New Catholic liturgy receives mixed reviews

So reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, speaking to Jerry Galipeau at the NPM convention.



  1. I is nice to see an essentially positive report here. Whenever people talk about the elevated words being too difficult I think about the often repeated claim that today’s laity are more educated than ever before “The laity (are now) more highly educated, middle class, more central to American social, cultural and political power” (T. Kelly Catholics are now “a highly educated, confident and increasingly independent” people. Considering this fact, there seems to be little reason to worry about the elevated wording.

    1. @Shane Maher – comment #1:
      Excuse me? Does this mean that Christ, the church, and sacraments are only for the educated? I would suggest reading through the Gospels to get a different angle on things.

    2. @Shane Maher – comment #1:

      One perspective I took away from Jerry Galipeau’s report on the NPM meeting is his observation that the older translation is pastorally advisable in certain circumstances. His description of a cardinal who reverted to the older responses as a response to the lack of pew cards is a good example.

      An intellectual comprehension of the prayers recited is but one small part of liturgical participation. Education, linguistic register comprehension, and language familiarity are independent variables. Also, everyone experiences what linguists call “code-switching”. When in Canada, I quasi-consciously shifted from the lazy (but respectful) New York English I speak with my family and friends to an artificial and characterless pan-North American-English accent at work. As soon as I would get home and on the phone with my folks, I would immediately silence those sharp final ‘r”s.

      For many English-speaking Catholics of all backgrounds, the Sacramentary remains more familiar and comforting, like speaking a regional dialect with family. Perhaps some might prefer the new translation for certain liturgies, and the older translations for other liturgies. Some might exclusively prefer one or the other. Preference is irrelevant. The presence of a linguistic continuum between the two translations, and the evident need for the two to exist side by side to fill a desire for different liturgical language registers, suggests that an indult for the Sacramentary remains a good idea.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #2:

        Although this is perhaps unwanted, I would like to clarify my previous statement that “[p]reference is irrelevant”. Certainly, no person should feel as if her desire to participate in a liturgy according to one translation over another is not valued. Subjective considerations are important and should not be minimized. Instead “[p]reference is irrelevant” refers to the notion that an individual’s perspective is the absolute determiner of what is worthy. If liturgy is the “work of the people”, then our participation in liturgies according to different translations is not predicated on individual preference alone. Persons find themselves forming a worshiping assembly, consciously or not, because the liturgical translation in part fulfills a certain emotional or interpersonal need for that particular time. Liturgical translation “code switching” is not always a conscious decision between liturgical options, but rather contingent on a complex web of individual, interpersonal, and communal contingencies of the moment. This is very similar to the way in which persons naturally change the way they communicate “on the fly” depending on the situation.

        John Kohanski’s [July 27, 2012 – 8:58 pm] experience of responding “and with thy spirit” at a Rite II Mass illustrates that liturgical code-switching is not always fluid when moving between different liturgies. These momentary confusions illustrate the organic nature of switching between language registers. John’s experience suggests that a one-size Roman Missal which shackles assemblies to one language register without change stifles the natural interplay between language registers in everyday life.

      2. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #7:
        Yes, BTOH, the reformed translation has only been used for 6 months, not enough time, in my estimation for it to become natural and organic. Judging that it’s a failure or unnatural because a congregation may still respond “and also with you” instead of “and with your spirit” or slip up during the Creed, is prejudicial that it is bad or won’t catch on. It would be a disaster of epic proportion to have both translations available for use at Mass, as I believe it would cause the average congregation to shut down completely from responding. I think that it is different in the Episcopal Church, because it is a different style, not just translation, that usually separates the two Rites in the BCP. I guess that my point is that I see how easy it is to be confused or respond by rote (with the elder one) now that the reformed translation is in use.

    3. @Shane Maher – comment #1:
      A very pertinent and potent observation. I suspect that whoever mistook ‘abasement’ for ‘a basement’ (is this a joke???) has a serious vocabulary problem.

      1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #9:
        There are a few unfortunate moments in the English MR3, indicating either a rather crass attempt to be cute, or a serious editing failure of judgment: God of (altar bread) in the Sanctus; roof (of the mouth) just before the Communion procession. It’s almost as if Msgr Moroney and Cardinal Pell were trying to be the anti-Conry of the post-conciliar liturgy.

