Once upon a time… A pastor had heard a number of complaints from parishioners about the changes in the English edition of the Roman Missal that are about to take effect. They grumbled, “More change?!”
He was not looking forward to the task of catechizing them as to why the word changes were so important, but he decided to start with the most basic of changes — the greeting at the beginning of Mass.
Before the Sunday parish liturgy, he diligently instructed the congregation how the new wording “And with your spirit” was true to the original Latin text “Et cum spiritu tuo,” which has a more significant meaning than the former response, “And also with you.” But he emphasized that the revised wording would not go into effect until the first Sunday of Advent, and until then, the response, “And also with you” must still be used.
After the entrance hymn beginning Mass, he started to speak, but heard the microphone crackling and making noise. “Something’s wrong with this mic,” his voiced boomed. “And also with you,” chanted the congregation in unison.
Unity of prayer, everywhere
The resistance to change is part of our human nature, and the desire to cling to what is familiar is not necessarily negative. But the approved word changes reflect the Church’s desire for the sacred liturgy to be uniform, so that no matter where one is in the world, the prayers being prayed each day reflect complete unity throughout the world.
Prior to the Second Vatican Council, when Mass was celebrated universally in Latin, travelers to foreign countries would attend Mass and recognize every part because it was exactly the same. Many Catholics may not have understood all the Latin words, but that universality brought with it familiarity, even after Mass was celebrated in native languages.
An example comes in the form of a U.S. Marine taking part in joint military operations in South Korea in 1988. He had the opportunity to attend Mass in a local parish in Pohang. When in line to receive holy Communion, he was listening to the priest say “The Body of Christ” in Korean to those ahead of him, but when the Marine in uniform came before the priest, he said, “Corpus Christi,” knowing the American would understand more fully.
A more exacting translation
While Mass in the vernacular was introduced because of a desire for stronger understanding of and participation in the liturgy, the translation for countries whose primary language is English was done quickly, and many significant meanings were lost.
The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) quickly prepared an English translation for the 1970 Roman Missal, which was approved by the individual English-speaking bishops’ conferences. After being reviewed by the Holy See, it was put into effect in each of their countries beginning with the United States in 1973.
On March 28, 2001, the Holy See issued the Instruction “Liturgiam Authenticam,” which included the requirement that in translations of the liturgical texts from the official Latin originals, “the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet.”
In 2002, the third typical edition of the revised Roman Missal in Latin was released. Together with the 2001 instruction, it was clear that a new official English translation of the Roman Missal was needed as the previous one was more of an adaptation than a strict translation.
Accordingly, the ICEL prepared a new English translation, the completed form of which received the approval of the Holy See in April 2010. In most English-speaking nations, the national episcopal conferences decided to put the revised translation into use on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27.
Teaching the changes in parishes
Throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful are preparing for the new translation to take effect, and most pastors are teaching their congregations about the difference that a few simple words can make in the true meaning of our universal prayers.
This is being done at parish instruction meetings as well as before weekend Masses, so that on the first Sunday of Advent, the dioceses of English-speaking countries will join with the Universal Church in an accurate translation of the liturgical texts.
“By faithfully receiving and using the revised English translation of the new Roman Missal, ordained ministers and faithful humbly submit themselves to the selfless challenge of entering into the prayer of the Church and thus, opening themselves to this sacred conversation with God,” said Father G. Dennis Gill, director of the archdiocesan Office for Worship.
“In faithfully using the prayers given to us, that conversation progresses unconfused and undiminished. By allowing the Church to speak with her own words, we, her ordained ministers and laity, allow the prayers of previous generations to wash over us and incorporate us into the one hymn of praise offered to the Father, through the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”