01Jan Review of Missal translation may be on the way

A little piece of good news on a review of the English translation of the Roman Missal, although details are scant! Fr Paddy Jones has just finished 21 years of service secretary for liturgy and director of the National Centre for Liturgy, now located at Maynooth. New Liturgy is a bulletin for the National Secretariat for Liturgy. In the current issue (Summer/Autumn/Winter 2013), the editor, Paddy, writes From the Editor’s Desk on pages 8 – 13. The following are a few short extracts:

“During my 21 years as secretary for liturgy, the main preoccupation has been the Roman Missal … the Congregation for Divine Worship was very dissatisfied with the structures and work of ICEL … the structures of ICEL were radically changed …

“The translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal was produced. Its merits and demerits are well known. It is a fuller and more literal translation but its style often has an awkwardness that in many cases can be overcome by careful preparation – a very good thing in itself. A review is promised, though the mechanism of such a review is not known. However, such a review is necessary if we are to listen to what is being said and what is happening, the scholarly and pastoral criticism of the translation and the instruction on translation but also including its non-acceptance by some, the use of a mixture of old and new translations by others and the disturbing quietness of congregations to the new responses and other parts …

Several have commented very favourably on the (English language) texts for the Irish Proper in the Missal … they display a freshness that comes from their composition in the vernacular. Such composition is needed if the vernacular is to be the ‘praying voice of the Church’, to use the words of Pope Paul VI.

“One regrettable loss, including texts like ‘Christ has died’, is the ecumenically accepted texts such as the Gloria and the Creeds.

“The change (in ICEL) from being a commission mandated in its work by eleven Conferences to a newly constituted commission in 2002 is a story to be told elsewhere, but it will make unsettling reading.

“I am grateful to have been and to continue to be a part of the story of the National Centre for Liturgy.”

Thanks to Paddy for his comments. To me perhaps the most striking comment is his phrase “the disturbing quietness of congregations.”

On the change in ICEL, the reflections of Bishop Maurice Taylor (ICEL chair of the Episcopal Board 1997 – 2002) can be found at http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2010/06/11/a-cold-wind-from-rome-by-bishop-taylor/ – “A Cold Wind from Rome.” You will see here whyPaddy Jones can describe the story as “unsettling reading”.

The current translation of the Missal is very recent. For this very reason, and not despite it, it is important that the review commence, so that the ‘praying voice of the Church’ can be freed from ‘the disturbing quietness of congregations.’

Pádraig McCarthy


19 Responses

  1. mjt

    “the disturbing quietness of congregations to the new responses and other parts”- may come from their having become used to the courtesy of being addressed in English, which is not really the language now used. And while some priests may be disturbed at such “quietness” in their congregations, others may in fact rather welcome it, as at least a token return to the good old days when they could turn their backs to the congregation too and mutter away in a foreign language.

  2. Joe O'Leary

    This is heartening news, perhaps an indication that the criminal activities of a certain Vatican clique are now being brought to light.

  3. John

    The National Centre for Liturgy is believed to have had a major input into the “liturgy” of the final Mass of the recent Eucharistic Congress. They can hardly be said to have distinguished themselves.

  4. Los Leandros

    I think the new translation is excellent. Brings a degree of dignity to proceedings. Appropos. of mjt’s post : a young boy on going to Mass for the first time & seeing the Priest face the congregation said – ” mammy, why is the Priest turning his back to Jesus “. Out of the mouth’s of babes !.

  5. Pádraig McCarthy

    Re Los Leandros #4:
    It seems clear from the alleged remark of the young boy that he had not been helped to know that the people of God are the Body of Christ, and that the priest was turning precisely to face that Real Presence in the Mystical Body, for which the Real Presence in the Eucharist is the food.
    Entirely appropriate, is it not?

  6. Catherine McCombe

    Hi, Los Leandros, I counted eight grammatical mistakes (including some misspellings) in your contribution. It doesn’t, of course, take away from the fact that you think the new translation is excellent and brings dignity to worship. But it does reveal something of your feeling for language.

  7. Con Devree

    I prefer the new translation. I have no wish to impose it on anybody. Who decides?

  8. Michael O'Horo

    I certainly do not prefer the new translation of the Missal.
    I tried hard to accept the new Missal despite many misgivings.
    I did my best to prepare the people with the new responses and had Mass leaflets
    in the seats for them. I thought it might be an opportunity to get better participation.
    The opposite has in fact happened and people by and large are very unhappy with the New Missal. This I have heard at first hand from my Parish Pastoral Council and people in the parish and elsewhere. English is a living language. The Liturgy is spoken aloud. The New Translation is latinised English, archaic and awkward making it cumbersome to speak in an intelligent manner and also very difficult for people to listen to and understand.

    Along with many other priests I made my criticisms quite clear to our Bishops at a Meeting in Knock for Western dioceses. While we are not scripture scholars we are at the coalface with people and know when something makes sense or not in the English language. If there had been proper consultation with both clergy and laity we would not be in the predicament that we are in now.

    I was one of a number of Chairpersons of Priests’ Councils who were invited to meet the Council for Liturgy and discuss the New Translation. But at that stage the New Translation was a fait accompli and we were only being used to try and get us on board . Again the lack of consultation with priests and people was very clear. It is sad that our leaders in the English speaking world let us down badly and lacked the courage to stand up to Rome. It is interesting to see that the German bishops are still refusing to accept the new translation in German.

    A year later it appears quite clear that the New Missal is doing harm to our Liturgy.
    It is ironic that the Director/Secretary of the Council for Liturgy is now having second thoughts but it is good that he is at least honest enough to admit this.
    Nearly every priest I meet finds the present Missal extremely difficult. Many are
    Changing the words of many of the Collects and prayers or using the old Missal.
    People are getting the responses mixed up and have in many cases given up, hence the silence in the pews.

    It is not too late to try again above all for the sake of the People of God and the celebration of the Eucharist. But please consult with people on the ground at parish level and get the true feelings of all involved.

  9. Joe O'Leary

    Two years of this travesty — and the hemorrhage of mass attendance that it will cause is only beginning. It is a symptomatic scandal and to atone for it, heads must roll. The episcopal conferences of the Anglophone world must issue a deep apology and an analysis of their insensitivity and cowardice. This will be either a teaching moment of the whole church or another nail in its coffin.

  10. mjt

    It`s late but great that such voices are being raised at last. Maybe in a few years we can have our Mass back again, alive and liberating. Meanwhile, the Malachi-Stilt-Jacks among us seem to have to revert in their outmoded aesthetics to the lame position of, “I like it better so who are you to say I`m wrong?”

  11. Richard Johns

    I do like it better, and you know, really, who are you to tell me I am wrong?

  12. Peter O'Reilly

    The Priest’s Council of Dublin has submitted a document to the Episcopal Conference on this issue and indeed has discussed it on many occasions

  13. Con Devree

    Which part of Eucharistic prayer II is difficult to understand, or articulate? Bad response levels are caused by a number of factors, one of which is a lack of understanding of the Mass per se.

  14. Aodh

    Would love to know where these silent responses are. In Scotland the new missal has been very well received if the volume of the responses by the congregations are anything to go by.

    If you are familiar with the Latin text, the previous translation would have been a constant source of irritation and distraction from prayer (as it was for me) knowing that it was so poorly translated. From Credo into ‘We’ believe rather than ‘I’. Mea culpa x 3 to just ‘my fault’. Laudamus te, Benedicimus te, Adoramus te, Glorifocamus te, to ‘we worship you we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory’ – as some examples – fall far short of the meaning of the original Latin text.

    I’m fed up hearing criticism for Latin. We should use Latinised texts: after all we are the Latin Church and that is what makes us ‘Roman’ Catholic. There are 22 other churches in union with Rome. I don’t see them trying to bin their patrimony.

  15. Pew View

    The ” silence of the congregations” is indeed apparent. How much this is due to lack of leadership and exhortation is a question worth considering I think. The other problem not mentioned by Paddy Jones interestingly enough is the total confusion and head turning when it comes to standing up and sitting down at unfamiliar times. Really how hard would it be to include a ‘sit’ or ‘ stand’ prompt in the Mass leaflets at least for a period of transition? How hard for a priest to make a simple prompt gesture? The fact is neither the priests nor the Liturgy Centre have exerted themselves to familiarize the laity with the new model and this is not because of ideological objections in most cases: it is because of the usual endemic inertia and indifference. Where the new translation is concerned any fair-minded person would say it has at least as much to recommend as the contrary. Language for liturgy is not the same as language for the street or cafe. Too much of the pre-existing translation was lax and casual in tone and light on scriptural references.

  16. Phil Eichorn

    Thank you Aodh! For 40 years we suffered with a deliberate mistranslation–how do you get ‘And also with you’ (an awkward, stilted phrase if ever there was one!) out of ‘Et cum spiritu tuo‘? Why’d they drop ‘holy’ from the Suscipiat? And that ‘It is right to give him thanks and praise’– where’d that come from? And you know what? For most of that time — this was pre-internet, remember — the average person couldn’t find the Latin text anywhere, for love or money. We had no idea what it was supposed to say.

    To those priests who dislike the new translation, I’d suggest a simple solution: don’t use it. Say it in Latin instead.

    That said, it’s clear there’s a tiny minority of people who are attached to the bad old translation. Why not ask for an indult? Just don’t impose it on me.

    Let’s face it, folks…the mass of Paul VI has been a disaster. No one asked for it, no one (except for a tiny cadre of soi-disant ‘liturgists’) wanted it. I’m not talking about vernacular versus Latin, I’m talking about all the goofy innovations. No pope has the right to do what Paul VI did. The Mass isn’t the pope’s personal property. We’ve been robbed.

  17. Fergus Ryan

    I think we’ve to make the distinction between the regular parts of the Mass which are not that difficult, to be honest – the responses, the Eucharistic Prayers and then the variable bits which change from day to day. It seems to me that the latter were less well translated and are now relatively difficult to understand. Because they change so much, it is doubly difficult to “get a grip” on their meaning. Certainly, a review of those texts might be in order.

    Regarding the silence of the people – I think that depends upon the degree of preparation and care in introducing the new translation. I know of two churches in the same parish – one under the pastor, the other under the curate. It happens that the curate prepared well, ensured he had the new words for the people, he also introduced the standardised postures (this was in an Irish diocese, same postures as in England and the USA), he introduced everything carefully and it now “works” smoothly in his church. His pastor did none of the above. People in his church don’t know when to sit, stand or kneel (there may have been a diocesanwide change in postures, I don’t know). They have a great mixture of mumbled responses and lots of silent people. I think this shows that the varying degree and quality of preparation throughout the world has given the varying results on the ground. That said, you can still hear the translation of 1965 on people’s lips throughout Ireland, for example “Glory be to thee, O Lord” after the Gospel and “We raise them up to the Lord” at the preface.

  18. Dave Brainerd

    The new translation’s aim was obviously an attempt to prevent a traditionalist schism. Traditionalists wanted “And with your SPIRIT” back instead of the asinine “and with you also” as if you need an “also” and an “and” both in real English. Wouldn’t “and with you” have sufficed instead of the lame “and with you also”? No wonder it was changed back to the traditional “and with your spirit.”

    And they wanted the “through my fault, my most grievous fault” etc. back from the Tridentine rite.

    Instead of “unworthy to receive you” the traditional Biblical allusion to the story of the Centurion whose servant Jesus healed from far away with a word “unworthy for you to come under my roof.”

    Instead of the kindergarten phrase “one in being” the traditional “consubstantial” which anyone who has been a Christian for more than two minutes ought to know.

    It was a win for traditionalists and a loss for crayon Catholics.

  19. Joe O'Leary

    “Of one being with” is what we had in UK and Ireland, and it is a perfect translation of homoousios.