The New Missal: Disaster or Opportunity?

Last week, the Holy See gave the formal recognitioor official approval, to the new English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal, the book that contains the prayers and rubrics of the Mass. The third edition of the Roman Missal was itself approved by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

While the approval of this English version has been long anticipated, the process of drafting it, and the debates about its merits among bishops and liturgists, has been stormy. There have been public and sometimes heated disagreements between the bishops over the new Missal. Last November, even as the bishops were poised to approve it, Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania, a consistent advocate of a more “everyday” style of language in the Missal, staged an eleventh-hour effort to derail the new version. Bishop Trautman and others objected to what they characterize as overly “sacral” language, such as words like “chalice,” “gibbet,” and “ineffable,” saying that such language “does not have a pastoral style.”

Those who support the new Missal cite its more “sacral” character as an advantage. They also prize its greater fidelity to the original Latin text and what Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit described as its potential to open up to Catholics a “lost spiritual vocabulary.” Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent address to the members of the Vox Clara international committee that oversaw the translation process, summed up the beliefs of those who support the introduction of the new Missal when he prayed that it will be a “springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world.”

The impending implementation of the new Missal reveals interesting and problematic issues regarding our expectations of liturgy and what I have elsewhere described as the “ideologization” of liturgy. Many of the objections and protests regarding the new Missal frequently arise from ideas and agendas that are neither liturgical nor theological, and hence serve neither to clarify the faith nor edify the faithful.

The approval of the translation by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — and the anticipation of Rome’s own approval — did nothing to quell the doubts of those who resisted it. Indeed, at least in some quarters, it seems to have spurred efforts to block its implementation. Perhaps the most notable of these attempts is the “What If We Just Said Wait?” campaign. Started by Rev. Michael Ryan, the rector of St. James Cathedral in Seattle, the campaign’s stated goal is to delay the implementation of the Missal for a “time of reflection and consultation” and a period of “market testing” of a full liturgical year, so as to conduct “carefully planned catechesis” and “thorough, honest evaluation.”

These goals might sound reasonable enough, but in the America magazine article where Father Ryan offers them, he also describes the new Missal translation as part of an effort to “systematically dismantle the great vision” of Vatican II and dismisses it as based on “flawed principles.” He accuses the bishops who approved it of having “abandoned their best pastoral instincts,” saying that some of the language of the new Missal “border[s] on the unspeakable.” Clearly, however he might soften the language of his goals, Father Ryan’s object is not merely to “evaluate” or edit the new translation; one does not gently tweak something he finds “flawed” in principle and “unspeakable.” Father Ryan wants to stop the new Missal, and the impetus behind it, dead in its tracks.

Visiting the “What If We Just Said Wait?” site and reading the comments of its signatories, many of them also seem to be motivated by a desire to eradicate the new Missal, root and branch. Some commenters confine their objections to linguistic or literary aspects of the new Missal, though many others express much broader complaints. For example, one commenter wrote:

The Vatican Council was a great step forward in the Roman Catholic Church. The translation of the Missal following it was also wonderful advance in the liturgy of the church. The proposed translation is a major step backward . . . .

One woman found the new translation to be a sign of a much more sinister problem:

Although I have little hope that we will prevail, I sign in order to be with all those who cherish Vatican II and wish with all my heart that the vision of John XXIII will survive. However, realistically, I expect that the power-hungry Vatican Mafia will prevail . . . .

And finally, one commenter suggested that the Church should stand all principles of translation on their head:

If the English does not conform to the Latin change the Latin. English is the new Vulgate.

The heated rhetoric of so many comments at “What If We Just Said Wait?” can be found even in places where more sober language usually prevails. The “Pray Tell” liturgical blog, sponsored by the Liturgical Press and St. John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, Minnesota, is of self-described liberal leanings; while many of the contributors and commenters there have expressed unhappiness over various aspects of the new Missal, however, most have also expressed their intent to faithfully carry out its implementation

Still, the pseudonymous contributor “Paulus” described the Missal as a “deeply threatening reassertion of a tyrannical spirituality, imposed by a high-handed, indeed despotic ‘Rome’.” In a subsequent post, he writes that if the new Missal is implemented and therefore

the forces of reaction come to mold the language of our worship, it will be as though the Council, and the liberation it brought to a generation of Catholics damaged by the inhumanities of old-style Catholicism, has been finally reversed.

He concludes his piece with a call for his readers to “cultivate holy resistance.” But perhaps Paulus’s most extreme post was one in which he compared Rome’s and the bishops’ efforts to implement the new Missal to the priestly abuse scandal, calling it “liturgical abuse.” Paulus justified his remark on the grounds that if the bishops wouldn’t listen to “more high-minded arguments,” then perhaps “more emotive considerations will persuade them.”

Closely allied with the rhetoric of “tyrannical spirituality” and “holy resistance” are various predictions of impending ecclesial doom when the new Missal is implemented. These assertions take their tone from Bishop Trautman, who argued that the Missal could occasion a “pastoral disaster.” Some point to last year’s ill-executed attempt to prematurely implement the new Missal in South Africa and, like Jesuit Rev. Thomas Reese, predict that “there is going to be a worldwide problem when these new translations are put into effect.”

Whether the South African experience can be generalized does not seem to me self-evident: The U.S. bishops are mounting an extensive preparation and catechesis program, with a lengthy run-up period so that people can become accustomed to the new translation. Other organizations, such as the Liturgical Institute, are also mounting detailed programs to help people and parishes get ready. It is plausible to imagine that well-prepared and widely targeted programs might succeed where a hasty and poorly executed program has failed.

Reading these increasingly shrill and, in some cases, unreasonable objections to the new translation, as well as the dire predictions of what will ensue if it is implemented, I began to wonder how the average layman would really react to the new texts.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should state that I am wholeheartedly supportive of the new translation. I have a Master’s Degree in Classics and have pursued graduate studies in Patristic Greek and Latin, but even as an undergraduate Latin student, I could see the poverty and banality of the English translation when compared to the beauty and richness of the Latin. I was mystified by the consistent and oppressive tendency of the English translation to “flatten” any exalted expression or colorful imagery, as well as the seemingly deliberate effort to expunge any trace of supplicatory language from the prayers. Finally, I was shocked at the frequent failure of the English version to actually translate the Latin, instead often passing over words and even whole phrases as if they weren’t there. I find the new English version of the Missal to be vastly superior to the current one in the areas of fidelity, beauty, richness of imagery, and the drawing out of scriptural language in the Mass.

So I do not pretend to be neutral or indifferent on the merits of the new Missal and the necessity of introducing it. But as a priest and former pastor, I know well that, to be pastorally effective, you need to know not only where you stand but where your people stand as well. Obviously, if I were to present texts of the new Missal to faithful Catholics and receive an overwhelmingly negative reaction, such as that predicted by Bishop Trautman and others, I’d have to reexamine my opinion about the advisability of introducing it.

So I devised a little survey.

Visiting three parishes in two dioceses, selected specifically to represent the average parish (containing a mixed lay demographic, with no particular progressivism or traditionalism in the liturgy, etc.), I asked for participants in a “liturgical survey.” I wanted to be sure that participants were responding to the text itself, and not questions about the larger revision process or issues of authority and autonomy in the Church, so I mentioned only that they would be reviewing a proposed new translation of one of the prayers of the Mass — the Third Eucharistic Prayer (chosen because it is the most commonly used at Sunday Masses, and therefore probably the most familiar).

After inviting the participants to read through the text on their own, silently, I then read it aloud to them, while they followed along. Next I distributed the survey, consisting of five questions:

1.After reading and having heard the proposed translation, did you find any words or passages unclear or difficult to understand? If so, please provide examples.
2. If any passages were unclear or difficult to understand, would you become more comfortable with them if the priest were to explain them and the reasons for using them?
3. Did you find the rhythm, or flow, of the language in this proposed translation smooth or choppy? Pleasant or awkward?
4. Did your reaction to the text change from when you read it silently to when you heard it proclaimed?
5. If this text was used regularly at your parish Masses, would you find it easy or difficult to become accustomed to it?

Only once they had completed the survey did I reveal that the text they had reviewed was in fact the proposed (and now approved) English translation of the new Missal, explaining some of the history of that process and the reasons for this new translation. Forty-four people in total participated, and while I’ll be the first to admit that this was by no means a scientific study, the results are nevertheless instructive.

First, I found that a slight majority of the participants were not even aware that a new translation of the Missal was coming soon, and none were aware of the controversies regarding the Missal or the efforts to resist it. This is consistent with my own experience as a pastor: Most Catholics don’t read much material beyond their parish bulletins and diocesan newspapers, where this issue had not yet been introduced. Whether for good or ill, most of the people in the pews are simply unaware of the sorts of things that exercise liturgists and clergy.

