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The new weekly missal proves yet again what we have known for years: that the CTS is one of the great treasures of the English Church

The new liturgical dispensation has shown it yet again rising to the challenge

By on Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Catholic Truth Society's new missals (Photo: Fr Tim Finigan)

The Catholic Truth Society's new missals (Photo: Fr Tim Finigan)

Now that the new translation of the Mass is a matter, not of asking “why do we need it”? – (a question which has produced over the last few years a multiplicity of articles comparing the old and new translations) – but of getting on with the practical business of using the new texts, we find ourselves in an entirely new situation.

The explications, comparing old and new, are mostly over now. If, for the sake of interest, you want a good example, have a look at this article from 2010 by the excellent Bishop Peter Elliott, entitled “Why we need the new translation of the Mass”. But really, all that’s done with now. The old translation is beginning to fade in our memories; remembering to say “And with your spirit” is getting to be second nature (for my American readers, who only changed over at the beginning of Advent, perhaps I need to say that we in England have now been using the new translation for a couple of months). The actual launch of the new Mass in our parishes, with the people at first using cards giving just the people’s parts, and then the new Mass booklets, followed by the arrival of the new weekly missal and soon of the big heavy daily missal, has brought a situation in which it is now up to us all to benefit as best we can from the undoubted riches and wider spiritual prospects of the new liturgical dispensation.

In all this, the Catholic Truth Society is demonstrating yet again how vital it is to the maintenance of the faith in this country. It isn’t just that without it we wouldn’t have the new liturgical books we now need: I suppose some other way would have been found of getting the texts to the parishes. Someone else would produce altar missals and people’s missals and Mass booklets of a sort. But I very much doubt whether the whole thing would have been pulled off remotely as well and as stylishly as it has. We take the CTS for granted; we should recognise it more than we do for what it is: one of the great treasures of the English Church.

The CTS hasn’t just produced Mass booklets and the Sunday Missal (of which more presently), but a series of their explanatory booklets on the Mass, timed to service the introduction of the new translation. The most important of these are “Understanding the Roman Missal” by Dom Cuthbert Johnson OSB, and (something of a coup) a “Companion to the Order of Mass” by Mgr Bruce Harbert, former executive director of ICEL, whose appointment as such was an unmistakable sign that this time Rome meant business, and that ICEL was about to change radically from being a staunch defender of the old philosophy of liturgical translation as reductionist paraphrase to the new one of faithfulness – linguistic and doctrinal – to the Latin texts. As editor of the Catholic Herald, I published a splendidly combative article by him after the publication by John Paul II of Liturgiam Authenticam, in which the late Holy Father insisted (§4) that

The vocabulary chosen for liturgical translation must be at one and the same time easily comprehensible to ordinary people and also expressive of the dignity and oratorical rhythm of the original: a language of praise and worship which fosters reverence and gratitude in the face of God’s glory. The language of these texts is, therefore, not intended primarily as an expression of the inner dispositions of the faithful but rather of God’s revealed word and his continual dialogue with his people in history.

I asked the then Fr Harbert to begin his Herald piece by answering a simple question: will Liturgiam Authenticam actually change our liturgy? His answer was equally simple. “The answer is yes; provided those responsible for our liturgy follow these useful guidelines, there will be changes.” But would they? That was the question. Rome answered it by appointing him to implement the process of change.

So I was rather hoping that Mgr Harbert’s Companion would go over some of the comparative arguments for the new texts (I have to admit that I found that phase of the process fascinating: and he was, after all, the translator-in-chief). But no: all that’s over now; it’s time to move on: his pamphlet is a rich and informative guide to the Mass itself. The nearest to an apologia for the new translation over against the old is to be found, in passing, in Dom Cuthbert’s booklet, where he points out tartly that “in modern liturgical languages Et cum Spiritu tuo has been translated And with Your spirit. Italian: “E con il tuo spiritu”; Spanish: “Y con tu espiritu”; French: “Et avec votre espirit; German: “Und mit deinem Geiste.” “English,” comments Dom Cuthbert, “does not need to be an exception”, something many of us have been saying for years.

But we don’t need to say it now ever again: all that’s over. Now, we have a new liturgical reality: it’s time to move forward. And so, on to the new weekly missal, which I have been using now for two weeks, and which has transformed my experience of the liturgy. I am lucky enough to be able to go to the Latin High Mass at the Oxford Oratory: and one difference between this missal and the old one, as I have already written, is that it’s equally useful if you go to Mass in English or Latin: proper prayers in the two languages appear in parallel columns, and being able to follow the texts together is just as informative and spiritually nutritious whichever language the Mass is celebrated in. A bit of a gripe here in passing: though the propers – collect, prayer over the gifts, post-Communion prayers and so on, appear in both languages, the responsorial psalm and alleluias are given only in English. Why is that?

