Ed. Note: Fr. Pádraig McCarthy, priest of the archdiocese of Dublin, has prepared the following chart comparing the text of prefaces from the current translation of the missal with the upcoming translation. He provides the following notes by way of introduction.
1. Prefaces are structured in three sections:
a. A statement that it is right to give thanks and praise.
b. The body of the Preface: the reason for giving thanks on this occasion.
c. A lead into Sanctus of praise with angels etc.
2. The new translation reflects the Latin text more exactly, giving the English translation a more verbose and florid character, and at times more strained.
3. Many Prefaces in the new translation begin the second section with “For …”, reflecting Latin syntax. This uses the word “For” as a conjunction with the same meaning as “Because”. In Latin this is normal. In English it is anomalous.
Some would say that one should never begin a sentence in English with a conjunction; in colloquial speech, however, it is not infrequent. Where “Because” is the first word of a sentence in English, what it logically refers to normally follows it in the same sentence; for example:
“Because it was raining, I took the umbrella.”
Unexpectedly, in the Prefaces, “For” logically refers, not to a following clause, but to the preceding sentence. So the equivalent in a short example would be:
I took the umbrella.
For it was raining …
In English, the logical unit would more usually be all one sentence. In the new translation it is artificially divided in two. Where possible, it would seem good simply to omit the word “For” in the Preface, and the sense is in no way impaired.
4. There is some improvement in the use of inclusive language.
5. A continuing problem is in the long sentences and artificial quasi-Latin syntax. Try this:
- Prepare the new text of the Prefaces below as you would for clear and understandable reading aloud.
- Then try reading aloud the first and second section of each of these Prefaces as some people listen carefully.
- Alternatively, just try the last one above, Preface VIII for Sundays in Ordinary Time.
- After each, ask the listeners to tell you what it is you have read. Estimate a success score.
- What will it be like reading the new Prefaces to a crowd in a church?