Truth in the New Translation Series #3: The Communicantes of the Roman Canon

In this series we are looking at the new Translation of the Roman Missal and how it restores to us a clearer articulation of the beautiful truth contained in the Latin text. Many of these truths have been lost or ambiguously presented in the current rendering we are using. Lex orandi, Lex credendi  (the law of praying is the law of believing). Hence the new translation, since it is more accurate and literal,  gives us a chance to more clearly appreciate anew the beauty of our faith based on what we pray. The previous installments in this series can be found here:

Truth in Translation Series

As usual, the Latin text is presented, followed by the new translation, and then by the rendering currently in use.

LATIN: Communicantes, et memoriam venerantes, in primis gloriosae semper Virginis Mariae, Genetricis Dei et Domini nostri Iesu Christi: sed et beati Ioseph, eiusdem Virginis Sponsi, et beatorum Apostolorum ac Martyrum tuorum, Petri et Pauli, Andreae, (Iacobi, Ioannis, Thomae, Iacobi, Philippi, Bartholomaei, Matthaei, Simonis et Thaddaei: Lini, Cleti, Clementis, Xysti, Cornelii, Cypriani, Laurentii, Chrysogoni, Ionnis et Pauli, Cosmae et Damiani) et omnium Sanctorum tuorum; quorum meritis precibusque concedas, ut in omnibus protectionis tuae muniamur auxilio. (Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

NEW TRANSLATION: In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, † and blessedJoseph, Spouse of the same Virgin, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian] and all your Saints: through their merits and prayers, grant that in all things we may be defended by your protecting help. [Through Christ our Lord. Amen.]

RENDERING IN CURRENT USE: In union with the whole Church we honor Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God. We honor Joseph, her husband, the apostles and martyrs Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; we honor Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian) and all the saints. May their merits and prayers grant us your constant help and protection. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

1. The Communion of the Saints– It has been a long and ancient tradition to refer to our relationship with the saints as the “communion of the Saints”. The current rendering fails to use the word communion, but only union and  adds the phrase “the whole Church.” It is not wrong to say that we have a communion with the whole Church if we hold the faith and are in a state of grace. However, noble though this idea is, it is not what the Latin says. The Latin text literally says, “In communion (with) and venerating the memory of…..” and then goes on to list the saints. Hence what we have described here is the communion of the Saints and the fact that we venerate their memory and are swept up into the communion of the Saints. This communion is described as a kind of hierarchy beginning with Mary (see just below) and then Joseph. Then the apostles and then the martyrs. The prayer goes on to mention all the apostles by name along with some of the early martyrs. The prayer will conclude by asking the Lord’s protection on account of their prayers. The new translation thus restores to us, by a more literal rendering, a more proper understanding of the communion of the saints to which the prayer refers.

2. The glories of Mary re-articulated– The current version we are using rather flatly says, “We honor Mary, the ever virgin Mother…..” But the Latin (and the newer and more accurate Translation) speak of her more effusively, indicating that we venerate the memory “especially, the glorious ever-virgin Mary.” Note that Latin says we honor her  “in primis” (in the first place). The New English captures this reasonably by saying “especially.”  The Latin calls her glorious, as does the new translation. Why all this? Mary is not just any saint. She is the Queen of all the saints. She is Queen Mother of the Church. She is “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.”  She is God’s masterpiece. She is the new Eve. She has pride of place in any listing of the saints. Many Old Testament texts have been taken by the Church and applied to Mary down through the Centuries. For example: You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the Joy of Israel, you are the highest honor of our people. (Judith 15:7). I am the rose of Sharon, I am the lily of the valleys (Song 2:1). Your name will be renowned through all generations; thus nations shall praise you forever (Ps 45:18). Blessed are you, daughter; by the Most High God, above all the women on earth. (Judith 13:18) . The trust you have shown shall not pass from the memories of men, but shall ever remind them of the power of God. (Judith 13:25). Well, you get the point. Mary is honored in the first place and is the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ. The new translation, by accurately reporting the Latin restores her glories and pre-eminence among the saints.

