Some first impressions

I imagine the whole world is sitting at a desk this Friday evening comparing Latin translations. I expect the entertainment industry is taking a hit because of it.

Here is a chart with my analysis of the 2010 recognitio text of the Order of Mass which went up at the USCCB website on Friday, compared to the 2008 recognitio text which had been up. My initial appraisal: a few gains, but overall the losses are greater. Less accurate for the most part.

As fascinating as these details are, it’s important not to lose sight of the larger picture. That 2010 departs more than 2008 from the stated translation principles is interesting, to be sure, and it will provide some ammunition to those who want to discredit the whole project. But I don’t think this is the decisive point. Rather, the whole thing will work (or not) because the translation principles as a whole are good. (Or not.)

There are strong opinions and high emotions about this translation – did you know that? Remember, everyone: we all love the Church, we all love the liturgy, we all want the best for the People of God. Keep it civil and respectful, please.


  1. Yes, it is.
    Unless if Rome changes it again – but that seems unlikely. I doubt that conferences will push back or that Rome will change it in response to that.

  2. At least the waiting is over. Now we have the task of making as smooth of a transition for our people as we possibly can.

  3. Fr. Anthony – about how long until we see some more prayers (all the collects, etc.) and where would they be posted? Or… do you think we’ll have to wait to shell out some $$ when the Missals are published to see all of them?

    1. Steve – I don’t know, but I suspect that you’ll have to buy the hard copy. There is a lot of editing and proofing to be done before anything will appear in print.

      1. They’re not in the “Order of Mass” just released. I don’t know when such texts will be released.

  4. Father, I am an Orthodox Bishop who oversees a number of Western rite parishes. Is there any reason why the word “orthodoxis” in the Roman Canon is dropped in English for “and all those who, holding to the truth,” ? I understand the difficulty in translations but many times discern a “polemical” bent to them. I am trying to follow all this so please be patient with me.

  5. The grapevine is suggesting that the US Bishops will not allow any lead-in time for music settings, which will start on the 1st Sunday of Advent 2011 like everything else. If true, this means, for example, that the first time the people will sing the new Gloria will be Christmas Eve/Day. Hmmmm….

    1. Well, technically it would be on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM. Might be best for a verse/refrain setting with the choir or cantor handling the verses. But whatever!

    2. That would be an interesting policy. I’d have to wonder why. Of course, if we waited until all the books were published there would be much less chance of a successful backlash. Nothing like springing MR3 on people all at once.

      A more sensible and pastoral approach would be to allow new musical settings anytime from this weekend and gain perhaps two years to introduce new or revised music and let things settle in.

      My own plan was to start maybe as early as this coming Advent if I found a useful new Mass setting.

      1. Todd,

        I agree with you that having the option of using the new music before the implementation becomes mandatory would be very helpful.

        The new music rather than the new words will more likely determine the success or failure of the New Missal.

        If the people in the pews (who sing) get new music that they like as well as or better than the old music, the New Missal will be a success. If they loose old music they like without getting new music that they like, they are going to be unhappy.

        It takes some time to learn new music, and sometimes to grow to like it. The phase in period could help that.

        Most people are not going to make fine distinctions about how much they like the words vs. how much they like the music.

        There is something in the attitude research literature called the halo effect. If we really like (or dislike) someone or something on one dimension, that generalizes to another dimensions that we might not have much information about or have thought much about.

        Music has a good chance of generating a halo (positive or negative) for the rest of the implementation.

  6. I was trying to figure out on my own what the minor changes were and was having a hard time noticing them all, so thanks for doing this. These changes are not too dramatic at all. If I could hardly detect them by reading the texts, I suspect people listening, as they should, rather than reading along, would be at a loss to detect the minor changes too.

  7. I welcome this news. Now, if we can just get the priests to actually follow it without ignoring, adding, changing, deleting, or ad libbing the text. This will be the major challenge of the implementation and is my biggest fear. For years, priests have gotten away with this and have never been challenged. While I hope this will finally put an end to it, I doubt it will.

    1. I too doubt it. Msgr. M. Francis Mannion, who is rather traditional and conservative in things liturgical, wrote a letter to America magazine some years ago predicting that the new translation, with its awkward English, will cause priests to mark up the book and change the words like never before.

      1. Since English is our mother tongue and most of us can paraphrase the English translation, no matter which one it is, good, bad or ugly, are you implying that we should just have the Latin version and be done with it? No possibility of improvisation there, unless one speaks Latin as his vernacular. 🙂

  8. Father Allan J. McDonald raises a good point. Consider the following paragraphs from the opening Sacrosanctum Concilium, the constitution on the liturgy from the Second Vatican Council:

    “36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. …

    54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and ‘the common prayer,’ but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to tho norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.

    Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”

    1. Well, sort of – but you have to look at the whole constitution. The constitution clearly gives bishops’ conferences the right to request greater use of vernacular than this article. Every conference of the world did, and the Holy See approved it. This was not legally contrary to the liturgy constitution.

      1. I agree with what you wrote, but the problem today is that a significant group of Catholics don’t seem to think there can be wrong decisions made (in the non-infallible area) or that there can be development like a no Latin Mass in the reformed version. The Pope allows for broader use of the non-reformed Mass and there is an out cry that he shouldn’t do it, it’s not in the documents of Vatican II. It’s clear that the Holy See can adjust vernacular translations, but others say they can’t do it, it’s not in an earlier document. So I think dissent from legitimate authority in the Church sets up all kinds of people deciding what is authoritative and what’s not, even going as far as enshrining a particular hermeneutic (equivalency) as the one that has to be followed for translations, although the Holy See changed the game. If we don’t accept legitimate authority as precisely that legitimate, then we open ourselves to division and vitriol which seems opposed to unity and charity in the Church. Just a few thoughts on authority issues.

      2. I’m not questioning the legality or the right of the bishops’ conferences to request greater use of the vernacular. I’m questioning the wisdom of what happened. The less Latin, the more opportunity for diversion from approved texts and a “do it yourself Mass,” and this is legally contrary to the liturgy constitution.

      3. While I was not alive during the pre-V2 days, I have heard that improvisation was just as rampant then as it is now. Putting things in Latin or using another Rite will not hinder priests from doing their own thing.

  9. There’s one more change to the Order of Mass that’s not in Father Anthony’s helpful breakdown: “Joseph, Spouse of the same Virgin” in EP1 has become “Joseph, her Spouse.” That’s definitely an improvement!

  10. Sometimes the proposed cure is worse than the ailment. People might drop or desecrate the Eucharist, so why give them Communion at all?

    One must also be able to diagnose real problems, and not just notice the symptoms. Priests changing the words of the Mass is just a symptom of a lack of trust in ritual. I suspect we’ll see more of that distrust in the years ahead.

    In some quarters, this new translation might also retard some efforts toward a better celebration of Mass. It seems to be touted as a cure-all. And after implementation, do you suppose church leadership will bother or dare to implement a program to improve preaching or musicianship? I had a comment on another web site deleted yesterday because I dared to suggest it’s time to advocate for MR4. Battle fatigue, and thank you very much for that, curia.

    1. +JMJ+

      “Priests changing the words of the Mass is just a symptom of a lack of trust in ritual.”

      That’s one possible cause. It could also be simple disobedience or poor formation or big ego.

      1. Jeffrey, priests my age “56” and those older and a bit younger were taught in the seminary that we should personalize the Mass and it was modeled for us by the seminary priests in the Masses celebrated in the seminary. We were told that in the early Church it was the structure of prayer that was important, but early “presiders” made it up as they went, but stayed with the structure. Our professors really thought this would be the wave of the future because the Church was going back to the early Church and how they did things. I changed things willy nilly my first several years of ordination thinking that this is what we should be doing; I prepared my congregation for the day coming soon of women’s ordination, married priests, etc. We were so sure we knew the future! Well, turns out we didn’t and don’t. Our infallible seminary professors weren’t so infallible and neither was I, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault! (I think? hope I got the translation right!)

