Saturday, September 17, 2011

The New Translation Is Coming

I've heard and read a lot of discussions about the translation of the new Roman missal.

The primary criticism is that the effort to be "faithful to the Latin text" has led to complex sentence structures and a stilted form of English.

Gabe Huck, the former director of Liturgical Training Publications (LTP), the publishing house owned by the Archdiocese of Chicago (Cardinal Francis George fired Huck ten years ago) recently wrote an article complaining about the translation.

Huck offered an example, a prayer we will use in Advent: Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.

I have to agree that this translation sounds like the work of a computer translator. Not being fluent in Spanish, I often resort to the computer to translate letters from my foster child in Nicaragua. I can usually get the gist of what she is saying but the English translation is awkward and unconventional.

Priests and laity alike are divided in their opinions about the implementation of the new missal and its translation this coming Advent.

Some are eager, saying they look forward to a translation that at last reflects the Latin, the language of the Roman Church. Others think the new prayers will be far more difficult to phrase, enunciate, and understand. Some priests are certain they will stumble over the wording and the congregation will be unable to hear the words as prayer --even if both presider and laity have rehearsed the texts before hand.

Many dioceses have presented a variety of educational programs to prepare clergy and laity alike. Many presenters spin the new missal as an opportunity to review what we do at Mass and renew our active participation.

When D-Day arrives on November 27 it will interesting to see how the new missal is implemented and received.

It is likely that the congregational responses will become second-nature within a few weeks. Changing from "And also with you" to "And also with your spirit" won't be a major challenge for the people in the pew.

But the presider at the chair and the altar will have a far greater challenge. He will have to review each day's Mass propers, assess how to phrase and enunciate the prayers, and try to execute the recitation in a prayerful manner despite the complicated and often poor English sentence constructions.

Huck remembered Monsignor Ronald Knox's observation in Englishing the Bible: "You can have a literal translation or you can have a literary translation; you cannot have both."

The trial for Catholics will be which kind of translation best supports and promotes a praying community.


  1. That Gabe Huck is responsible in part for much of the mischief caused by ICEL. And Msgr Knox's remark should not be taken as carte blanche for translators to play Evening at the Improv, or to omit crucial phrases altogether.

  2. I found the discussion at St Gertrude on the changes very helpful as they went into detail on each of the changes and how they in fact corrected errors in the current version. The lead on this training came from one of the two Dominicans who teach at the Diocese Seminary out in Mt Washington. Hopefully, the priests will provide some education to go with the changes as a great opportunity to bring their flock into a closer understanding of the mass. Lets face it, after years of dissent and abuse by many with such things as clown masses and removal of the tabernacle, it is kind of funny to hear some on the left complain about changes to our liturgy. One would hope that as we get these changes in place, we will have the same mass as we go from parish to parish. In my travels over the years, I have seen some massive abuse. I remember one mass we went to while on vacation in Chicago where they had women who had baked some bread bring it out in loves and use it for the Eucharist breaking chunks off for each. I stayed after to talk about this with the priest, and was shocked to see the same women come out with a vacuum sweeper to clean up the mess after mass. This goes back to when Cardinal Bernardin was in Chicago.