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New Mass translation

The US Roman Catholic Bishop Conference has just launched a website to prepare English-speaking Roman Catholics for the dramatic changes to the Roman Catholic Mass. Currently Roman Catholics know their responses by heart. They don’t hand out sheets with responses when you arrive. They don’t use power point or overhead projectors to put responses up onto a screen. But in a few months time, this admirable chorus of perfectly synchronised voices will be disturbed. A new translation is almost ready and various texts said by the congregation will change.

I understand the collects/opening prayers will look a lot more like Anglican ones, whereas currently Roman Catholic and Anglican translations of the same Latin prayer are barely recognisable as having the same source. Unfortunately, texts agreed ecumenically are being abandoned by the Roman Catholic Church. With this also will go all the ecumenically shared music. Familiar musical settings will no longer fit with the new texts some of which have been changed a little, others have been changed dramatically.

My prediction: some Roman Catholics will welcome the new texts with enthusiasm – those who have looked with envy at Anglican English quality texts; regular Sunday Roman Catholics will faithfully accept changes, as they have all other changes handed down from above (with maybe a bit of occasional muttering); some occasional Mass attendees will continue to attend – occasionally. But for many occasional Mass attendees this will be the last straw. They will arrive at a Mass they can no longer participate in by rote, by heart. Mass attendance numbers will drop further. I have, for example, been present at Roman Catholic funeral Masses where, with a large number of nominal Roman Catholics present, as well as many not Roman Catholic, with the practice of assuming responses are known by heart, the responses have been embarrassingly dire. Unless Roman Catholics adapt by introducing some ways of helping people including visitors with responses, this deterioration will only accelerate.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have prepared a website they hope will lessen the disruption. It indicates familiar cues like “The Lord be with you” will no longer have as a response “And also with you.” The response will now become “And with your spirit.” The response to “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” will become “It is right and just.” Words have been added and others removed in the penitential material, the Gloria has had a complete overhaul, the creed has had significant changes, the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Agnus Dei have had sufficient changes to trip one up.

Chart of changes
PDF of changes
More about liturgy by heart

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26 thoughts on “New Mass translation”

  1. I was raised nominal RC. When I was a kid, after the mass was in English, we used to reply, “And with your spirit.” So, it that case, an old response is being reinstated. It will be interesting to see what impact this has.


  2. Vashti winterburg

    Gosh, it sounds like the American Roman Catholic Church has decided to use the Episcopal Church’s 1928 Book of Common Prayer communion service (Rite I in the 1972 Book of Common Prayer) as opposed to TEC’s 1972 Rite II communion service.
    Here’s the trade off: Having been brought up on the more traditional Rite I, I feel better prepared for communion when I walk up to the rail, but Rite II is a lot more welcoming, especially for non-Episcopalians and to those who are new to a liturgical setting.
    My personal suggestion: slow down a little and give the words some meaning, especially during the eucharist itself. I have yet to be at an RC mass where the priest didn’t race through the service as if he’d left lunch on the burner at home. Maybe this is what Catholics want and expect, but to this outsider it’s maddening.

  3. I hope that Missals or some form of the new dialogue is quickly printed and in the pews. I have never liked the assumption that Catholics know all the responses by heart. It’s difficult for new Catholics to learn the script without a written version to follow; and even as a long time Catholic, I get tripped up on prayers that are used only occasionally.

  4. My family and I started worshipping in the Church of England as the first lot of news of these changes was coming out. I’m not a big fan of the changes because if anybody wants to get closer to the “original”/Tridentine Mass, they can now attend one without people getting hot under the collar about schism, excommunicated bishops, etc (provided that there’s (a)demand for Mass in the Tridentine Rite and (b)a priest who can say it).

    Although I loved going to the Novo Ordo Mass, I think the elephant in the room after four decades is still not the fact that the change from Tridentine to Novo Ordo was made, but the manner in which the changes were implemented – with precious little involvement of the laity and often teking place in a matter of weeks instead of the designated two years.

