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Jun 2

Written by: Todd Williamson
6/2/2010 1:30 PM  RssIcon

As we continue to prepare for the reception and implementation of the English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal, I’ve had opportunities to speak to priests and lay leadership alike in the parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago. For the most part, these are initial conversations about Archdiocesan plans for preparation. I’m always careful to ask the person to whom I’m speaking, “What would help you in preparing the people of your parish?” One of the most common responses that I receive to this question is, “Help me to explain to them where this is coming from.” Sometimes the person will ask for the same assistance for his or herself—“Help me to understand where this is coming from.”

It seems to me that what these ministers are asking for is basically, “Give me a perspective in which to see this translation.” Within that question are often other, related questions: “Why do we need a new translation? Why is it coming now? How does it fit in the broader process of liturgical renewal?” Etc.

I understand these questions—I’ve had them myself as we’ve progressed through the process of translating the third edition of the Roman Missal. I understand them because I, too, have struggled to make sense of varied terms I often hear such as, “A new Mass,” “A revised Mass,” “A new Missal” “A revised translation”—and many others.

For me, what has been helpful in gaining a perspective is to begin with one simple fact: In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II promulgated a third edition of the Roman Missal, which we use for the celebration of the Eucharist. That’s where we need to begin. Pope John Paul did this for a couple of reasons: To celebrate the new Millennium; to update the current Missal and include prayers that are used for the celebration of saints who had been canonized since the current Roman Missal—the Second Edition—was promulgated in 1975 (the last time such an update was made was in 1985 when the current Second Edition was revised); to include other prayers and Masses that have been written, for example, the Mass in Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life (approved by the United States Bishops in 2009).

So the reality is, we have a new edition—a third one—of the Roman Missal! We really can’t call it a “new Missal,” since much of it is the prayers and texts that are part of the current Missal (the second edition). Because of this, it is probably more accurate to call it a revised Missal since it is, basically, the current Missal with added texts and prayers.

As is the case for all formal documents and texts of the Church, this third edition was promulgated in Latin! This Latin text then needed to be translated into all the languages of the world. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), the commission that oversees the translation of Latin liturgical texts into English, has been working for eight years on translating this Latin text into English. This raises another question that I often hear: “If this third edition is largely the same texts that we currently use, then why does the coming translation sound so different than what we hear now?”
As many know, the reason for this isn’t due to this third edition; the reason the coming translation will sound different is because of the difference in guidelines for translation the editions.

Both the first edition and the current edition—the second edition—of the Missal were translated into English using a principle called “Dynamic Equivalence.” Dynamic Equivalence gives a wide range of possibilities in translating; it’s the principle that says, when translating from one language into another, the meaning of the original text should be emphasized rather than the word-for-word translation.

In 2001, after Pope John Paul II promulgated the third edition of the Roman Missal, new principles and guidelines for translating Latin texts were issued by Rome. These principles and guidelines were given in the document Liturgiam authenticam. In this document, the principle of “Formal Equivalence” was given as the governing methodology for translating Latin texts. Under this principle, when translating from one language to another, the word-for-word translation is emphasized.

This is why the coming English translation of the Latin texts for the Mass will sound different than what we currently hear. It’s not that the Latin texts changed—it’s that the guidelines for translation are different!

I think that understanding all of this is important in gaining a solid perspective from which to see the third edition of the Roman Missal and the English translation that was recently approved by Rome. I think that having this in perspective and understanding the context of the third edition can help us in receiving and ultimately implementing it in our parishes.

I’d be interested in hearing if this helps you at all!


1 comment(s) so far...

Re: Getting A Perspective

Thank you for sharing some background information on the process leading up to the revision of the "Revised Roman Missal."

I think the average person in the pew wants to know how the "Revised Roman Missal" affects their spiritual growth and development. Our people really want to develop their spiritual lives, deepen their relationship with God, and become authentic witnesses of what we celebrate at the table of the word and the table of the Eucharist.

I believe that our people will be more open to receiving and accepting the changes if we can show them how these changes help to strengthen their faith and the spiritual life. We have to do a better job in the area of "spiritual catechesis" which leads to a deeper understanding of the liturgy as the work of God and the work of the people.

Your remarks did offer me the opportunity to reflect on how essential it is for the English-speaking church to be speak to the people in a clear, simple way about the upcoming changes. Wwe have to show them that this is all about helping them to stregthen their relationship with God and neighbor.

Thanks again for your sharing your thoughts.


Warren J. Savage

By Warren Savage on   8/13/2010 7:37 PM

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