A regular Pray Tell reader writes that he very much likes the work of Xavier Rindfleisch which unmasks the 2010 botching of the 2008 translation, and he is glad to hear that there will be more. He has a suggestion for the name of the series of articles: “What did the prayer really used to say?”




  1. You know, this whole mess could have been avoided, and the process could have been completed years ago, if the whole translation project had been turned over to the host of WDTPRS.com.

    God so loved the world that he didn’t send a committee.

    Next time, call on Father Z!

    1. What a truly wonderful idea! Then we can have ‘slavishly accurate’ renditions, like this:

      O God, who manifest Your omnipotence
      especially by sparing and being merciful,
      pour Your grace upon us unceasingly,
      so that You may make us,
      rushing to the things You have promised,
      to be partakers of heavenly benefits.

      It sings, doesn’t it?

  2. First of all, no one named “Edgar” should be making fun of anyone named “Rindfleisch.”

    XXVI Sunday “per annum”
    Deus, qui omnipoténtiam tuam
    parcéndo máxime et miserándo maniféstas,
    multíplica super nos grátiam tuam,
    ut, ad tua promíssa curréntes,
    caeléstium bonórum fácias esse consórtes.
    Per Dominum.

    O God, who make known your omnipotence
    above all in pardon and mercy,
    increase your grace within us,
    and so make those who run towards your promises
    sharers in the good things of heaven.
    Through our Lord

    O God, who make known your almighty power
    above all by pardoning and showing mercy,
    bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us,
    and make those hastening to attain your promises
    heirs to the treasures of heaven.
    Through our Lord.

    For once, 2010 is off to a good start: the nouns “pardon” and “mercy” of 2008 are restored to gerundive form: “pardoning” and “showing”.

    But then we’re back to the “Come by the house and whistle me out” version: “bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us.” There is NO “we pray” in the Latin. In violation of LA, the “ut” disappears (wasn’t that 1974 ICEL’s mortal sin?). “Consortes” is precisely “sharers” (2008) not “heirs” and “bonorum” as any first year Latin student knows is simply “goods” (good things) not “treasures”. Mistranslations: check. Adding things not in the Latin: check. Omitting things in the Latin: check. Clunky English: check. Worse than 2008:…

  3. Oh, and “currentes” is “running,” not “hastening” – and there’s no “to attain” in the Latin. On and on it goes.

  4. In this particular case, ‘ad tua promissa currentes’ is surely senseless unless we take ‘promissa’ as ‘the things you have promised’. And doesn’t 2010 at least try to catch a nuance in ‘super’ that 2008 doesn’t?

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m no defender of the outrage that 2010 represents, even relative to 2008, let alone 1998. But I am sceptical of any comprehensive theory of good liturgical translation. Poetry has been defined as what gets lost in translation. The balances between exact reproduction and effective English are delicate, intuitive, and a matter of permanent improvisation. Sometimes–as Hopkins puts it–the translator has to admire and do otherwise.

  5. I agree with Fr Endean that there is no use pursuing a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) of liturgical translation. We do best to muddle through; in any event, what choice do we have?

    But what about our personal, idiosyncratic criteria? Here are mine, in descending order of priority. I have made no attempt to follow the misguided Liturgiam Authenticam.

    A good liturgical translation should…

    (1) preserve the grammar and style of standard English. The vocabulary doesn’t need to be ‘dumbed down’ but should avoid coinages, terms of art and highly specialised terms. Hence ‘ineffable’ is fine, ‘consubstantial’ is not. We don’t need another “sacral language”; we’ve already got Latin.

    (2) be singable and readable, understandable by an attentive, educated worshiper without reference to a printed text.

    (3) sound natural and unaffected, not “churchy”, when sung or read.

    (4) convey the propositional sense of the Latin without reducing it to paraphrase; however there is no need to mimic or convey the structure of the Latin.

    (5) follow the affective contours of the original – penitential, joyful, thanksgiving, petitioning, as the case may be, without stripping away uncomfortable themes like sin and sacrifice

    (6) avoid constructs that seem affected or artificial in standard English; grovelling and pleonastic constructions should especially be omitted.

    The 1973 translation fails badly on (4) and (5); the 2008 and 2010 on (1) (2) (3) and (6). The 1998 works best.

    1. +JMJ+

      Latin coined words to express theological matters. We coin English words in other matters. Why not in the liturgy?

      The 1998 translation might “work best”, but, in addition to having the baggage of a redesigned Sacramentary, it repeats certain defects in the 1973 translation.

    2. Pleonasms are much more common in spoken (albeit not academic or journalistic English) and poetic English than complainers thereof give credit for.

      As for “grovelling”, many a Latin-speaking Roman objected on mos morum grounds to Oriental (read Persian) grovelling in gesture and speech, too. But Christians were more willing to employ such, for reasons different than Oriental court ceremonial (even if it fed an echo of such ceremonial). I think we too should be a bit more detached from our own current cultural values in this regard. Recall that the newly imperial Rome that crucified our Lord was one whose established culture viewed Oriental ceremonial with great disdain. And Christians of Late Antiquity were too benighted to concede the truth of the anachronistic interpretations of their times by Whig historians and their latter-day imitators (think James Carroll, for example). I am reminded of Cleveland Amory’s recounting of how proper Boston Brahmins of the late 19th Century were scandalized by the idea of select Anglo-Catholic peers of their might kneel in church.

  6. Roman culture always favored pleonasm in sacral language (see Chr. Mohrmann on this); that is not a reason for slavishly translating pleonasms into pleonastic English. Poetic pleonasm is a very special effect in English, as in “Let Observation, with extensive View, Survey the World, from China to Peru” (Johnson), whereas it is run of the mill in liturgical Latin. This poses a major problem for literal translation.

    1. Maybe your use of English is dry of pleonasms, but I hear them quitre vigorusly in American English conversation. They may not be as elegant as Johnson, but they are still quite common.

      The case against translating pleonasms from the Latin is ephemeral.

      1. Karl, I hear pleonasm in my children’s speech (and sometimes glimpse it in their facebook and e-mails and texts) — “That’s, like, fab, awesome, it’s so sick [= great], can’t believe it”. Can you give an example in adult conversation, perhasps from a well-written modern novel? I sometimes hear it in quasi-legal talk (“You will cease and desist”) but rarely in unaffected ordinary speech. Perhaps there’s a transatlantic difference here.

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