Bp. Serratelli on the new English translation of the Missale Romanum

From the online edition of Adoremus Bulletin comes an essay on the upcoming revised English translation of the Missale Romanum by the great Bishop of Patterson, H.E. Most Rev. Arthur Serratelli, chairman of the US Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship.

His essay deserves attention, but it is too long to deal with in one huge entry here.  We can take it apart and look at some excerpts.  Be sure to go to Adoremus and read the whole thing there.  It is worth the time.

I have written with admiration about Bp. Serratelli before on different occasions.  For example, here.  And you will certainly remember his series of articles on the sense of the sacred.

Let’s skip to the very end first with my emphases and
comments:

Keep in mind…

As we await the final modifications and amendments that will come, at this point, we should recall a number of facts:

    1. The new texts will be used in many different English-speaking countries. Therefore, the language will not bear the cultural stamp or preference of one particular country. This calls for certain openness on the part of all of us to use words that may be understood, but are not commonly used in our own particular country.  [A good point: What we don’t want is a separation of anglophone world by means of differing texts.  If there may be a few tiny adaptations, let the English version be one.]

    2. Since we use the language of the liturgy to address God, it should be intelligible. This does not, however, mean every word has to be part of the active vocabulary of everyone.  [In the essay Bp. Serratelli makes the distinction between active vocabuarly (which we use in speaking and writing in the normal course of events) and passive vocabulary (which you know and understand but will be less likely to be using.  He gives examples of the passive "ignominy, penitence and oblation".  May I add "ineffable" and "gibbet"?  Some would consider "dew" to be too hard… but I bet most people understand what it is and can make the connection.]

    3. In the liturgy, we should use a noble language that lifts us up as well as honors God. From the earliest Latin texts from the 4th century, the style of the language used in prayer differed from street language. In the new translations, the noble, heightened style of liturgical prayer is certainly a gain for all. [Exactly.  The distinction about active and passive vocabulary helps us over this obstacle… if it is an obstacle.  Liturgy is not about the mundane or everyday.  If the language of liturgy is simplistic and everyday language, ephemeral, it will fail.]

    4. When we receive the new Roman Missal for the English-speaking world, we will have a work that has aimed at an exact, though not slavishly literal translation.  [On WDTPRS and in the columns, I work from "slavishly" literal translations for reason: to give people a good crow bar to pry open the texts.  We don’t pretend here to make smooth liturgically useful translations.  ALTHOUGH… ALTHOUGH… I am inclined to bend and agree with those who suggest that, since everyone knows that the English is a translation, perhaps it is okay to let the translation sound like a translation.   I think we need more Latin at the same time as we need a good new translation.]

    5. The new Missal will provide prayers that are “marked by sound doctrine, exact in wording and free from all ideological influence” so that “the sacred mysteries of salvation and the indefectible faith of the Church are efficaciously transmitted by means of human language….” (Liturgiam authenticam 3)  [Surely "ideology" is meant here to be a bad thing, that is, some position or action item of people who don’t agree with the Church’s traditions or teachings.]

    6. The new Missal will come as the result of years of growth and understanding. It will improve our liturgical prayer, but it will not be perfect. Perfection will come when the liturgy on earth gives way to that of heaven where all the saints praise God with one voice.  [And we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Remember that when the translation goes into effect.  I made the same point in my "Rules" for Summorum Pontificum.  But again… we could also use more Latin in the Latin Church.]

    7. When put in use, the common English text for all English-speaking countries will reaffirm in a tangible manner the breadth of our Catholic identity.  [More and more we are seeing bishops speak and write about a clear Catholic identity which can be communicated and recognized.]