I could have done with more than two ribbons: you need to mark your pages in at least four places before the Mass starts, so that you’re not scrabbling around finding, say, the seasonal proper preface or the Eucharistic prayer after they have already started: but you can always do what always has been done, and use prayer-cards as extra bookmarks. It would have been nice to have some of the old prayers of preparation and thanksgiving printed at the beginning and end of the missal; but one can simply carry on doing what one has always done, one doesn’t need to be spoon-fed.

All in all, I wouldn’t now be without my Sunday missal, and if you haven’t done so already, I really do recommend that you get one. You can get it from CTS here or quite likely at the back of church if you have a bookstall. The standard smart bright red edition is £18, but I think if the CTS hadn’t kindly sent me a review copy I would have bought the burgundy leather-covered version in its protective box cover for £25: very nice looking and I have no doubt tactile. But all that’s really beside the point; it’s what’s inside that I think you can’t afford to be without: that is beyond the price of rubies.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed: But anyone who truly wishes to fully embrace the message to which this new translation is aspiring:


    I beg of you..set aside an hour or two and immerse yourself in His Holiness’s overwhelming understanding of the very nature of the Word.

  • Dom Tiago

    I was at a meeting of 50 priests – from religious orders and diocesan priests – of all ages and of all theological opinions. All said they were re-translating the new translation into living English. The prayer on the feast of the Immaculate Conception which spoke of prevenient grace was one example of what was felt to be incomprehensible.

    One priest spoke for all when he said he got out a pencil before Mass to re-write the prayers into something he and the people could understand. However much Mr. Oddie praises the new translation, he is out on a limb.

  • Recusant

    Don’t you find that just the mildest bit patronising. Do you really take us for dumb sheep, too slothful or ignorant to take in anything above the language of a Haynes Fix-Your-Car manual?

    No Father – I assume you are a priest – I want the mass as it is meant to be and not what Father Iknowwhatisbest decides it should be.

  • Jackie

    I completely agree with you it was totally incomprehensible.

  • Sue

    So I take it, since the folk in the pews won’t (you assume) understand ‘prevenient grace’, you took the opportunity to explain it in your homily?

  • W Oddie

    There’s one explanation for this; illiteracy or ideology. what do you mean “understand”? This is so patronising.  Living English be damned: what you mean is that you actually prefer the old reductionist supposed “Translation”. 

  • W Oddie

    Hear, hear.

  • W Oddie

    Totally what? Rubbish. If you didn’t “understand” it, it can only because you were determined not to, because you have a certain theological agenda. Comme le prevoit, perhaps? Or don’t you understand THAT either?

  • Warren

    On the meaning of words. Let’s be honest, the problem is laziness not ability. People are habitually refusing to use their brains.

    It’s amazing that, in a day and age when a dictionary is a mouse click away, people continuing to blame everyone and everything but themselves rather than admit to the obvious. I strongly suspect that the complainers among us are the same folk who, if it wasn’t for a loving parent prodding them to study, would be hanging out at the local pub and whining about how their parents were so mean to them by making them go to school. It’s one thing not to have access to education, but quite another to be willfully illiterate.

    My Yorkshire mother, God rest her soul, gave each of us her children a hardcover dictionary on our respective fourth birthdays, and thus gave us an indispensable lesson on learning. I still have my dictionary and I still use it. If I hear a word I do not understand, I make a mental note of it and I look it up in the dictionary or on my computer as soon as it’s convenient. If we are not receptive to guidance and become unwilling to explore the meaning of words, for example, we risk becoming imprisoned in our own minds and subject to the whims of those who would try and manipulate us through our ignorance.

  • Lazarus

    Complaints about using ‘difficult’ English, if acted on, would mean that we were faced with re-translations of the Mass every few years to keep up with the changes in everyday English. If we are going to have a Mass in the vernacular, then we need to have the same confidence in the Church’s ability to create a sacral English as did Cranmer and the translators of the Authorised Version. The gift of liturgical words which are retained over generations and enter into the bones of a worshipper rather than a constantly rewritten script that has to be learnt anew every few years is a great one. I fear even the new translation falls some way short of that ideal, but at least it’s an improvement on the old one. 

    Anyway, in the traditional phrase: ‘Rome has spoken. Stop whingeing and get on with it.’ (Or something like that.) 

  • LocutusOP

    I thought part of a priest’s job is to provide pastoral guidance…So if the lay people are having trouble with the texts it’s the priest’s duty to help them understand it.

