New Mass translation open thread

November 27, 2011

I know that quite a few of the people who read this blog are Catholics, so I’d like to throw out a question. Today, English speaking Catholics throughout the world began using a new translation of the Mass. What are your thoughts on it? How did your parish prepare for the change? Did your priest explain the rationale for the new translation well or poorly? What do you think of the new music for the Mass being used in your parish?

I’ll start: our parish has approached things without much fuss. A notice in the bulletin ran for a few weeks, saying, more or less, “The translation we have been using for the past forty years was produced in a hurry, and it was always expected that it would be replaced with something better. Now it is.” Pew cards, courtesy the Canadian Bishops, appeared last week with the Order of Mass printed on them, the congregation’s parts in bold print. All in all, this was a minimalist approach, but I think it was done tactfully and without causing confusion.

Our parish sings the Mass Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, etc.) in a Gregorian setting (that is, in Latin), and that will not be changing. There are no plans, as far as I know, to introduce any new music for the new translation.

My own opinion is that this new translation is a change for the better. For a good discussion of its merits, I recommend Anthony Esolen’s article Restoring the Words.

(Maclin Horton gave me the idea for this post.)

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39 Responses to “New Mass translation open thread”

  1. Grumpy Ex Pat Says:

    As I said on Mac’s blog, I have been taking a smugly superior attitude to the arrival of the translation, since I can usually go to Mass with the ancient rite. Today the church was closed, so I was compelled to witness the arrival of the new translation. For what it is worth, I don’t get this business about ‘preparation’. How much ‘preparation’ do literate adults need to read words off a card? All the way through the Mass the priest was badgering us as if we were mentally challenged, saying, ‘now you will have some different words to say’.

  2. cburrell Says:

    Our parish has the ancient rite as well, although I’ve never attended it — my wife is afraid to take the kids, who pretty much self-destruct each week as it is. We attend a Novus Ordo, in English, with the Mass Ordinary in Latin.

    I agree with you about ‘preparation’. How hard can it be? But the Bishops seem to have been treading cautiously, perhaps as an unspoken admission that the last time something like this happened, it was really disruptive. Some parishes have been practicing new music, which requires a little more preparation.

    Sorry to hear about the coddling/badgering. Our priests drew no attention whatsoever to the changes, not even during the homily. Evidently they trust us to catch on, which is as it should be.

  3. Jim Says:

    I thought ours did it reasonably well, stressing mostly that the changes offered the opportunity to reconsider the truths of liturgy in a fresh way. There was some good natured badgering, but nothing too bad. As a former Anglican, I will echo that these (fairly minor) changes are somehow problematic–switching back and forth from BCP to BAS every week didn’t bother me much then.

    Some of the changes actually reminded me of the BCP.

    That said, the parish we go to is pretty charismatic, so the praise and worship bands performance probably creates more variation week to week than a few new responses from the congregation.

  4. cburrell Says:

    I am not surprised at the echoes, here and there, of the BCP. Certainly the quality of the language has moved closer to what one finds there. But I also expect (though I do not know) that much of the BCP was itself drawn from the existing Latin liturgy at the time, which was of course closely related to the Latin on which this new translation is based.

    Did your ‘band’ play new music this week? Good? Bad? Indifferent?

  5. Jim Says:

    I’d guess, too, at a common Latin link behind both.

    As you probably understand, B does her best to insure that I simply don’t notice the music. Probably not a bad thing;) On a good day, I get to tune into the homily.

  6. cburrell Says:

    Oh yes, I understand. Our little angel was dashing all over the place, jumping on the pews, tackling her brother, and generally making a nuisance of herself throughout. It was one of her finest performances yet.

  7. Vince Says:

    The new translation should have been implemented after Christmas. This would give regulars a chance to perfect their responses, and a handy new tool to tell the regular mass-goers from those that drop by only on Christmas and Easter. I suspect this was the real reason the Vatican decided to make these changes. ;)

  8. Vince Says:

    Even at the very end of the Mass, I still heard a chorus of people say “And also with you.” I first learned about this change two days ago. How hard is it to make the immediate switch to “And with your spirit.” and stick to it?

