“In countries where parts of the new English translation of the Roman Missal are already in use, the feedback has been very positive,” Zenit.org reports. The speaker is Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth, executive director of the Secretariat of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). Msgr. Wadsworth says, “People find the elegance of the language, its dignity, the sort of cadence of the language – which particularly lends itself to the sung parts of the liturgy – they find all of that to be a great improvement.”
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“I have no stomach for the doublespeak that attempts to present this translation as the best thing since sliced bread,” Fr. Michael Briody of North Lanarkshire writes to The Tablet in this week’s issue. “I have seen nothing in it which backs up the assertion, for instance, that this will make the Mass more prayerful, something which I desire and have worked on for 34 years of priesthood.”
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“Introduction of new missal going smoothly in English-speaking nations,” says the CNS headline. A gradual introduction of the Order of Mass is underway in many English-speaking countries. For the most part, the entire new missal with the proper prayers of the priest will not be introduced until this coming Advent. There have been extensive efforts to explain the changes to the people in the past year. CNS quotes Martin Foster of the bishops’ conference liturgy office in the UK, “My ambition is that people turn up on the first Sunday of September and they’ll know there’s a new missal.”
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A woman from the UK emailed me yesterday that she just discovered Pray Tell.
She was searching the internet because of her distress that the new translation will begin to be implemented this coming Sunday. “I can honestly say that I am heartbroken and feel spiritually flat. I do not feel I can worship at a church that uses these words. As there is no way to protest our outrage at this intrusion into spiritual life, I and my young adult children have (independent of each other) decided we will most likely worship at the local Anglican church in the future.”
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Bishop Joseph Toal and Archbishop Mario Conti have told Scottish Catholics to embrace the “marvelous opportunity, challenge and necessity” of the new English translation of the Roman Missal ahead of the first Scottish parishes adopting it this weekend. Archbishop Conti wrote in a pastoral letter, “There has been an attempt to dignify the language we use at Mass by a return to words which might be judged as more literary, and thought by many to be more becoming for public prayer.”
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“The prospect of having to implement the new translation of the Missal is making me ill. … This new translation I find totally unnecessary, clumsy and off-putting. The manner of its imposition is also, in my opinion, unworthy of people who profess to follow Christ,” writes Fr. Val Farrel of Lancashire, also in this week’s Tablet.
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Cardinal Pell of Sydney, Australia, president of the Vox Clara translation commission, has been a vocal defender of the new translation. As the Diocese of Sydney’s website states, “Cardinal Pell believes when those priests become familiar with the way the changes were undertaken and the results, there will be few who will remain displeased. Parishioners too, he believes, will come to see the improvements with the translation.”
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“Might I report on three months’ experience of the use of the new Missal?” writes a man from Australia in this week’s Tablet. “Well, after an initial compliance, the faithful have ‘voted with their voices.’ At the principal Sunday Masses over the last three weeks I have hardly heard on “And with your spirit.’ Overall the level of responses by the congregation has dropped off significantly. There is almost an angry silence from a large portion of the people.”
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Is the transition to the new missal going smoothly, as the CNS headline claims? It’s too early to tell. We really won’t know until the worst texts of the missal, the proper prayers of the priest (collect, prayer over the offerings, prayer after communion) come into use. It is these prayers which are especially clumsy, poorly constructed, and – despite the claims – shockingly inaccurate in places. The heresy in the collect for Trinity Sunday, for example. Or the incorrect word order in the prayer after communion for the First Sunday of Advent, telling us that we learn to love the things of heaven not from the celebration of the sacred mysteries, but from the “passing things” of this earth!
I hope the transition to the new missal does go smoothly. That’s right – I hope it goes smoothly. The liturgy is the “source and summit” of our Christian life, and we must always strive for its worthy celebration. Come Advent, I’ll be laboring mightily for the best possible use of the new missal at the abbey. The sacred liturgy isn’t the place for protests or divisions. It’s the place for celebrating our new life in the death and resurrection of Christ.
But outside the liturgy is another thing. There, it is important (a duty, according to canon 212.3) to make known to our bishops that this translation was a mistake, that it never should have happened, that it would not have happened if our governance structures had proper accountability. As it is, a mediocre translation is being forced on us because the hierarchy has unlimited power to force whatever it wants. This is not as it should be in Christ’s church.
And so, I will implement the new missal as best I can. I will work so that the transition goes “smoothly,” as CNS puts it. But I will make my opinion known, for example at the Call to Action convention in November and throughout the U.S. on my CTA speaking tours. I will encourage my listeners to make their displeasure with the new missal known to the bishops. I encourage you to do the same.