In conclusion, it is important to remember that this is a moment of organic growth within the liturgical renewal of the Church[An important element in the Benedictine Reform now taking place.] As Pope John Paul II said on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:

    The time has come to renew that spirit which inspired the Church at the moment when the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium was … promulgated…. The seed was sown; it has known the rigors of winter, but the seed has sprouted…. (Vicesimus Quintus Annus 23)

Our acceptance of the new Missal is truly “a moment to sink our roots deeper into the soil of tradition handed on in the Roman Rite” (VQA 23).

 

I will look at more of this essay along the way.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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36 Responses to Bp. Serratelli on the new English translation of the Missale Romanum

  1. Andrew, medievalist says:

    I express my ineffable joy at such sound thinking!

  2. Dave N. says:

    As long as dominus tecum = the Lord BE with you, I’ll always wonder about the “scholarly” part of this process that the Bp. refers to.

  3. Mary Kay says:

    looking forward to this new translation! (and commentary of course)

  4. Peter says:

    “common English text for all English-speaking countries”

    Let’s hope it truly is English and not Yankish. Honour not honor, saviour not savior etc. I’m tied of picking up missals only to find it full of spelling mistakes.

    In addition to a Nihil Ostat and Imprimatur perhaps we should have a declaration from the Queen’s English Society too.

  5. JD, Esq. says:

    Fr. Z,

    You should start banging the drum about using the introduction of the new translation to simultaneously re-introduce some Latin into the liturgy. After all, if folks have to get used to a new translation, it would be the appropriate time to also inject some Latin so that each of these transitions is not too “jarring” for the faithful. Better to make this one project than give the impression that the liturgy can be constantly tinkered with.

  6. stigmatized says:

    how will it be possible for a church which is only allowed to express itself through the words of the english evangelical protestant john newton to use these words? it will not be possible. and that is why you have not seen any preparation whatsoever for the use of this new translation.

  7. AlwaysCatholic says:

    [In conclusion, it is important to remember that this is a moment of organic growth within the liturgical renewal of the Church. [An important element in the Benedictine Reform now taking place.]

    Funny thing, who wants to take odds that Father has coined a new term? Benedictine Reform… Hmmm. We shall see this turning up probably all over the blogoshere. I like it and Father, when I use it I will cite you as the source!!

  8. Mark VA says:

    “The new Missal will provide prayers that are “marked by sound doctrine, exact in wording and free from all ideological influence””

    If these three objectives are met by the new translation, then the reform of the reform will truly have begun. This promises to be a long awaited for step in the right direction.

  9. Richard says:

    “since everyone knows that the English is a translation”

    Trouble is, Father, I don’t think everyone does know that. Hence the comments one hears about this being a new text of the Mass, not a new translation.

  10. I am in Bp. Serratelli’s diocese and he has taken great steps to insist on the Divine Presence in the Eucharist. He has moved Tabernacles from side altars back to the center of the sanctuary, and his Corpus Christi piece in the diocesan bulletin was superb. The next step? Explain to the parishioners why this ever occurred. The Church lost the Faith! Tell people that. The Church never had to abandon the Tridentine Mass and the whole purpose of the reform of the reform of the reform is just face-saving on the part of the hierarchy. The theology in the Tridentine Mass was spot on for 1,500 years!!!

  11. Tom in NY says:

    In “…Distinctive Theological” you’ll see a discussion of inversion. Based on the examples, it appears that the translation will not always follow the word order we might use if composing the prayers “de novo” in English. Bible allusions should be familiar, but allusions to the Fathers may afford an opportunity for more catechesis.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  12. ssoldie says:

    As for me I will stay with “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven” the ‘Gregorian Rite’, ‘Traditional Latin Mass’ ‘Old Roman Rite’. Guess I will put 1500 yrs against forty, and literally in essence Bugnini’s Mass. Will changing some words, make it a non banal ,fabricated on the spot, liturgy, in comparison to the organic growth of the ‘Gregorian’ T.L.M., O.R.R. just askin.

  13. Lepanto says:

    Peter says (presumably in jest):

    \”Let’s hope it truly is English and not Yankish. Honour not honor, saviour not savior etc. I’m tied of picking up missals only to find it full of spelling mistakes.

