America on the new translation

America, the Jesuit journal, has a feature story on the new Missal translation by Fr. Michael Ryan, originator of the “What If We Just Said Wait?” petition. His judgment:

To read these prayers is difficult; to call them prayerful is to redefine the word; to pray them is almost impossible.

The forum has interesting comments by Fr. Edward Foley, O.F.M.Cap., Fr. Don Shane, Diana Macalintal, and Fr. Jan Michael Joncas. Macalintal and Joncas are Pray Tell contributors.

Ed Foley reports:

As I travel around the country, I have heard from a few priests who are vocal about their unwillingness to say certain texts: the phrase for many in the institution narrative over the “chalice” is the prime example. More often, however, I hear of presiders who are employing a strategy of selective proclamation, editing out some of the more obscure language and occasionally dropping the ever-recurring “we beseech you.” It suggests that the hybrid English liturgy might be on its way to being even more so.

Fr. Shane says:

Our people have been most receptive…  The implementation has been successful beyond my expectations. We really did learn from the late 1960s and 70s. We are blessed indeed.

Macalintal has asked whether the assemblies are more engaged now or less.

The overwhelming response was that they have mostly lost touch during the priest’s prayers. Perhaps this was true before the new translation, but those leaders perceive that their assemblies find the prayers unmemorable and unremarkable. When the parishioners do notice these prayers, it is for the wrong reasons.

Joncas says this about the normative English chant settings in the Missal:

While some hoped that the implementation would establish a common English-language repertoire for the Order of Mass in the United States, I see no evidence of that happening. The vast majority of the communities I have visited employ settings from one of the three most popular liturgical music publishers (GIA Publications, OCP, World Library Publications) or from a composer in their own community.

Read it all here and here.


  1. Can’t wait to read the America article.

    I find that all the “O’s” can be dropped easily, as well as all the instances of “we pray.” But those are merely cosmetic improvements that can’t conceal the ugliness of the whole.

    1. Sometimes I suspect that I was one of the few people who signed the New Missal petition that was actually interested in having feedback from the people in the pews about the New Missal. There seems to be little interest in finding out what has happened beyond the anecdotal. The what’s next does not seem to include getting an idea of why in the Vibrant Parish Life study the people rated the Liturgy as halfway down the list in being well done even though, or perhaps because they put Liturgy at the top of their list in importance.

      Given the CARA parish model, I would like to know separately how the implementation affected the 1005 people in the parish that attend Mass weekly, and the 1047 that attend at least monthly but not weekly. That second group of people might give us a lot more information about the effects of the New Missal implementation. I suspect almost all the anecdotal information we are getting is from the 1005 people in the parish that attend Mass weekly. No wait a minute, I suspect eighty percent of the anecdotal feed back is from the 168 people who are involved in the parish outside of Mass. I doubt if any of them have stopped going to Mass or contributing to the collection. As the loyal supporters of the management they are probably going along with what ever the management is saying and doing, pro or con, lukewarm or indifferent.

      The more and more I read of the self absorption with professional issues on this blog and the lack of interest in what is going on out in the parish among all those who are attending less and less, the more and more I am glad that I now give my money to the poor rather than to the parish management, and the more and more I am becoming willing to recommend that to others.

      1. the more and more I am glad that I now give my money to the poor rather than to the parish management, and the more and more I am becoming willing to recommend that to others.

        And the more and more we lay ministers on parish payrolls – you know, who work for a living – will thank you for it. Not.

      2. Paul,

        I was a member of a mostly voluntary pastoral staff in the 1980’s; I think that is a better way to go than a paid staff. There are many, many talented people in most parishes who are willing to volunteer their time, especially if they are invited into leadership rather than helper roles.

        I now have a master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame. If I had complete charge of a parish and had the choice of the dozen most talented volunteers in the parish or the money to hire a dozen master’s degree persons, I would chose the volunteers.

        Most of my twenty years in the public mental health system was spent in empowering people who have severe mental illness into exercising leadership in all aspects of the system. Many of these people did end up working part or full time for the system when their talents were recognized, but that was secondary.

        One person with mental illness was asked what he wanted from the mental health system. His answer: I don’t want the most expensive system, or even the one with the best practices, I want a system that I have helped to shape and that I know will be there when I need it. That is pretty much what I want out a social system, whether it be an educational system, or a parish.

        Although I am a three time professional (higher education, mental health, religion), I think we over exaggerate the role of credentialed professionals in a society. Some day we will recognize professionalism is just as much a sin as racism and sexism, and societies of the future will be very different.

        A professional church is just as bad as a clerical church; indeed if we end up ordaining all the professionals we will be right back into a very clerical church.

    2. The Nuns Petition is now at 48,154, double the number of signatures of the Missal Petition in a much shorter period of time. And it continues to be mentioned prominently in the media for example this weekend again in the NYTimes, Here Comes Nobody

      It was tough to top the bizarre inquisition of self-sacrificing American nuns pushed by the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law. Law, the former head of the Boston archdiocese, fled to a plush refuge in Rome in 2002 after it came out that he protected priests who molested thousands of children. But the craziness continued..

      Liturgists certainly proved they were unable to organize people and get media attention; they just sat there rocking on their hobby horse.

      I am not particularly impressed with the organizations behind the Nuns Petition. A lot them also like rocking on their hobby horses. But I still hope that they just might by accident catalyze people in a way that the Liturgy Petition failed to do.

