QUAERITUR: priest changing the lame-duck translation or starting early with the new


From a priest reader:

The new translation is coming up in Advent.  I can hardly wait!  Now we are stuck using the old “lame-duck” translations, as you call it.  I’d use a different phrase.

Honestly, I hate the present translation so much, I have actually sometimes made my own and used them.  How bad is that?

Having looked at these translations so long, and seeing the flaws in them, what do, would you do?  Do you change the words?

Remember what I tell those who are criticizing the new, corrected translation.  If you don’t like it, just use Latin.

VOTE FOR WDTPRSNot practical?   Right.

You aren’t the first person who has asked me this lately.

The lame-duck ICEL version is revolting, I know.  Think about this Sunday’s upcoming Collect.

Look, friend.   You can “hardly wait”, but you have to.  You tell couples you are preparing for marriage to “wait”, right?

Until we have the new translation, just use the old, lame-duck version in the book as the book is printed.  Say what the black words say and do what the red words say to do. We are obliged to do that.  It is distasteful in one sense, but proper in the other.  It’s right to wait.  It is also about fidelity to one’s state in life.  Just as the couple not yet in the married state, we have to wait.

What do I do?  Well… I suppose … well… a word here or there… I admit it.   But, no… I don’t make any extensive changes even though I think I have worked up my own translations for every Sunday and feast that can fall on a Sunday and a lot more besides.  That’s not my call.  My translations were intended as a crowbar to pry the Latin originals open and see the treasures within, not as replacements for the (dreadful) official texts.  As a priest you use the book that is on the altar, old Mass, new Mass, whatever, tempting though it is to adjust it.

Of course there is less temptation to change the prayers in the older books.   But.. now that I think of it, that is precisely what the snippers and pasters of Consilium did when gluing together the Novus Ordo.  They often corrected the Latin prayers.   For example, in the Collect for next Sunday’s Mass with the 2002MR the Consilium experts changed a single letter, which, though it didn’t change the sense too much, nevertheless changed the sense.

Look at this.

COLLECT (2002MR):
Da nobis, quaesumus, Domine,
ut et mundi cursus pacifico nobis tuo ordine dirigatur,
et Ecclesia tua tranquilla devotione laetetur
.

This prayer was in a 7th century manuscript, the so-called Veronese Sacramentary, though it is surely much older.  It was prayed on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost where it remained for centuries in the Missale Romanum until it was moved in the 1960’s to the 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  In the pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum we find the adverb pacifice.  The Novus Ordo redactors changed this back to the more ancient pacifico which goes with ordine.  One letter.  As the fabled Fr. Foster is wont to say, “It’s always one letter, friend.”

There is always the temptation to tinker, you see.  Some have the authority to tinker, and they do.  Whether or not they should is another matter.  Garden variety priests such as we are don’t have the authority to tinker.  We are also explicitly told not to by Holy Mother Church. We don’t have authority on our own to do that.

So don’t.

It won’t be much longer. We have endured this long.

I admit that when I say the Novus Ordo in English, which I do whenever asked, I have to shut down some of my higher brain functions.  I lower my eyes and  think of Summorum Pontificum. I say Mass in as reverent as way as I can.  I don’t try to force the dreadful translation, with its unrelenting banality and boring parataxis, its soporific condescension and its sometimes Pelagian flavor, into even greater ugliness by trying to “read with meaning”.  I say the prayers in a measured way and get on with it with never a grimace.  It is Holy Mass and deserves that.  Christ is the Actor in Mass.  Say the black and do the red and Christ’s words and actions are made manifest.  The new translation – not to mention a far better ars celebrandi learned in tandem from the older form of Mass – will allow what Christ desires us to hear in the words Holy Church gives us far more clearly.

It will be interesting to have an experience of the Novus Ordo in English… that is, in the new, corrected translation.  It isn’t perfect, but it is by far better than what we have been using for the last few decades.  I think I will be able to live with it.

I am ranting.  I’ll stop.

Father, just say the words as they are in the book.  I think it is wrong to change them.  How wrong?  Like I said, a word here.. a word there… maaaaaybe.   Even “and” and “the” are important, as Mary McCarthy pointed out.  But don’t go changing things wholesale.   That’s above our pay grade.

In the meantime you can explain to people what the “prayer really says” during the sermon.

Every oration, properly translated, has treasures within.  If you can’t endure the text in the book as it is, put your energy into making a sermon about that prayer that exposes the real content in such a way that your congregation will come to hang on every word of Mass, listening for what it all means.

“But Father! But Father!”, I can hear some people saying in frustration.  “Some of us don’t know Latin.  It’s not fair for you to leave that Latin there and not tell us what it says!  What does that prayer really say?”

Okay.

AWKWARD SLAVISHLY LITERAL WDTPRS RENDERING:
Grant us, we beg, O Lord,
both that the course of the world be set by your peace producing plan for us
and that your Church may be made joyful by means of tranquil devotion
.

LAME-DUCK ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Lord,
guide the course of world events
and give your Church the joy and peace
of serving you in freedom
.

CORRECTED ICEL TRANSLATION:
Grant us, O Lord, we pray,
that the course of our world
may be directed by your peaceful rule
and that your Church may rejoice,
untroubled in her devotion
.

You decide.

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20 Responses to QUAERITUR: priest changing the lame-duck translation or starting early with the new

  1. no changing the texts…but the homily can be used to teach us lay faithful about the full meaning of the texts :)

  2. amenamen says:

    It won’t be long

    Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jytXJP-8Avs

    It won’t be long yeah, yeah, yeah
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcbL6OBT6Zc

  3. q7swallows says:

    This English major votes yet again for the Awkward Slavishly Literal WDTPRS Rendering (humbly asking only that a hyphen be added between peace and producing).

    And while priests are obliged to say the texts, we laymen can still vote with our feet where an EF is available . . . .

  4. Gail F says:

    I feel your pain. Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that one reason St. Augustine did not convert earlier was that the Latin translations of the Scriptures available at the time were, by all accounts, terrible — pedestrian, banal, you name it. But he did, eventually convert DESPITE the awful translations. I’m sure you know this, Fr. Z, but others might not. Does that mean we prefer the banal translation when another is available? Obviously not. But it is not as important as the faith.

  5. Random Friar says:

    Wait. We cannot ask people to obey Rome if we ourselves are disobeying them by bringing the texts in early. To further divide by going early does not further unity.

    And yes, I have preached on the new translation when it touched upon the day’s readings. :)

  6. robtbrown says:

    Gail F says:

    I feel your pain. Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that one reason St. Augustine did not convert earlier was that the Latin translations of the Scriptures available at the time were, by all accounts, terrible — pedestrian, banal, you name it. But he did, eventually convert DESPITE the awful translations. I’m sure you know this, Fr. Z, but others might not. Does that mean we prefer the banal translation when another is available? Obviously not. But it is not as important as the faith.

    True, but the main objection to the present translations is that they are an inferior expression of the faith.

  7. jflare says:

    So..
    I guess you’re giving us a strong, but subtle hint to learn the Church’s Latin almost as well as we learn the Queen’s English?

    I keep thinking I need to learn Latin American Spanish first; I have a fair number of Hispanic customers who’s English isn’t so great…..

    When I get to it though, I’m thinking about Rosetta Stone. Any other resources you would suggest instead?
    (Especially that focus on Ecclesiastical Latin, not Classical?)

  8. robtbrown says:

    Random Friar says:

    Wait. We cannot ask people to obey Rome if we ourselves are disobeying them by bringing the texts in early. To further divide by going early does not further unity.

    In the 40 years since the Council, we have seen:

    1. Rome at times actively preventing the use of the historical Roman Rite
    2. Rome actively preventing the use of Latin.
    3. The collapse of formation in seminaries and religious houses of study
    4. A cadre of poorly trained (and/or confused) priests (see #3) being in charge of parishes
    5. Sexual scandals in the clergy, which were being ignored by bishops
    6. The founder, favored by JPII, of a major religious order having a double and even triple life.
    7. Celebrants regularly changing the liturgy (incl excising the word “sacrifice”) to suit their own quasi Protestant understanding of the Eucharist
    8. Et continua.

    In light of all that, I have to wonder why anyone would be concerned about how the new translations (or jumping the gun on them) will disturb the laity.

  9. amenamen says:

    Abusus non tollit usus

    Others have done worse things, therefore I may do what I want?
    It is not a good argument.

  10. Dr. Eric says:

    Fr., today I said “Lord I am not worthy that Thou should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” at the appropriate time. I felt vindicated, but then I remembered “say the black and do the red” and proposed to say the current translation until we are allowed to say the more correct translation.

  11. robtbrown says:

    amenamen says:

    Abusus non tollit usus

    Others have done worse things, therefore I may do what I want?
    It is not a good argument.

    How can it be an abuse to say “for many” instead of “for all”?

  12. Andrew says:

    robtbrown:

    It is not an abuse inasmuch the word meaning is concerned, but it is an abuse because it is a substitution of the currently approved liturgical text.

  13. Random Friar says:

    It is an abuse because it is not the approved text.

    Say the Black do the Red. QED.

    We can wait patiently and expectantly for a few months.

  14. amenamen says:

    correction of my typo/grammar
    It should have been : Abusus non tollit usum (accusative)

    Clearly there are greater abuses, of liturgy and of morals, than using the new texts before the approved starting date. But it is an insufficient argument to cite those abuses as justification for not using the currently approved text.

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    Dr. Eric: ‘I remembered “say the black and do the red” and proposed to say the current translation until we are allowed to say the more correct translation.’

    If you are the priest celebrating Mass, then clearly you are obliged to “say the black and do the red”. But if you are simply a laymen attending Mass, then I’m not sure how this dictum applies to your personal prayerful participation. Have you made some vow of obedience ( like that of a priest) that obliges you?

