A Graced Moment: Welcoming the New Roman Missal
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter…. A faithful friend is beyond price.” These words from the Book of Sirach (6:15-16) resonate with all who know the joy of friendship. A good friend is someone I know well, someone who knows me well. A faithful friend is a trusted companion who enriches my life, as I do for my friend.
For Catholics, the Mass is where our relationship with the Lord, who is much more than a true friend, is nurtured and strengthened. The Mass itself is a “faithful friend” because we know it well, and our participation draws us ever deeper into the grace of the Lord. Later this year we will be introduced to a new translation of the prayers of the Mass in the new Roman Missal. Some are wary of this change—perhaps the most significant change in the liturgy since the reformed liturgy was first introduced after the Second Vatican Council. Such change is never easy, but perhaps a better approach might be to welcome the new translation as a new friend about to lead us to a new moment of grace.
The revised Roman Missal will be introduced in parishes on Nov. 27, 2011, the First Sunday of Advent. The occasion offers an unprecedented opportunity for in-depth preparation and thorough catechesis. The new translation reflects more fully the power of the prayers of the Mass, both when we are celebrating Eucharist and also when we are sent forth to “go in peace glorifying the Lord” with our lives.
Over these past 36 years as a priest and bishop, I have celebrated Mass not only in English but also in Spanish and Italian. Often I have been struck by the accuracy of those translations in contrast to our English version. I can appreciate the work that went into the new English translation, knowing that no one translation can completely serve every English-speaking nation. Am I satisfied with every single change in word or phrase? No. But since we will be using an English-language missal that must serve many English-speaking countries around the world, it is helpful to be mindful of the great diversity and nuances of the English language. Indeed the subtle differences in English usage in the United States are a good indication of the fact that there is no such thing as a single, perfect English translation.
A Eucharistic Church
The Catholic Church is a eucharistic church. The coming months will be a time to consider again how and why this is so and to come to a new appreciation of the Mass and its prayers. From the very first days when the disciples gathered, “they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). “Breaking of the bread” refers, of course, to the celebration of the Eucharist. It was probably not until the third and fourth centuries that ritual texts, or formularies, were used for the celebration of Mass. Eucharistic Prayer II (once attributed to St. Hippolytus) probably emerged in the third century, and what we commonly call Eucharistic Prayer I (or the Roman Canon) more than likely emerged in the mid-fourth century. Over the following centuries, local bishops approved set formularies for Mass texts, and many of those texts found their way into the precursors of the Roman Missal for use by the Latin church.
Recent polls suggest that many Catholics do not fully understand the truth that the Eucharist is the sacrament that gives us the real body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. The newly revised Missal provides an opportunity to consider this and other truths of the Catholic faith.
The timing is propitious. When the Sacramentary was first published in English some 40 years ago, there were fewer ways to communicate instantly than there are today with smartphones, tablets and a plethora of computers. This development puts us far along the path in helping to prepare better for the reception of the newly revised Roman Missal. During the time of liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council, catechesis was inconsistent and not always sufficient to prepare the church for what was being introduced. Today, catechesis is not limited to the Sunday homily or faith formation classes. Two outstanding Web sites offer excellent resources online, through download or for purchase.
The first site is that of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, one of the very best: www.usccb.org/romanmissal. In addition to sample texts, commentaries and explanations, it provides a wide variety of resources useful for parish communities making final preparations for implementation. Seeing the current and the new texts side by side will help illustrate the richness of the language in the new translation. The second resource is the Web site of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions: www.fdlc.org. Included among their many offerings are audio recordings of many of the prayers of the Missal. These will be particularly helpful for priests in learning the style and cadence of the new texts, so they can effectively proclaim them.
Parishes would be wise to make a special effort to involve catechumens and, most important, Catholic children and young people in understanding the new translation and, in turn, the importance of the Eucharist in their lives. Perhaps there could be materials online just for young people: for first Communion children and for young people preparing for confirma-tion. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are ideal vehicles for reaching out to this audience. U.S.C.C.B. resources are available through all of these media.
