The new translation under the microscope

As a policy, PrayTell does not reveal to the public translations of not-yet-approved or never-approved liturgical prayers. But when translations leak out on other websites, we permit ourselves to note them and report on them. Several translations of some collects are found here. Excerpting from that website, we give you the Latin original, the 1974 (current) translation, the proposed (and rejected) 1998 translation, the 2008 submitted version, and the 2010 (probably final??) version. A reader who wishes to remain anonymous offers his/her comments below in italics. Most of these technicalities will probably not matter to people in the pews. But if the final version of our missal does not follow Liturgiam authenticam and does not translate the Latin accurately, and if it reverts arbitrarily to the 1974 translation here and there, church authorities will have given themselves a difficult task indeed in trying to commend and defend the new missal. The rank incompetence such as is found in the Lectionary sequences, noted below, doesn’t help things either.

First Sunday of Advent

Latin Original
Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
hanc tuis fidelibus voluntatem,
ut, Christo tuo venienti iustis operibus occurrentes,
eius dexterae sociati,
regnum mereantur possidere caeleste.
Per Dominum.

1974 ICEL
All-powerful God,
increase our strength of will for doing good
that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming
and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven,
where he lives and reigns…

1998 Projected (rejected) ICEL
Almighty God, strengthen the resolve of your faithful people
to prepare for the coming of your Christ
by works of justice and mercy,
so that when we go forth to meet him
he may call us to sit at his right hand and possess
the kingdom of heaven.
We ask this …

2008 New Version
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that your faithful may resolve to run forth with righteous deeds,
to meet your Christ who is coming,
so that gathered at his right hand
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord.

2010 Final Version
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord.

1. “Grant your” – I think this just does not work to take the dative.
2. Surely it has to be “to run forth with righteous deeds” and “to meet your Christ at his coming.”

3. Who are “gathered at his right hand”? Who are “they” whom we are praying “may be worthy to possess”? One wants it to be “your faithful,” but the way the sentence is constructed, the antecedent seems to be the “righteous deeds” who are gathered and possess the kingdom!

Christmas Mass in the Night

1970 Missale Romanum
Deus, qui hanc sacratissimam noctem veri luminis
fecisti illustratione clarescere,
da, quaesumus, ut, cuius in terra mysteria lucis agnovimus,
eius quoque gaudiis perfruamur in caelo.
Qui tecum.

1974 ICEL
you make this holy night radiant
with the splendour of Jesus Christ our light.
We welcome him as Lord, the true light of the world.
Bring us to eternal joy in the kingdom of heaven,
where he lives and reigns…

1998 Projected (rejected) ICEL
God our Creator,
who made this most holy night radiant
with the splendor of the one true light,
grant in your mercy
as we celebrate on earth the mystery of that light,
we may also rejoice in its fullness in heaven.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ…

2008 New Version
O God,
who have made this most sacred night radiant
with the splendor of the true Light,
grant, we pray, that we who have known
the mysteries of his light on earth
may also feast on his joys in heaven.
Who lives and reigns.

2010 Final Version
O God,
who have made this most sacred night radiant
with the splendor of the true Light,
grant, we pray, that we who have known
the mysteries of his light on earth
may also delight in his gladness in heaven.
Who lives and reigns with you.

1. “his gladness”? If we’re abiding by Liturgiam authenticam, surely “gaudiis” is “joys,” the plural of “gaudium.” This is not adequately rendered by the singular “gladness.”
2. Beyond that, “joys” are clearly something (plural) that one can share, i.e., these “joys” are his “possessions,” if you will, that he can share with us – as opposed to “gladness,” which more accurately describes a personal state, a quality pertaining to oneself.
3. According to Liturgiam authenticam, “mysteries” (plural) which we’ve known on earth are to be matched by “joys” (plural) to be enjoyed in heaven. The parallel is lost – which sounds like the criticism of the old ICEL!

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Latin Original
Protector in te sperantium, Deus, sine quo nihil est validum,
nihil sanctum, multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam,
ut, te rectore, te duce, sic bonis transeuntibus nunc utamur,
ut iam possimus inhaerere mansuris.
Per Dominum.

1974 ICEL
God our Father and protector,
without you nothing is holy, nothing has value.
Guide us to everlasting life
by helping us to use wisely
the blessings you have given to the world.
We ask this through our Lord…

1998 Projected (rejected) ICEL
O God,
protector of those who hope in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy,
enfold us in your gracious care and mercy,
that with you as our ruler and guide,
we may wisely use the gifts of this passing world
and fix our hearts even now on those which last for ever.
We ask this through our Lord…

2008 New Version
O God,
protector of those who hope in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy,
lavish your mercy upon us:
with you as ruler and guide
may we so use the good things that pass away,
that we may even now hold fast to those that endure.
Through our Lord.