  9. Mac Says:

    Well, actually, I failed to switch several times, and I was prepared and in favor of the change. Thirty years of habit take a little while to break for me.

    I thought the change was something of an anti-climax at my parish. People stumbled a bit, but it wasn’t disruptive. At the creed, a very audible number of people said “seen and unseen,” but after that we all got pretty much in sync.

    I guess y’all know that joke about the priest fiddling with the microphone:

    “There’s something wrong with this mic”
    “And also with you!”

    It may take a bit to untrain that reflex.

    I do like the new translations much better. It is odd to hear the complaints of progressives, who have been saying for decades that Catholics are now too smart to be subservient to Rome, that they can’t cope with big words and anything but the simplest syntax.

  10. cburrell Says:

    I haven’t heard that joke before, but I sure do like it.

    I didn’t slip up yesterday (“And also with you”), but I am sure my day will come. I heard quite a few people around me carrying on out of habit, along with a few “Whoops!”-es. I’ve sung enough chant for “And with your spirit” not to feel odd (“Et cum spiritu tuo”), but it will take a while before it is habitual.

    Heck, I am still sometimes surprised when we pray for “Benedict, our Pope” rather than “John Paul, our Pope”.

    • Filia Artis Says:

      Several moves later, I’m still stuck on “Ambrozic, our bishop”…! (Though it’s good to remember to pray for him too now that he has passed on to the next life)

  11. cburrell Says:

    Vince, I don’t think anyone needs any additional clues to distinguish the Christmas-and-Easter crowd from the regular Mass goers! 8)

    • Filia Artis Says:

      Yeah, they’re usually the ones that actually get there on time and get the good seats and parking spots while our family, more used to showing up pretty regularly and more ingrained in our bad habits, show up 5min early at best and hang out at the back.

      Last year, we showed up at two different churches for 7pm Christmas Eve mass and were turned away due to full-capacity. Had to go home and use google to find a parish with a 9pm that we could drive over to early and try to get in at!

  12. cburrell Says:

    I didn’t mean for my ‘smiley face’ to be wearing sunglasses. He looks more self-satisfied than I intended.

  13. godescalc Says:

    There’s only one english-language mass in the city I live in; the changes were discussed in the homily a few weeks back, the priest went over the changes and explained the theological importance in an easy to understand manner without criticising the previous translation. (The priests, being locals, had probably had a lot of time to think about the issue – they were switching from “for all” to “for many” every time they changed the language they said mass in.)

    Shamefully I didn’t make it there on sunday to see how it went; so I had to attend a later mass in the local lingo, which I don’t understand, and practice some even more unfamiliar responses. (Y’all think y’all have problems…)

  14. cburrell Says:

    If I remember rightly, godescalc, you are in Germany?

  15. godescalc Says:

    I was; now I’m in Slovakia. (German I can just about speak, and I had most of the mass responses down by the time I left.)

  16. cburrell Says:

    In that case, you’re undoubtedly right: our problems pale in comparison with yours…

    Re: ‘for many’. I’ve heard some (“progressive”) Catholics complaining about this change, as though it were somehow inconsistent with Vatican II. But they seem to forget that English speakers have been, as far as I know, the only language group saying ‘for all’. The change to ‘for many’ just brings us in line with the practice elsewhere in the world. ‘For all’ was just a bad translation, and that’s all there was to it.

  17. godescalc Says:

    Actually German uses “all” too – “für euch und für Alle vergossen” – I never thought of it, actually.

    …and a quick bit of googling indicates I was half-wrong about Slovak: they appear to have had the exact same issue, but made the change from “pre všetkých” (for all) to “pre mnohých” last year. So not just an English thing.

    • Filia Artis Says:

      So, my experience last week…

      Truth be told, I’m pretty sure that the local priest in my parish was probably not using the right translation or something when I was a kid. I remember the mass being a lot more like this new version and having a few extra parts (like a Hail Mary).

      My husband tells me that there hasn’t been a change in the mass since the 1980s/90s, so I’m not sure what happened between when I was a kid and when I moved into the city as a young adult.

      The bigger part was that the parish we’re in now had to deal with the fact that their usual mass postures are not really in line with the prescriptions of the church. Because I’ve been to parishes all over the place in the past 10 years, I’ve come to realize that there really is a parish-by-parish approach with this and it’s probably good for this to be regulated better.