From Translation to Understanding
This preparation period for the newly revised Roman Missal is a way to inform and catechize Catholics more deeply. Over the years, for example, the priest has proclaimed, “The Lord be with you.” And the congregation has responded, “And also with you.” But the Latin text should have been translated, “And with your spirit.” The response “And also with you” does not capture the Christian meaning of the Latin, Et cum spiritu tuo. One of the earliest exchanges invoking reciprocal blessings from God and God’s spirit is found in the Book of Ruth (2:4): “...The LORD be with you!” and they replied, “The LORD bless you!”
The early Christians who were baptized into the body of Christ had also received the Holy Spirit. They honored the presence of the Lord in one another’s lives through this greeting and response (Dominus vobiscum/Et cum spiritu tuo), understood as a mutual salutation and a sign of their union. The power of this greeting and response is far greater than “And also with you.”
Many of the newly translated texts allow all people to understand more deeply God’s saving work in and through the eucharistic mysteries. The newly revised Roman Missal is not simply an exercise in finding different words; rather, it is a fountain of new insights into Catholic teaching and praying.
To be sure, the transition to the new translation will be a logistical challenge. Both the priest and the congregation will need to rely upon a variety of participation aids. Because there are word changes from the very beginning of the Mass until the dismissal, priests will need to have the Roman Missal in front of them throughout the Mass; the congregation will depend on pew cards, hand missals and hymnals. Initially this might feel awkward because we are accustomed to praying and participating by heart, but we need to welcome the Roman Missal, in a sense, as a new friend. It will take time to become fully acquainted with the Missal, and only through practice will that happen. Openness to this new experience will lead to hidden riches, where Catholics learn something more about their faith and find new ways to express their devotion and love for the Lord. To ignore this invitation to friendship would be to deprive ourselves of new opportunities and new riches in our liturgy.
I am convinced that the introduction of the newly revised Roman Missal next November will be an inspiring moment in the life of the church in our country and in other English-speaking countries. The new words will invite a fresh perspective as we pray, as though viewing a work of art in a new light. This is a moment to enter more deeply into the greatest mystery of our faith, the Eucharist.
Your Eminence - I truly feel sorry for you if you genuinely believe that the new Missal somehow represents some kind of advance in the notion or concept of Catholic worship. The real Church - the one that Christ left behind and that is personified and embodied in the People, and not just in its hierarchy - does not long for this stilted, awkward, and generally unprayable translation. And just because it has been "accepted" or approved by the USCCB does not mean that it will be "received" by those people. We will simply not use those words to pray. You and the other advocates of this missal are making a grave mistake in imposing it on the practice of American worship. How is it that you and they do not comprehend the notion that people want to pray and worship in the words they use to think and speak, and not in the words of a translated Latin that would fail a sophomore in high school if he or she used them? How is it that you think "consubstantial wih the Father" can be better understood than "one in being with the Father?" Why do you assert that the Eucharist was shared wth "many", but not with "all?". How outrageous an assertion! Such rubbish! I genuinely pray for you and your fellow shepherds, all of whom who seem to be the lost sheep here. The Holy Spirit is indeed moving in the American church this Advent, but I truly believe that it is not moving us to this Missal. I continue to pray for you and your brothers, all of whom are so obviously out of touch with your flock(s)
I agree that we all should humbly use the change in the translation as a way to grow in faith and love for Christ and His Church.
I think it is unfortunate that America Magazine does not delete some of the very harsh uncharitable comments directed at the bishop.
No. While I have come to admire Cardinal Mahony for many reasons, what he sees as a “graced moment “ I perceive more as a disgraced moment.The path taken in the English revision is far from uplifting. Lacking serious engagement with the lay community, it has ignored critics and prepared a “roll out” worthy of a Marlboro cigarette campaign.