      2. The issue we have to deal with is when, and if so under what circumstances and with what provisos, ‘changing the words’ is an expression of appropriate senstivity to people, rather than the various irresponsibilities named by Mr Pinyan. As Fr Allen’s contemporary, I think that my version of what he and I got in seminary (and I got this bit in the United States) was broadly correct–roughly: be intelligent and tasteful, don’t do it unless you’re sure its an improvement, but nevertheless be aware that some formulations will have effects on the faithful that are negative and that were not intended, and use your common sense to minimise this. I can’t share the conversion experience implicit in Fr Allen’s response, and I find the change in overall magisterial tone between the 1970s and now a matter for plangent lament. He clearly is far more positive. There’s stuff here about what counts as fidelity to the tradition on which there is serious conflict in the Church at the moment. It’s hard to see how to resolve it. But high-handedness is unlikely to be part of any good solution.

      3. Fr. Phillip, I am the same age as Fr. Allan, and in all my years of attending Mass, I have never heard a priest’s improvisation that has seemed to be an improvement. Quite the contrary, these little (and sometimes not so little) “tweaks” – that I know are well-intentioned – never fail to jolt me a bit and distract me from the prayer at hand. I can’t see how any of the prescribed prayers could have a negative effect on those assembled to pray. And I’m not egotistical enough to think that they were composed solely with middle aged white guys like me in mind. Have you encountered folks who were offended by any of the authorized prayers?

      4. I have. Eg, a woman walks out during Mass, or a woman gives me her objections after Mass.

      5. I may be uninformed, but I think teaching priests how to improvise is a much better approach than trying to impose a lack of improvisation. Quite simply, there is going to be improvisation, whether it is by accident, unforeseen circumstances (the iPad that holds the missal goes blank?), or pastoral necessity.
        I would far prefer that any improvisation be done by someone who knows how to do it

      6. When I use to improvise, I did a darn good job at it if I do say so myself–do you detect a bit of the sin of pride in my statement? I think I came to the realization that since I was the only one making the liturgy so much better than my brother priests who actually prayed the words of the missal that maybe I was imposing much too much of myself onto the Liturgy. And when I was asked why my prayers seem different than what was in the missalette and I replied that I thought mine were better, well, the laity that asked seem to know that I was young and immature and a bit conceited. I realize now that improvising the prayers at Mass is all about a priest’s piety, spirituality,personality and perceived gifts and intellect, the antithesis of what public prayer in the Church should be which is to point to God the Father, through Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rather than making public prayer transparent in this regard, the priest who imposes his pride on the Mass makes it opaque. We should give the Church, meaning all the baptized, the Church’s prayer, not our private and so-called “pastorally” improved version of it.

    2. Fr Allan (and my apologies for having hitherto misspelt your name):
      I think the history of our practice is pretty well identical–I certainly became much more respectful of the book once I was ordained a few years, and I recognise your picture of the tolerant and patient laity.
      Where I don’t agree is that that change by definition is an indication of sacerdotal pride. We cannot be mere puppets when faced with the grace of God; we have to co-operate actively, freely and intelligently. Given that no rules can fit all circumstances, there has to be a possibility of creative adaptation that enhances rather than detracts from the mystery.

  11. My Pastor and I have discussed introducing a new setting of the Gloria ahead of Advent 2011 as an “education” tool during mass. He feels that this would be allowed, since some education of the assembly is a part of mass. Most of the people in the pew probably would not even be aware that it was the new text, just a new musical setting.

  12. One tactic might be to have a Latin Gloria for Christmas 2011 and alternate it with the new one during the season to show poeple how close the new translation is. they might understand better in this way.

