Reception of the new, corrected translation on college campuses

Most of the hand-wringing over the new, corrected translation of the Roman Missal was predicated on the notion that people are too stoopid to understand English.  I must admit, however, when I read some of the articles after the 1st Sunday of Advent, it may be that the tiny group of complainers were, in fact, too stoopid.  All in all, I think people grasped the changes pretty well and have already moved along.

The Cardinal Newman Society, which keeps an eye on Catholic colleges and universities, has a piece on their site about the reception of the new, corrected translation on campuses.

Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.

At Catholic Colleges, Mass Translation ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

The prophecies of the calamitous consequences of the introduction of the new missal were heard around the country. But was it much ado about little?There were warnings from some Catholic publications that the new translation was “unreadable” and an “inhibitor to authentic prayer.”

One news story suggested that “New missal could drive away Catholics.” Another fretted, “Liturgists Worry About Upcoming Implementation.”

But according to a number of priests and campus ministry professionals at faithful Catholic colleges, it seems that all the worry about the new missal translation is a bit like Y2K – prophecies of doom and gloom followed quickly by rather smooth sailing.

“There was no fainting, no shrieking, no embolisms,” assured Director of Campus Ministry at Belmont Abbey College Patricia Stevenson. “We haven’t had anybody sort of whining or complaining or objecting.”

She told the Cardinal Newman Society that the introduction of the new translation is going smoothly.

Fr John Healey, Chaplain of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, told CNS, “It certainly hasn’t come to pass that people who were predicting difficulties were in any sense correct.”

Magdalene Riggins, Assistant Director of Campus Ministry said she thinks the new translation will allow students to engage more deeply with the Mass. “I think this will help students and everyone more deeply understand what the liturgy is all about,” she said.

In fact, some said students seem to like the new translation.

So too does the Rev. Joseph Fox, O.P. of Christendom College, calling it “a far superior translation.”

Fr. Fox said much of the screaming about how this would negatively affect the faithful turned out to be “much ado about nothing.”

He said that while the priests have much to remember, the changes are not very significant for the faithful. In fact, he laughed at all the fuss. “Some places have made such a big deal about educating the people about the changes,” he said. “I don’t mean to make light but all of this for ‘and with your spirit’?”

Fr. Fox said the concerns and protests over the new translation weren’t coming from young people. [Indeed.] “This was made a cause célèbre because now finally we have a translation and not a complete reformulation of the liturgy,” he said.

Fr. Healey agreed, saying the fuss was primarily from “the chronic complainers.”  [read: liberals]

Stevenson said she suspected it was one last battle of the Vatican II generation. [“Ahhh… [puff …  … … COUGH]… I remember Woodstock… ] “I think this was about some fighting the old Vatican II fight and climbing one more hill to plant a flag on,” she said. “But students don’t relate to those old discussions. For most students this is completely uncontroversial. They don’t have any dogs in the fight.”

She said she believes students today have shown greater receptivity to move with the Church as a whole and not see actions by the Church as “a tyrannical takeover” of their free will.  [“They’ve given in to The MAN!  We need to OCCUPY them!”]

Stevenson says Belmont Abbey College laid the groundwork by reviewing the changes with students before Mass and having a diocesan priest visit to explain the changes more fully.

Of course, in the pews are the cards to help students follow along with the changes to the language. Stevenson called them “cheat sheets” and said she suspected they’d become less necessary over the next few months.

Fr. Healey said he believed that the new translation was actually helping students see the Mass in a new way. “One has to stop and read the words carefully and reflectively pay attention to what the church is really trying to offer in terms of instruction,” he said. “And it’s a far superior translation so it’ll certainly be easier to understand.”

Fr. Joseph Fox of Christendom College said that if people want to avoid it altogether they can do as many of the students there do – attend the Latin Mass.  [Hmmm… that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?]

Kudos to the Cardinal Newman Society for checking with campus ministers. I hope they do several more installments.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Clemens Romanus says:

    Well, there was one embolism…after the Pater noster. ;-)

  2. mamajen says:

    I’m not sure why college students were expected to have a problem with this. My experience through college was that many priests ad-libbed or changed wording all the time. At least we’re all on the same page now (assuming they obey, which might be a lot to ask of some of them). The new wording sounds decidedly modern to me, for the most part. The “suffered death and was buried” line in the Creed is how they have said it in the UK – I flubbed it up for a while after returning home from study abroad.

  3. julie f says:

    Yeah, but: Belmont Abbey College, Thomas More College, Christendom…? Was anyone seriously going to be against the New Translation there? Does anyone go to those colleges who comes from a family that’s not on the “conservative” end of the spectrum? I mean, these kids almost certainly grew up surrounded by statues of the Infant of Prague and back issues of First Things, right…

    It’s an interesting angle on the story, but it’s hardly representative.

  4. Lily says:

    Speaking of the corrected translation, whoever is preaching the homily on EWTN right now just mentioned the “famous” “Say the Black, Do the Red” bumper stickers. :-D

  5. bmadamsberry says:

    As president of the Catholic Student Association at Berry College, I can report that the new translation was received with enthusiasm. I had a lot of members come up to me and say that they prefer the new translation.

    Someone should probably go inform the National Catholic Reporter that it’s only their generation that has a problem.

  6. catholicmidwest says:

    julie f,
    I’ve been to Mass at a couple of different churches in my local area, and everything is going very smoothly. People have learned the responses very quickly and when you ask people about it, almost all of them like it. I have heard no complaining. Seriously. People think it’s more prayerful.

  7. rcg says:

    Catholic Colleges were where people imbued the Spirit of Vatican II in the children and sieved out tradition. The students are the legmen of the revolutionaries. FWIW, my 6 year old is enjoying the language of the NT and has been trying to find other uses for ‘consubstantial’ in her vocabulary. I think the hopefulness of youth will triumph and they will run out to meet Him.

  8. Pedantic Classicist says:

    Not to be a wet blanket, but I must agree with Julie F. I was hoping for a broader representation than this. I think the Cardinal Newman Society’s point is correct, but it would be strengthened greatly if we also got the scoop from somewhat less “faithful” Catholic Colleges (wouldn’t hurt to get opinions of Newman Centers at secular institutions at well, though perhaps those are beyond the CNS’s purview). Things are probably better there than one might imagine.

    This kind of cherry-picked piece doesn’t seem to do much, to my mind. Anyway, again, they would be well-served by checking in with some of the chaplains at the old guard Catholic schools. I know a guy……

  9. letchitsa1 says:

    @Julie and PC: I attend a secular state school, and the Catholic kids here have all taken to the changes very well, and not all of them are of the conservative and/or orthodox persuasion. That said, though, most of the whining here has come from the usual suspects: liberals, cafeteria Catholics and baby boomers, not necessarily mutually exclusive.

  10. My alma mater was hardly a faithful Catholic college, at least when it came to how it treated Church teaching and its relationship with the hierarchy/clergy (the Theology department was the platinum coated diamond in the rough). In the latter it was a relationship of convenience such was the case when I graduated at the bishop was invited to attend (and did) and celebrate the Baccalaureate Mass. Also, if you were a priest of dubious doctrine or shaky standing, you were embraced with open arms and lauded <–a certain MI bishop has made many appearances at my college. When my friends would ask me if he was legit, I would say, if you count dissenting openly and often as a sign of legitimacy, then yes. They got the picture.

    The liturgical practices on the college were questionable but not invalid. The campus ministry team overall was very good save for a few opinions of the head campus minister.

    I would be curious to see how that happened. The pocket of practicing and traditional leaning Catholics probably sang a Te Deum. The more … progressive … probably uttered an inclusive De Profundis. Oye.

  11. DeoAcVeritati says:

    I’m the Catholic Campus Minister at a top-tier “secular” college with a large and active Newman Community. The students here mostly come from what I call the “Long Island Rite” style of Catholic worship– pretty low church and folksy. The overwhelming majority of students have told me that they like the new translation. I’ve heard two complaints, one from an older community member and one from a student who called it “pretentious.” Otherwise, everyone seems happy with it. They still giggle when they mess things up but I’d say if anything it’s made them more conscious participants. They are certainly louder in their responses.

    The really interesting thing is that these folks LOVE doing more traditional devotional stuff. We’ve added periodic Adoration and Benediction and the students are really enthusiastic about it. We’ve even taken vans to see Mass in the Extraordinary Form. We’re careful to not ignite the “worship wars” here but we encourage the students to learn about their tradition and they really take to it.

  12. truthfinder says:

    I think many Catholic university students probably wouldn’t have a problem with the new Mass. First, they are largely independent for the first time, and if they are still going to Mass, that’s half the battle. Second, they’re supposed to be educated so they shouldn’t have any problem with those haaarrd words. I’ve had plenty of “hard” words shoved at me in various English lit classes which make the proper words in the Mass seem like a piece of cake.

  13. julie f says:

    @catholicmidwest et al.: I don’t doubt that many young people do love the new translation. I love it… and for the record I’m not so very removed from undergrad days. All I’m saying is that a “report” like this doesn’t actually tell us anything. If someone wrote an article about how the new translation was getting a good reception at Party Hardy State and Rainbow Soul College, it would be the sort of thing that would be useful in showing others which way the wind is blowing. That’s all. If I showed this to the lady-homilist at my alma mater and said “look! young people nowadays don’t want a tambourine choir!” she would quite rightly point out that this article is basically saying “traditionally minded people like tradition-y things”.

    In conclusion, I do think there’s a good story out there about how young people are being enriched by the new translation, but this ain’t it. I hope someone writes it though; I like to have a feeling of hope about Catholics in the university context outside the handful of Usual Suspects.