2010 Final Version
O God,
protector of those who hope in you,
without whom nothing has value,
nothing is holy,
bestow in abundance your mercy upon us
and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide,
we may use the good things that pass in such a way
as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.
Through our Lord.

Wow! Where do you start with this clunker?
1. Side note on the 2008 version: what happened to Liturgiam authenticam here? Surely the fifth line should begin with “that” to translate the “ut” of the original Latin. The application of Liturgiam authenticam is selective elsewhere as well. For instance, in Eucharistic Prayer II (revised version now posted online at the Bishops’ website), where the Latin clearly says, “to stand before you” (in the current sacramentary/missal, “to stand in your presence and serve you”), the revision says “to be in your presence,” reportedly for fear that translating “adstare coram te” literally might encourage those who do not want to kneel after the consecration. But if you’re supposed to translate literally and then explain via catechesis, doesn’t that principle apply here, too?
2. Back to 2010: “validum” is rendered “have value” a la the now-rejected ICEL paraphrase of 1975. How did that happen?
3. “Bestow in abundance your mercy upon us”: This reminds me of my Latin teacher telling us how some of the old Polish folks in his native town would translate literally: “Throw me down the stairs my hat.” But even “Multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam” would come out right if the reviser(s) had followed Liturgiam authenticam and put any “expansion” at the end: “Bestow upon us your mercy (in abundance = to get in the multiplica, which really is not bestow).” I grant that “enfold us in your gracious care and mercy” of 1998 is a paraphrase. But “lavish” in 2008 comes closer to “multiplica” than “bestow” without the awkward “in abundance” coming before the object.
4. Again, a la Liturgiam authenticam, “grant” isn’t in the Latin. If you just translate literally, like the document says, you get something like: “that, with you as our ruler and guide.”
5. “the good things that pass in such a way” – YIKES! – “in such a way” belongs back with “use” and has to be translated “so use” as in 2008, because it’s simply too easy to confuse what “in such a way” is modifying, so far removed from the verb it is.
6. The 1998 (paraphrase) version tried to avoid “that . . . that . . . that” which shows up in the more literal translation of 2008. But “ever endure” ? If they endure, isn’t it ever? The “ever” is unnecessary in terms of meaning and unhelpful in terms of rhythm. Read the last line without it and the rhythm is restored.

These revisions remind me of the translation of the Pentecost Sequence in the current USA Lectionary, where whoever revised it “fixed” the archaisms simply by dropping syllables and altering rhymes – with disastrous, but approved results. Go to your Lectionary and check it out:

“Come, thou Holy Spirit, come!” becomes: “Come, Holy Spirit, come! Goodbye “thou” – but goodbye rhythm too!

“O most blessed Light divine / Shine within these hearts of thine” becomes: “O most blessed Light divine / Shine within these hearts of yours. Goodbye rhymes!

The revision of the translation of the Corpus Christi Sequence, “Lauda Sion,” is even worse. I will note only a few things. Filled with archaisms even in its final form – and it would have been better left archaic all the way through – some archaisms were removed, again, simply by dropping syllables:

“Bring him all the praise you know”: the rhythm requires “knowest,” “bestowest.”We’re left with complete meter in the first stanza and a clunker in the second. The last verses combine all the missteps:

You who all things can and know
Who on earth such food bestow
Grant us with your saints, though lowest,
Where the heav’nly feast you show,
Fellow heirs and guests to be.

Obviously, it needs to be “knowest . . . bestowest . . . lowest . . . showest.”

Oh well…


  1. First, hats off to the commentator. Very insightful comments.

    The commentator critiqued the new translation of the Lauda Sion. There is almost no way to accurately translate the sequences into English verse and preserve the meaning of the Latin text. I’m reminded of the Dryden Aeneid and other early attempts to shoehorn Latin meter into English stress, rhyme, and rhythm at the great expense of Latin syntax and semantics.

    The translators rendered the Lauda Sion couplet tuos ibi commensales/cohaeredes et sodales as “grant us with your saints, though lowest/where the heav’nly feast you show.” The governing verb is pascis from the preceding line. The translators’ choice of “grant this” to carry over the meaning of pascis echoes the 17th Sunday OT 2010 trans. There ut, te rectore, te duce becomes “and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide […]” The “grant that” swap for ut provides another filler verb. The first example uses “grant” to cover an implicit Latin verb, while the second case uses “grant” to cover a clause. The English end result functions similarly in both cases.

    The imperative praesta (“grant”) often appears in the Latin. Yet its addition to propers as a filler and signpost to clarify the English is a new development that alters translated textual meaning to varying degrees.

  2. This post brought me back to Michael Driscoll’s eucharist class at the University of Notre Dame. One of our papers was to compare and contrast various translations of a collect.