    In addition to a Nihil Ostat and Imprimatur perhaps we should have a declaration from the Queen’s English Society too.\”

    I respond half in jest, that the English are barbarian, heretic, schismatics whose language we unfortunately speak. While there have been great poets and authors in English language, Americans should take no pride in the language. It is not our language. The language of the USA could could have just as easily been French, Spanish, German or Iroquois. With that in mind we should proudly put our own spellings of things like honor, color etc. in our missals. Its a translation anyway and there is no reason to debase our missals with the spellings of a country whose head of state persists in heresy and schism and calls herself a Defender of the Faith!!

  14. Dear Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

    With regard to your point #4, I would humbly suggest that it is not always absolutely necessary, indeed not often necessary, to sacrifice good English style in order to preserve exactitude in translation.

    One of the key elements in the “dumbing down” of the lame duck ICEL translation is precisely its insistence on ignoring good English words with Latin roots, and, more importantly, stylistically beautiful English constructions, on the absurd ground that such constructions are “too Latinate” in structure.

    Said simply: sometimes, the translation that is closer in structure to the original Latin is often the better translation.

    It is too late and I am too tired to illustrate the point, though I hope that, as I have articulated it, it might serve to advance the conversation.

    An aside: in my parish church this past Holy Thursday, someone decided it would be a good idea for the choir to sing the Tantum ergo in Italian during the reposition.

    No one in the congregation knew the words.

    Best,
    C.

  15. David O'Rourke says:

    I thought I had heard that there is also a new edition of the Pauline Missal in the works in addition to a new translation of the existing edition. Now THAT would be truly interesting! Does anyone know if thereis any substance to this?

  16. Rellis says:

    Elsewhere in the article, His Excellency claims that the USCCB will send the last of the “gray books” to the CDWDS in their November meeting. From there, the Vox Clara people kick it around and get approval (say that’s all of 2010). Figure a year for catechesis (2011) and another for bureaucratic slowness, and you have a target date of Advent 2012.

    Isn’t the when the world’s supposed to end? Uh-oh…

  17. EJ says:

    LEPANTO – Hoorah! You took the words right out of my mouth, well said.

  18. Sieber says:

    With all the dumbing down & relentless removal of even Latinate English, why, in the 23rd Psalm, was “green fields” (Olde English) changed to “verdant pastures” (old French/Latin from the Norman Conquest)?
    Doesn’t lend itself to dynamic equivalence.

  19. Aelric says:

    I came into possession of the working notes of Bishop S. and have reproduced them below:

    4. When we receive the new Roman Missal for the English-speaking world, we will have a work that has aimed at a translation that Father Z would approve.

    translation that Father Z would find acceptable

    translation for which Father Z would not berate me

    translation that would keep Father Z from having an apoplexy

    exact, though not slavishly literal translation.

  20. Mitchell NY says:

    All I can say is “AMEN” after 40 years. Oh and also I agree with you Father, there should be more Latin, at minimum the Consecration, if not the whole ordinary.

  21. Mitchell NY says:

    JD, Esq.

    On a second read, I thought through your point and it is well stated…Killing two birds with one stone would be an excellent idea. Latin can not be allowed further burial by release of a new translation.

  22. David Kastel says:

    In conclusion, it is important to remember that this is a moment of organic growth within the liturgical renewal of the Church. [An important element in the Benedictine Reform now taking place.] As Pope John Paul II said on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:

    The time has come to renew that spirit which inspired the Church at the moment when the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium was … promulgated…. The seed was sown; it has known the rigors of winter, but the seed has sprouted…. (Vicesimus Quintus Annus 23)

    The seed of the new mass has sprouted so now it’s time for the “reform of the reform.” This means, that, in order to save the new mass, it must be made more like the old mass.