In response to my specific questions, I found that the participants were evenly split over whether they found any words or passages unclear or difficult. Those who did have difficulties identified only one or two points in the text: The most common difficulty was with the word “oblation” (“Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church . . .”), followed by the phrase “inheritance with your elect” (“so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect”). However, all of the respondents but one indicated that they would be more comfortable with the difficult words and passages, and more comfortable with the text as a whole, if their priest explained them.

In the post-survey discussions, I found that people were satisfied by the explanations of the passages they found difficult, and most displayed a healthy curiosity about the text, rather than any skepticism or suspicion. At the end of one session, one woman exclaimed, “I feel like I learned something already, and we haven’t even started using the new prayers yet!”

Regarding the “flow” of the language, a majority (69 percent) responded that they found it smooth and pleasant. Those who said that they found aspects of the text choppy or awkward mainly pointed to one or two passages. For example, one participant felt that the phrase “he himself took bread” was awkward, though he admitted that it was a minor point. Another objected to the phrase “sacrifice of our reconciliation.” But many of those who identified awkward elements also said that part of the “awkwardness” was simply being accustomed to hearing other words. One woman noted that while she was used to the current version, she expected that the new text would feel smoother after she had heard it a few times.

After having both read the text and heard it proclaimed aloud, 64 percent of respondents said that their reaction to the text changed in a positive way after hearing it read. Some found no change; only one respondent characterized the change as negative, and he advocated a return to an all-Latin liturgy. Finally, 91 percent of respondents identified that they would find it “easy” to adapt to this text if it were used regularly.

On the whole, the response of these “ordinary Catholics” to the new texts was overwhelmingly positive. While there were some criticisms and difficulties, they were limited, and most of those who identified such difficulties found them surmountable. Indeed, in our post-survey discussion, most found the explanations of why certain words were chosen to be interesting and helpful. In those discussions, a number of participants also observed that the language of the new texts seemed “higher” or “more sacred.” When asked whether they thought discussing the new texts and having a chance to learn about them would deepen their experience of the Mass, the answer was a resounding “yes.”

So what explains the difference between my experience and the predictions of “pastoral disaster” offered by Bishop Trautman and others? Why did 9 out of 10 Catholics that I surveyed say they would find it “easy” to adapt to the new texts, whereas one commenter at “What If We Just Said Wait” dismissed the new texts as “not helpful at all to our prayer life as a community”? Not one of the participants in my survey had reactions remotely similar to those who wrote that the new text represented “regression and retrenchment,” or that the prospect of celebrating Mass with the text they had reviewed left them “enraged and terrified.” There is not only a difference in the kind of reaction, but a difference in its toneand emotional intensity. Clearly, more is going on here than meets the eye.

I have observed that “something more” before, writing and speaking about what I describe as “ideologized” liturgy — that is, liturgy being made to bear ideological burdens that are extrinsic and, in many cases, inimical to it. The highly charged language of many of those objecting to the new Missal is frequently ideological: When I see words like “archaic” and “tyrannical,” and phrases like “a great step forward” or “a major step backward,” being used in complaints about the Missal, I suspect that the train of thought is carrying heavy ideological freight.

I use “ideology” here in the circumscribed manner of political theorists like Michael Oakeshott and Russell Kirk: to refer to the political fanaticism that results from elevating an abstraction to an absolute, all-explaining and all-encompassing concept, and making everything, including persons, subordinate to that concept. It is to take political concepts and impulses and make them serve ends that are properly religious.

One of those ideologies most prevalent in American society today, even among Catholics, is egalitarianism: the belief in a radical equality that seeks to level all differences and distinctions between persons. It is true that we are all equal in the eyes of God, but there are distinctions between the members of the Body of Christ. The Church, then, is hierarchical in its very nature, and its liturgy reflects that.

The ecclesiastical egalitarian seeks to demolish those hierarchical elements of the Church’s life, wanting instead to subsume all under the abstraction of Equality. This outlook informs comments like those of one priest at “What If We Just Wait?” who asked, “Why have we wasted all this time and money and energy on ‘egotistical’ improvements?” Another commenter sees the new Missal as evidence of “elitism,” saying “Liturgy is the work of the people rather than just liturgical elites.” In an egalitarian worldview, any exercise of hierarchical authority is condemned as elitism or oppression.

Another strain of objection to the new Missal is what I have sometimes called the ideology of “progress,” one based in the Enlightenment concept of humanity’s development and advancement from darkness to light. This ideology rejects the past as de facto inferior to the present, believing that we necessarily know more and understand better than our forebears. Pope Benedict XVI called this mindset a “hermeneutic of discontinuity,” which has as its starting point the assumption that Vatican II marked a point of division between the pre- and post-conciliar Church. Adherents to this ideology reject expressions of piety and liturgical forms from before the Council, seeing them as “regressive” or “unable to speak to our times.”

Adherents to an ideology of progress use language like “up-to-date” or forward-looking” to show approval, and “antiquated” or “backwards” to illustrate disapproval. Examples of this ideological frame of mind abound in the objections to the new Missal: “Please do not ask us to move back in time!” “Yet another retrograde maneuver by the conservative hierarchy.” “Many of us are not going to go backwards.”

Even if the new Missal represented a “return” to something former, it does not therefore follow that what is former is worse. After all, truth does not change from day to day. As Benedict wrote in his introductory letter to Summorum Pontificum, “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too.” The Church must first and foremost be faithful to what she has been given by Christ. That fidelity must include the sacred liturgy, through which Christ speaks to His church. An accurate and faithful translation of the Missal communicates not the truths of today but the truths of eternity. To get caught up in ideas of progress or regression is to think with the spirit of the age, not the eternal Spirit of all ages.

But that being said, the new Missal translationdoes not return to something past. A reading of the texts does not reveal precious or antiquated language; there are no thee’s and thou’s. This excerpt from the Third Eucharistic Prayer is not Elizabethan or King James English:

Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial
of the saving Passion of your Son,
his wondrous Resurrection and Ascension into heaven,
and as we look forward to his second coming,
we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.

This is not antiquated English; this is formal and sacral English. To use this kind of language is not “retrograde,” nor does it represent an effort to “freeze” the “Spirit of Vatican II.” It is, instead, faithful to the nature of the Liturgy — a formal and public worship, where formal language is therefore appropriate. Sacral language marks what we are doing as sacred and holy, not ordinary or everyday. The Mass, as the “source and summit” from which our life in Christ flows, is the holiest thing that we do, in which we participate in Christ’s own prayer as high priest. If that doesn’t warrant language set apart from the ordinary, then nothing does.

In the end, if you see the liturgy as an engine of egalitarian transformation, then texts that bring its hierarchical aspects to the fore (such as “humbly imploring” God) will be objectionable. If you see the liturgy as a mechanism for asserting human progress, then elements that hearken back to Tradition will seem out of place. These ideological frameworks, of course, are extrinsic to the liturgy, and to the Faith itself. Ideologically driven objections to the Missal, however sincerely felt and expressed, really attempt to invert the proper order of things and make the liturgy serve ends that are antithetical to itself. Those ideological ends derive mainly from the prevailing secular culture, and as such, their presence is a source of confusion.

The new Missal, because of its greater fidelity, will be an antidote to that confusion. If my own effort to gauge the response of faithful Catholics shows anything, it is that most of the people in the pews will take the implementation of the new language in stride. Far from the “pastoral disaster” feared by some, I believe that the new Missal, if approached in a spirit of fidelity, will provide all Catholics with an opportunity to enrich their faith and lead to the deeper participation in the liturgy that Vatican II envisioned.

Fr. Robert Johansen


Fr. Robert Johansen is a priest of the diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan. He holds degrees in Classics and Patristics, and also has a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois, where he is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Sacred Theology. He has presented a number of papers on musical and liturgical subjects at academic conferences, and published articles on the same topics in several academic and popular journals.

  • Joe Hargrave

    As a proudly bona fide soldier of the “forces of reaction”, I can only say that this is long overdue.

    I don’t think I’ll stop attending Latin Mass any time soon in favor of this new translation, but I hope it at least has the effect of bringing more Catholics, who have been lost in the post 60’s sacrilege of Weakland, Mahony, & Co., deeper in the faith and closer to God.

    Those who wish to bring the liturgy, and by extension, God himself, down to the level of the mundane and the ordinary are doing a terrible disservice to the souls of the faithful.

  • Irene French

    Didn’t know a thing about this new translation and welcome it heartily. I have really missed the Latin translation of the Mass and will be so glad if this new translation has some lofty language. The one we read and follow at Mass is so mundane and plain that you could forget you are are addressing and worshiping God and not a common person. I majored in English Literature and taught it and frankly miss the King James language and if this takes us back to more beautiful language as we worship together than more power to it. Good article!

  • Mother of Two Sons

    I beleive that those who object to the New Translation are objecting to something so core to our Faith Expression and Life coming down from ROME as a mandate…… but it is a welcome gift in my opinion because I am tired of the American Experiment….I wish they would put the missal in the front of the Scriptures, the Bible…. and make Catholics have to find the Readings inside of the Bible…. we have systematically stripped The WORD out of its “package” and cut and pasted it for so long that many Catholics feel like and say, I don’t know my “Bible” very well…. and even worse, they somehow believe that they have to live the Church’s teaching and can ignore the scriptures, like they are outdated…. and then of course you have those Catholics who think they can pick and choose which Church Teaching to live because it isn’t in the scriptures, per se. Without realizing, I believe a spirit of rebellion has taken hold….. It is the very spirit that caused Lucifer to shun God and lose Heaven…. the resistance to a Law or Common Prayer Form, and in this case, a translation of the Missal to be released, especially from Rome, should be telling of where this presence of the spirit of rebellion lie….. Perhaps the Church should make it an app for the IPad… smilies/smiley.gif

  • Deacon Ed

    the protestant wing of the Catholic Church about our liturgy, lets apply some acid-test questions to each of them individually:
    1. Do you frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently (at least monthly)
    2. Do you ever receive the Eucharist while under the pain of mortal sin?
    3. Do you believe in the reality of mortal sin?
    4. Do you beleive that Jesus Christ is God, the Second Person of the Trinity?
    5. Do you accept the Church’s teaching that contraception is a grave moral evil (mortal sin)?
    6. Do you believe that procuring an abortion or materially assisting in same, especially in public endorsements of politicians and legislation that promote same is a grave moral evil (mortal sin).
    7. Do you beleive in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? That when Christ said: “This is My Body; this is My Blood” he actually meant that?
    8. Do you believe that women can be ordained to Holy Orders?

    If you pass this acid test (not an exhaustive list), then you are entitled to weigh in on words such as “ineffeable” and “gibbet”. If not, then say three “Kumbaya’s” and go immediately to Confession (the sacrament that is).

  • Tony Esolen

    I am amazed that it has taken the bishops this long to implement the new translation — or, I should say, a genuine translation, because what we have been given since about 1970 is in many instances not a translation at all, but a paraphrase.

    Back in 2005 (!) I was asked to comment upon a draft of the translation. It was the first time I had actually read the Latin of the Novus Ordo, and when I did, I was stunned — impressed by the poetry of the Latin, and astonished by what the old “translators” did, sometimes omitting words and phrases entirely, at other times conflating two clauses into one, rearranging things, suppressing things, and so forth. What they did to the Gloria, for example, was utterly inexcusable — so much so that I wondered what the old translators could possibly have had against that lovely and eloquent prayer. Same thing with the centurion’s words that we speak before the Eucharist: they suppressed the Biblical allusion and reversed the action of the sentence, from Christ to the speaker. So instead of saying, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” which is exactly what the Latin says, and exactly what the centurion said, we have been placing ourselves in the position of grammatical subject of the infinitive, saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.” Finally we will have the beauty and the precision of these prayers restored.

    But what really makes me laugh is the supposition, by such writers as are quoted above, that they know best what the common people want (or, ahem, what the common people will be smart enough to understand). The common people were not the ones pushing for Mass in the vernacular to begin with; that came from on high. The common people did not march forth in favor of disposing of paraliturgical traditions such as May crownings; that came from on high. The common people did not enter their churches with jackhammers to rip out communion rails; that came from on high. I daresay that every liturgical innovation in the last forty years was either foisted upon the common people by “democratic” elitists, or was the result of liturgical busybodies subjecting their fellow parishioners to their caprices.

    One can see the phenomenon more clearly, perhaps, by looking at analogous phenomena elsewhere. Look at the taste of the common people in art. With a few exceptions (Paul Klee, perhaps, or Joan Miro), the common people have been left cold by modern artists — and modern artists have not cared one whit for their sensibilities. Look at poetry. The common people have an ineradicable (though these days untutored) preference for poetry in meter and rhyme; they were not the ones pushing for free verse, much less for verse that is deliberately obscure, or obscene. The common people never caught on to the noises made by Schoenberg or Berg; until recently (I am thinking of the three-note wailing of “artists” on the radio) they liked such old-fashioned things as melody.

    Giving the ballgame away: no one who objects to the new translation dares to claim that the old translation was more accurate, or indeed (in some cases) that it was a translation at all. That speaks volumes.

  • Aaron B.

    I am amazed that it has taken the bishops this long to implement the new translation — or, I should say, a genuine translation, because what we have been given since about 1970 is in many instances not a translation at all, but a paraphrase.

    Oh, it’s not implemented yet. As I understand it, bishops will have the discretion to implement it in their dioceses at their own pace. I don’t think Bishop Trautman’s flock have to worry about learning any new phrases for quite some time.

    The fact that it’s taken 40 years to come up with a good English translation (assuming this one doesn’t have its own errors), and that it’ll probably take another 40 before it’s being used in every parish (by which time some of the words will have changed somewhat in meaning) just confirms for me the correctness of keeping Latin as the language of the Liturgy (as Vatican II stressed) and the superiority of the Traditional Mass in general.

    Incidentally, where is the Third EP the one most commonly used? In my last several years of attending the Novus Ordo here in the Midwest US, I never heard anything but EP2. I still remember when I was a young punk, hearing the priest start with “Lord…” and thinking, “Yes! The short one.” But in later years, it was always “the short one.”

  • Ken

    While a better translation, instead of an interpretation, is preferred, it still does not get to the heart of the problem — an un-catholic (small c) Mass.

    The solution is a return to the traditional Latin Mass. There is a reason why the liturgy and sacraments were in ecclesiastical Latin from before the time of Pope Saint Gregory the Great until the groovy 1960s. No commission, conference or committee was able to botch it up.

  • Amy

    I learned of the new translation last year. I read of the new changes on the U.S. Bishop’s website where both the old and the new are side by side, showing where the new language will be in reference to what we currently say.

    Yes, it is about time! The liturgy is so important in Catholic worship, how it is said, the reverence shown by priest, deacons, servers and parishioners, the music….all directed to Heaven…it should moves us to feel Heaven on Earth!

    At one Catholic parish, during Good Friday, the Gospel of John is written and handed out for the people in today’s vernacular. Soldiers are called “police.”

    My question to anyone who can answer this, is it just English speaking countries that are seeing these changes? Latin was universal; we could go anywhere and know the Mass. The homilies were in the vernacular. What is always first and foremost is the Eucharist.

    Do the Muslims still worship as they always have? Have they changed how they worship? How about the Jews?

  • Tony Esolen

    I wonder how much of the disdain for the Novus Ordo springs from all the nonsense that went along with it, rather than with the object itself. For instance, for a few years in the US, we had a more or less accurate translation. And there was no reason whatsoever for removing the communion rail. And no absolute directive ordering the priest to face the people. And no Eucharistic ministers. And no dumbing down of the music. And no bowdlerization of the lyrics of old hymns. And no command to translate the scriptures banally. I could go on… The one thing that critics of the Novus Ordo are absolutely correct about, without a shade of doubt as far as I can see, is that the richness of the liturgical year was cast aside.

  • Martial Artist

    As I, a new convert from 40 years as an Episcopalian, began reading your article, my reaction to the critics was that it was very similar to a form of clericalism, i.e., the laity don’t need (or are unable) to comprehend complicated theological terms. But once I began to read your explanations of “the difference” I realized that you are describing what I have come to see as the increasing influence of progressivism and the progressive fallacy in our society and culture. (N.B., I also see those ideological approaches as neither more nor less than a re-enactment of original sin, those who hold those views thinking that we, or at least they, can “be like God, knowing good from evil.”) And the result of your informal survey accords with my experience within the parish where I, and my wife, will be received into the Church on Pentecost next. I also think that Mr. Esolen’s observations are accurate, and I am not surprised to find myself in agreement with his comment as well.

    I look forward eagerly to the introduction of the new translation. Our worship contains encounter with the mystery that is God. How can we experience that when it is approached from a vocabulary which you have so aptly described as being “banal” and “poor,” or wherein the translation from Latin to the vernacular is as dreadful, and dreadfully incomplete, as is so much of the current English missal. We attend a parish in the Seattle Archdiocese that has an amazingly rich musical and liturgical treasure and celebrates it, which I find key to being able to open myself to worship that mystery.

    I hope and pray that the replacement for Archbishop Brunett will be someone who leans more toward our shared viewpoint, rather than that of Bishop Trautman

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  • Aaron B.

    Tony E.,

    Certainly much of traditionalists’ disdain for the Novus Ordo has to do with the abuses and innovations which are not specified in the actual form, and in some cases go against the form, like the way “increased usage of the vernacular” got turned into “the eradication of Latin.” The Novus Ordo as Pope Benedict celebrates it is far superior to what people get in the average parish every Sunday.

    But if you look beyond that, beyond the bad translations and abuses, there are still problems with the form itself. The Latin itself was stripped of many of the references to the sacrificial nature of the Mass. There are websites that compare the Novus Ordo — in Latin, without any ad-libs or variations — to Cramner’s Lord’s Supper, and the similarities are striking. Line those two up next to the TLM, and there’s not much question which of the three would look out of place.

  • Anonymous Seminarian

    When I was growing up, if I lost something, my mother always told me to “retrace my steps.” I suggest–I HOPE–that this new, faithful, translation is the first process in exactly that. I agree whole-heartedly that we have lost something very important, not just with the bad translation, not just with the liturgical abuse, but with violent and inorganic institution of the Missal of Paul VI.

    As much as I really would like to ‘turn back the clock’ to the 1962 Missal, and from there to enact moderate, organic reforms, only a tiny percentage of faithful orthodox Catholics have reached this desire also. We need, then, to retrace our steps to go back to the point, the implementation of Paul VI’s Missal, when we ‘lost it’, so to speak, and the first step ‘back’ is this translation. Next will be the curtail, hopefully, of subjective violations of the liturgy as it stands written; then, again, hopefully, will be the continual choice of many priests to use the ‘options’ in the current Missal that are closest to the 1962 one (letting all other “Eucharistic Prayers” aside from the Roman Canon quietly die from lack of use), the growth of ad orientem, and other traditional practices like Communion on the tongue; THEN we will find ourselves in the position to set things right.

    I want it all to happen instantly, of course, but the People of God have already been given enough liturgical whiplash to last for seven lifetimes, so steps like this are necessary.

  • Andy

    Oh, it’s not implemented yet. As I understand it, bishops will have the discretion to implement it in their dioceses at their own pace. I don’t think Bishop Trautman’s flock have to worry about learning any new phrases for quite some time.

    While I have no doubt that some bishops may drag their feet, your specific example is false. Bishop Trautman has less than a year before he retires, and most likely won’t be around when the translation is implemented.

    The Novus Ordo as Pope Benedict celebrates it is far superior to what people get in the average parish every Sunday.

    I understand what you’re getting at, but is that really a fair comparison? I’d be quite surprised if the average parish liturgy was superior to the way the pope celebrated it.

  • John

    One of the objections voiced about the new translation of the Latin text is that English is the new Vulgate/Latin. This is ridiculous because English especially Americanized English is in a state of transition. It is becoming increasingly more difficult for those of us who belong to the older generation to comprehend what is written and spoken in the New American English which is being promoted in the new secular progressive culture. Since the sacred language of the liturgy is meant to convey values and morals that are almost impossible to express in the New American English which is the mode of communication of a basically amoral American society. We have a cultural and linguistic problem here; it is difficult to communicate our values to the present generation of Catholics especially those priests and professors who run the former Catholic universities and are at the vanguard of the ethical moral destruction team.

  • sibyl

    Your account of the small survey you undertook was really interesting to me. It seems to me that many ecclesiastical people (liturgists, apologists, pastors and even bishops unfortunately)have a skewed understanding of what “ordinary people” think and feel. How many times have we all sat through a homily that began with some little “teaching story” gotten out of the worst sort of Reader’s Digest homily book, or had to listen to our pastor’s thoughts on current movies and how they might bear on the Gospel (and be shocked by his choice of viewing material?!)? Sometimes it is hard not to feel like we’re all being talked to as though we were 3rd graders, incapable of challenging, direct preaching.

    Your survey shows, I think, how much more reasonable, reflective, and humble “ordinary people” usually are. The great changes made after Vatican II were so utterly galling in part because no one seems to have taken time to give us pewsitters a chance to understand the theology behind the innovations. (And IMHO that was because no one wanted to stop the course of “progress” and “growth” with things like reflection.)

    The new translation will be just fine with me. Anything to help us remember that worship employs the best and highest of human faculties, and that God deserves this, as He deserves the highest of everything.

  • Austin

    Here we go again: more change. We, the people in the pews, will be told once again, that this is an improvement, that we will be better served by this latest change. We shall see. It’s getting rather tiresome.