Advocates of this change seem to want to draw us back to the 4th Century (or at least what some medieval minded translators market as 4th Century language) expecting that a “more faithful” translation would somehow magically make things more uplifting. As to success with it? Look to South Africa (and please don’t say that their problem was catechesis – the problem was the translation).Why must the language be so “faithful” to 4th Century Latin usage anyway? Is there magic in the use of older English translations? Are we tending closely to kind of thinking that led to lampooning of the Eucharistic Latin prayer: hocus pocus? Did our good Lord not give us extraordinary Catholic schools and colleges simply to adhere to ad altare days as old phrasing was somehow more faithful?
“And with your spirit?” What is a spirit? Is it a soul? Is it a frame of mind? Is it a pep rally value? I wouldn’t use that phrasing to say good-bye to my mother or dad and I love them dearly … is that the best that we can do for a response to a priest? Do we only care about the priest’s spirit? Does the Lord only care about his spirit? Should a 4th C phrasing be our guide just because it is ancient? There is no lack of clarity when we speak in unison “and also with you.” It is a simple, clear expression of community with the priest and one another – it offers a clear sense that the Lord actually will go with you! I just don’t see the issue. I might add that the “under your roof,” “consubstantial” and other phrasing/archaic usages make the Cardinal’s position more tenuous.It is sad to see the good Cardinal as a liturgical Marlboro man.
A Eucharistic community? No, not a community under these terms. As a parent I took great pains to engage my children in decision making – with the belief that it would make us a more solid family and would endow them with the confidence to face a challenging world. While in 1932 it may have made sense for the hierarchy to dictate to a largely less well-educated faithful, we’ve come a long way. It is a disservice to a smart laity to say this is your only choice… even if it comes with cookies and coffee and smiling priests in the parish hall.
Participating in the Liturgy of the Eucharist is a very important part of my life. It enables me to associate with my parish community, to be one at prayer with it as I try to establish some communication with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I focus as best I can on the prayers of the Mass but here I fall down easily. I attempt to listen intently to what the priest is saying and to bring his words into my heart to make them my prayer, too. Sometimes, the priest may have a clear voice and pray with sincerity and that works well. However, coughs here and coughs there and other noises may block words, fragmenting the prayer and disrupting my connection. Years ago, that would not have happened. I could have followed all the parts of the Mass in a Missal. In today’s Missal I find that impossible because I don’t know which Eucharistic prayer the priest will say. He is not telling. Maybe, if we all prayed the entire Mass as is our baptismal priestly right we would feel at one with God, the priest, and each other. If we had that I could put up with a poor translation.
For another view than Cardinal Mahoney's I would suggest that you click onto the report of Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie PA in the 11/06/09 edition of the National Catholic Reporter. ncronline.org/news/last-ditch-effort-dump-mass-translations-Cached The report is entitled "Last Ditch Efforts to Dump Mass translations" and is authored by Jerry Filteau. Bishop Trautman, whom I believe will soon retire because of age is in a position to speak with inside knowledge of the whole situation since he was the chairman of the U.S. bishops' liturgy committee. You may like what he has to say, even though his views have apparently lost out.
Please excuse the vitriol directed your way by some of the commentators above for expressing your opinion on the impact of the new translation of the mass. Some here believe that the greater fidelity of the translation to the underlying text might cause insurmountable problems for those of us in the pews; that it is beyond the purview of the laity, for instance, to know or learn the meaning of the word "consubstantial." I personally would have preferred some different word choices, such as "the multitude" in place of "many" here, yet if catechesis arises from the new translation, it will be well worth the time and effort invested. If the raising of the hackles of the multitude above is any indication, it is off to a promising start.
If as we suspect half of all Catholics don't know what Transubstantiation, a tough word for sure, means, we have a faith knowledge problem before us. With the ensuing brouhaha, maybe we can learn the meaning of that word along with consubstantial.
We live in a time when the present becomes past at an ever-increasing rate. I have worked in IT for 5 decades making that happen. The programs that I wrote decades ago still run on modern computers, but are not used as the needs of today are not the needs of yesterday. I have gotten over that.
When people think of the "sustainability", they think of food and energy and natural resources. I would be helpful te examine all of life with that hermaneutic.