    It’s 1984. Our leaders tell us that their grand project has been a great success while at the same time telling us, in effect, that they have to undo that project.

  23. michigancatholic says:

    Stigmatized, some people are going to fight the introduction of this like mad. They’ll refuse it amongst themselves, and then they’ll dissemble publicly, as usual. When they are forced to a stand, ignoring it won’t work because it’s not going away. So they’ll have to choose whether they want to a) call it an error & stiff-arm it, b) use their influence to de-confess it while re-conceptualizing it (classic old ICEL strategy), or c) “adopt” it and “adapt” it (try to “re-brand” it by deconstructing it incrementally from here). I’ll bet on the latter because that’s been the method of choice for the last few years. Choice b no longer works at all. Choice a is open schism and they lose the Xerox machines (as Joan Chittister so famously said). However, I don’t think that even c is going to work as well as it always has for them. Too many people are onto the whole thing now.

  24. Tony from Oz says:

    The one thing to remember about all this ROR busy-ness is that, as exemplary as the aim of a more reverent translation of the Novus Ordo missal may be, the NO missal can only be bettered in relation to the normative latin texts which the Consilium’s fabricating process left in place. That is to say you can only retranslate – no matter how beautifully – that which is already left in the normative latin version to translate. Of course, this only takes one so far, but ignores the elephant in the room of the wilful excision of old latin prayers from the TLM (the butchery of the ten offertory TLM prayers springs to mind – these simply do not exist in the NO normative latin version of the N.O Mass, so they simply cannot be translated. Period).

    I will allow, as a matter of long term strategy and tactics, that the Church has to start somewhere in terms of where most Catholic worshippers are ‘at’ – and the need to move towards orthodoxy and a recovered sense of beauty and the sacred. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that, in actual fact, the textual obliteration of many of the original latin prayers by Bugnini’s Consilium means that the new translation cannot address the issue of textual impoverishment inherent in the Pauline Mass.

  25. Maureen says:

    Meanwhile, back on the ranch at America magazine, some guy wants the official language of the Church to be English.

    Sigh. Correction — lame squishy English.

  26. michigancatholic says:

    The problem is that the heritage & meaning of the words of the Mass are missing in the English and most of the Catholic people have no idea that this is the case. In fact, I’m convinced that most of the clergy have no better idea than the laypeople that there’s a world of meaning that’s so carelessly concealed behind the English words they so frequently utter. When you read the Latin of the Mass of 1962 carefully, you can look up the origins of the words, phrases and passages and start to understand why what is there, is indeed there. That’s completely missing for most Catholic people now, whereas it was available before 1962 (whether people wanted to avail themselves of it or not).

    Listening to people talk about the OF mass like they do is like listening to someone read Old Testament scripture with no idea what they’re reading. They don’t get any of the meaning and coherence at all and often stop reading because they’ve no idea what they’ve just witnessed. Half of it sounds to them like camels, wells, begetting and fighting over land, and it appears to jump all over, but that’s NOT what it is. They pick up a phrase and repeat it now and then, but it makes no sense to them, to all intents & purposes. (It reminds me of all the bantering around of the phrase “new springtime of faith,” which coming from half the people who use it means precisely nothing. In mass, shaking hands is the same kind of non sequitur for most people. They think they’re simply being social or psychologically accepting or some nonsense like that and so they do it, period, because this is the 21st century and we’re used to such stuff in the culture. It’s “nice” and nice happens to be king right now.)

    In reality the Mass is efficaciously instantiating for us the sacrament of our salvation, whether we realize it or not, even when we half-consciously utter words we don’t understand. But, but, but not understanding at all does us a disservice. We are throwing away so much that could help us, including so much about our identity and relationship with God.

