Catholics Revise Mass; Changes Get Mixed Reviews

Catholics across the nation may find themselves a little confused Sunday when the church begins to use a revised Mass.

“I’ll be with everyone else next week (Nov. 27) – I’ll have to relearn the prayers, while this week I already know them,” Jeff Morrow said with a laugh, in an interview in The Christian Post.

“Those who go to Mass only on Easter and Christmas are in for a little surprise,” said Morrow, assistant professor of theology at the Immaculate Conception School of Theology – Seton Hall, in New Jersey.

The English liturgy, which has been in place for 41 years, will be replaced with a newer English translation that is closer to the word-for-word translation of the Latin. That also means the biblical references will become clearer, said Morrow.

“I think this is a good move. It will help Catholics be more conscious of what they are praying,” he said.

“It’s only in the English-speaking Catholic Church. You won’t find it in the Latin-based language churches – the French Catholic Church or the Spanish Catholic Church,” he explained. “Basically they kind of revised the mass that resulted from the Second Vatican Council, where they translated the Latin text and pared it down.”

Biblical references in the 1971 version, which took four years to complete, could be cloudy at times, said Morrow, because a lot was either lost in translation or omitted all together.

“Basically, a lot of translation issues in the literal translation have to deal with omissions. They actually omitted some parts.”

“From the Council of Trent (which closed in 1563) until the Second Vatican Council (which closed in 1965), for Roman Catholics the Mass was celebrated in Latin. After Pope Paul VI revised the Roman Missal, the order of the Mass, it began to be translated into vernacular languages across the globe. The English translators were attempting a dynamic translation as opposed to a literal translation,” he explained.

“With some exceptions, this altered the language in such a way that it tended to occlude the numerous biblical allusions in the prayers to the Mass, which are primarily taken from Scripture. Sometimes whole chunks of text were simply omitted,” the assistant professor added.

Morrow noted that the Vatican was not happy with the translation and that a translation project was initiated by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

“This translation, which will go into effect next week at the beginning of the new liturgical year with the first Sunday of Advent, is a more literal translation of the Latin text from 1970, and includes translations of the entire text, whereas the 1973 English translation included several significant omissions,” he explained.

A word-for-word comparison table is posted on the U.S. bishops’ website. Morrow gave some examples.

“One of the most serious omissions in the original English translation of 1973 was in the prayer called the Gloria,” he said. “The Latin begins with, ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis,’ which [became what used to be] ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.’ The new English translation will be more literal, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.’”

Also, instead of omitting the Latin prayer “Laudamus te, benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te, gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam,” which follows in the original text, the new translation reads,” We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King….” Morrow said.

U.S. priests have been preparing their congregations for the changes, but not all are happy about it.

“Prayer is not something you tamper with lightly, and you’d better be sure when you do that it’s manifestly better,” Seattle priest Michael Ryan told USA Today.

Morrow had no comment, except to say, “It’s going to be interesting to see what the implementations are Sunday – it’s getting mixed reviews.”

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