    Seriously, I’d think either corrected English, or Latin, or whatever might be your native language (if otherwise) would be acceptable if said quietly in a way that’s not distracting to anyone else. Is there some reason why not?

  16. robtbrown says:

    Random Friar says:

    It is an abuse because it is not the approved text.

    amenamen says:

    Clearly there are greater abuses, of liturgy and of morals, than using the new texts before the approved starting date. But it is an insufficient argument to cite those abuses as justification for not using the currently approved text.

    Andrew says:

    It is not an abuse inasmuch the word meaning is concerned, but it is an abuse because it is a substitution of the currently approved liturgical text.

    The approved Scriptural text says “pro multis”. The approved liturgical text, which is the mass promulgated by the pope in 1970, says “pro multis”.

  17. CarpeNoctem says:

    I have been thinking about this issue for some time… the desire to ‘jump the gun’. Here’ s what I’m thinking: would it be appropriate to ask the bishop for permission to use these texts ad experimentum in the months leading up to the full implementation?

    I am going to propose that the people’s parts do not change until the full implementation is in place. Also, I would stipulate this permission on getting my hands on a bona fide text, meaning, an authentic, true, final text printed in a misssal (as opposed to being found on the internet), probably as early as this summer.

    The rationalle that I offer is that 1) these are approved texts by Rome and the USCCB… the bishop is using his proper authority over the liturgy in the local church to allow the use of these approved texts on a modified time table. 2) by not changing the peoples’ parts, this will allow folks to hear the more-important texts before the novelty of their own changes hits the fan… it will give them some way of anticipating their complete participation in the new texts. 3) it will give me an opportunity to offer a scouting report to other priests on the proclaimation of the texts, and 4) it will allow us to dodge a lot of the so-called ‘catechetical’ stuff which is doing nothing more than scaring people (‘I hear we are turning the clock back.’ ‘Is it going to be in Latin?’ ‘I just won’t do it!’) and allow my parish to look at the changeover with a calm, part-by-part, piece-by-piece implementation of the refreshed ‘experience’ of Mass in English. Obviously teaching on the nature of the liturgy will take place during this time… it is an outstanding opportunity for this… but the packages that I see out there by the major publishing companies are setting this whole project up for popular resistence and non-acceptance, I think.

    The bottom line: can diocesan bishops give permission to use these texts (with whatever stiplations they like) in an ad experimentum way as soon as they are readily available? As improved as these texts are over what we have, the current translation is the only authorized text by the Church and the Church vouches for its validity–even in its imperfections. It is an act of breaking Communion with the Church to use anything other in the meantime. I will not use these texts until we are allowed to be used by competent authority.

    From where I am standing, bishops generously giving permission to use these texts in the lead-up time would not be a bad idea in places where there is a good implementation plan in place. So I think this would be the best resolution to this whole debate.

  18. David says:

    My wife and I were at a new parish this week, one with several EF Masses and a great liturgical reputation. The Mass we attended was OF English; the priest was vested in fiddleback, maniple, and biretta. There were some other surprises imported from the EF, such as a triple Kyrie.

    For the propers, the priest used the current translation. But for the Eucharistic Prayer, he basically made up his own translation. It was close to the new translation (e.g., “sacred and venerable hands”), but not quite it (e.g., “for all”). Most notably, he “chalice” instead of “cup” during the consecration of the Precious Blood. I am all for the new translation over the current one, but changing the words of consecration unexpectedly was very jarring.

    Aside from that, he gave a strong homily and it seemed like a wonderful parish. But it did seem too much to change the words of institution on one’s own initiative.

  19. thesheepcat says:

    You may be amused by what repeated automatic translation to and from Japanese did to the slavishly literal version. Equilibrium was reached at “Online world is our plan to create an opportunity for peace has been set for the main course beggars can not keep quiet in the church dedicated to joy.”
    http://translationparty.com/#8790073

  20. rinkevichjm says:

    He could use the Latin text legally… and given that the text had been approved, a priest wouldn’t get in much trouble for using the new translation. However there is the possibility that the occasion would come close to if not actually be the sin of scandal…
    for thesheepcat:
    I’ll bet you’d see something similar if you tried that using Lithuanian instead of Japanese. Personally I think comparison with Spanish and Lithuanian (or in the alternative Polish) translations should be done before any English translation is approved. Lithuanian often can translate Latin word for word but has an order closer to the English word order (i.e. SVO is the usual order) for example in the Lithuanian Hail Mary where the Latin has gratia plenia the Lithuanian has malon?s [of grace/grace's] pilnoji [the full (one)] … if they’d been translating from Greek that would probably have been one word: pamaloninta (or pamalonintoji ), which are passive past tense (statal) feminine singular nomenitive participles (the form in parenthesis is the definitive participle) meaing “(the) state of being made using more grace” which would probably be translated as (the) engracenment, which is a lot better than “highly favored”.