    I’m not saying that the only value or even the main value, heaven forbid, of the mass is its literal value, just like I would never say that of scripture. Mass is not primarily a lecture or classroom exercise and should never be treated like one. But there is deep meaning to liturgy just like there is scripture, and that meaning is conveyed in many ways, including the text’s structure and meaning in salvation history. {Before you blast off, remind yourself of Scott Hahn’s book The Supper of the Lamb.} Both scripture and the liturgy have a place in the Christian spiritual life in union with the Church. Faith is not, contrary to popular opinion, the enemy of reason. God doesn’t behave like that toward us.

  27. Frank H. says:

    Maureen – To further your note on America magazine, take a listen to what the former editor, Fr. Thomas Reese, said on NPR in 2006 when the Vatican approved the English translation…

    http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=5493969&m=5493970

  28. michigancatholic says:

    And perhaps an understanding of what mass actually contains could be a little bit of the way back toward continuity and normalcy too. Maybe we should start \”Believe it or Nots\” where we take a little scrap of the English which appears to say next to nothing and start:
    -this came from here
    -which came from here
    -which came from here
    -which has this connection
    -and this one
    -and this one
    -and thereby means !!!!

    I\’m thinking right now of:
    N.O. English: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.
    Which came from the Latin N.O. text: Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum…..
    Which means literally: Lord, I am not worthy…roof…my soul shall be healed.
    Which comes from the old mass: ….my soul shall be healed.
    Which comes from the New Testament, Matthew 8:8.
    Follow a meditation on Matthew 8:8.
    Etc.

    This particular example is well-known and a soft spot as far as many people go–some people say it correctly in English regardless of what else goes on and they don\’t do it out of defiance or anything. That\’s how they know it.

    Some of the threads will go back to scripture, some to the fathers, some to tradition, Jewish history and other places, all worth exploring. So many of them tell how God loves us and how we should behave toward Him. This is a way to give people a desire to hear the mass in the correct languages which are Latin and the Greek, but not so much English. When it gets obvious that we have to go \”through\” the English to get to the sense, then the English becomes a \”middleman\” so to speak and not a very good one. {Unless you happen to be a Congregationalist or some such thing.}

    *We need to break down the language barrier and get rid of the polarization regarding language and meaning. This is one way. It\’s certainly better than repeating the same things over and over again, which gets nothing done and only makes people anxious and forces them to try taking sides.*

  29. Melody says:

    Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but it would be nice if there were missals with footnotes for nuances not easily translated, as there are with many Bibles.

    A difficulty here is that if the priest is to pray these prayer aloud, a very slavish translation can be very awkward in some cases.

  30. Bob K. says:

    Yeah, the new translation will come out, but there will still be altar girls, and abuse of EMHCs, priest facing people, guitars, and all forms of contemporary music. And the reform of the reform, and brick by brick, will still be talked about.

  31. Matt Q says:

    William H. Phelan wrote:

    “Explain to the parishioners why this ever occurred. The Church lost the Faith! Tell people that. The Church never had to abandon the Tridentine Mass and the whole purpose of the reform of the reform of the reform is just face-saving on the part of the hierarchy. The theology in the Tridentine Mass was spot on for 1,500 years.”

    )(

    **YEAH!** They just can’t admit their Great Leap Forward was in fact a Great Flop Down.

    = = = = =

    Maureen wrote:

    “Meanwhile, back on the ranch at America magazine, some guy wants the official language of the Church to be English.”

    )(

    Why don’t losers like that just get a frigging life?! Nothing better to do but sit around their mothers’ basement and think up all of these “profound” nothings.

    = = = = =

    Rellis wrote:

    “Elsewhere in the article, His Excellency claims that the USCCB will send the last of the “gray books” to the CDWDS in their November meeting. From there, the Vox Clara people kick it around and get approval (say that’s all of 2010). Figure a year for catechesis (2011) and another for bureaucratic slowness, and you have a target date of Advent 2012.

