"Well Actually, He’s Not Talking to You." Answering One Critique of the New Translation

I, like you, have read with interest the reactions of many to the new translation, after its first week of use. Most of the remarks I have read are quite positive. A smaller, though not insignificant number, are negative, some strikingly so. No need to summarize all the remarks here. I am personally a big fan of the new translation and have carefully and joyfully prepared my congregation for it. Our first Sunday went off without a hitch.

There is one strain of negative reaction I would like to address however, since it goes to the heart of a common misunderstanding of the Liturgy. The negative reaction basically stated is:

I can’t easily understand what Father is saying in those long, run-on sentences. It doesn’t make sense to me and I get lost in all the words.

It is a true fact that the new translation preserves more authentically the sentence structure of the Latin original which, like older English, makes greater use of subordinate clauses. For example, consider the prayer from the first Monday of Advent with subordinate clauses indented,

Keep us alert,
we pray, O Lord our God,
as we await the advent of Christ your Son,
so that,
when he comes and knocks,
he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise

This manner of speaking is more formal and ancient.

The just abrogated translation of 1970 turned the rich sentence structure of the Latin prayers into a series of declarative statements:

Lord our God,
help us to prepare for the coming of Christ your Son.
May he find us waiting,
eager in joyful prayer.

Not only is the language less elaborate and more informal, it also omits the humbly beseeching quality of the Latin, and wholly omits the Scriptural allusion of Jesus standing at the door and knocking (cf Rev 3:20)

Now, if the priest who recites or sings the prayer is careful with the commas, and alters his tone of voice properly, the new translation is quite intelligible, and also quite beautiful. My own mind lit up as I recited the new prayer above, this morning.

That said, it may still be harder for some in the pew to attend the words of the priest, even if it is well spoken, since the use of sentences with subordinate clauses requires the listener to hold one thought, while a subordinate thought is articulated, and then the speaker branches back to the main thought.

So lets grant that it is a little harder.

But here we come to an important insight that, though it is not politically correct, is still true: The priest is not talking to you. He is not directing the prayer to you, and the first purpose of the prayer is not that you understand it perfectly. The prayer is directed to God, (most often, to God the Father). The priest is speaking to God, and is doing so on your behalf, and that of the whole Church. And God is wholly able to understand the prayer, no matter how complicated its structure.

Too often in modern times we have very anthropocentric (man-centered) notions of the Sacred Liturgy. With the return to the vernacular, and mass celebrated toward the people, (neither intrinsically wrong), there is often the wrongful conclusion that the Liturgy is about us, the gathered assembly. Surely there are aspects celebrated on our behalf and for our benefit, especially the Liturgy of the Word and the reception of Holy Communion, but the prayers of the Sacred Liturgy are addressed to and focused on God.

When we understand God as the addressee, the notion of “formalism” in the texts we use makes more sense. One may reasonably argue that, in private prayer, simple and personal words from the heart are most appropriate. But in the Sacred Liturgy, which is both communal and where the words are carefully chosen in accord with ancient practice, nobility and a stately seriousness are important and instinctive. It is God to whom we speak, and our language down through the centuries, in the liturgical context, has been courtly, rich and marked with a sobriety and elevated quality. While this notion was largely set aside in 1970, it has been recovered now.

If the text is less immediately understandable (it need not be) to the human listeners, it must be recalled that we are not the first or intended audience, God is.

Surely intelligibility to the average “pew sitter” is not wholly unimportant, for the Liturgy has a critical teaching role (lex orandi, lex credendi). Further, if the faithful are to join their prayers to that of the celebrant, some degree of intelligibility is helpful. But, frankly, it is not essential. Otherwise the faithful could not validly attend Mass in foreign lands, and the Mass could not be offered in Latin. Likewise young children would be excluded, since many of even the simplest words mean little to them. Full participation in the liturgy is deeper than mere auditory comprehension.

So the central point here is that God is the one to whom our liturgical prayers are directed. This is often forgotten today, and the complaint that the new prayers are “harder to understand” (they are not intrinsically so) belies a premise that “my personal understanding” is the central point. It is not.

I can hear a thousand “yes, but” s coming in the combox. And many of these will be quite valid. Distinctions are important, as is balance.

Intelligibility, while not the most important thing, IS important. And hence, we priests who celebrate the Mass using the new texts, need to work carefully to master the texts so that what we say is not lost in an ungraceful and stumbling proclamation. God and God’s people deserve our best effort.

There are some contexts where intelligibility is absolutely critical. Here is one of my favorite Berlitz commercials that illustrates a critical failure to communicate:

I sink zey are sinking about making za person sink zey are sinking.

58 Replies to “"Well Actually, He’s Not Talking to You." Answering One Critique of the New Translation”

  1. Preach father! I am a theology student who is growing more and more to be sympathetic with traditionalist arguments (though not, I pray, going over the edge!). It’s frustrating to try and talk with parish committees, especially liturgy committees, about issues like “human-centeredness” versus “prayers directed to God” (using terms like theocentrism or anthropocentrism just gets comments about being “pastoral”). Lacking the faith or the grace, I have taken to silence, hoping my prayers will do more than my stumbling arguments.

    It’s wonderful and brings great hope to find a priest who is openly discussing matters like this and doing so on a diocesan blog! I hope we get more people open to discussing these matters and really beginning to bring about the hermeneutic of reform/continuity the pope is calling for. Thank you!

  2. The priest is not talking to you.

    Monsignor, I regret that this is a misguided and misleading statement, which is not entirely saved by the subsequent sentences of explanation.

    Beyond being just a plain rude response (all PC aside), at Mass, it is the entire Church at prayer (as noted). Only one person in the room might be the one saying the actual words (together with many others in many other churches saying the same words), but it is the entirety of the Church, Triumphant, Militant, Suffering, who prays, including the laity in the pews. As such, since the laity is joined in communion, many in one, in making the prayers of the Mass, it is not too much to ask that they understand what they are joining in.

    Indeed, active participation requires that they understand and not merely observe. We all pray the Mass — the laity are not an audience.

    Instead of “mind your own business” (“the priest isn’t talking to you”), a better response is to encourage greater understanding. If that means utilizing the homily for that purpose, so be it, but we need not add negative responses in favor of the new translation to the negative responses that have been given against it.

    A better response is to offer positive remarks for the new translation — as well as offering positive remarks for the OLD translation. It is not wrong to be a “fan” of the old too. To be a fan of the old translation is to be a fan of the Church herself because it was the Church who gave us the old translation. To build up the new by denigrating and criticizing the old, which so many people have done, is to criticize the Church herself, and it is to suggest that the Church has been in error, abandoned by the Holy Spirit, for the last 40 years. That is wrong. Rather, we should defend the old translation as zealously as we celebrate the new.

    1. Perhaps you could support your assertion that active participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass requires understanding the prayers.

      You have also set up a false dilemna–if one does not understand the prayers he can do no more than observe.

      1. Yes Peter!

        I lived in Japan for two years and went to mass weekly. I didn’t understand the words at all. I followed along with the readings in my English language, but I didn’t have a worship aid for much else.

        Each week I knew what what happening. I was able to actively participate each and every week.

    2. Does a critique of the old translation _really_ result in saying the Holy Spirit abandoned the Church for all those years?? That’s a bit much, don’t you think.

      But also, isn’t this translation better? Isn’t that kind of the point, when John Paul II commissioned the new translation, since the old was not a proper translation?

      In any case, I agree with the idea of support for the old: We should defend the Tridentine mass as zealously as we celebrate the Novus Ordo!

    3. Bender – Clearly you have missed the point. Father was not directly or indirectly saying “mind your own business” and if you read that into it, you wrote it into the article in your own mind. The point IS that we together pray TO God with the priest and the words ARE the words of the Church. Our personal weakness not withstanding, the words unite us together more closely now than they did in the past; AND if you want to defend the “old” you should look back beyond 1970 and notice how the last 40+ years have removed a particular unity and perhaps dulled our understanding of these great prayers. We should now attend with greater effort so that we may more fully pray and appreciate the gift that we have in the new translation.

    4. Another point worth considering. The mass converted barbarians who hadn’t a clue what was going on at mass. Yet they we’re converted and civilized by that mass! And they were attending a mad in a foreign language! They learned Latin, they learned the faith, and they elevated their thinking and perspectives higher to reach an understanding of what they witnessed every Sunday. Modern Man, with our”Enlightened”, progressive mind and technology can’t be expected to understand an ancient form of worship? We can learn all the new features of windows 7, excel 2010, and the new iphone 4s but we can’t learn a different sentence structure?

