New Translation of the Roman Missal Quick Takes – Offending Everybody
1. For an English-speaking Catholic, I am not particularly emotionally engaged with the hullabaloo surrounding the new English translation of the Roman Missal. An acquaintance and occasional interlocutor (who was thoroughly mis-educated at CUA in the 80’s) asked me in total consternation a few months ago, “didn’t I feel that the Vatican was imposing this on the American Church?! Trying to control us?” Um. No.
2. The new translation is, in my opinion, overall a better and more faithful translation of the Latin. I cannot speak to the theological controversies surrounding some of the changes, but merely on the level of accuracy, the new translation greatly surpasses the old. The new translation also beats the old for poetry of language, but I think by less wide a margin*.
3. The reason for my disengagement is that for most of my life (and exclusively for all my formative years – from birth until my mid-twenties), I’ve attended parishes where the current Mass, the “Novus” Ordo Missae, is prayed in Latin. Yes, that’s unusual. But not as unusual as some denizens of the internets would have you believe. I’ve found such a Mass in various parts of California, in London UK, in Rome, in Germany, and in Washington DC, all without much effort.
4. As such, English is just not my primary language when it comes to the Mass. I almost always have the Latin running in my head when I attend Mass in English (which I do the majority of the time these days) and I am not in anyway attached to any particular English translation of the prayers. So, the change is simply less of a change for me. I do wonder (idly, because I haven’t bothered to research) whether this new translation will be more like the translation used in the UK, which I have also experienced.
5. My attachment to Latin does not mean that I would identify myself as a “traditionalist.” I most emphatically do not. And, honestly, I find the EF/Tridentine Mass wholly unconducive to prayer and prayerfullness.
6. I am a big wuss, though, and fully intend to ride out Advent by only attending the Latin Pauline Mass. I just don’t want to deal with other people dealing with the change. Yup, wuss.
7. But maybe I should be a little braver. I actually got to hear/sing the new translation of the Gloria last Sunday and the changes were not drastic and conflicted less with the Latin in my head. I also heard the new Sanctus. That was less pleasant, but not because of the translation. Some benighted person thought it would be dandy to fit the new English text of the Sanctus to this Latin setting. Not right. Just not right**.
Warning: Here be geekery
*Poetry of language to me means poetry in and in the mode of the language of that translation. From what I have read of it, the new translation may be poetic, but it is not poetic in an especially English-y way; it seems to err on the side of translation-ese.
**I sure wish that Pope Paul VI (or his curial underlings) had not picked settings from the Mass for the Dead as a part of the “minimum chant repertoire” and the now-standard Latin chant settings. (We never sang the “Missa Jubilate Deo” growing up, so I only became familiar with them rather recently. We chanted a whole rotation of settings, many of which I forget the names of now (and I lost my Liber Usualis in a move, sob, sob), but which included Missa Orbis Factor and Missa de Angelis. Thus it is, to my ear, a horrible clash when the priest-celebrant finishes chanting the Preface (not chanted in a somber, but a joyful Tone) and then *crash:* we are mourning the dead in the Sanctus.