3. Clarity about Joseph– The reference to Joseph in the Roman Canon is relatively new. It was added in 1962 by Pope John XXIII. The exact Latin phrase that was added was sed et beati Ioseph, eiusdem Virginis Sponsi (and of Blessed Joseph, the spouse of the same Virgin). The wording was chosen very carefully to reflect the fact that he was her husband to be sure, but she was the same Virgin who was just called “ever-virgin” in the previous phrase. It is a way of re-emphasizing Mary’s Virginity which is necessary today in an age where many, even in the Church have wanted to doubt it. The current version lost this nuance when it simply said, “Joseph her husband.” The new translation restores the emphasis by translating it: “blessed Joseph, Spouse of the same Virgin. ” Note too that Joseph gets his adjective back: “Blessed.” The current version so often just eliminated words without apparent reason. Why not call him blessed as the Latin does? It was puzzling. But thankfully the new translation will have us giving Joseph his due.

4. Blessed apostles and martyrs– The same may be said for the apostles and martyrs whom the Latin calls “blessed.” The current version eliminated the word. Why again is a mystery. But the new translation will once again let us give them their due. They are blessed indeed.

5. They Are God’s Holy Ones –  Perhaps I am being picky but the current version says, “and all the saints” but the Latin says, “and all YOUR saints.” They are God’s saints after all, his holy ones. The New Translation gets this right as well.

This is a video I put together some time ago in honor of the Blessed Mother, she who is our tainted nature’s solitary boast:

7 Replies to “Truth in the New Translation Series #3: The Communicantes of the Roman Canon”

  1. However noble though this idea is, it is not what the Latin says.

    Perhaps then, it is the Latin that should be changed.

    As is inferred here, to say “those whose memory we venerate” is to say something other than “the whole Church.” That is, it is to say something less than “the whole Church.” It may include the saints, but it by inference leaves out the faithful departed in purgatory and, again by inference, would seem to leave out the faithful here in the Church on earth. Of course, it is implicit in the Mass itself that the Mass is celebrated with “the whole Church,” Triumphant, Militant, and Suffering, across time and across geography. But it would seem appropriate to nevertheless say so explicitly. That can be done and still emphasize a “hierarchy of saints.”

    The current version eliminated the word [“blessed’]. Why again is a mystery.

    No real objection here, only an observation and guess as to why. Perhaps to eliminate confusion between those who have been canonized (“saints”) and those who have been beatified (“blessed”)?


    My only/main concern with the new translation is that I’m not sure that a simple more slavishly literal word-for-word translation is necessarily the best answer. Indeed, in the extreme, it can get close to the overly literal legalistic errors of the Pharisees. The best answer, it seems to me, is the best theology, and not merely the best linguistic fidelity.

    Is “those whose memory we venerate” a better and more accurate theology than “the whole Church”?

    Is “and with your spirit,” a better and more accurate theology than “and also with you,” which incorporates the entirety of the person of the priest, both spirit AND body, and not merely a part of him? Especially following Pope John Paul’s observation that the Church has for too long given undue emphasis on the spirit, necessitating a renewed emphasis on the wholeness of the person and an entire “theology of the body”?

    Is “I am not worthy to receive you under my roof” a better and more accurate theology than “I am not worthy to receive you”? The former is more faithful to the Latin, but it is limited, while the latter embraces, again, the entirety of the person. And while it is more faithful to the Gospel account to be sure, even the Latin abandons the Gospel quote in the next line when we pray that we personally be healed, rather than our servant.

    In each of these cases, the former is the more literal translation of the Latin, but is it the better statement of the truths of the faith? And if the English is the better theology, perhaps it is the Latin that should be tweeked?

    None of these go to the essence of the Mass, so to change the Latin would not be to create a “new” Mass, much less an invalid Mass, no matter what the radical traditionalists might argue. It would still be the One Holy Mass, but whatever is the best statement of the theology and truths of the faith are what should be the guide in the prayers/responses — if that means changing the English or if it means changing the Latin.