      • cburrell Says:

        I can’t imagine what he might have been using. As far as I know there was never another English translation permitted. Oh wait . . . there was. I remembering reading about it. Ah yes, there was something called the “Wheeler Missal” for a while, which was apparently closer to the Latin than the translation that became dominant post-Vatican II.

        I think the inclusion of a “Hail Mary” during Mass must be an option in the current (and former) liturgical rite. Our parish, which goes by the book on liturgical matters, always prays “Hail Mary” at the end of the intercessions. I know of one other, quite traditional, parish that has been doing the same for years.

        Yes, there has been a fair bit of variation from place to place. In part this was because the post-VII GIRM had pretty vague rubrics. The new one tightens things up, so I hear. Even then, though, some people do not read attentively, or something.

  18. cburrell Says:

    Ah! I didn’t know that. Thanks. It helps with perspective.


  19. Since the BCP came up earlier in this thread, I can confirm the suspicion that it was closely based on the Sarum Missal of the time, although this influence is less pronounced in later Prayer Book revisions of a more Protestant stripe (e.g., the second book of 1552). I doubt that the ICEL translators were consciously trying to echo the BCP, but there are really not very many good ways to translate liturgical Latin, which has a fairly standard diction and syntax – given that we already have a long tradition of English translations of liturgical Latin, going back to the devotional books of the Middle Ages, there’s no good reason to start getting creative.

  20. cburrell Says:

    Echoing the BCP would not have been a bad idea though.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Our parish has been introducing the new sung parts since September, and the spoken parts made their debut last Sunday. My reaction was to think “What’s all the fuss?”. I found the changes to be minimal, in fact, almost unnoticeable, given the amount of griping I have heard about them from the more liberal-minded Catholics in my social circle, who seem to think we were reverting to some sort of medieval-torture-chamber language.

  22. cburrell Says:

    I agree that the changes, to the congregation’s parts, are minimal. The changes to the priest’s parts, however, are more substantial. The propers, especially, have been much altered — for the better, in my opinion. No more prayers written for first graders.

    What do you think of the new music at your parish? I’ve heard mixed reviews…

  23. Grumpy Ex Pat Says:

    I’ve now been to the new new mass several times on weekdays. I can confirm that my neighbours and I all had difficulties remembering to say ‘and with your spirit’. We got it about half the time, then forgot again. Very glad to get back to the ancient rite this am.

  24. cburrell Says:

    Thanks, Grumpy. Pretty funny.

    (Note to Canadians: you can see the clip here (starting at about 4:00).

    By the way, Grumpy, I finally got around to reading your piece in FT from a few months back. Very interesting.

  25. godescalc Says:

    Finally made it to the new English mass yesterday… fluffed the “with your spirit” response three times and got it right on the fourth. I think a lot of other people were fluffing it too, but there was some lady with a microphone somewhere saying the responses properly so everyone could hear. The music remains unchanged, a motley mix of English hymns from Catholic tradition, Evangelical worship music and (not this week, however) Marty Haugen; also the agnus dei in latin (sometimes spanish).

  26. cburrell Says:

    Yes, I noticed yesterday at Mass that it sounded a little like this:

    Priest: The Lord be with you.

    Us: And Furmsh Murmel Muffle

    Ah well. All in time.

  27. Grumpy Ex Pat Says:

    Fluffed it fully five times at mass today.

  28. cburrell Says:

    Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I made not a single error at Mass yesterday — apart from kicking the Sanctus bell at an inopportune moment.

  29. kathyB Says:

    Goes to show you how much attention I pay at mass, I haven’t even noticed the changes to the priests’ parts – although I have noticed that the priests are also struggling with fitting the new words to the chant tones.

    I find the music melodies very similar to the old mass parts, further leading to the confusion. Not only do I lapse into the old words, but I also find myself lapsing into the old tunes, especially for the sanctus.

  30. cburrell Says:

    And I thought I had trouble paying attention! 8-)

    I heard that some parishes were using music that was adapted from what was used before. I can see the temptation to do that, but on the other hand, as you say, it can be even more confusing.

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