Today I pray and sing the liturgy w/my sisters and brothers in English. I know that poets and non-poets can produce beautiful English. At one time the church appreciated the use of beauty in praise of God and his creative energy and works. It seems to place other goals higher these days. There is a difference between faithfulness and slavishness. Dressing up the dead in stylish clothes does not bring them to life.
Very interesting! Those who are now resisting the new translation of the New Roman Missal behave like those who resisted the translation of the Missal to the vernacular from latin! after Vatican II. Go figure!
I guess we are really creatures of habit..... we hate to change! It is too cumbersome and inconvenient.
Note: English is not just English, there is UK Engllish, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, American, Indian (from India), Carabbean English (Jamaica) etc. etc. Like the Cardinal says.... "it's helpful to be mindful of the great diversity and nuances of the English Language."
Good suggestion from #14 David Smith: Let's just go with the flow! Crabbing is just a waste of energy. As we say in the olden days: Offer it up for the souls in purgatory!
Had you yourself emulated the obtuse syntactical style and archaic vocabulary being foisted upon the English-speaking Catholic world, your article would never have graced these pages. The REAL PRESENCE being celebrated in the liturgy has been hijacked by the REAL ABSENCE of those most closely responsible for their people's pastoral care. Given the variety and diversity of the English-speaking world (and I speak as an English teacher on four continents!) the very prospect of a "one-size fits all" translation is naive at best and ludicrous at worst. It's nothing but a RESTORATIONIST CURIAL POWER GRAB and you know it!
To paraphrase the eminent linguist Sarah Palin, "THERE AIN'T ENUF LIPSTICK IN THE VATICAN TO PUT ON THIS PIG!"
My own concern is that the new translations are born out of the belief for uniformity and conformity. The latest studies out regarding the "Catholic exodus" state that many people are leaving the Catholic Church because the worship does not fulfill them spiritually. In order for congregations to address this issue they need more freedom and creativity, not less. Yesterday we celebrated "Good Shepherd" Sunday. We need pastors who will protect us and nourish us and listen to our needs and wants, not shepherds who lord their power over us and think they know what we want and need.
A further thought: Some commentators (well-intended no doubt) see those of us who are unhappy with the new translation as simply being uncomfortable with change. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I wish that there were more change! No, I agree with the commentator who observed that dressing the dead in new clothes won't bring them back to life.
Here's why I care. I have lived my life in close proximity to young people who are perplexed by the Church's retrogressive approach to many things. I see those young people, in their 20s and 30s, drifting further and further away from the Church. No amount of pretensious phrasing will bring them back...
Indeed, hope lies in VIBRANT urban Catholic churches that have comfortably embraced the future, that are truly inclusive in their reach and whose sermons, liturgies, celebrations and culture appeal to young Catholic hearts in a manner that moribund suburban churches do not...
A friend said recently that no one would buy a poorly translated novel at a bookstore. Why should we be satisfied with a poorly translated missal? If 4th C Christians greated each other with a particular phrasing, does that simple fact make its repitition worthy of the 21st C? While Hippolytus' liturgy may be worthy of great regard, it needn't set the standard for the 21st.
Please... it's time dear Cardinal to find the courage to open your heart and speak from it ... let those who really like the translation have it! But, please, as a matter of pastoral care, can we not find some way to prevent this from being imposed on us all? We've done a really good job of driving young people away, it's time to stop pushing them even further...
The "Penitential Act" now goes as follows:
"I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do...
(And, while striking our breast, we are to continue)
"through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault..."
At that point I think a lot of us will be feeling more sinned against than sinning for all that has been done to the prayers and readings supposedly for our edification.
Anything that will prevent, or seriously impede, the priest from saying the Mass "ad libidinem" is a most welcome change. I attend Mass at Our lady of Fatima and much too often find myself having to leave early because the priest has made himself, instead of the liturgy, the center. Of course, if we simply reverted to Latin, it wouldn't matter where we went to hear Mass: we'd be united in a common language as well as in a common faith.