  3. I’m meant to prepare materials for my Province to prepare presiders for the changes. How do we know these 2010 versions are going to be the final ones? Will catechesis have to wait until we have the Missal finally in our grasp?

    1. In a word, Yes! No one knows if these versions are really the final ones. If the Tablet is correct in naming Jim Moroney as the person revising/rewriting the entire Missal translation on his own, then only he can tell us what is coming.

      Only when a text arrives in an episcopal conference mailbox, accompanied by a letter giving recognitio to the accompanying text, will we know exactly what we are dealing with.

      It is to be hoped that all conferences will have the same text, and that we will not be faced with the same phenomenon as with GIRM, where are at least four different versions, depending on which country you are living in.

      Since most countries require 10-12 months from receipt of final text to implementation of the text, there will be plenty of time to produce the requisite catechetical materials. And to revise the DVD “One Body, One Spirit in Christ”, which is apparently going to have to be totally redone if the text is significantly different, not to mention the title (assuming that the phrase has now changed to “one body and one spirit in Christ”, as the Tablet also reported).

      One thing characterizes this whole sorry saga: it is a complete mess. Publishers. commentators and musicians have already changed the texts once, and are faced with changing them yet again. Only the most incompetent bumbling fool of an organization could work in this way in the real world.

  4. Paul: this is so true. If the Catholic church was a business, it would have been bankrupt/shut down years ago because of this bad management.

  5. And it seems that they are going to persist with the construction “O God, who have…” rather than “O God, who has…” which is where our language has now moved to, whether they like it or not.

    1. Are you kidding???? “O God, who HAVE…..”?????
      They WANT to use incorrect grammar??? I am not a presider, but I don’t think I could lead a congregation in prayer and use bad grammar

      1. It might be better to say very obscure, rather than incorrect, grammar. Vocative second person singular (O you, who have [x]). It’s certainly not euphonious or poetic usage, and it’s just downright stupid (if not absolutely incorrect) to try to employ it in modern English. It’s just not idiomatic in any sense.

  6. Well, it isn’t a corporation. It’s God’s Church. You would do well to remember that. If you don’t believe in submission to authority, there’s an Episcopal parish near you.

    1. Oh, please! That response doesn’t work anymore. So if Rome tells you to go rob a bank, are you going to do it?

  7. Paul, you has spoken verily.

    But this process is much bigger than the translations: this is the body-blow to the principles (and actions) of collegiality and subsidiarity, and indeed the value (and very existence) not just of mixed commissions, but of episcopal conferences themselves.

    ICEL is finished, probably by as soon as July, and everyone who knows anything knows it too.

    And standing over its grave will be a triumphant Vatican bureaucracy (from the Congregation and Pox Clara), finally victorious over the Council Fathers who not only dared to vote for Sacrosanctum Concilium but, more importantly, Lumen Gentium.

    1. About the only thing that typically triggers the Catholic version of DEFCON 1 readiness is deliberate invalid celebration of the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, Orders and Baptism (though some have wanted to add other things to that stage of readiness of late). Anyone who does such things and expresses shock at the thunderbolt that will come his or her way is engaging in a form of deception (of self and/or others).

  8. Looks like some garments are being rent here unnecessarily. I don’t recall seeing anything in V2’s SC about the existing lame-duck version of the Roman Missal being the one that best reflects the wishes of the Council Fathers.
    The existing Roman offices are much more lenient than Pope Paul’s evidenced by present-day Roman generosity in permitting priests celebrate from the 1962 or 2002 RM.

  9. I find it amusing that those whose constant criticism of Liturgiam Authenticam was that it called for too literal translation of the Latin are now criticising the new translation (although we don’t yet know exactly what the new translation is) for in places not being a strictly accurate translation. This is Saul Alinskyism on steroids indeed!

    1. No, it’s merely revealing that the emperor is missing some clothes, that’s all. Of the many rhetorical purposes to which the Alinsky bogeyman has been put, this is among the oddest.

  10. “It’s certainly not euphonious or poetic usage, and it’s just downright stupid ”

    I guess that was what I was trying to say!

  11. I wonder if the original commentator who commented on the draft texts has not set up a straw man in the argument. Liturgiam authenticam did not call for a slavishly literal translation of the liturgical texts at all costs. Rather, it instructs that “the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet”.

    Such deviations are foreseen and permitted in the instruction; to ascribe these to departure from the norms is disingenious and dishonest. But then, there are many people who prefer to see things in black and white, and cannot appreciate the subtleties. There are more people who have never read the instruction, af the would be led astray by the interpretations of the clanging cymbals.

  12. This may be somewhat heretical but will the “average” parishioner, if there is such a thing, appreciate the subtleties of all these changes. It seems to me taht these changes will simply cause confusion and that for a couple of years at least the Mass will have a tendency to drift into farce. Or am I being unduly pessimistic?

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