  13. I am a few years beyond “56” but would have to say that generalizing from personal experience, schooling, etc. can lead to wrong conclusions. Would have to say that liturgy classes in both Chicago and at Notre Dame did an excellent job of teaching about how liturgy evolved from the 1st century church; how liturgy changed based on cultural experiences, etc. stressed the liturgical structure and how it changed. But, once liturgical history, historical criticism, and liturgical studies were concluded; all of the liturgists that taught us the actual sacramental actions/liturgies (if you will) never came out and gave us license to make abitrary changes – if fact, to borrow from Mr. Flowerday, those teachers tried over and over to get us comfortable with ritual especially ritual as expressed in the Roman Missal and GIRM. Yes, it involved aspects of what Fr. Endjean describes and would have advocated sensitivity (in terms of what Fr. Anthony said) but I do not recall feeling any “permission” to just alter prayers, etc. What I do remember is trying to grow comfortable with ritual – not an easy task; requires hard work; and learning the meaning behind the GIRM and the words of the missal – what was the composers point; what was the translators point; what did ICEL struggle to express.

  14. +JMJ+

    Here’s an article from the Trenton Monitor about local lay and clergy reactions to the new translation.

    I think this question-and-answer is particularly important:

    Jen Schlameuss-Perry talked about how the Roman Missal has been a topic of conversation around St. Aloysius Parish for more than a year, and now she is pleased to have some concrete answers especially when parishioners ask about what the changes will be and “Why now, especially when the Church has so many other things to deal with?”

    As a result of having attended the conference, which Schlameuss-Perry described as being “excellent and very informative,” she said that the response she will give is that although the Missal is currently a front-line topic in the Church, “It isn’t like the Church has stopped because of it.”

  15. Let me offer one example of discomfort with ritual: the uneasiness in the US with silence. It is very, very difficult to decline to fill up empty space with talk or instruction or music or such. But sometimes it’s just what the liturgy or what the moment calls for.

    It might be easy to attribute clergy ad-libbing to ego or disobedience. I would tend to think better of our brothers in the priesthood: many of them genuinely want good liturgy, but lack the training (and self-trust) to take it to the next level.

  16. Just back from Atlanta from the gathering with Msgr. Wadsworth (ICEL President), Jerry Galipeau from WLP, Jeffrey Tucker…. the word that we received from Msgr. regarding “easing things in” earlier than the Advent 2011 date is that there is no real decision, being that, individual bishop’s conferences will be dealing with this in the coming weeks among many other issues… so the issue of whether or not the music can be introduced earlier, is not really determined yet.. other than that there are many different opinions among bishops as to whether or not it should be allowed or not. So, I guess what I am saying is…. stay tuned!

  17. I have to say it was really a hoot being there with these fine people last night, right on the heels of the official announcement.. lots of great sharing around it all, and I learned a LOT about the process and what is coming down the pike…. Msgr. Wadsworth is a lovely man, and he should be applauded for his tremendous hard work with all of this, and I am so impressed by his concern for a true pastoral spirit in the implementation of the missal. He has a lot of hard work ahead of him still, along with the BCDW folks – from our conversations I believe we are VERY fortunate to have him, and Fr. Hilgartner and Fr. Sherman at the helm steering this ship.

  18. Here’s another one:

    In the Roman Canon (EPI), the first “and all who are dear to them” was deleted. I’m not knowledgeable enough about Latin to figure out whether “pro se suisque omnibus” refers back to both “quibus” in “pro quibus tibi offerimus” and “qui” in “vel qui tibi offerunt”, or just the latter. The earlier translation applied it to both, and the newer applies it only to the latter. I suspect the phrase applies to both quibus and qui. in which case the earlier translation was more accurate, but more verbose and unwieldy, while the newer translation reads better in English but is a tad less accurate. Is there an argument that “pro se suisque omnibus” only referrs to the qui of “vel qui tibi offerunt”?

  19. With regard to the fact that “fulfilling their vows to you” has become “paying their homage to you”, my reaction is that the earlier version was probably a more precise rendering of “reddunt vota sua”, but the latter is probably a looser but still justifiable translation that might be more understandable to people of the present day, who are not used to making “vows” but who might understand the general concept that one can owe “homage” to great persons.

    1. Charles – yes, that makes a lot of sense to me. But it raises the question: If adjustments of that sort are acceptable, just what is the argument now against the 1998 translation? By its inconsistency, I think Rome has pulled the rug out from under itself and created an explanatory nightmare. Rome has left itself with little grounds for explaining why it demanded literalism in so many other places.