    It’s sad if you could find 50 priests in the whole world who think otherwise, and even sadder still if you write the truth – that you had 50 British priests who think so. What kind of gathering was it anyway? Did you speak with all of them?

    Whatever the case, some effort is required on the part of the laity and always has been. If we don’t understand it we should take it as an opportunity to learn. We are all called to seek God after all, and no more so than during the liturgy.

  • W Oddie

    Very well put. There’s really very little more to be said.

  • Anonymous

    ## Bureaucrats have to justify their existence – & they exist in order to tinker & meddle & interfere & cause trouble & make a hash of things; fixing what is not bust is what they are for. That is why we have a New New English Missal, and why it is absolutely certain we will eventually be “given” the “gift” of a New New New Missal. Translation of the Liturgy is *intended* to be a perpetual motion machine:

    “2)     Why do we need a new translation of the Roman Missal?

    The reform of the Sacred Liturgy is an ongoing process. This includes the process of the translation of liturgical texts The principles that guide the translation of
    liturgical texts have changed. Comme le Prevoit was the document following Vatican II that guided liturgical translation. It allowed a principle called “Dynamic Equivalency” which did not demand an exactitude of translation. It allowed the translation of ideas or concepts. Subsequently, the Holy See issued a document called Liturgiam Authenticam which replaced Comme le Prevoit and it called for a more faithful and exact rendering of the latin [sic] texts into the vernacular

    [And so on]

    ## Source: The Office of Divine Worship of the Catholic Diocese of Worcester.

    In the light of that, this is utterly hilarious:

    “The Missale Romanum (Roman Missal), the ritual text for the celebration of the Mass, was promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as the definitive text of the reformed liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. That Latin text, the editio typica (typical edition), was translated into various languages for use around the world; the English edition was published in the United States in 1973. The Holy See issued a revised text, the editio typica altera, in 1975…”

    ## A “definitive text” that lasts five years ? Let’s be really generous, and call it forty. The Latin text didn’t last – neither has the English.

  • Nat_ons

    So true WO; would that Ireland might take its witness to heart – for difficulty faced is not the basic problem with the Church or the life of its Faith .. rather laxity, mealy-mouthed witness, and a ‘me’-centred, ‘other’-blaming, D-I-Y ideology is the modern fault (as it has always been, even from the first days of the Faith).

    Or, if the above is just too difficult to read, then take out an editing pencil and replace it with: sin among its members is what the Church must fear .. sadly, those most ready and willing to edit the rule of the Faith – to make things easier – must first cast aside concepts of ‘sin’.

    That lay Catholics might baulk at the term ‘prevenient grace’ is an admission of inexcusable ignorance, for a little learning can correct this lack of knowledge .. if the able sinner is willing make a little bit of effort (for the incapable are already excused).

  • jameshughes1947

    Sounds like our mothers were related regarding the word records and even more so in relation to the mass and liturgy. AMDG

  • Tiddles the Cat

    I agree.

    What’s wrong with our good priests using a good dictionary, looking it up on the internet, phoning or emailing a friend (a priest, theologian etc.) and taking the time and effort to explain the meaning of ‘prevenient grace’ to the congregation in the homily? At least if he did make the effort to put it in simpler terms to the faithful,
    we’d be a little wiser from ‘learning something new every day!’

    Saint Bernadette Soubirous did not know what ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’ meant when she asked the lady in the Grotto in Lourdes. Something incomprehensible to her revealed the heavenly visitor as Our Blessed Lady to those who knew a thing about the Dogma by Pius IX four years earlier.

    Would these priests and theologians not at least try to explain this to her? Of course they did, even when we acknowledge that God’s ways are beyond comprehension…

    The Immaculate Conception is still a mystery but ‘faith believes nor questions how.’

  • michael

    On the subject of the New issal translation but shifting slightly: to my knowledge nobody has raised the question of why Ireland went UDI on its own edition of the altar missal. Surely this is a real disservice to the Church in bnoth the UK and Ireland? By duplicating the production costs the price of the missal in both countries has been hugely increased. Whose decision is responsible for this ridiculous extravigance? Who is so cavalier about squandering parish funds in this way? The missal is wonderful, the new translation was long overdue but why could the UK and Ireland not agree on a shared missal? It makes economic sense, it makes Catholic sense.

  • Julianamorarka

    Need a copy of New Sunday and Weekday Roman Missal for my daily use when I go for Holy Mass.  I live in Mumbai India.  Like to know where I can get or else can you please despatch me a copy of the same.  It should be hard bound.  My name is Juliana