      Does that same excuse work in English class when its time to learn Shakespeare? Come on people! Lets be enlightened by the church and it’s liturgical tradition! 🙂

    5. Using the term “anthropocentic” is an assertion of intent that might not be accurate. Wanting to fully understand and participate might actually be a reasonable expectation of the body of Christ. Using comprehensible language might be more than declarative sentences, it might actually bring spiritual benefits to the listener and glory to God at the same time.

  3. Amen, Father. It just ain’t about us. AIn’t ain’t ain’t. In fact, the Other vernaculars have been closer to the Latin for all this time, haven’t they? We’re just catching up.

    Now, if I could get your help convincing our congregation to stop applauding the choir after the recessional, we’ll be really moving in the right direction. Oh, and then there’s Cum By Yah (yes, you heard me) as the kids are led off to childrens’ liturgy, but we’ll save that for another time.

    No, it’s not in your diocese…I think it’s one of those Cultural Differences I hear about.

    in JMJ,

    Ken in Shanghai

  4. “The priest is not talking to you. He is not directing the prayer to you, and the first purpose of the prayer is not that you understand it perfectly.”

    Excellent post. We should all remember this quote above more often! Thank you.

  5. Monsignor, you have a wicked senses of humor, I love it! The video was great!!! Actually laughed out loud!

    Personally, I whole heartily embrace the changes in the text. As I was reading your blog I envisioned the Church Triumphant shouting to us where we meet together in prayer at mass and saying, “Ugh! you stiff necked people! IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!!!!!!” No offense intended… Although the words have clearly changed the reasons we come together to worship and the purpose of prayer in all of its forms has not changed.

    So glad to hear proper preparations were taken in your parish community to reveal a clearer understanding of the meanings behind the change. Education is key…

    In watching the video the cry for help in distress was clearly articulated (“May Day, May Day”) as well as understood. Let’s not complicate things more than they need be. I am confident Our Father in Heaven always hears and completely understands the prayers of His children regardless of where the comma falls.

    Change makes us uncomfortable at times I will agree, however, the beauty of the change is the understanding that change allows growth. The implementation of the text simply took place this past weekend, it has been a work in progress for many years, just like us.

    Hopefully, all will remember, we enter into Heaven as we come into the fullness of the Mass where we receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. May we become what we receive…. no matter how the prayers may sound. I am sure on any given day, the utterings at the foot of the cross may sounds confusing and disjointed to the earthly vessels, but I trust He fully understands…

  6. Some technical requests for priests, from someone sitting out there in the pews.

    1. Please enunciate. It’s hard enough for us to figure out the new prayers without the priest mumbling!

    2. Ask the person in charge of the microphones and speakers to re-tune them. Microphones – particularly the lavalier mikes many priests wear under their robes – need to be tuned to match the voice of each person who uses them. The same with speakers – even the newest speakers will produce reverberations and echoes unless adjusted for the dimensions and materials in the space that they serve.

    3. If you need to read from the book while at the altar – or even a binder with the prayers used in that mass – it’s perfectly fine with us. Lord knows we’re reading our pew cards too!

    4. The priests at my parish are chanting “The Lord be with you” during the opening prayer, the sign of peace, and the closing prayer. It’s a helpful audio cue to remind the rest us to respond “and with your spirit” (which we chant as well in response.)

  7. I recently converted from protestentism and one of the reasons was the consistent emphasis on the individual. Everything was about “me”- how I feel, the music I like, the preaching that “touches” or applies to me, etc. etc. I am so thankful to be a part of The Church and not be beholden to my feelings all the time.

    1. Ella, welcome! I enjoyed your perspective as a recent convert. It seems to me that few have done more for our Church, our faith and our worship than our dearly beloved converts in recent years. Based on your example and your comment I would think you are very much pointed in the right direction, fearsome to behold!

    2. The folks I know who changed their denominational affiliations (I don’t see anyone actually converting their core beliefs) from Catholicism to something else might see this as widening the rift between them and the Catholic church. There may be too much emphasis on the individual in some Christian sects, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t taken a step too far in the opposite direction with this approach to liturgy, either. IMHO I think establishing and building the connection between God and his people is the paramount goal of our faith. Finding that balance that best does that seems to be the real issue for all of Christianity.

      1. If the entirety of one’s spiritual life consists of attending Mass once a week, then a grave deficit will exist. Our priests regularly remind us of the need for personal Bible reading, prayer, Eucharistic adoration, etc.

        Mass, from the first time I saw it, echoed what I had read in Revelation of the great assembly in heaven worshipping at the throne of the Lord and I certainly wouldn’t call that a primarily personal event. Partaking of the Body and Blood of the Lord is as individual as you can get and there is NO protestant church that has that and there is nothing on earth or below it that will keep me from The Eucharist ever again, thanks be to God.

      2. Dear fxkelli,

        You wrote, above, “The folks I know who changed their denominational affiliations … from Catholicism to something else…”

        A minor quibble: the Catholic Church is not, properly speaking, a “denomination.” It is not a branch from the Christian vine, rather it is the root and trunk. The denominator in a math equation is that part which divides from the whole.

        FYI, the term which best expresses the process you describe is ‘apostasy’.



  8. I am quite traditional and conservative, and yet I have to say with all respect that I dislike this “He’s not talking to you” line. Yes, the priest is praying to God, not, of course, to us…but he is talking to the Father in union with all of us, and on our behalf, and it behooves us to be able to follow what is being said, whether by listening or by reading it. I don’t think it will be hard for people to follow once they get used to it…and there are inexpensive missalettes people can get. Nothing says worship should be effortless. “Liturgy” means “service” ie., work!

    Anyway, part of the Mass is that we are all drawn up into it and offering ourselves and our prayer to God…we the laity/non-celebrants are not irrelevant to the action, even though it is true that the priest can offer Mass without us – but always a server was typically supposed to be there even then, not just the priest alone… The prayers are NOT just something between the priest and God. I hope I don’t sound harsh, I don’t mean it to sound that way. I just think that line is somewhat offensive, and it kind of makes us traditional Catholics sound to liberals just as they expect us to sound: as if we don’t care enough about the people in the pews! And I really do not think the early Christians would have gone along with that approach… AND if I could be so bold, can you imagine Jesus saying to the Apostles at the last supper, “You don’t need to follow what I’m saying. I’m not talking to you.” !!

  9. I have to agree with Bender here.
    “The priest is not talking to you. He is not directing the prayer to you, and the first purpose of the prayer is not that you understand it perfectly. The prayer is directed to God, (most often, to God the Father). The priest is speaking to God, and is doing so on your behalf, and that of the whole Church. And God is wholly able to understand the prayer, no matter how complicated its structure.”
    1. If this is true, why does the priest bother to say the prayer aloud?
    2. Surely God is also wholly able to understand the prayer no matter the structure (simple or complicated)…
    3. Interpreting the Mass as a (private?) conversation between a priest and God does seem to reduce others to mere observers and not full participants.

    1. On point 2, god can understand a prayer no matter how simple our complicated. But we save our best writing, fiction, grammar and sentence structure when speaking to our “betters”. We wouldn’t speak to a president or queen in a common manner. Why would we settle for watered down when reciting a sublime prayer on behalf of all the faithful?

    2. “If this is true, why does the priest bother to say the prayer aloud?”

      For most of our history the priest did not, in fact, say most of the prayers aloud. Those that were said aloud were in Latin, and the Eucharistic Prayer was said entirely in silence. If you go to an EF Mass you’ll see this is still the case. While I’m not advocating this across the board I do believe we run the risk of approaching the Liturgy as “consumers” if we evaluate our “personal worship experience” by whether or not we understand every word or phrase. I very much agree with Msgr. Thanks!

      1. But couldn’t the argument also be made that for much of our history most people not only didn’t understand the Mass but also didn’t receive the Eucharist? It is a fairly recent “change” which encouraged frequent reception (or at least once a year). What we used to do, or what we did for a very long time, ought not to be blindly clung to, but opened up to the Spirit–we are in need of constant renewal as individuals and as Church. SC encouraged greater participation by the laity, and this doesn’t reduce us to “consumers” but rather “participants”.

  10. PS – intelligibility may not be absolutely mandatory, but isn’t it the ideal? I think the mind of the Church is that it is preferable that people do understand… If someone is catechized well, they can understand and participate even if the language is not their own. But an uncatechized person founders if they have no idea what is going on. I would like to suggest that it glorifies God more if people understand…

  11. Just a general reply, especially to the critics of this post. Please don’t get too caught on the title, especially in such a way as to take personal offense. Recall that titles are often intentionally edgy to attract readership. That said, though it is bluntly stated in an less nuanced way than you would like, it remains true that the priest is speaking to God, not to me.

    I think I balance that notion in the article with other considerations, though not enough to satisfy those who have criticized this post, I understand.

    Intelligibility is good, my essential point is that it is not the only, or even the most important, aspect of the “presidential” prayers, there are other factors which must be weighed and considered. That some of you do not think I have properly articulated these other factors or given them proper weight is why there is a comment box. I am beginning a conversation, not ending it, or proposing that I have constructed a full theological or liturgical treatise here. So I am not so sure you have to be “against” the post, but only that you would like to add other considerations or articulate a higher priority for intelligibility.

    Then of course a second interesting aspect of intelligibility is: “Intelligible to who?” A young child, a teenager? IOW how do we define intelligibility, where do we set the bar?

    1. It’s a great article monsignor.

      I hope the core of intelligibility is speaking in a language that’s understood by as many of the participants as possible, especially the ones who walk into church looking for that relationship with God that they have finally opened their hearts to for the very first time.

  12. Erin, wouldn’t it glorify God more if His people were ‘catechized well’, to use your own words?

    I am more acutely aware that I did not receive as good an education in this country as my parents did, and my children did not receive as good an education as I did.Our language for worship came from a culture that had a much higher expectation than we are willing to place on ourselves or our children. Well, it’s high time that changed. Just look at the collects from last year’s First Sunday and this year’s, which Father posted above. Is anyone seriously suggesting that the simpler one, from last year, is a better prayer than this year’s? Just because I find Cat in the Hat enjoyable does not mean I should not be challenged to prefer Shakespeare.

    I keep thinking of St. Paul’s exhortation to “take every thought captive for Christ.” In her liturgy, over 2000 years, the Church has done exactly that, tweaking, modifying, accomodating every word in every prayer until we have the glorious Mass available to us today. Which too many of us fail to appreciate, because it takes more effort to understand.

  13. Is the new translation really all that different? Some of the phrases were the ones used when I was a boy, say in the mid to late 60s, for example the and with your spirit, instead of the and with you….) I think the reaction to the “he is not speaking to me” line shows how badly people misunderstand the mass!. The priest is really not speaking to us! Maybe we do not like that, but that’s the way it is. I thought it was a representation of Christs sacrificial death on the Cross. At least that is what they used to teach back in the day. I think Monsignor Pope makes an excellent point, for some of us the more formal language helps us to focus on God as other, holy, and remind us how little we are compared to him. This is a good thing for our hubris filled age. It is closer to how the mass felt ( albeit in a small way) back before the changes post Vatican II, when people actually went to mass.

    Back in the day, 75% of Catholics went weekly, and now 25% do so, pretty clear that people have voted with their feet, the modern mass does not capture the imagination as much as did the older one evidently. Finally more formality will probably lead to fewer peculiar episodes of irreverence, One of my children is a high school student who attends a private Catholic school, recently he attended a mass with everyone sitting on the floor through the whole mass, and wondered half jokingly, if this was “valid”, as most of the usual rubrics were omitted. He thought the whole thing was a little silly. I don’t know if it was valid, I think if it was anything, it was valid but illicit, or not being an expert in these things, maybe it was licit but just weird. In any case this kind of thing does not impress the kids. Most people need help to get a sense of that God is being made present, a lot of the current mass does not provide this. You can bet most kids do not believe in the real presence. I have seen one kid at mass bite the Eucharist like a cookie. So if a tiny step towards more formality helps get rid of this silliness we should support it. Its not all that hard to learn the new phrases, and frankly folks should stop whining and just spend a little effort figuring out what is going on. Is it really on that unintelligible? For many decades back in my home town my grandparents and their contemporaries most of whom worked in coal mines and had barely a grade school education were able to make sense of a mass said in Latin? How lazy can we be?

    1. To blame the translation of the Novus Ordo in use since 1970 on the decline in Mass attendance is absurd. The lack of poetic clarity in the ritual is obvious to the elitists, perhaps, but did not impact essentially the person in the pew. People have opted to leave the church or have become inactive for a wide range of reasons. Few of them have said or thought that the Mass was too lowbrow so they decided to become even more lowbrow evangelicals? I don’t think so!