        The most serious criticisms of MR3 lie not along the line of vocabulary, but in the twofold failure of good English grammar and the lack of serious artistry in the texts.

      2. @Todd Flowerday – comment #10:
        Todd, please tell me those two examples were in jest, as in a caricature at the level that only a fifth grader would mistake as literal!
        Why not just also add “gibbet” being misconstrued as lethal innards of poultry to which Jesus was, uh, hamhocked?

      3. @Charles Culbreth – comment #11:
        A jest? Not on my part and I hope not on ICEL’s. I’m talking about a distracting association, especially (but not exclusively) for folks for whom English is a second language.

        I would support Jordan’s suggestion on the Sanctus. And while I acknowledge the traditional staying power of the centurion’s faith, I think there are better Scriptural moments to recall before the reception of Communion (

        The examples I chose were deliberate. We get chicken innards only occasoinally, and I have no problem with that word. These clunkers are part of every Mass, not to mention the cup/chalice switcheroo in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer. It’s like these guys had no editorial consultation.

        As I said, vocabulary isn’t the problem with the English MR3. It’s how good vocabulary is misused.

      4. @Todd Flowerday – comment #10:

        Todd: There are a few unfortunate moments in the English MR3, indicating either a rather crass attempt to be cute, or a serious editing failure of judgment: God of (altar bread) in the Sanctus;

        “Sabaoth” is a complex exegetical and theological concept that cannot be accurately interpreted in English except maybe with a paragraph. It would have been better to just translate the Sanctus as “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Sabaoth” and hope that catechists and priests would provide for adequate catechesis and homiletic instruction.

        “God of power and might”, while contextually descriptive of “sabaoth”, does not mention of the notion of “army” or battle. Admittedly, a translation of “sabaoth” merely by way of an Old French word for “army”, oost (c.f. OED sv. “host”) is equally confusing. “Alleluia” and “hosanna” are also of ancient Christian use and not translated in Christian liturgy. Why not also leave “sabaoth” alone?

        As I have mentioned, I support the use of different English registers at Mass. However, even everyday English contains foreign loanwords taken directly or modified to fit English morphology. For example, “subpoena” and “prorated” (i.e. pro rata) respectively. Any register of the English language will contain relatively obscure words within its vocabulary set.

      5. @Todd Flowerday – comment #11:
        If “God of hosts” causes people to stumble, I have to ask if they stumble when they sing “heav’nly hosts sing Alleluia” in Silent Night, or “Lord of hosts and God alone” in God We Praise You, or “with angelic hosts proclaim” in Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

        Or if they stumble whenever the read the title “Lord/God of hosts” in the Bible, which we hear from time to time at Mass.

      6. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #16:
        As far as the stumbling goes, my experience suggests that the problem is more the lack of syllables in “Lord God of Hosts”. The previous translation had been written to scan poetically, and congregations have the rhythm of that firmly embedded in their minds. It’s further worsened by the fact that the beginning of the prayer is exactly as it was before, so the mind falls into the old pattern before slamming into the end of the second line long before the mind is ready for it.

        In addition, the “Lord” part is now, logically, part of the second line, where it used to be at the end of the first line.

        If we had never got used to the previous translation, I’m sure this would be much easier (although the new one has not been written with any hope of rhythmic recitation).

        It’s not the word “hosts”, it’s the completely changed structure of what used to be a flowing, rhythmic, poetic prayer.

      7. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #10:
        I can’t bring any specific instance to mind, but I’ve experienced this myself and have had others describe it to me: In a steady stream of quiet “prayer speak” a word or phrase will suddenly jump out as making no sense at all.

  2. The imposition of the untested theory of “sacred vernacular” upon the English-speaking church is a scandal of monumental proportions. It has been a brutal process that has resulted in a corrupt text which is little more than a grotesque parody of what beautiful liturgical prayer could and should be. I find it difficult to believe that a majority of experts attending the convention would have such warm and fuzzy sentiments.

    Meanwhile, distracted by a very painful medical situation (temporary, I believe) I lapsed today into the memorized Eucharistic Prayer from the 1973 Sacramentary. Alas, the roof did not cave in and I received no telephone calls from downtown!

    1. @Fr. Jim Blue – comment #3:
      “It was a dark and stormy night…”
      Goodness, Fr. Blue, I don’t think I’ve ever beheld two paragraphs so rife with both self-fulfilling yet self-negating hyperbole. Please tell us you’re practicing for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction prize! In the former, the distractions of thousands of oppressive stakeholders caused the promulgation of a corrupt grotesquery that caused the sky to fall o’er all Christendom, in the latter a malady that discombobulated your faculties so much so that a contravention of liturgical orthopraxis did not cause the roof to fall!
      I think you may have a winner here, you just can’t make this stuff up! Good job.

      1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #5:
        If you have a point to make, please take the time to make it respectfully lest you come across as a self-righteous and spiteful teenager who has just suffered the indignity of encountering a dissenting opinion.

    2. @Fr. Jim Blue – comment #3:
      . I find it difficult to believe that a majority of experts attending the convention would have such warm and fuzzy sentiments.

      I was there. No one interviewed me!!!!

  3. Just a couple of thoughts. If the Mass that Mr. Galipeau describes celebrated by a cardinal was a sung Mass, would there really need to be a reversion to the former translation? All the would be spoken would be the Confiteor (if that option was used), the Creed, and the response “and with your spirit.” The rest of the changes to the people’s parts would have been sung, ostensibly to the new translation. Who benefited from the reversion?
    And second, my parish normally celebrates Rite I (BCP) as the principal Mass on Sundays during the year. During the summer we go from 3 Masses (Rite I, Rite II, Rite I) to 2. During the month of July only, the principal Mass is celebrated Rite II due to the heat as well as a provision to the people who normally go to the Rite II Mass in the non-summer months. While not having lived through the transition from the old translation to the new, I see the issues and the stumbling. Even after 4 weeks, I still, on auto pilot, respond “and with thy spirit” instead of “and also with you.”

  4. S. Xavier assiduously warned all about the literary and dogmatic infelicities of the Pell Missal before its introduction. From time to time since the debacle he has offered even more judicious insights.

    BTW, I may have caught a glimpse of the great Xavier Friday night dining at the delightful Costanza’s not too far from S Andrea Della Valle. I did notice two carcioffi alla Giudea on the plate. If it were truly the noble Xavier he does have exquisite taste in matters even more important than translations since these are the best in all Rome, not excepting the Ghetto.

  5. For background reference: Hosts and Roof were what was used in the first English missal from 1965 to 1970. The English-speaking world embraced them with alacrity. There are much better issues to pick illustrative fights over; these are simply unworthy of that effort.

  6. Let’s be clear about what I’m writing here. I’m not suggesting this is a matter of the assembly stumbling over words. This has nothing to do with the mis-performance of liturgy. I’m suggesting a careless editing process. It’s not about vocabulary. It’s about the appearance of a poor work ethic on the part of ICEL. It’s about standing in the foothills of excellence and proclaiming we’re reached the summit. To create a work of excellence one must attend not only to words but also how they are used.

    Perhaps the reason why “hosts” and “roof” disappeared in 1970 is that they were not the best choices.

    No comment on the chalice/cup intertwining? I’ll assume y’all agree ICEL bumbled this one, too.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #18:
      Yes, Todd, the use of “chalice” and “cup” within seconds of one another is a glaring editorial mistake.

      I do not think “hosts” is a bad choice. I think I would choose “hosts” over “Sabaoth” if only because we don’t see “sabaoth” untranslated in our bibles (contrast with “amen”, “hallelujah”, “hosanna”). I would not mind “Sabaoth”, but I would not clamor for it. I think “hosts” is fine, although another term that translates “Sabaoth” adequately (without abstracting it too much, like “power and might” does) would be okay too.

      If it is unfortunate that people hear “host” and think “communion host” (if only because of the proximity to Communion), well, I think that’s something those people need to work through.

