A priest reacts to priests reacting to the new translation

Over at the Deacon’s Bench, Rev. Mr. Kandra has a great post.  A priest wrote to Dcn. Kandra as a reaction to the whiny survey of priests about the new translation.  My emphases and comments:

After reading this latest post on how priests reportedly dislike the new Missal, a priest friend dropped me an email to share his impressions:

One of the things going on here is very important, but I suspect most priests have never thought about it.

I concelebrated at a Funeral Mass with an older priest (about 75) about four months after the new Missal came into use. I was the main celebrant. His parts were reading the Gospel and the sections of the Eucharistic Prayer given to concelebrants.

He did this with real difficulty, the reason being that he kept trying to look at the congregation as he read. This is much easier with the older, easily memorized text. This book keeps you needing to read from it.  [It makes you think about what the texts mean, too.  One day some of these priests will actually think about the texts and they will realize that most of the time they are not talking to the congregation.]

Most priests do not seem to ever have thought about the nature of ritual at all. The priest who comes out on the altar and greets the folks in his own colloquial way, and then starts the Mass with the text, doesn’t realize that there IS a greeting in the Mass. He speaks in “real life” and then retreats to the formal worship. He does so at the end as well. “Have a nice day!”

This priest I concelebrated with did not seem to realize that in the Eucharistic Prayer we are speaking to God, not the congregation. [There it is.]

I believe that putting the priest celebrant behind the altar facing the people was a very serious, core error.   [Do I hear an “AMEN!”?] When I celebrate the Traditional Mass or the Anglican Use liturgy (which is generally celebrated with the traditional altar ceremonies), I come before the altar, face it in the same direction as the people, and begin Mass by addressing Him. I submit myself to the rite; the people submit themselves to the rite. We participate together.

The Novus Ordo has made the priest the focus. He starts by initiating a dialogue with the people. He keeps up this dialogue throughout the Mass. He stands behind the Altar like Julia Child doing a cooking demonstration at her kitchen island.  [Good one!]


A new translation cannot be expected to accomplish everything. Only with time will we recover a sense of the difference between going to the Altar of God and singing around the camp fire.

Read the whole thing over there.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Mail from priests, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, The future and our choices, Vatican II and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Priam1184 says:

    Entirely correct. If the tabernacle were placed back in its proper position and the priest turned around to face it along with the people so that we would all be facing in the same direction whilst he offers the Sacrifice with the people in unity behind him that alone would do so much, almost more than anything else I can imagine, to restore the Church to its proper role and function in the world. It would be a simple thing technically do, but a wall of ego would need to be surmounted on the part of both the clergy AND THE LAITY (an end to the parade of 50,000 ‘eucharistic ministers’ up to the altar every chance they get) that no one seems ready to scale. SAVE THE LITURGY SAVE THE WORLD as Father says.

  2. Austin Catholics says:


  3. Scott W. says:

    We should see the survey for what it is: sour grapes. There’s no way we are going back to the chummy translation or anything like it. The usual suspects lost the language war, and the more they circle the drain, the shriller they get.

  4. PostCatholic says:

    I think Mrs Child would be delighted with the analogy. Her whole ethos was to address and educate her audience with as simple words as possible and with whatever theatrics would help to do that. We can assume God doesn’t have a need for either.

  5. sirlouis says:

    The full report says that all 178 Latin rite dioceses in the U.S. were invited to participate, but only 32 did. That’s 18%. The names of the dioceses are not given. The report says that they come from 20 states and 12 of 14 ecclesiastical regions. Moreover, religious orders were not contacted. In short, the survey was not randomized. It has no validity as an index of the opinions of the priests of the United States. There are other flaws in the design of the survey, but the failure to secure a random sample is, all by itself, lethal.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    Celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist “ad orientem” would solve a lot of problems in the long term. Hopefully the optional practice will catch on more and more among priests.

  7. iPadre says:

    Since I have been a bit under the weather for the past week and a half, I have watched some TV. It gave me the chance to watch the Mass on television, since I wasn’t even able to say the Mass. There was a very good, very traditional priest at one of the Masses, but he had that same attitude. Throughout, he had to look up at the people. I was very surprised that he also, changed the introduction to the penitential rite. Maybe he just reverted as we all do on occasion. But this looking up at the congregation during the prayers and every prayer ending, as if “he” needed the people’s consent. No, they give their assent to God in the Amen.

  8. Joseph-Mary says:

    My pastor will follow the sacramentary but does look around a lot. And folks coming in late are noticed and so on.

    But the retired priests over 70 are refusing the new translation. One brings the old sacramentary. And he ad-libs through Mass. Another ad-libs so much that I have determined that his Masses are like snowflakes: no two alike.

  9. Kathleen10 says:

    What fools we mortals be.
    We throw away a tapestry for a Kleenex.

  10. muckemdanno says:

    Uh-oh…this priest has used the “E” word (“error”) with regard to the officially approved (Novus Ordo) Catholic Mass, with an “Amen” by Fr Z and Deacon Kandra.

    Is it possible that they are still “in full communion” with the Church?

  11. Hank Igitur says:

    Kitchen island? Silly me, I have always thought that thing on the altar was called a fold up picnic table!

