattingly
11 years 6 months ago
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.
Anne Maura English
11 years 6 months ago
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. 
Katherine McEwen
11 years 6 months ago
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?
Margaret Bitz
11 years 6 months ago

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!!!

Eileen Gould
11 years 6 months ago

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

Roxanne Schwab
11 years 6 months ago
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?
11 years 6 months ago

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