Semper laudetur nomen Christi, Salvatoris nostri!
Since when did the Latin OREMUS "traditionally" rendered as LET US PRAY in English, and located at the beginning of all of the orations I've ever seen (including those in the 12th and 13th century manuscripts I studied in Europe) become the floating WE PRAY in the NEW Roman Missal? While it may be more grammatically accurate, it's certainly not elegant.
I was disappointed to read Cardinal Roger Mahony’s article on the new translation of the Roman Missal in several ways, but there is one thing in particular that stands out. Like other commentators on the translation, he states that “During the time of liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, catechesis was inconsistent and not always sufficient to prepare the Church for what was being introduced”. I was in the 5th grade in 1970 when those changes were introduced, and I believe that over the next several years I was extremely well catechized. To take one example, when discussing the use of the words “and also with you” in lieu of “and with your spirit”, my teachers and parish leaders pointed out that since only the priest was addressed with the word “spirit”, there was a danger that this encouraged people to think of the priest as more spiritual than the laity, which ran counter to the emphasis of the council on the universal call to holiness.Indeed, it is Cardinal Mahony who seems unaware of this. In his remarks on the return to “and with your spirit”, he points out that this is closer to the language used in the early Church of Rome. True enough, but he fails to point out that we Christians no longer greet each other this way on a regular basis, and that therefore it is only the priest who is greeted with the word “spirit”, and thus the problem addressed by the 1970 translation returns.
Perhaps the real issue is that we were too well catechized back in the 1970’s. We see the implications of these things even if our bishops don’t or worse, if they do see them and are proceeding anyway. This is why many wonder if a restorationist agenda is at work, as the key elements of the solid catechesis that we received when receiving the translation of 1970 are not even being addressed by the proponents of this new translation, it seems, sadly, including Cardinal Roger Mahony.Joseph R. Alexander
P.S. I think consubstantial is a far better and more meaningful word than the phrase "one in being."
I also want to remark on the lack of mention to Mass presided in Latin. This article is an effort to put a positive spin on a controversial issue where the American Bishops relented whereas in other countries the Bishops have resisted the Vatican advances on this front.
I received “A Study Text with Excerpts from the New English Translation” from the Vox Clara Committee, and I’m not impressed. On November 27, 2011, we will become a praying Church of subordinate clauses and ablative absolutes. Of course, in English we do use subordinate clauses and ablative absolutes, but we use them sparingly. The prayers are so twisted and contorted in English that we might as well be praying in Latin. In fact, it does sound better in Latin. Maybe that’s the subtext for the Vox Clara (sic) translation: to make it so awful that we we’ll go back to Latin!
I do think, with Cardinal Roger Mahoney in “Welcoming the New Roman Missal” in America, May 23, 2011, that the new translation is “A Graced Moment,” not because of the new translation, but because of the “in-depth preparation and thorough catechesis” that has little to do with the new translation, and everything to do with the New Rite. While learning the new responses, it always good to review the New Rite, but having the attitude that the liturgical renewal in the last 50 years wasn’t done with “in-depth preparation and thorough catechesis” disregards the men and women who dedicated their lives to implementing Vatican II and Sacrosantum Concilium.
The new translation, albeit cumbersome and pompous (an ablative absolute?) does reveal the Roman Eucharistic Prayer for what it is, a good example of the hermeneutics of discontinuity. So says Arnold Angenendt in Worship, May 2011, “Questionable Praise of the Old Liturgy.” One example of discontinuity is found in the new translation, but not in the old. The new translation, in its commemoration of the living, says “Remember, Lord, your servants and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them…” The old translation avoids the confusion of just who is offering the sacrifice, the priest or the people or the priest and the people: “We offer you this sacrifice of praise for ourselves and those who are dear to us.” The old translation leaves out the priest offering the sacrifice on behalf of the congregation. In contrast and in line with the hermeneutic of continuity, the newly translated second Eucharistic Prayer, which was used a century before the Roman Canon, has no ambiguity: “we offer you, Lord, the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation.”