  12. jilly4ski says:

    sirlouis, Saint John’s University School of Theology (Collegeville, MN) and Saint John’s University in general is not known for its ability to conduct scientific research, nor is it known for its orthodoxy, unfortunately.

    This survey sounds like a student project, with a faculty adviser who is unqualified to seriously advise on this sort of quantitative analysis. But maybe I am wrong, maybe it was a faculty’s member attempt at research.

  13. torch621 says:

    Yes they are in full communion with the Church. His use of the word “error” was in regard to the mistake of allowing “ad populum” worship to become the “norm” in many parts of the world, not a theological error. There is no need for sarcasm.

  14. The most ab libbed part of the Mass I have seen is the “Let us acknowledge our sins and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries” part. seems saying the black is hard….I thought the intro mini-homily was canned in the new translation.

  15. pmullane says:


    For someone trying to properly participate, Mass facing the Lord makes so much more sense. It is abundantly clear when the priest is talking to you and when he is talking to God. It doesnt matter if you get momenterily distracted, or lose your place, or have to deal with a fidgety child, because you are no longer trying to follow an hour long monologue, but either you are being spoken to by the Lord through the priest (when he is in the place of God facing you), or the priest is speaking to God on behalf of you. I sincerely think that, if properly catechised, bothe priests and laity would understand the Mass and the priesthood better if only Mass would be said towards the Lord.

  16. Athelstan says:

    It’s true that the new translation is not perfect. What works in Latin does not always flow smoothly in English. Sometimes the new collects can end up as long, clunky sentences. There are passages that could be improved upon.

    In truth, however, these complaints about the stylistic problems with the new translation are too often a screen for deeper objections, and Deacon Kandra’s correspondent gets at one of them: Not just the resistance of older priests and laity to any change, but an entrenched attachment to a form of Mass that really has become a kind of conversation, a talk show, one where we’re enjoying a communal meal. Celebrating versus populum enables that approach to worship relentlessly; but so too did the basic, colloquial, conversational 1973 ICEL translation we’ve been saddled with.

    But beyond that are theological objections. Because the old translation was often just a simple paraphrase of the prayers, a lot of the content and emphasis was simply lost. And now, many Catholics are being forced to confront what, if I may say so, the prayer really says. And many don’t like it. It is as Bryan Cones, the progressive editor at the very progressive U.S. Catholic, exclaimed with deep dismay in a column two springs ago (well fisked by Fr. Z here): ” To me it seems not only that we shouldn’t be using these translations, we shouldn’t be using most of these prayers at all anymore.” Give him points for candor.

    So I don’t doubt that there truly is a large percentage of priests in the U.S. who really are critical of the MR3 translation, particularly those of the older generation. I doubt that it’s as high as 59%; a voluntary survey conducted by an institute (St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville) known to be highly critical of the subject is going to be highly vulnerable to drawing more responses from those likely to be critical as well. But such concerns, alas, seem somewhat lost on the Collegeville crew, even if it isn’t lost on them that a great deal of what they really object to is . . . what the prayer really says.

  17. Legisperitus says:

    Honestly, when I was 6 years old and started reading along with the Mass, at first I thought the “you” in “He gave you thanks and praise” was referring to the congregation because it wasn’t capitalized and the priest was looking at us.

  18. Athelstan says:

    Hello Legis,

    I wager you weren’t the only one.

  19. Robbie says:

    I think having the priest face the altar rather than the audience would do much to eliminate liturgical abuses in the NO. It would take the attention away from the priest and place the attention, as it should be, on the Mass itself.

  20. Magash says:

    I surely agree that the Church would benefit greatly from both turning around the altar and moving the tabernacle back where it belongs. And I also understand that this will not happen until imposed from Rome. Even then some priests will plead monetary considerations and bishops will give them waivers, just as they have with the use of unworthy vessels (in parishes where they can’t seem to gather enough funds to purchase a new chalice or install kneelers, but always seem to have enough money to pay license fees for music from Spirit & Song or buy a new video projector for use int he sanctuary.)
    Yes I know there are some good priest slogging on in the parishes making these changes, but there are many more who would welcome them if imposed, but will not attempt them in the face of probable censure from the diocesan office, if not the bishop himself.

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  22. “This book keeps you needing to read from it. [It makes you think about what the texts mean, too. ”

    The same applies to the congregation. Following along with a missal keeps us focused on the actual words (prayer) and their meaning, whether recited by the priest or ourselves. This is true even for those we have memorized.

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  24. kneeler says:

    Latin rite / Novus Ordo priests … you CAN celebrate ad orientem without asking permission! Just explain to your congregation why you have decided to follow Vatican II. ;O

  25. Patt says:

    I do not know who is behind it–BUT it seems to me that everything that can be done to lessen the priest’s role has been done with a vengeance. The Mass has been changed, simplified–if you will–women handing out Communion, deacons everywhere. Our poor priests are not treated with the respect due them. Additionally the gospel readings have been tampered with and made unpoetic, if not DULL!. The Faith has not been taught, EVERYONE marches up to Communion (those in serious sin even non Catholic). Many do not believe in the True Presence. It is very disturbing! Will we have any semblance of our Faith in the next 20 years? A remnant…?
    Well, Our Lady has promised that in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph so I shall continue to trust in Our Lord.

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