Thu 20th Nov 2014 | Last updated: Thu 20th Nov 2014 at 22:52pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo

Comment & Blogs

Debate: Is the new Mass translation worth all the bother?

Will it enhance the liturgical life of the Church, or is it just a lot of extra hassle for priests?

By on Friday, 11 February 2011

The new translation of the Mass, as presented to Pope Benedict XVI (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The new translation of the Mass, as presented to Pope Benedict XVI (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Over the next year or so, every Catholic in the English-speaking world will be learning a new translation of the Mass. It is the first time that such a thing has happened since the Novus Ordo was first introduced in the 1970s.

Some Irish priests have already rebelled against the new text, saying it is “archaic, elitist and obscure, and not in keeping with the natural rhythm, cadence and syntax of the English language”.

Liturgy officials have been muted in their defence of it. Martin Foster, acting secretary of the bishops’ liturgy committee in England and Wales, said:

There are people who like it and people who don’t and some who aren’t so sure. But I think you’ll find that clergy are a fairly pragmatic group of people in the end and they know it’s coming.

But if this is a fair summary of opinion – some priests like it, some don’t, others aren’t so sure – then is it really worth all the bother?

Fr Paddy Jones, director of the National Centre for Liturgy in Maynooth, Co Kildare, said learning a new translation was an opportunity to “understand and celebrate better the Mass”. But surely you can catechise about the Mass without having to learn a new text.

On the other hand, many people argue that the new translation will help make our Masses more reverent. William Oddie, for instance, suggests that the old text had a damaging effect on liturgy:

In the old ICEL translation, any indication of humility in the Latin text, which might be indicated in translation by some such phrase as “we humbly beseech you”, was simply suppressed in the Mass we have: there are very many examples of this. This, together with a consistent reduction of devotional intensity and theological meaning gives at times an almost peremptory, even irreverent, tone to the text which over the years has surely had its effect on the whole spiritual life of the Church.

So, is the new translation not worth the bother? Or will it enhance the liturgical life of the Church?

  • Horace Zagreus

    “Some Irish priests have already rebelled against the new text, saying it is “archaic, elitist and obscure, and not in keeping with the natural rhythm, cadence and syntax of the English language”.”

    There seems to me an obvious solution for these Irish prelates: If they don’t like the English, why don’t the request a Gaelic Missal?

  • W Oddie

    Nice one, Horace: that nicely would sort them out.

  • W Oddie

    (See below)

  • Fr. J

    They have shoved insane liturgies down peoples throats for decades. What they don’t like is that the liturgy wars are over and they lost. How can they demand a place at the table when they excluded traditional Catholics all these years? The hubris.

  • Anonymous

    Actually the reverse: The Gaelic masses are invariably enmeshed in a panoply of Liturgists’/Celebrants’ ulterior motives…

  • Ben Trovato

    It is quite simply a far better, more accurate and more worthy translation. That alone makes it worth the bother. Add to that the fact that it is prompting renewed catechesis – and of a more orthodox kind – and the value is squared.

    However, the best solution would be to revert to Mass in the Sacral language of the Western Church: Latin; and in the time -hallowed rite now known as the Extraordinary Form. Now that would be well worth the trouble!

  • Anonymous

    It’s a step in the right direction, preparing the faithful for the full restoration of the Mass that the saints and the martyrs loved and died for. Hence, bring it on.

  • Ratbag

    Surely the Irish priests doth protest too much! Shouldn’t they be concentrating on how to heal the pain which has caused much damage to their flock?

    Personally, ANYTHING is better than the watered-down liturgy we have now. Bring it on!

  • Ratbag


  • LeFloch

    It is worth it if it annoys the liberals. But it must be the first step towards a complete and universal restoration of the Traditional Mass.

  • Spongsdad

    And the “Traditional Mass” is?

  • LeFloch

    Is that a serious question? The Traditional Mass is sometimes known as Tridentine although it was merely codified at Trent. It has existed, almost unchanged, for around 1500 years. It is also referred to as the Mass of All Time and the ‘Extraordinary Form’. Father Faber called it “the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven”.

  • Christina

    In hope, amen to that, but I can’t quite see that it follows. Certainly the new translation gets rid of a few of the more disgraceful meddlings of the original translators, e.g. ‘we believe’ and ‘for you and for all’. It also cuts down on the offence given to the ear and the distractions caused by the sheer awfulness and banality of the language. However, for very well-documented reasons, this protestantised rite is, I believe, irreformable and irredeemable, and only time and a wiser, holier generation will consign it to oblivion.

  • Ian

    To make the Holy Mass for sanctifying and more spiritual the sign of peace of MUST be move to the
    beginning of the Hoy Mass. We can then reconcile ouselves to the Living God and ourselves.
    This will enable those of us who want to reflect totally on the receipt of Jesus Our Lord in Holy Communion.
    During Holy Mass there is too much movement. How many of us actually understand who is in the Tabernacle? May I declare very few people! We need to bring back “Holy Mass” and “Holy Communion”.

  • crouchback

    So the Irish priests are on the verge of open revolt. I predict that the priests here will not take to the new translation, but being gut less…they will give a nudge here and a wink there and drag their feet, the village idiot bands will still be in evidence, so will the girl altar servers and the Frank Sinatra and John Lennon hymns for funerals.

    The Bishops will stand on the side lines and do absolutely nothing.

    We will have to put up with this….or fight it, we will be worse off than ever.

    What will be brought out in to the harsh light of day will be the utter contempt that many priests have for the Mass…..unless it is said to their tastes and makes them the centre of attention….this is what they really fear losing.

  • Alan Glasgow

    Expressions such as arranging chairs on the Titanic spring to mind. Churchgoing numbers have gone through the floor. These changes will affect those that already attend church. What about those that have left? What plans are in place to get them back? This changing/fine tuning words will have little impact on those who need help.

  • Patt

    Ian–I think they should give the “sign of peace” back to the Protestants. It is an interruption and distraction form the true presence of Christ on the altar, and maybe that was the purpose of it since Protestants took part in revamping the Mass…

  • Marilynwallaceyork

    In this day and age how dare they further stamp on women by deliberately using sexist pronouns! On what planet do they think that is acceptable behaviour when everyone else is re-translating to be inclusive? Perhaps they want all male congregations?

  • Ben Trovato

    Yes, should have stuck to Latin: much safer.

    But I fear their is nothing that would pacify the rage of those determined to seek and find offence where none is intended.

  • Patt

    If it does not meet your approval–gee- then let’s get the Latin back on the altar.

  • Anonchap

    Don’t bother with the Novus Ordo. Attend only traditional latin Masses.

  • Robert

    In the canon – the consecration of the wine – “for all” vs “for many” constitutes a world of difference – during the Eastern Schism – the translation of one word was the setting for schism.

    It was Blessed Anna Catherine Emmerich who related one of her visions: That in the future she say a procession: The Pope leading the Cardinals, Bishops, religious and faithful in a long procession out of Rome – The Holy Father looks back and sees many have fallen out of the procession (indicating that the Church was leaving or abandoning the faith and the consequences were the loss “falling out” of many souls” – consequently the Holy Father says we must go back ( back to our faith and tradtion ) and when he says this 1/3 of the Church says – ‘we will not go back to the past and tradtions of the church’ – and this 1/3 of apostates, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious and lay, apostates are replaced by converts. God never wastes his graces, if they are refused as Protestant Europe did during the Reformation, they will be given to others, as they were to the natives of S. America and Juan Diego. Catholic prophecy has warned of the great loss of faith and apostacy that we are now undergoing and it is only a short matter of time before God’s wrath and justice will be coming upon us. Restore the Mass, restore the faith, and clean the Church of Judeo/Freemasonic influence and agents.

  • Allen in Christchurch

    The new Mass text is already in place in New Zealand where we’ve been at it since the beginning of Advent. As an average Catholic talking with other average Catholics, the main comment we have is this: we are no better Catholics today because of the new text than we would have been lesser Catholics with the old text. Not many Catholics will tell you that their faith in Jesus Christ has not been deepened by changing the words of the Nicene Creed from “of One Being with the Father” to “Consubstantial with the Father”. But, as good Catholics, we say the words they tell us to say because that’s what we do.

  • Allen in Christchurch

    miswrote … should have said “Not many Catholics will tell you that their faith in Jesus Christ has been deepened ….” Apologies for nor proofreading carefully enough before posting.

  • ProVobis

    The Tower of Babel is being realized. Why preach the Bible when you insist on ignoring it? English is simply not a vehicle for speading the truth. We should have learned that from the Anglicans. We should have listened to St. Thomas More.

  • Richard Bolton

    Because the majority of Irish – priests and laity – are incapable of speaking their own language. Judging by the comments made by these priests, their English isn’t much good either!

  • Marypettifor

    So long as they stick to the actual liturgy I don’t mind. What bugs me is when the priest thinks he can improve upon the Mass by using his own words – which leaves me feeling angry and wondering whether I’ve attended a valid Mass. I’ve encountered this frequently in the US, not at all in the UK thank God.

  • Winston Lewis

    yes, let us get back to elequent not ” relavent” or benal as is the present translation.Just read an enlish translation of the sequence for Corpus Christe circ. 1960 and compare with the present. I wonder what aquinas would think?

  • RH

    You need to study the history of the Liturgy. There is nothing protestant about the Peace. Look to the Fathers of the Early Church

  • O Ejuoneatse, 21

    I always thought “and also with you” was a disgusting rendering of “et cum spiritu tuo”; I can’t wait for this.

  • K. Smith

     The mention of ‘Judeo/freemasonic influence and agents’ is pretty alarming, considering its echo of Hitler’s fixations. The importance of tradition cannot be denied, nor must it be everything. Tradition informs our progress and it gives us our grounding, but we cannot ‘go back’.We are born to look to the future and an over-emphasis on the past and its ‘glories’ is dangerous nonsesnse. Jesus himself made short shrift of the pharisaic over emphasis on law and tradition, and the consequent neglect of compassion and love.

  • K. Smith

     I certainly don’t feel I have had ‘insane liturgies’ shoved down my throat! Also, who are these ‘traditional catholics’? If they are who I think they may be… They are rather an unfortunate collection of joyless individuals who like criticising the mass in English, mourn the passing of the latin mass and enjoy a good fume at those who receive the blessed sacrament in the hand. They see reverence in archaic observences and are quick to consign all others to the flames of hell! They seem to want us to go back to the days of ‘shut up and do as you are told…Or else’ !  Poor things.

  • kieran

    I am a Catholic who was born and brought up in Ireland and am one of the majority who do not speak Irish. I have always thought that my English was of a sufficient standard for everyday communication. Just to be sure though, could you confirm the spelling of the following words for me before I continue with this post.

    Supercilious; pompous; arrogant; condescending; patronising.

  • Charles Martel

    Bring back the Old Mass (TLM, or whatever you want to call it). All that has been proved over the last 40 years is that Pope John XIII was spot on in ‘Veterum Sapientia’ when he insisted on the preservation of Latin in the liturgy. When you go into the vernacular, you keep having to monkey around with it. I have been through so many different versions within my own lifetime that I don’t even know the Credo in English any more. But it’s not just the language problem; the truth is that our traditional Roman Mass has been ransacked. The Mass we hear in our churches around England is not that of our ancestors. That one was suppressed in 1970, but is on the way back.
    Many people get confused because there are 2 issues at play: the traditional missal and the language of the Missal. Let’s not get too sidetracked by the translation issue; let’s just give the heave-ho to the whole mess since 1970 and go back to sanity; the 1962 Roman Missal.