  2. I have found that at different parish in which I attended Mass, the priest either follow the new liturgy to the fullest, some have gone back completely to the old Sacramental Book or some use a combination of both. I don’t blame them, one of the most offensive part is the consecrations of the Blood, “for many”, this phrase makes me quit upset because it implies that Jesus only died for “some” not for all. A priest friend finally changed it to “the many”, which made him feel better.
    To top it all off I heard a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit say that only priest have the charisma of priest, prophet and king. I thought that we as baptized persons were given those charismas at baptism. We are priestly people, prophets and servant kings? Am I wrong?

    1. Anyone interested in pursuing the question of whether or not or how the “Tria munera Christi” (Priest, Prophet, King) apply to the laity may find helpful a recent dissertation by Ugandan Fr. Kizito Mukwaya Leonard:

      Kizito, Leonard Mukway. Lay People and Tria Munera Christi: A study from Canon 204/1 to Instructio Ecclesiae de Mysterio. Vatican City: Urbaniana University Press, 2002.

      The study affirms a broad application of these terms while sensitively parsing the nuances of distinctions between orders in the Church.

  3. With all the issues confronting the Church today, doesn’t America have more pressing issues on which to report?!

    1. couldn’t we say the same before the “new translation”, LA, etc.?

      Interesting personal experiences from the four. Found Don Shane’s comment to be a “stretch” and more a personal historical commentary….”Many were happy to pray in the vernacular. Many were hurt and disappointed and felt that reverence for the Real Presence diminished. There was real division.”

      Many were hurt and disappointed – really? Any survey, research, or data from 1965 through 1975 indicates a very different reality. If he wants to say “some” – well, okay but let’s realize that the “some” was a tiny minority. Note that he then launches into the usual meme about the 60’s and social changes.

      He skips over any comparison between the council and liturgical change and the process leading to this “new translation”. If he wants to currently say – “many were hurt and disappointed” – now he is reflecting real data and experience and not his own personal interpretation and opinion.

    2. John, the liturgy seems like an important topic, and the new English translation of the Mass seems like an important topic. The reception of the latter, and its impact on the former, seems like a rather pressing issue to me.

  4. It has not been a disaster, but I also find nothing to cheer about. The Latin syntax and the slavishly literal translations make it impossible for me at all times to just pray verbatim. My prayer language as well as that of the people involves the heart as well as the words. Occasionally I will come across some gems. Lately, I have been looking at the 1998 texts and find them so vastly superior. I wish someone would cobble together a usable volume. I know there is a copyright issue, but perhaps there is a higher priority here.

  5. Just finished reading Fr. Michael Ryan’s article in America. Quite a lot there I could give a thumb up to. By an interesting confluence of circumstances, as I began preparing my homily for marking the Ascension, this coming Sunday, up popped a “Thinking Faith” new article on the topic:
    Reading that article, and a little follow up reading in N T Wright’s, “Simply Jesus” (pgs 191-231), while also trying to make sense of the Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, the Prayer after Communion, and the two Prefaces, I can’t help wondering how much sense the latter make, how much they help us to a fuller understanding of mystery of faith we call to mind, comemorate on that day. Along with some Ascension themed hymns, I have tried to use them as a framework for my homily. It’s been both an interesting experiment and a battle, given the torturous prose of the prayers in RM3. Trying to use them in a homily is I find a way of testing how they can speak to the congregation I serve. So far it hasn’t been easy. Anybody else tried something similar. Be interested to hear from you.
    By the way, the free online journal of the British Jesuits, “Thinking Faith” is well worth linking to. I have my own printed out archive of useful articles since it went online.

  6. It seems that the comment I was responding to has been removed. In light of that, perhaps my comment should be deleted as well.

    Father Michael Ryan was born in Seattle and ordained in Rome in December 1966 for the archdiocese of Seattle. He has served faithfully as a priest of the Seattle archdiocese for forty-six years. Since 1988 Father Ryan has been rector of St. James Cathedral, Seattle. He was never a Jesuit.

    Professor Daniel Maguire, before deciding to leave the priesthood, was a priest of the archdiocese of Philadelphia. He was never a Jesuit.

    Could we meet the criticisms of the new Missal on their own terms without tendentious sidetracks involving Daniel Maguire and slanderous remarks about the Society of Jesus?

  7. The only exception to Diana’s input would be Advent 4’s collect. But it’s likely that a lot of Catholics thought that ICEL “stole” the prayer from the Rosary.

    I think we can pretty much write off the priests’ prayers for the next few decades. Good thing we still have the Scriptures and the texts of the music we sing.

    I agree with Jack: this isn’t a disaster. I didn’t think it would be. It’s a missed opportunity. If you think the Church and the world are in great shape and we can afford to twaddle around on peripherals, then perhaps we can give MR3 a pass. On the other hand …

  8. Because I am “hearing-challenged,” since last Advent I can only follow the eucharistic prayer of the Mass if I ask the celebrant, before the Mass begins, to tell me which one he will use. Then I can read along as he says the prayers that I cannot otherwise follow. I’m not sure, but I suspect that there are perhaps others who, for various reasons, cannot follow the celebrant’s voicing of the new translations.

  9. I attended Mass at my high school reunion, offered by a high official from the Chancery. I think it was the first by-the-book Mass I’ve attended. The repeated reference to “chalice” during the consecration stood out like a clanging cymbal. (or should that be clanging symbol!) What really caught my ear was the use of the word “devoutedness” that came during the Offertory . It is such an odd word that it arose from the background of pious phrases to leave me meditating on the question, “Is that even a word in English?”

  10. Brigid, I see in the Missal that the word is “devotedness.” I’d agree that this is odd. The existing word that I think means the same thing is “devotion.”

    1. I think there is a subtle difference in meaning, but it is still an unusual word. Of course, “oblation” also jumped out at me!

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