  14. Thank you, Msgr. Pope, for your thought-provoking comments. As an older (68 y/o) Catholic who remembers
    well the Second Vatican Council unfolding through almost daily news reports, documents, discussions, and
    misguided interpretations, not to mention some of the most bizarre liturgies which embarrass me to this day,
    I truly like the new translation! I admit to having biases: training in Latin and New Testament Greek (at the
    local Protestant seminary because our Catholic seminary closed shortly after Vatican II), an M.A. in Brit. Lit.,
    and having been an altar server for the auxilliary Bishop of Louisville at the indult Tridentine Masses. Now,
    my parish priest has both Latin and English Masses on Sundays and Holy Days. Our English Mass is very
    formal, with an award-winning choir and organist (with a Ph.D.), but the formality never really matched the
    language of the “old” translation. That changed Sunday, Nov. 27th. I am very grateful to the Magisterium
    for this new translation. I have waited many years for this to happen. Now it has come to pass.

  15. I am sure the priests in our respective parishes are still studying and practicing the new prayers as of today. I wonder if the parishioners also take time to do the same. I try my best to go to mass every day – and the priests in the parishes I have gone to are so ever helpful and telling us where the prayers will be (page, version, etc.). I read all the prayers while the priest says them (unlike in the old liturgy where I could almost recite from memory most of the prayers with the celebrant!). It allows me to get more acquainted with the new form – the only possible way I could do so. Perhaps we need to put in some effort here.

    BTW, do not let go of the “And also with you.” We still use it in the morning prayers! Or should it have been changed? 🙂

  16. the use of sentences with subordinate clauses requires the listener to hold one thought, while a subordinate thought is articulated, and then the speaker branches back to the main thought.

    Sounds like the horrendous construction of German sentences. How the Germans cope is quite a mystery.

    1. The fact that the Germans do cope suggests that complex speech patterns are not inherently unnatural in human beings. I am mighty pleased to be moving past the “See Jesus pray. Pray Jesus, pray” level of syntax.

  17. “Full participation in the liturgy is deeper than mere auditory comprehension.”
    Could you give some Catholic literature/scriptural references for this. I’m really put out (to say the least) when I look over to see another university student text through the Eucharistic Prayer. Is the mass “ruined” by his lack of participation?
    I’m scared to attend a mass here on campus because yes, some people will be using the cards in the pews with the revised translation, but I admit I am easily distracted and bothered by the texting and failure to fully participate. (So I choose a parish down the road!) But, back to my main questions: where can I find doctrine on a more fuller participation in the mass as well as is the mass disrupted when participants, or lack there of, are mentally and spiritually elsewhere?
    Thanks for any help.


  18. Last Sunday, I was swept up in this magnificent prayer, at once new and ancient, and I wept with gratitude for the wonderful new translation. I was also moved by the fidelity of the priest celebrating the Mass; it made me realize that in this time when we are bombarded by negativity and criticism of the priesthood that there are so many good and holy priests serving us in parishes all around the this country. Thanks be to God for the new translation and may He bless all those who worked to bring us this beautiful gift.

    Those who are offended that the prayers of the Mass are not directed toward them should remember that the Mass celebrates the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for the forgiveness of their sins. During the Mass we should open our hearts, remember this great gift of love and offer ourselves to Him in gratitude and humility.

  19. Very few folks do I read mention the most fruitful improvement to be had.

    The new translation allows for the natural cadence of Catholic prayer.

    If one is unfamiliar with this cadence it is because they have not been steeped in it properly.

    The cadence of Catholic prayer is a true gift. It guides us how to communicate with God and as to what pace we should live our everyday lives; not too fast, not too slow, changing tempo when appropriate, and taking a breath when dictated.

  20. @Richard A – yes, I certainly do think it glorifies God more if people are well-catechized!

    Don’t get me wrong, as I suggested above, I think the new English translation is perfectly intelligible. People are making way too big a deal about it, who are worried about it. The way some “liberals” are responding, you would think they translated into Middle English or some other ancient form of English that no one understands today. Good grief! They need to relax. They are really afraid, I think, of having the fullness of the Faith more evident in the Mass and in catechesis.

    At the same time, I think that we who are on the traditional side do need to be aware of how some of our phrasing can come off. I have seen this “He’s not talking to you” line elsewhere, and sometimes it really is used in an offputting manner…for example, by someone who insists on the silent consecration and is basically just trying to shut up those who dare to suggest that they like hearing the consecration spoken aloud or that there are actually sound theological or pedagogical reasons for having people hear it.

    To the extent that we slip towards the idea that it’s mostly or even firstly about the priest and God, I do think we risk fulfilling the clericalist stereotype… (Not that you, Monsignor, intend clericalism- I realize you do not!) After all, the priesthood exists for the sake of the people. God Himself does not need the priesthood, nor does He need our worship. He instituted it for our sake. He wants it, but He does not need it. Jesus did not institute the Mass primarily so the priest can commune with God, though of course he does, but so the whole people of God can worship and glorify Him and receive the word and the great sacrament that heals and nourishes our souls! Am I right or not? There are many ways to accomplish this goal – English, Latin, EF, OF, Byzantine rite, etc… but the point I am making is that at the most fundamental level, the Mass IS about the people. It does matter how it impacts them, and it is perfectly correct that the Magisterium prudentially considers that.

    One can participate in Mass even if one doesn’t know the language, and we all know that participation does not have to entail vocalizations. One can participate intensely by sitting there silently, adoring and contemplating. But when people aren’t catechized, and/or can’t read, and the Mass is not in their language…well, let me tell you, some traddies romanticize the past, as if all the people in the middle ages (or even in the 1950s) were all perfectly faithful Catholics sitting there in rapt adoration every Sunday. Not so, my friends! Obviously some times were better than others, and our day is very difficult…but we can’t romanticize the past. If the 1950s were so great, the whole pack of people would not have fallen away so easily in the 60s, in my opinion.

    As for the general issue of intelligibility: of course, the language is intelligible to God in any case! The issue is the importance of intelligibility to people. Obviously the Church would not approve prayers that were in themselves unintelligible, and they should be lofty and beautiful. Part of what we’ve all been lamenting for some time is the pedestrian nature of parts of the translation we just had!

  21. Thank You and I concur on all points. What really bothers me is when it is priests who are critical of this new translation. Somehow they think it’s all about their opinion. They see to forget what their role is and that in fact it isn’t about them at all, any more than it’s about the rest of us.

    This translation is more respectful and now I don’t feel as if I’m in a protestant service.

    1. Absolutely spot on. The Spirit of VII crowd bleat on about the faithful having their say but almost universally its only ok so long as we follow their party line. Problem is it’s not their party but God’s!

  22. I think one of the unstated benefits of the corrected translation will be that the act of listening to these prayers, with their more complex subordinate clauses, the elevated vocabulary, their more florid and evocative imagery, will awaken our slumbering brains, and make them work harder and better. I reckon it will make us smarter by exercising our brains more vigorously. My hope is that not only will it deepen our reverence at Mass and help us receive a greater portion of the infinite graces available to us at every celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, but that we will receive more of the fruits and virtues of the Sacrament.

  23. So many ‘words’ to explain the fact we all attend mass to worship, praise, and honor our Creator.
    Oh Lord, increase our faith!

  24. Sundays liturgical service at my church was a pleasant experience that seemed to have a positive impact on the congregation as a whole. It was as though a reverence and spirtual humility that had been lost, was again found and placed in It’s rightful place. Perhpse it was just my subjective perspective but I doubt it. Rain definitely changes one’s outlook for the better when you have been in a drought.

  25. Father, I really liked your article. What I can’t get my head round is this notion of ‘liturgy committees’. It sounds to me more like a soviet or one of the chairman Mao criticism meetings. Why can’t you just scrap these organisations and simply get down to accepting what the Holy Father is trying to lead us to? Remember the words ‘thou art Peter……’ and note that Christ didn’t ‘you are all Peters etc etc. I go to mass to offer up my pretty feeble attempts to adore and worship my maker who loves me . So forgive my scepticism of the committees etc and lets get on with the job in hand. Sounds to me that there is a lot of intellectual arrogance around and yes you are right I would rather have mass in its original latin which i can well understand without the tower of
    Babel stuff making it more complicated than it need be. A lot more faith and a lot less navel gazing is whats required. The new translation is just fine thank you,but the latin is a whole lot better. I never noticed the Jews departing from Hebrew nor the moslems from Arabic yet they get along fine in the worship of almighty god. Are we catholics so stupid that we can’t put in a little effort to learn and read our missals with both texts side by side. For God’s sake we are the UNIVERSAL church so let’s start whining and get down to being just that. AMDG

  26. Father, I really liked your article. What I can’t get my head round is this notion of ‘liturgy committees’. It sounds to me more like a soviet or one of the chairman Mao criticism meetings. Why can’t you just scrap these organisations and simply get down to accepting what the Holy Father is trying to lead us to? Remember the words ‘thou art Peter……’ and note that Christ didn’t say ‘you are all Peters etc etc. I go to mass to offer up my pretty feeble attempts to adore and worship my maker who loves me . So forgive my scepticism of the committees etc and lets get on with the job in hand. Sounds to me that there is a lot of intellectual arrogance around and yes you are right I would rather have mass in its original latin which I can well understand without the tower of
    Babel stuff making it more complicated than it need be. A lot more faith and a lot less navel gazing is whats required. The new translation is just fine thank you,but the latin is a whole lot better. I never noticed the Jews departing from Hebrew nor the moslems from Arabic yet they get along fine in the worship of almighty god. Are we catholics so stupid that we can’t put in a little effort to learn and read our missals with both texts side by side. For God’s sake we are the UNIVERSAL church so let’s stop whining and get down to being just that. AMDG [sorry for the typos.]

  27. The New Translation is more tweaking. Simplicity is a virtue, by the way. I like the old translation better.

    “Further, truth seems to be the same as simplicity, since hypocrisy is opposed to both” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II:II:109).

    1. By this quote do you wish to assert that we who like the new translations are guilty of hypocrisy?

      Also are you aware that you are quoting not Thomas per se but an objection in the Summa to which St Thomas answers:

      Simplicity is so called from its opposition to duplicity, whereby, to wit, a man shows one thing outwardly while having another in his heart: so that simplicity pertains to this virtue. And it rectifies the intention, not indeed directly (since this belongs to every virtue), but by excluding duplicity, whereby a man pretends one thing and intends another. (Reply obj 4)

  28. The Faith was handed over to me. I wasn’t asked if I agreed that Christ should suffer and die for our sins. The Father didn’t ask if I wanted the Holy Spirit to enter into me at Baptism and begin to transform my lowliness into another Christ. I was not given a vote on whether I agreed with the institution of the Eucharist or the other Sacraments, let alone the rest of the Faith. And yet at every turn, these things, decided without my considered opinion, have proven to far wiser, good and just than anything that was formulated in my tiny mind. I think I will continue to trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in this too, no matter how much extra work it causes me. Knowing that the Spirit guides this New Roman Missal, I will do my best to docilely submit myself to its tutelage and glean whatever wisdom and spiritual benefit God sees fit to grant me through it. I am sure the benefits will come, full-measure, packed down and overflowing. God deals generously with those who quiet themselves to listen for His voice. — End of Sermon 😉 —

  29. Hi – as regards simplicity: Simplicity and depth/beauty are not mutually exclusive. But sometimes things can be made too simple in a way that makes them lackluster and boring. Wouldn’t you agree? We all have our own tastes, of course.

    Here’s an example: “Love ya!” versus “Beloved, I love you with all my heart.” Well, I wouldn’t mind if someone said “Love ya!” to me, but “Beloved….” is certainly more moving. Know what I mean?

    Some folks felt the language of the prior translation was too simple in that way – that it lost some beauty and depth that should be there (besides not always being an accurate translation of the Latin).

  30. What I don’t understand in some of these responses is the idea that the Church has promulgated a new text. The Church DID NOT promulgate a new text. What is being used today is a new TRANSLATION… because the people who did the translation last time did a really, really poor job.

    The new translation of the Mass is gorgeous! I have felt the Spirit many times just through the new words which the priest prays. This should have happened sooner. Old translation, good riddance! May it never darken the door of the Church again.

  31. Perhaps some of those commenting here have trouble with written English as well as spoken. Did most of you miss the words of Msgr when he said that the priest is not speaking to us but rather to God ON OUR BEHALF?
    We might miss a word here and there for whatever reason but if English is your main language what part of that don’t you understand? God is the reason for our presence at mass. To give Him honor and glory. It is the role of the priest, as Persona Christus (in the Person of Jesus Christ) to offer the sacrifice of Calvary to God in atonement for all He has done for us. He offers this Sacrifice which is the only Sacrifice pleasing to the Almighty Father on our behalf. We participate through this action on the part of the priest. We are required to present ourselves as repentent, and participate as listeners and doers of the Word and are in turn blessed by God’s gift of Himself in the Eucharist. It is fitting to give Him Praise and Glory and our liturgical language should reflect this
    immense and mystical experience. Their is a communal aspect to all this as we come together with one another to be one in both Creed and participation led forward by our priest.

    1. You can’t really be a hearer or doer of the Word if you don’t understand the word(s)…That’s the point.

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