    1. Thanks, Charles. I’ll add it in. I’m running out of options trying to fit my chart on one page with smaller fonts, closer line spacing, and smaller margins, but I’ll deal with it. Keep them coming.

  20. Fr. Anthony – trying to follow this thread but have some questions. Eamon Duffy just published an article in The Tablet which describes B16’s liturgical efforts. The key principle is that all liturgy is “organic” and develops organically e.g. communities, churches, experts, liturgists, cultures impact how liturgy evolves. He suggests that B16 years after VII considered some pastoral steps to be “non-organic”. To correct this, a small group in the mid-1990s began to assert itself and change the process. How is this “organic”? How does this fit into his key principle? It appears to be misaligned.
    Realize that your post focuses on actual translations, words, phrases but wonder also how this new Roman Missal and “the process” will be perceived in terms of current ecumenism, how this process impacts gender and sexual orientation questions, and what this has done to the “organic” VII principles of liturgical process in the hands of bishops’ conferences; subsidiarity, collegiality?

    1. Bill – thanks for your good questions. I’d prefer to direct them to everyone, not just me. I believe others on this blog have have also wondered whether “organic” refers only to what should have happened after 1963, or why it doesn’t also apply to 2010. May there be sudden inorganic changes now, justified because they’re more organic with where we were in 1962, as if the last 37 years never happened? I’d be curious what others think about this.

      1. I think that we can sometimes forget that people’s lived sense of “tradition” is often simply what they have experienced in their own lifetime. As silly as it may seem to some, for many Catholics the current translation is the “traditional” one, because it is the one they have known from their own personal time immemorial, and losing it is going to be a jolt for people, perhaps as much as the transition from Latin to English was.

        Perhaps I’m just in a sentimental mood these days (having this past weekend sent my first child off to college), but I recently found myself feeling sad at the thought of losing the words that have been at the heart of my prayer life for the 25+ years that I have been Catholic. And I am someone who has almost from the beginning complained, sometimes bitterly, about the current translations: their flatness, their lack of fidelity to the meaning of the Latin, their frequent theological impoverishment. But even with all that, they were my prayers in a way that the new translation won’t be for a long time, if ever, simply because they are the prayers that I “grew up with” as a Catholic.

  21. One issue I’d be interested in seeing how it turns out in the translations of the proper texts when they are available is the following:

    Will the ending of the collects (..Deus, in saecula saeculorum”) be “God, for ever and ever”, or “one God, forever and ever” as it currently is. Msgr. Harbert in one of his videos at the Notre Dame Center for the Liturgy said it would be the former, but the Collect for the Church issued with the April statement by the Vatican had “one God…”. The Latin certainly does not say “unus Deus”. Adding the word “one” subtly turns a Christological assertion of Christ’s divinity, presumably emphasized contra the Arian heresy, into a Trinitarian assertion of the unity of the three persons. Since either emphasis is orthodox doctinally, I’m not too concerned either way, but it will be interesting to see if this is another place where accuracy of translation has perhaps been relaxed a little to allow language that we are used to hearing and that sounds a little less jarring, as has been done with the words of absolution and the final doxology.

  22. Another issue in the proper texts will be how the freestanding inital “Qui” will be handled in the translation of the prefaces. I know this was an issue debated by the bishops at the USCCB, so I’d be interested to see how it comes out.

  23. I now have had the chance to read the whole Ordinary of the Mass, and I look forward to its implementation in the United States. It is excellent.

    1. Thanks Kristin, I’ll take all the offerings you have, just be sure you come loaded! One of my favorite improvisations was, “deliver us from all anxiety” which I use to change to “undo” anxiety because I thought some anxiety was good because it caused you to do something. Silly, no?
      Also I changed for a time, “through, Him, with, Him… all glory and honor “ARE” yours, instead of “is” since, well, you know why. Of course I phrased things much better than the current translation as written. Yikes!

  24. Let’ take the short cut and go back to a Latin mass. This would make the Pope happy and save him a lot of effort to do so.

    As an alter boy back in the Latin days, we never knew what the Latin words meant that we were trying to say anyway.

    By the way, Jesus never spoke Latin anyway.

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