What would you say is the motivation for retranslating the existing texts?

The current texts have served us well for a number of years, but they have been seen as deficient in areas of translation, vocabulary, style, and poetic language. In 2001 the Church issued a new document, LITURGIAM AUTHENTICAM, which presented new norms for the translation of Latin texts in the vernacular. Prior to this, the operative norms were found in a 1969 document entitled COMME LE PREVOIT.  This document recommended a principle which came to be known as “dynamic equivalence,” which retained the sense of the prayer in Latin instead of adhering to an exact translation of the Latin original.

Comparing the translation, for example, of the opening prayer in the revised Roman Missal, published in 2002, for the First Sunday of Advent with the current translation, it is difficult to see how they are translations of the same Latin text. They are very different, one from the other! In addition, if you were to compare the current English translation of the prayers with those found in French and Italian Mass books, there would often times be little resemblance between them and their English counterpart.  It was felt that the English prayers needed to conform more closely to the Latin original.

The new translations in the revised Roman Missal are based on a more literal translation of the Latin original. But there is much more to the new missal than simply revised translations. There are new saints’ days, more votive Masses, additional prayers for various needs and occasions, a few new rubrics, and the reordering of some texts.

One example of a new feast is that of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, better known as “Padre Pio.” His feast is not included in the current missal. It was only added into the Roman calendar in 2002. There are a number of other new feasts as well which are included in the new missal. Currently there is a separate collection of some 46 Marian Masses; 8 of these have now been included in the new Roman Missal. Much discussion has focused on the new translation, but, as you can see, there is much more than that to the new missal.

How do you think the new missal will affect the worship of the faithful at Mass?

The changes will affect the priests more than the people: 95 percent of the changes are for the priest.

Several of the current translations we are using – the Gloria, the Creed, the Sanctus, and Agnus Dei – are shared by a number of other Christian communities. When these texts were being translated into English in the 1960’s, these texts came to be agreed upon by a number of ecclesial communities. These “ecumenical texts,” however, will no longer be used by Catholics at Mass, since their retranslation now follows the Latin original much more closely.

The new Gloria, for example, says, “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory,” where the current translation says more simply, “We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.” As one commentator has said, “The current translation was probably abbreviated because it seemed a bit excessive.  But now all the descriptions for God have been restored, and the result is indeed excessive—but that is the point.  When faced with the majesty of God, we babble and stammer in our attempt to respond to such an overwhelming experience.” The new translation of the Gloria is a fuller expression of our Christian duty to give glory to God, and shows our appreciation for his awesomeness and our reverence.

What do you think the reception will be like from the laity? Do you think people in the basilica will like the changes?

I think people will adjust quite easily to the new texts, but they may have some questions. Catechesis on the new missal will be very important.

One of the changes in the new missal which the people recite occurs just before communion: “O Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” That may take people a while to get used to, because it is a bit different from what we currently say. This newer translation is more rooted in Scripture. You can put yourself in the place of the soldier who thought that he was not worthy for Jesus to come into his home, but had faith that his servant would be healed. To be perfectly honest, this is what we prayed in our missals when I was growing up prior to the Second Vatican Council, in the “Latin days,” so to speak. Many Catholics today didn’t grow up with this more traditional language.

People might have certain questions about the meaning of some words, like “consubstantial” in the Creed. Then there’s the change of what the priest will say during the consecration of the Precious Blood, from “it will be shed for you and for all,” to “it will be shed for you and for many.” The Latin says pro multis, not pro omnibus.  It’s not that Christ didn’t die for everyone – that is firmly rooted in Scripture, and what the Church teaches. Everyone, however, will not accept the salvation he offers.

Some people might say that Jesus, in this new translation, seems to be having second thoughts about dying for everyone After all, Scripture says he came for everyone, doesn’t it? But “for many” are the words Jesus used at the Last Supper as recorded by the evangelists. The same expression is used in other places in Scripture – Isaiah prophesied with the same phrase, for example. The new translation affirms that salvation is not completely automatic.

How are you planning on helping with the catechesis?

The diocese has put out a very good series of handouts explaining many of the changes in the new Roman Missal. We will make them available in the Basilica each Sunday, beginning October 9, through Christmas Day.  Also, homilies will be devoted to providing catechesis on the new changes as well.

What about music? I know a big thing about the new translations is that we won’t be able to sing the same settings of the ordinary.

Some of the new Mass settings will be adaptations of the familiar Mass settings we’ve been using for some time. Aside from the Gloria and the memorial acclamations, the changes in the adapted sung texts are minimal or non-existent. We also will be introducing completely new Mass settings, of course. With the permission of our bishop, we have been using these new sung texts since the beginning of September.  People have adapted to them very well.  By the end of November, when the new Roman Missal goes into effect, everyone will be used to singing the new texts. Bishops are wise to encourage that the new sung texts be used immediately.

Rachel Talley is a junior engineering major.  Contact her at rtalley1@nd.edu.