The issue of translation will always be current in Catholicism. We will never have a “perfect” translation of the Roman Missal. There have been many translations of various parts and I am sure that there will be many more.
I was looking at the Collect, or Opening Prayer, from last Sunday (23rd Sunday of the Year). Admittedly this is not the easiest prayer to translate.
The original Latin (Missale Romanum, Editio Typica Tertia 2008) reads:
Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui abundántia pietátis tuæ
et mérita súpplicum excédis et vota,
effúnde super nos misericórdiam tuam,
ut dimíttas quæ consciéntia métuit,
et adícias quod orátio non præsúmit
The 1973 Sacramentary translated it in this way:
your love for us
surpasses all our hopes and desires.
Forgive our failings,
keep us in your peace
and lead us in the way of salvation.
This translation is a little over-simplified, but it is easy to understand and proclaim. It served the Church well for about 40 years. There was also an alternate opening prayer in the 1973 edition:
Almighty and eternal God,
Father of the world to come,
your goodness is beyond what our spirit can touch
and your strength is more than the mind can bear.
Lead us to seek beyond our reach
and give us courage to stand before your truth.
This prayer is a paraphrase, but still does a good job of communicating the heart of the Latin oration.
The 1974 Irish edition of the Divine Office, translated in Glenstal Abbey and a rare example of an approved non-ICEL liturgical translation, has a different translation of the same prayer in the Morning Prayer (Lauds) of the same Sunday:
Almighty, ever-living God,
whose love surpasses all that we ask or deserve,
open up for us the treasures of your mercy.
Forgive us all that weights on our conscience,
and grant us more even than we dare to ask.
This is also a fine translation and can still be used today without any difficulty. It is also currently approved for use in the Liturgy in countries where The Divine Office is in use.
The ill-fated 1998 Sacramentary renders the prayer in this manner:
Almighty and eternal God,
whose bounty is greater than we deserve or desire,
pour out upon us your abundant mercy;
forgive the things that weigh upon our consciences
and enrich us with blessings
for which our prayers dare not hope.
This is a fine rendering and, I must admit, that personally it would be my own favorite of the translations I give here. The virtue of the 1998 is that it is easy to proclaim. The importance of the aural quality of the prayers cannot be overemphasized.
The current 2011 translation of the Roman Missal translates the prayer in this way:
Almighty ever-living God,e
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
From a technical point of view, this is a good translation. However it is more a literary translation that can be read carefully and slowly. But it is more of a challenge to pray it out loud at Mass. Additionally, I would guess that it went over the heads of the vast majority of churchgoers last Sunday.
In summary we can note that all of these translations have positive aspects, and show the complexity and some of the issues involved in preparing translations for use in the liturgy.
The cover picture is available as a Creative Commons License from Flickr. from Holy Mass to Celebrate the Centenary Re-Establisment of Diplomatic Relations Between UK-Holy See © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk