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Missal crisis

I have previously provided some resources and reflections on the new English translation of the missal. A reader of this site pointed me to a helpful collection of links on Language Log, a site devoted to language. For the full post go here. These are the links I particularly appreciated:

For a chronological overview, see Rita Ferrone, “Roman Missal Crisis: A Timeline“, 7/16/2011.

An anti-missal FAQ is here. Some other anti-missal articles are John Wilkins, “Lost in Translation: The Bishops, the Vatican, and the English Liturgy“, Commonweal 10/2/2005; Robert Mickens, “Unlocking the door of the vernacular“, The Tablet 6/18/2011; Rita Ferrone, “Bad Language“, dotCommonweal 7/6/2011; Rita Ferrone,  “It Doesn’t Sing: The Trouble with the New Roman Missal“, Commonweal, 7/15/2011.

A slightly more positive spin can be found in Rita Ferrone, “Virgil and the Vigil: Bees are Coming Back to the Exsultet“, Commonweal 4/10/2009. For a stronger positive take, see e.g. “Revised Roman Missal: Understanding the reasons for the changes“, Catholic Tide 2/10/2011.

There’s at least one book on the subject of the translation theories at issue: Peter Jeffrey, Translating Tradition: A Chant Historian Reads Liturgiam Authenticam, 2005….

Many other aspects of the controversy, including the historically and lexicographically vexed question of consubstantiation, are covered in Ben Zimmer’s Word Routes column for 4/15/2011, “Mass Confusion?“.

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9 Responses to Missal crisis

  1. I’ve been looking at the USCCB website, trying to find the priest’s parts, and managed to get them. There is one example of inculturation (if you can call it that) there instead of the word ‘dew’ (the US Catholic biships wondered if the average worshipper could pronounce it), the word ‘dewfall’ is used. On a whole, I like the new translation, but there is one component to its success which needs patience; time. I always remember Owen Chadwick on the Book of Common Prayer: ‘Liturgies are not made; the grow in the devotion of centuries’. It is now a case of putting the new translation into practice, and congregations using them, which will finally give it the spiritual power of long devotion.

  2. The whole idea of “formal equivalence” really gets me! Especially when undoubtedly there are Greek versions which predate the Latin ones. And what about Aramaic? Should we not drop all vowels to be consistent with the Hebrew?

    It all reminds me of some type of worship of the written word akin to that song “every sperm is sacred”.

    I’m sorry, it’s laughable! Or would be if it were not so, so sad.

    I think of German. What if just tried German word order? Do the Germans have to change their natural word order too? Verbs no longer coming at the end? There is so much nonsense being promoted as somehow infallible. Words. Punctuation. And all too many rules and regulations treated as if they were doctrines.

    If we’re going “back” to “formal equivalence” then what happened to the original Nicene creed and the Spirit’s procession from the Father?

    When the huge storm came up (in Madrid) and blew off the pope’s little beanie and nearly blew him over… I viewed it as the Holy Spirit – trying to get a “word” in edgewise…

    • TheraP, I have just come home from a Eucharist at which we recited the Creed. Somehow I always seem to get a bug in my throat and need to pause just at the point “and the Son” – I just don’t know what it is ;-)

  3. Let me add to your list, Bosco, the indomitable “Father Z” (John Zuhlsdorf), the Rush Limbaugh of liturgists. He has made it a mission of some years now to explain to people what the Latin originals of the Roman Missal “actually say” and mean (verbally and theologically — and he has sufficient scholarship to do so). He is enthusiastic about the new Missal translation, not because he thinks it is perfect, but because he considers it to be much more successful in communicating the “red meat” theological content of the traditional prayers.

    His brand of conservative Catholicism won’t be everybody’s cup of tea (it’s not mine). But I don’t know how you could read his assessments of the 1970s ICEL translations without coming to agree with him that they did a great disservice to Catholic liturgy and formation. I’m not sure that many Anglicans understand quite how loose and vague the ICEL translations of the Mass collects really are. They make Cranmer’s alterations to the his Sarum originals look insignificant.

    Zuhlsdorf’s translation articles, in a series entitled “What Does The Prayer Really Say?”, are grouped here: http://wdtprs.com/blog/category/wdtprs/ I would not wish to be thought to endorse his opinions generally! But your list of “resources” on the new translation would be incomplete without these. They are similar to Daniel McCarthy’s “Listen to the Word” series in the Tablet, but rather more polemical.

    • Fr John Zuhlsdorf (you will notice I gave him the prestigious Superior scribbling award) and Listen to the Word (the former seeing this missal translation being a good step to something better, the latter less enthusiastic about this translation) are important resources for understanding the Latin original of the Roman rite. Both produce their own translations which differ from the missal translation. Neither addresses other options, such as the 1998 translation. Following their principles, and that of the translation, the Lord’s Prayer would be quite different. The NZ bishops presented to the Vatican the contemporary translation of the Lord’s Prayer alongside the one used in the 1970s translation. The Vatican has forbidden that option. Blessings.

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Rev. Bosco Peters

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