Today’s Orations in the New English Missal

by Alan Griffiths

Two of the orations for Wednesday of the Fourth week of Lent offer  a little further evidence of poor workmanship on the part of translators and editors of the received English translation of the Missal.

The Collect in the received text reads:

O God, who reward the merits of the just
and offer pardon to sinners who do penance,
have mercy, we pray, on those who call upon you,
that the admission of our guilt
may serve to obtain your pardon for our sins.
Through our Lord …

The expression ‘we pray’ in line 3 is not in the Latin text which reads simply tuis supplicibus miserere.

The last two lines, more or less literally, read: ‘… that the confession of our guilt may serve to receive pardon of sins’ – ut reatus nostri confessio indulgentiam valeat percipere delictorum. The extant text inserts ‘your pardon for our sins,’ thus narrowing the scope of the prayer.

A corrected version might read:

O God, who reward the merits of the just
and offer pardon to sinners through penance,
have mercy on those who call upon you,
that the confession of our guilt
may serve to obtain the forgiveness of sins.
Through our Lord.

The Prayer after Communion in the received text reads:

May your heavenly gifts, O Lord, we pray,
which you bestow as a heavenly remedy on your people,
not bring judgement to those who receive them.

This translation reverses the Latin order, so that the prayer concludes on a negative note –judgement – rather than the Latin ending of ‘healing.’ Also, the repetition of ‘heavenly’ in line 2 is not found in the Latin. So why is it in the English?

A corrected version could read:

We pray, O Lord, let not your heavenly gifts
bring judgment on those who receive them,
since you have provided them as healing for your faithful.
Through Christ our Lord.

Both these translation errors in themselves might be construed as trivial, but they do interfere with the meaning of the text. More important, it seems from studies of the Missal that such small errors are by no means infrequent.

Fr. Alan Griffiths is a priest of of Portsmouth Diocese, UK.



  1. From Jeffrey Pinyan’s outstanding website,

    Here are the Latin texts for the two prayers:


    Deus, qui et iustis praemia meritorum et peccatoribus veniam per paenitentiam praebes, tuis supplicibus miserere, ut reatus nostri confessio indulgentiam valeat percipere delictorum. Per Dominum.


    Caelestia dona capientibus, quaesumus, Domine, non ad iudicium provenire patiaris, quae fidelibus tuis ad remedium providisti. Per Christum.

    I have now led four sessions at the Mount Street Jesuit Centre in London, where we have worked through the Latin prayers for Lent; a few days ago we reached Easter Sunday. Both I and the participants have been struck that the new translation takes many liberties with the structure of the Latin — tenses get switched around, participles turn into indicative constructions, the order of clauses gets changed.

    If the result were a flowing, readable, prayable English text, their liberties wouldn’t bother me. But it seems to fly in the face of Liturgiam Authenticam. Not only do we not have “what the prayer really says”, but what we do have is, for the most part, dreadful English.

  2. Fr. Griffiths,

    I am not a Roman Catholic, but between the 1998 ICEL Sacramentary and your three volume Celebrating the Christian Year, our little ecclesial community has found a pair of amazing resources for the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.

    Thank you for your work to enhance the prayers and praises of the People of God.


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