  14. ray from mn says:

    I serve Mass on a regular (but occasional basis, maybe 5 times a month) for a priest who was ordained 46 years ago. He complains a bit about the translation, but only about his interpretation of the Latin of his part of the liturgy v. the new interpretation. And he fairly often has to pause to read the new Roman Missal to determine what is next. But he makes a valiant attempt to follow the black.

    Frankly, with the few lines I’m required to say, I still blurt out “And also with you” far more than I would like. The small congregation does quite well. Of course they get to hold the “cheat sheet.” I have to go by memory.

  15. twsumrall says:

    I’m a student at a large state university in Texas, and although I’m not very involved with the campus ministries, I can definitely say that the new translation has had no problems both on campus and at the university parish. We have mass on campus once per week in a conference room in the library, and the reception there has been excellent. At the parish, the college students lead the way in the correct responses.

    I’d venture to say that college students tend to be more philosophical in nature than the general public, therefore the new translation has been a breeze. We all appreciate its fidelity to the original Latin and to the teachings of the Magisterium.

  16. jhayes says:

    I agree with others above that this is a feel-good piece concocted by selecting people who could be expected to give the desired answers. It’s roughly equivalent to a small town newspaper publishing an article on how much the patrons of a local restaurant like the food there.

  17. I teach at a diocesan Catholic high school and have similar news to report from this front. Indeed, the adolescents seem to have handled it swimmingly.

  18. Norah says:

    My parish is using a sheet which has the new translations on one side of the paper and the parish puts its newsletter on the otherside. Because of the space limitations only the Apostles Creed is used and the Confiteor is omitted as was the solemn blessings for Advent. If you really put your mind to it you can get around a lot of the new translations.

  19. ChrisWhittle says:

    The kids want the Traditional Latin Mass, not the Novus Ordo.

  20. leonugent2005 says:

    The kids want the Novus Ordo not the Traditional Latin Mass.

  21. albinus1 says:

    I’m not sure why college students were expected to have a problem with this.

    That’s an easy one to answer. In my experience, “liturgists” who were young in the 60s, 70s, and even 80s assume that all young people, everywhere, in every age, are exactly the same as they were when they were young, and have exactly the same tastes. So, it’s “obvious” to them that the way to appeal to “young people” is with guitars, felt banners, sandals, and pseudo-folk music, because that is what (allegedly) appealed to “young people” 40 years ago. The notion that young people today might actually like something different, let alone something more traditional, doesn’t seem to occur to them. They like to accuse supporters of the traditional Mass of being ossified and stuck in the past, but they themselves are so stuck in the past (in their case, the 1970s) that they might as well be pickled in aspic.

  22. Southern Baron says:

    I’d say that the Catholic Student Center at the university with which I am associated embraced it wholeheartedly. The priests at the parish associated with the center were all for it. So much so, in fact, that as part of the transition, a small group of graduate students (myself included) and young adults involved with the parish and student choirs joined one of the priests for a semi-private, entirely chanted Mass, using the new translation. Probably the first ad orientem Mass at this church in decades. Our music director stressed that this was a form of praying, not singing. Brick by brick.

  23. ndmom says:

    The priests who celebrate the daily and Sunday masses at the Basilica at Notre Dame have been faithfully using the new translation, with very few problems. OK, there is one priest of a certain age who has made a few pointed and inappropriate comments, but when his last comment was met with silence rather than the laughter he expected, he shut up. There are students, faculty, and local community members at these Masses, and I haven’t heard any complaints from anyone.

  24. leonugent2005 says:

    I don’t know why college students were singled out. It is catholic to accept what the church teaches and any changes that the church makes. However, it seems that there will always be a group within the church who refuses to accept things, the SSPX is a good example of this. My parish changed without a single complaint as far as I know. We are just good catholics I suppose.

  25. MikeM says:

    I’ve gone to mass in two different university settings since the new translation went into effect. There were no problems at either of them. I graduated from college in May, so my friends are of more or less the same age group, and everyone I’ve talked to about them either likes them or sees them as minor changes that they’re not all that concerned about one way or the other.

  26. Supertradmum says:

    I think you were quoting from the Woodstock Generation, but, umm, Father, no offense, but if you remember Woodstock, you have an amazing memory for a baby.But, then, I remember being potty-trained at one, so maybe there is a connection.

    As to college students or the youth accepting the New Mass, I have heard absolutely nothing but praise and ready acceptance. In fact, the only, and I repeat, the only three people who I have heard complain are three women in their seventies…and why they do not like it, I do not know.

    The pre-implementation reaction has proven to be unfounded and unnecessarily gloomy. So, the liberals have lost this battle, I think. Catholic college students are more likely than not to appreciate the changes, and at their age, change is not a problem, usually.

  27. MargaretC says:

    I work for one of the Mercy colleges. The new translation has gone over here without a ripple — we seem to be slow about catching on to “and with your spirit,” but it’s getting better and we’ll probably have it right (I hope) before Easter.

    In the run up to the new missal translation, the Archdiocese put in a lot of time and effort to getting the priests and deacons up to speed. This was probably what made everything go so smoothly.

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