      1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #21:

        Scriptural allusions require a kind of scriptural familiarity that we can indeed hope for. I don’t like the “roof” thing — but it was pretty funny one Sunday when I was in the choir loft; I had a very dry mouth (forgot to bring the water bottle) and received two Hosts (Father counts out Hosts for the choir ciborium and doesn’t want any returned). They both stuck to the roof of my mouth, and it took some doing to get them dissolved! Truly, I was not worthy that the Lord come under my roof, a.k.a. hard palate!
        But the chalice/cup thing lost a great scriptural allusion, besides being vaguely hierarchical — Jesus and the priest(s) get a chalice, the rest of us get a cup! But more seriously — the scriptural notion of the cup of suffering is rich in both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus asks his disciples if they can drink of the same cup that he drinks from, and in the garden prays that the cup may pass from him. Such rich allusions to the cup of blood shed, poured out, and shared are lost in the use of the (I agree, prissy) use of chalice.
        And “consubstantial” — “one in being with” IS a literal translation; why not just leave that one alone? I suppose it’s better than homoousion.

    2. @Todd Flowerday – comment #18:
      I had not meant “stumble” as in having trouble saying the words (e.g. consubstantial), but rather mental stumbling: not knowing what they’re saying, having the wrong image in their heads, etc.

  7. Todd Flowerday : Perhaps the reason why “hosts” and “roof” disappeared in 1970 is that they were not the best choices.

    These do appear in the (justifiably) oft-lauded traditional Anglican texts:

    Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts…

    Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.

    I think they’re both biblical, so “not the best choices” is not a judgment I’d agree with. Do people seriously misinterpret these as referring to Communion hosts and the roof of one’s mouth?

    1. @Scott Knitter – comment #19:
      It is apparent that, in many of these cases of word problems we are dealing, on the one hand with some shamelessly deceitful and facetious people who could not possibly not know the meaning of the words over which they pretend to stumble; and on the other hand with black holes of invincible and preferred ingnorant against which there is no rational antidote or defence.

  8. Oh, I am on the record as not a fan of chalice. Just sounds prissy in English compared to the gravitas of calix in Latin.

    As for Sabaoth, Hosts vs Power and Might. The last choice is by far the lamest, and least justifiable. I find either Sabaoth or Hosts reasonable, and I can accept the reasons for choosing one over the other. (If I had to choose, I’d opt for the poetic resonance potential of Sabaoth; but it’s not a strong preference. I just think that repetitive ritual texts can bear a greater breadth and depth of vocabulary and usage.) I don’t think it was a careless editing choice in the least. Just because it might not be my preferred choice doesn’t mean it’s careless, shall we say. And I find the roof argument unpersuasive.

  9. Fair enough.

    I’ve found the many editorial blunders and other stumbles chronicled here to be sufficient to convince me this whole endeavor was a pretty poor job. I find the ideology and politics behind the English MR3 to be distasteful enough. But the effort would have borne a certain positive fruit if it had been artistically composed and presented.

    I appreciate Jerry Galipeau’s attempt to make a lemon chiffon pie out of all this. He’s a publisher, and is almost as constrained as parish clergy to put a good face on it. I had to do the same as a staff member in my parish.

    But here, I tend to be a lot more critical of things large and small, simply because I can.

    Getting back to the thread topic, I’d say that reviewing the MR3 would indeed be a good thing, especially if anyone in power (like the ICEL folks who visit here occasionally) were listening. (Which I tend to doubt.) So before bowing out of this conversation, I’ll just comment you’ve missed a golden opportunity to assist in the New Evangelization, and that your disorganization, politicking, and lack of artistry have harmed the Roman Rite celebrated in the English language. It’s probably not a disaster on the scale of the pullback of the Jesuits from China. But it’s bad enough. Thanks for that.

  10. Todd, (and don’t bannish me, AWR, don’t taze me, dude!) try being a high school choir instructor in this era and programming any Latin piece that has “fac me” in its text. Now that is awkward in extremis.
    Well, I sort of agree with Liam’s tart brush off, but I had to have some fun with your examples. Truth be told, I don’t agree with your position about poor editorial scholarship. If people aren’t trembling in the presence of an angelic host or the Eucharistic host, then they’re a. spiritually or otherwise dead; b. asleep at the wheel; or (most likely) severely under-catechized.
    And beyond the centurion citation, please remember that Abram’s innate hospitality bid him welcome the angels under his tent in utter humility. I find that a reassuring convergence of the divergent meanings, but I’m weird that way.
    Same thing about cup and chalice, should a discerning thinker give it two second’s consideration. The former is a measurement, the latter contains a substance relative to that measure.
    God gave us all this sematical radiance, and we’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot. LOL….sigh

  11. Apart from those “liturgists” who stew (obsess) over these sorts of things, I wonder how many people in the pews really do stew over the words of the liturgy, prior to the “vernacularization” of it in the late 1960’s, the pitiful equivalency English translation of the Latin that was given us until this past Advent and now with what many think is certainly an improvement over the impoverished one just dumped. I think most Catholics, thank God, respond to God’s summon to worship Him and seek meaning, purpose and God’s love for them in the sacred mysteries.
    Apart from the complaining here, I have not heard any of it from the persons in the pews in the various places I have celebrated Mass since the First Sunday of Advent. It’s time to move on and prayerfully sing or say the Mass and follow the rubrics. No one is perfect save God, so let the little flaws in the liturgy and its translation give glory to the fact that only God is perfect.

  12. I am far removed from being a screaming liberal when it comes to ars celebrandi. But I don’t ever remember coming across a text in the ’73 sacramentary which sounded odd as I prayed it. I do recall texts that could stand improvement like “from east to west” instead of “from the rising to the setting of the sun”. By the way, “from the rising of the sun until its setting” is a strange word order to say the least. I should not have to finger through the RM3 at daily Mass (at which on non festive days we may choose from any of the ordinary time texts) in hopes of finding one that doesn’t sound odd in either syntax or turn of phrase. While I admit some of the prefaces include an improvement or two over the previous versions, I find these the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps Fr. Alan has a version of RM3 that differs from mine. We are all moving forward, but this does not mean that we can forever dismiss the often awful consequences of a translation document (LA) that has been roundly criticized by language experts across the board. How can we forget when the texts are right there before our eyes? Fr. Alan happens to think they’re just grand, I do not and I am far from alone in this conviction.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #28:
      I would prefer the correct translation of what I wrote, that no translation is perfect, only God is. Your eqvilant interpretation of my remarks as well as the 1973 eqvilancy interpretation surely miss the mark and as usual. 🙂

    2. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #28:
      What, pray, is ‘strange’ about ‘from the rising of the sun until its setting’? I have sung these very words in numerous anthems, and always they have far more energy and power (and colour) than the somewhat pedestrian locution which you say that you prefer.

      1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #35:
        I don’t see why a big stink needs to be made over the difference between “from the rising of the sun to its setting” and “from the rising to the setting of the sun”.

        FWIW, “from the rising of the sun to its setting” was the formulation found even in the 1998 RM.

  13. Well, count me among those liturgical progressives who found the previous translation of those lines poetically awkward and substantively made “lite”.

  14. In terms of the word “abasement” and some people thinking it means a basement of a building, I wonder if these same people have trouble distinguishing the difference between to, too, two; for, four, fore; through and threw; hour and our; be, Bea and bee; so, sew and sow and on and on! English isn’t for those who can’t distinguish so maybe Latin better be the language of the Mass, or should I write Liturgy, since Mass can have more than one meaning, like mass appeal, a mass of people or Massachusetts.

  15. I’m all in favour of the rising of the sun to its setting, but why, o why, did we drop the pleasing parallelism with ‘from age to age’?

    1. @Philip Endean Sj – comment #37:
      That’s a fair lament. Rendering “non desinis” as (a comparatively sterile) “you never cease to” lacks the poetry and parallelism of “from age to age you”.

      Arguments for the new rendering could be:

      1) the parallelism was not intended or envisioned by the author of the original (Vaggagini?) or by the editors of the final Latin;

      2) the Latin expressly uses a negative construction (“you never cease”) as opposed to a positive construction (“you always”).

      But both of those arguments could be rebutted by questioning the authority of the Latin text, which remark has been used on PTB before.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *