Friday, July 30, 2010

The New Translation of the Roman Missal

The Roman Missal is not an intercontinental ballistic missile from Rome (although some treat it as if it were!), it is the red book that a priest gets the prayers for Mass out of – and it is about to be changing. In 2002 Rome released a new Missal, but, as always, it was only released in Latin. The English translation has been worked on, argued over, and just recently approved by the Vatican for publication, and it looks like it will be implemented around Advent of next year.

As with anything in the Church, some people are mad about it. There was a decision to make the English closer to the Latin (a literal translation), as opposed to the translation principle of trying to interpret the Latin and find better English words than the literally translated words.

An example might help.

In Latin, at the beginning of Mass, the priest is to say
“Dominus Vobiscum” and the people respond “et cum spiritu tuo”

Dominus Vobiscum was translated literally as “The Lord be with you.”
“et cum spiritu tuo” was translated as “and also with you”, but the literal translation is “and with your spirit.” The committee working on the translation shucked the “and also with you” and will soon be going with “and with your spirit” – a more literal translation.

People are upset with what they believe to be a turning back of the clock to the pre-Vatican II days.

Frankly, this baffles me. I can’t imagine a) who really sees this as a threat, and b) who has time to care. I just can’t see why someone would be threatened by some new translations at Mass, and who would see that as a turning back of the clock. I’ve never heard anyone say – “we need to get back to the good old days when we said “and with your spirit!” (not to mention that “and with your spirit” has NEVER been said before, so how can it be a turning back of the clock?)

Also, it strikes me as such a weird thing to get upset about – it is a couple of words – and if the Church and the Bishops decide to go in a certain direction with the translations – great – let’s get behind it. My question to people a lot is this “does Christ speak to us through His Church, or does He not?” If He does, and I think He does, worrying and getting angry about whether or not it is “and with your spirit” or “and also with you” seems petty to me. Please note – I’m not saying that the words at Mass are insignificant, I’m saying worrying about why they aren’t what you want them to be is usually a sign of a deeper mistrust of the Church and Her Magisterium.


  1. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!! this makes soooo much more sense!!!!

  2. I know my own Father is always reminiscing about the Latin Mass, being a young student in a seminary, singing the chants, and all the reverence of the Mass in pre-Vatican II and even after. I certainly don't mind any changes to the liturgical phrases used. Maybe it will encourage the celebrants to actually comprehend what they are saying instead of a reflex response that we all know subconsciously. On the other hand, while they change certain liturgical responses to be more traditional in terms of translation, why not also revisit other liturgical procedures? Something that comes to mind is often the lack of theological artistic intricacy and majestic beauty in modern churches compared to older Cathedrals and churches.... just a thought to ponder perhaps.

  3. Tim,
    I agree wholeheartedly and I think the issue is one that real thelogians (as opposed to entrenched liberals or entrenched conservatives who feel the new Mass is actually less valid) are talking about and discussing. One really can not dispute the substantial loss of beauty in our Churches. Once one admits that, the discussion as to what to do to fix it becomes more complicated, but it is a conversation that must be had. I think it starts with people being made aware of the importance and the need of beauty, along with priests willing to show them how things could be; only when both of those things are happening does change start to happen. In the meantime, let's keep praying for our Churches and for ourselves.