  5. The expression of our faith in God should have less to do with the liturgy of the priests and more with the attitude of our hearts. We should remind ourselves that without faith it is impossible to please the Lord, that He is not interested – or impressed – by the vain works of our hands but rather by the offerings and attitudes of our hearts. Are we contrite when we find ourselves needing a correction? Do we change the course of our actions when we stumble in our paths and try to get back onto the ‘straight and narrow’? Those are things that are likely far more important to the Lord rather than the words muttered by priests while in churches.

    I am reminded of the words of Jesus when he taught us about the importance of prayer, something that should be done in our own ‘prayer closets’ – privately, away from the prying eyes of those who might be impressed by our many words. It is not the words that impresses the Lord; the vocabulary nor the syntax is not of importance when we approach our heavenly father, only the attitude of our hearts which is something that God recognizes with the utterance of a single syllable.

    Is there a difference between an outpouring of emotion and eloquence for world peace delivered by Bishop Desmond Tutu or the Pope compared to the simple words of a child, on their knees before bed, saying, ‘please end the war.’ Which prayer does God hear with more urgency, with more desire to fulfill? Which of the three prayers has more power? The pope? God’s ‘top man’ on earth – or Bishop Tutu, one of the most powerful figures to have ever lived – a man who would likely have been pope had he only been of the right church, or that little girl … let’s even say that she is Catholic, for the sake of argument.

    The answer is, there is no answer (unless you get into exclusionary issues for various reasons, none of which I shall enter here). God hears the prayers and supplications of all, without regard to station – that is the great thing about being omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He can listen to as many prayers as are offered – with one caveat – they be offered through the Blood of Jesus, the only link with which we have are enabled to communicate with the Lord. Without Jesus you can attend one thousand thousand masses, in any language of your choice, and it will not do you any good; it is only through the Blood of the Lamb – the saving Grace of our Lord – that we are given the opportunity to be called the ‘children’ of God.

    If you embrace that identity, the words of the mass you attend will not mean as much to you as the attitude of your heart towards God – that is what will transform your life, and what will empower you to transform the lives of others.

    God Bless,
    Peter Amsel (rev)
    aka CrazyComposer

  6. The new translation, from what I’ve seen of it, is much more in line with the English RSV Catholic Bible. After all it should be; the Mass is a tapestry of Scripture. Finally the Scriptures wii come alive in the Mass and the Mass in the Scriptures!!!

  7. Godwin Penrhyn-Lowe

    I am eagerly awaiting the reversion to the old translation of the Scriptures, especially Matthew’s “Sermon on the mount”. The Happytudes do not sound as well as “The Beatitudes”

    After all the word “Blessed” means finding favour with God.
    For example The Blessed Virgin Mary, or the words of the Magnificat Mary spoke to Elizabeth (St Luke)”all generations will call me Blessed; or “Blessed are the poor in spirit, they shall be called the children of God”. We do not refer to Mary, the mother of God, as The Happy Virgin Mary.

    Roll on the changes- the quicker the better

  8. The new Mass translation is much more accurate a translation of the latin text. (Which as Vatican II stipluated was to remain the main language of Sacraments!!) The reason it is similar to many translations used by Anglo Catholics in the Church of England is that they took care to translate the main parts of the Mass accurately into exact English. The ICEL committee in the 1970s did not do this for ideological reasons. In a real sense the committee is guilty of manipulation of the faith of many trusting Catholics.
    Many Catholics found the new Mass in English an obstacle. When it is combined with many abuses such as communion in the hand (an indult), many extraordinary ministers, an unprecedented change to facing the people and destruction of many church sanctuaries to be a real disconnect with the tradition of the Church. So many people stopped going to Church as a response.
    The new translation restores some confidence.
    Only the priests who have been already used to their own egotistical experimentation with the texts and liturgy will complain. The lesson for them…the liturgy is not their property.

  9. Just finished reading the Chart of Changes and I feel it is said as it is in the Spanish Mass! I heard a lot on the forums that it is more in accordance to the Latin texts of TLM. Hopefully our brothers and sisters, and our priests, will not lose faith with these changes but embrace them with Love and faithfulness to our Mother Church. All we can do is pray.

  10. I am the President and CEO of CatechismClass.com, and I would like to point out that CatechismClass.com has recently unveiled a new lesson on our website to help explain the New Translation of the Roman Missal. We have developed a 40-page document outlining the changes in the Liturgy from the perspective of the priest as well as the congregation. The text goes through the changes in the Liturgy over the past 2,000 years to best explain the reasons for the changes in this New Translation.

    Chapter 1: The Source and Summit of the Christian Life
    Chapter 2: A Brief History of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
    Chapter 3: The Need for a New Translation of the Roman Missal
    Chapter 4: What We Will Say (Changes for the Participants)
    Chapter 5: What We Will Hear (Changes for the Celebrant)

    This report is intended for the average Catholic to read and is a great tool for pastors to purchase and share with their congregations, CCD classes, RCIA students, etc, etc.

    Here is a link for more information on the resource:


  11. Mass is, of course, not the source and summit of Christian life. The Gospels of Jesus are. Helping the poor, disadvantaged, sick, lonely, prisoners (!) an dothers at the bottom of the pile. THAT’S the source and summit of Christian life. As more and more Catholics give witness to as they leave the pews in their droves.

  12. It sounds like most people who will have a negative opinion on this change will have not inform themselves first of the details of why this is being done and how all the changes (or rather corrections) make perfect sense. Those are the individuals that do not embrace change no matter where it is introduced and they will always find something wrong with it.
    I suggest that more people sign up for the workshops and or talks that are offered throughout our parishes to first inform ourselves before ranting. I found one of the talks at our parish to be very interesting. We, Christians have prayed the same liturgical prayers for centuries, even from 300’s or earlier. The first translations into the English language that were done in the 60’s followed more loose guidelines on how the Latin texts were to be translated. Unfortunately, perhaps by accident, some of our texts were not translated as well as they could have been and some of the meaning may have been lost and some short verses were even completely missed in translation. I believe that reviewing and correcting these will bring more spirituality to our prayers and we can feel closer by praying the same prayers that the first Christians prayed in the early days of our religion. Believe me, the changes are actually relatively minor and anyone can handle learning this new version.
    I hope that all of us first find our WHAT the changes are, WHY they have been implemented and HOW they will enhance our spiritual experience during Holy Mass before we form an opinion, especially a destructive one instead of constructive.

    As for the occasional church goers, they can read from the books provided at church and will learn eventually as well. I do not think that anyone will be pushed away any further from church. If these individuals come to church only for family events (baptism, wedding, funeral), perhaps they are not there of their own will anyways. When a person makes a choice to be a true Catholic they do not pick and chose the ‘rules’ of our church, picking only the ones that are convenient. I hate hearing the expression that “I’m a Catholic, but not practicing”. You either are a Catholic or you are NOT. Hopefully those who say this will return and worship with us regularly, but please do not pretend you are something and do the opposite. I am not trying to be judgmental here, but just making a point.
    I’m sorry for the rant. I am in my 40’s and too many young people take God and church for granted, taking every opportunity they have to excuse themselves from going to church. This time it will be the new text…
    I will embrace the changes and encourage everyone to do so as well.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts and contribution, Maria. I do not think that all who critique the new translation are ranting in ignorance as you suggest – many are highly-respected scholars and faithful Roman Catholics. The church is not beyond critique. Just one example: the entrance antiphons were correctly translated by the bishops and then altered by the Vatican in a way that is unfaithful to the Latin (going directly against Liturgiam authenticam) and now making them lose their association with the Mass they are introducing. Blessings.

  13. Julett Broadnax

    I have been praying to remain open to the need for the new changes. I think my real objection if the timing. This is a very costly change – all the costly music books have to be thrown out, new written instructions will need to be printed, workshops, etc. will have to be presented, perhaps some are even installing electronic overhead screens – recognizing that changes will continue and the investment in electronics might be less expensive than continued costly printing charges. The church coffers have already been affected by all the payout for the costs of the abuse and litigation. And now to add these costs to underfunded church donations/budgets? It seems to me the priorities of our bishops/Rome are askew as to how best to spend money – all received via donations of the laity.

  14. So it’s back to “For us men ……” in the Nicene Creed. Women don’t count any more in the new liturgy so it’s the reincaration of the good old misogynist church. I’m seriously considering moving over to the Church of England. I certainly am not going to say “For us men ….” I AM going to say “For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven”

  15. ‘For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven’ translates ‘Propter nos homines’in Latin. I feel I am excluded.
    I hope this (blunder, I think) will not further promote male pride, narcissism, egotism again – which characteristics are all so bad for our beloved men, even for clerical translators.
    ‘Homines’ in Latin, I remember, was used like ‘men’ in English in the past but, unlike in English, there was a separate word ‘vir’ in Latin for a male person. But ‘men’ is no longer acceptable in modern English the way it is used in this translation. See for instance: ‘Men’s room’.

    1. Yes, Margaret, the argument that “men” can continue to include “women” is lost – those who continue to whip that dead horse don’t follow instructions when men are asked to go to one side of the room, and get flustered when it is suggested that God made two men and put them in the Garden of Eden. Blessings.

  16. Oh, that ‘men’ again… It all has to do with how we understand our language. The church is not making this word up. In the English language ‘men’ is sometimes used to refer to humanity as a whole and we all know it. I am a woman and I do not find it offensive because I know the word in this context includes me. Do you honestly think that the Catholic Church specifically picked this word to offend women? I think we should not look at everything so defensively and accept the official language of the country where we live. Are we going to church because of the specific words we say, because of the people that are there, because of the nice church, or a priest etc., OR are we going to church because this is the FAITH that we truly believe? For myself, it does not have to do with one or two words within prayers, it has to do with something greater than this. It is the whole lifetime experience and belief passed on to me by my parents and grandparents which I am passing to my children, the feeling you get when you are in church or when you pray alone at home. You just know who you are – a Catholic.

    1. Thanks, Maria. I would look at this differently. I would say “In the English language ‘men’ was regularly used to refer to humanity as a whole”. Language changes. Words like “prevent”, “awful”, etc. have changed their meaning significantly. We can read older texts with “prevent” in them. You and I understand completely what is meant by, “Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help” – but it is not the way we would write that prayer today, because it is not the way “prevent” is used any more normally. Similarly with “men”. If we are translating into today’s English if we ask “men” to stand, Maria you would, but most wouldn’t. You may go to the “men’s room” – most women wouldn’t. As you say we need to accept the official language of the country where we live. In this country “men” now means males. I suspect that even if that is not yet the case in your country, that is the direction the language is moving. And since we, in this country, are only allowed to use this translation, here it means “for us males”. Blessings.

  17. I just looked up the reference ‘Prevent us, O Lord …’ and found the lovely Litany which I had heard chanted in Latin many years ago. Many thanks, Bosco. Another interesting example of change in meaning concerns ‘nice’ and ‘silly’ which have more or less switched places with each other over the years. ‘Nice’ used mean rather silly and ‘silly’ meant happy or nice.
    Maria, I share your experience of being a Catholic and indeed I inherited it and tried reasonably successfully to pass it on.
    When you ask ‘Do you honestly think that the Catholic Church specifically picked this word to offend women?’ I’m not sure what to answer. A group looked at ‘Propter nos homines’ and decided together to include the word ‘men’ when the phrase would be inclusive and make perfect sense without it. Being very interested in languages, I find it hard not to wonder why. I hope that is not a sin. Can anyone tell me the real reason why this happened to such an ancient, fundamental and sacred prayer?

  18. Micheal O'Riain

    Hominibus in the Gloria is translated as “people”
    but homines in the Credo is translated as “men”.
    Are they not sure?

    1. Thanks, Matthew, for the update. I suggest you set up a 301 redirect from the previous link to the present one. Blessings.

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