Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Translation Tuesday: Let's Begin

Happy Tuesday to you all. And welcome to the first (of many) installments of "New Translation Tuesday." I'll be spending time each Tuesday and Thursday offering commentary on the upcoming new English translation of the Missale Romanum.

I am doing this for a number of reasons. The first has to do with the fact that many people are wondering how publishers are handling this issue. Secondly, I am concerned about the people in the pews, so many of you who visit this blog on a regular basis. Thirdly, as always, you'll hear my own personal opinions as all of this unfolds. Those opinions will be based on my own understanding of the Church's liturgy, the reactions I hear as I travel around North America, my experience as a person in the pews myself, my experience here at WLP as an editor and publisher, and my experience as a liturgist and musician.

My plan is to create a plan for the coming months, plotting out topics that I hope you find helpful. To that end, I'd like to ask for your feedback. What would be most helpful for you to read on these pages on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Any feedback you provide would be most welcome.

I'd like to start by telling you that we at WLP have been preparing for this change in translation for approximately nine years. Shortly after I began working here in 1999 as the worship resources editor, I began to compile what I named "Roman Missal Source Files." Basically, I put together a number of electronic files of the following materials from the current Sacramentary:
Entrance Songs
Opening Prayers
Prayers Over the Gifts
Communion Songs
Prayers After Communion
My hope was that, once the new translation was approved, we could move through the current files and make simple adjustments where the translation had changed. After completing this work, I happened to mention my plan to someone closely connected with ICEL (The International Commission on English in the Liturgy). This is the group whose responsibility it has been to actually do the new translation. That person told me, "Jerry, just throw all those files away. The new translation will be markedly different; not just a few adjustments here and there." This was my first "wow" moment in the entire process. I realized then that what we are talking about here is more than a few changes here and there. And, after having seen the new translation of the Order of Mass, that "wow" has been confirmed. Just take a look here, if you haven't done so already. The USCCB's excellent web site on the Roman Missal is a great place to explore. You can find that here.

So, what I thought was going to be a very simple process has developed into a much more complicated one, from a publisher's standpoint. As you know, the US bishops will be voting next week on the completed translation, and, hopefully, sending it to Rome. Then the waiting game begins. We wait for Rome's recognitio, or really Rome's approval of the new translation. How long will this take? I've heard everywhere from one month to several years. There are texts in Rome awaiting recognitio that have languished there for many years. But, we are also told that the pope is keenly interested in having this new translation approved as quickly as possible. So, we wait and see.

I hope you can appreciate the impact that all of this has on a publisher of resources for praying and singing the liturgy. On the Tuesdays and Thursdays in the weeks and months to come, I'll share more with you. For now, let's remember that what is being re-translated from the Latin is what draws us all together in Christ.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. And don't forget: you gotta provide some feedback and ideas focused on what you would like to see on these Tuesday and Thursday pages!


Chironomo said...


Thank you for this resource. While we disagree on a great many issues, I think it's fair to say that we're in sync on this particular one.

The new translation is indeed more than just different wording. It is a renewed expression of the unique Catholic ecclesiology and will require of us a different attitude of worship.

The most striking feature I find in the new translation is a return to the emphasis on individual sinfulness and unworthiness...obscured in the current (old) translation by an emphasis on "collective" sinfulness, or watered down even more to merely the sinful nature of man in general.

Similarly, the faithful can no longer psychologically "opt out" with the ubiquitous "we believe....". In the new translation, it becomes a personal proclamation of faith..."I believe"! There is a considerable difference in just this one changed word. In the current (old) translation for instance , we are merely saying "We" (Catholics in general) believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Even if an individual may not totally accept this idea of the primacy of the Catholic church, they can "opt out" by reasoning..."Well..Catholics DO believe this even if I don't totally, so I'm not really lying by saying this". When you have to say "I BELIEVE", there is an intimacy of proclaiming the faith in such a way that it is an expression of YOUR PERSONAL faith now, not of the faith of the group in general.

I wonder how many people will feel a little uncomfortable at first having to suddenly proclaim these as personal beliefs...and how many will begin to question whether they really believe all of what they're saying?

Todd said...

Jerry, I'll be contacting other publishers, but some helpful information to have now would be this: Which of your published Mass settings will be retired, and which will be updated?

Publishers aren't the only ones who need to plan ahead, and if I'm going to devote energy to making repertoire adjustments, we parish musicians probably need to know now.

I have less a problem with particulars of this translation than with the overall poor quality of it. Forty years out of Roman Missal I and still we can get a decent piece of work.

FJH 3rd said...

Todd, I'm curious as to what you think is poor quality about the new translation? (Have you been listening to Bishop Trautman?) Every example I have seen makes my thank the Lord we are finally getting better prayers!

Greg said...

Better Prayers? We'll need dictionaries in the pews so people can look up some of the words in this new translation. The current prayers are fine if they are proclaimed well. The people of God deserve prayers they can understand.

Todd said...

FJH, I saw the early leaked draft of the Roman Missal years ago before they were yanked off the net. And I have a read copy of the Ordo Missae in my office.

I know enough Latin to assess the translation quality as mixed, at best. The quality of the English is poor--run-on sentences, and here and there a significant gaffe.

Bishop Trautman's assessment, at least publicly, centers on vocabulary, but I don't find that as much of a problem as the lack of artistry. Much of the Ordo Missae will be sung, and I don't think there was an adequate consultation with musicians to get this text right--unlike the work done on Roman Missal II in the 80's and early 90's.

RP Burke said...

Todd is exactly right here. To use a musical analogy, the old texts were more or less like Raffi. But instead of Vaughan Williams, we got Haugen instead.

Gregg said...

We will never be able to move forward as a Church and accomplish the work of Jesus as long as we are making nasty comments about others and their music. Very, very sad.