    Now, I am only a humble servant in the Church, and they didn’t ask me about any of this. And what is done is done, so this is all academic.

    I am only a humble servant, so I will pray as the Church instructs, but I will not be jumping up and down in joy jettisoning all that we have been praying these last 40 years or so.

    1. As to your first set of objections, the Communicantes is not the whole canon. Hence we pray for the dead elsewhere, particularly in the Memento etiam, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum N. et N. qui nos praecesserunt cum signo fidei, et dormiunt in somno pacis….etc et al.

      Does the new translation really seem slavish to you? I find it easily spoken with ordinary English candence. I don’t think it slavish but surely more accurate.

      With your spirit is a debatable point.

      Under my roof presevers the scriptual allusion. Allusion does not require “slavish” (to use your term) literalism.

      I would not agree that an ancient text from as early as the 5th century should be “tweeked” in favor of modern idioms.

      Since the latin is the “textus receptus” I favor its wisdom over modern notions and idioms.

      By the way, I am not a “radical traditionalist” just for the record, nor do I think that one who prefers a closer adhearance to the Latin text qualifies for this title ipso facto. Such folk exist in the Church but I/we are not necessarily of their number.

      I DO consider the Latin text the missa normitiva to which we ought to substantially (not slavishly) conform.

  2. By the way, I am not a “radical traditionalist” just for the record, nor do I think that one who prefers a closer adhearance to the Latin text qualifies for this title ipso facto.

    No, of course not, Monsignor. But there ARE those rad trads out there who insist that the “NO” Mass is no Mass at all (and/or that we have not had a valid pope since V2). You are not one of them.

  3. Thank you for bringing up the “radical traditionalist,” for it seems to me the RT’s have the ear of Rome in a big way, or maybe it is Rome who is appointing only RT’s as Bishops? Have even heard “rumors” that new Bishops have go go through an “Opus Dei” type reorientation. Am bringing this up not because I am convinced of any of this, but would certainly appreciate Msgr. Pope addressing these rumors, for it is part of the ongoing conversation regarding the new translation.

  4. Msgr. Pope,

    Perhaps you can shed some light on this. I was preparing my own piece on the Communicantes, and I was surprised to read your description of “Spouse of the same Virgin.” From what I understand, the new translation does not contain this but simply state, “her Spouse” (which is different, and better than, “husband”). I looked online, and all the literature on the USCCB site says “her Spouse”. The only reference to the extended description that I could find was at

    While this looks like the USCCB site, it does not bear the same URL. (Frankly, I’m not sure what this site is.) The links on the actual USCCB site are:

    Am I missing something here? Are the texts as given on the USCCB site correct? If not, where can we get the version that will be published?

    Help is appreciated.

    – Jake Tawney

    1. Yes, ejusdem virginis sponsi is best translated, the spouse of the same virgin. Sadly in the second draft that came out from ICEL had a change from an unknown prelate in Rome who changed it back, This same prelate made as many as 10,000 changes overall in the new translation. Most all of those changes were for the worse. My article was written before the rescript came. We had been told that the Ordinary was final and approved, so I began to write articles on it. But alas, Rome changed even what had been approved by them already. It is a mysterious and frankly obnoxious intervention by a nameless Vatican official who overthrew years of careful work.

      As for the text in question, you know from what you read, it is said that John XXIII who included this change in the Canon insisted on the wording to make it clear that, though Joseph was her husband, she remained a virgin.

      The texts listed at the USCCB are the current and, presumably final edition. But we were told that before.

  5. Can we get some better Latin scholars, please?

    Sponsus doesn’t mean “spouse.” It means bridegroom. It means that all through the Vulgate which, incidentally, calls Joseph Mary’s man (vir, translating the Gk. aner).

    “Spouse” is cognate of sponsus/sponsa, but it is not a translation of it anymore than “hound” means “dog” or “dish” means “discus.” Anyway, if they didn’t want to use “bridegroom,” there’s nothing wrong with “husband.” Spouse is a word one uses at the DMV, and in other situations where a form requires gender neutrality. In normal English one uses “husband” and “wife.”

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