    Isn’t that when the world’s supposed to end? Uh-oh…”

    )(

    This is proof these people work for their own self-interest and the Faithful be d’d. Were they really intent on fulfilling the Holy Father’s wishes, then they would be working with true expediency and firm sense of purpose than all this hemming and hawing and foot-dragging. We know this is exactly what they are doing. Probably seeing what nonsense they can impregnate the texts with. They know this is a turn in the road and they just can’t let it go. It also bugs me the lame conference of this country wants to retain the “American Adaptations” of the GIRM ( or should it spell GRIM? ). Why? Maintain the options for all the continued silliness the American church can think of?

    The rest of world is just about ready to go but the US church is still too busy agonizing over the texts and more than likely will be the last to get the new Missal initiated into the parishes. Just watch. Something is going to come along and screw this up. Bookies in Vegas standing by. Call now.

    = = = = =

    Lepanto wrote:

    “I respond half in jest, that the English are barbarian, heretic, schismatics whose language we unfortunately speak. While there have been great poets and authors in English language, Americans should take no pride in the language. It is not our language. The language of the USA could could have just as easily been French, Spanish, German or Iroquois. With that in mind we should proudly put our own spellings of things like honor, color etc. in our missals. Its a translation anyway and there is no reason to debase our missals with the spellings of a country whose head of state persists in heresy and schism and calls herself a Defender of the Faith!!”

    )(

    “Barbarian, heretic, schismatics.” Do you mean like half of the Catholic Church today, including those dastardly puffs beginning in 1054? Surely your venom must include them as truly they are schismatic.

    I rejoice I speak English, and the rest of the world learns it as a second or third language. Whatever this country could “just as easily have spoken” it was English. Move on… or move out, Captain Conniption.

    I also take offense at your swipe against the Queen. She is the Defender of The Faith. Hers. Such bigoted and hate-filled comments and your whining bespeaks an anger-management issue. You sound like a loser.

  32. Gareth says:

    “If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Texas” (not my words!)

  33. Jordanes says:

    William H. Phelan wrote: The Church lost the Faith! Tell people that. ***

    I hope no one ever tells them that lie. It is impossible for the Church to lose the Faith. Jesus said so. If the Church really lost the Faith, then Christianity is a grand deceit and Jesus is not Lord.

  34. JBS says:

    Does anyone know why the prayers the priest prays silently were ever translated in the first place? Wasn’t the purpose of allotting a “suitable place” for local languages to benefit the faithful? Perhaps if these had been left untranslated, the attitude that Latin was “dead” to us would not have been so strong.

  35. Rob F. says:

    Seiber, you made a good point; the old ICEL translations are not good examples of Dynamic Equivalence. What would a dynamically equivalent translation of the missal look like?

    Well, for starters, it would:

    1. Retain the distinctive theological emphasis of the Latin. This is a no-brainer; it is the whole point to having a translation in the first place.

    2. Make biblical references clear. In native English, it is often quite clear when an orator or writer is quoting from the Bible. The same is true in the Latin liturgy. My greatest joy when I first started reading the mass in Latin was discovering how many biblical references it contained. For some reason, many of these where not apparent to me for most of my life, having only heard the mass in English.

    3. Make patristic references clear. See point #2 above.

    4. Respect the richness of the orginal. If the original is not monotonous, then its translation should not be monotonous either. If the original has a varied and erudite vocabulary, the translation should reflect that.

    5. Preserve the imagery of the original. If the Latin is saturated with militaristic imagery, the translation should also, at a minimum, make some use of militaristic imagery.

    6. Be equivant. A translation should say what the orginal says; it should not say something else instead.

    7. Preserve the tone. If the original is formal and eloquent, then the translation should be too.

    In short, a dynamically equivalent translation would look point-for-point like what Bishop Serratelli is asking for. It would look a lot more like the new translation than the old.

    You can’t blame dynamic equivalence for the shortcomings of the old translations. You can blame its lack.

  36. mpm says:

    Rob F,

    Your points 1-7 seem very well-informed. Do you do this for a living?