  • Giovanni A. Cattaneo

    As somebody has mentioned this before. This is only the tip of the iceberg in the problems with the NO.

    The new translation will certainly bring new life and new needed catechism to the faithful. However lets not rest until the new Roman Rite is completely reformed and brought within tradition.

    I will say and confess that I am a Traditionalist, I attend an FSSP Church, and prefer the 1962 Mass I see the NO as an inferior expression of worship however valid. The NO is what it is an ecumenical Mass stripped of many of our traditions in order to make it easier for protestants to understand the Church. We have sacrificed much for our separated brothers and sisters.

    However this effort to bring the Truth to the world has been abused by many heretics in the clergy that saw the liberty of the NO not as an opportunity to evangelize but as a means to destroy the Church from within. A million Martin Luthers running around corrupting the faithful.

    So now that we have taken the first step in correcting this, we should look next to the RUBRICS something the NO desperately needs. The Mass is NOT a community meal it is the sacrifice of Calvary let our posture show that in mind and body.

    First order of business and most important Versus Pupulum should be abolished. I can not stress the importance of this reform.

    Reception of communion in the tongue ONLY while kneeling.

    No more extraordinary ministers.

    This changes would be most welcomed.

  • AM

    I am looking forward eagerly to the new translations’ being actually in use in the parish where I worship.

    Our bishop has apparently already told his priests that public “negative comments” about the new translation are not allowed. That’s a blessing anyhow.

    But unless the common attitude of priests and people alike that the liturgy can be adjusted at will, words added or subtracted, music substituted, rubrics “reinterpreted for pastoral reasons”, ignored, or passed over in ignorance — then the new translation won’t make any different.


  • Lisa

    … I attend the NO every day, but I agree wholeheartedly about the primary importance of the three changes he mentions.

  • Ralph Harris

    I am so grateful that we are finally getting a more accurate and better English translation. Finally!

  • paulus

    I’ll put my hand up as a severe critic both of the new translations and of the manner in which they are being imposed on us. But the quotations here oversimplify–I hope that readers of this blog will take the trouble to look at the originals. For what it’s worth, I think the issues raised here about equality are very interesting ones, on which there is something to be said on both sides.

  • Tony Esolen


    I have looked at the original Latin. I’ve also compared the new translation (or a draft of it) with what we’ve had since 1970, and with the English of the St. Joseph Missal and the Sarum Missal. When I say “compared,” I mean that I wrote 18 pages of single-spaced commentary.

    I have a check for $100 for anybody who can defend, by appealing to semantic and rhetorical accuracy, the current translation of the Gloria. Take a look at the Latin, and then see what they did to it in English. Same thing goes for the prayer before Communion, “Lord, I am not worthy.” Translation is something I know a little bit about.

  • jdonliturgy

    The only thing that concerns me is that when you read the text aloud to people who took the survey, I am sure you delivered it with rhetorical correctness, which can make a huge difference in the ability of hearers to comprehend the sense when there are multiple dependent clauses.

    My real fear is that not all of our clergy are literate enough to proclaim the new texts well, Ciceronian oratorical skills having long gone out of style. For those of us with training in classical literature, there is no difficulty in either proclaiming or understanding the new texts, however, will see to it that the clergy in average parishes are trained to proclaim these texts well? And how well will children and young people be prepared to understand these theologically correct terms which have long gone out of our everyday American English?

    And as to the comments about the Gloria, the current metrical translation of the “refrain” lends itself well to assembly participation in the refrains. These are the much-loved and familiar settings used in parishes all around the country. The new translation, with its lack of consistent meter, will be much more difficult to set well. I will be interested to see how composers handle this without multiple time-signature changes.

    Current news from music publishers seems to indicate we will be losing all but a few of the familiar settings. In my parish, where we have a large repertoire of Mass settings, including some bi-lingual ones which will probably not be re-set to the new translations, this will mean necessary losses of well-loved music . Such is the cost of “correctness” I guess. There will be progress, but there will also be pain.

  • Charlotte


    I find it ironic that proponents of the current translation often harp on the difficulties of adapting to the new text.

    Everything you posted about the problems of pronunciation and the need for new musical settings applies just as much to the radical change that happened when the new Mass was concocted and translated from Latin into a variety of languages. Granted, that process of introducing a novel Mass, this so-called Novus Ordo, doesn’t seem to have worked out well, but a new translation hardly seems as drastic as what was thrust upon the Church when the traditional Mass was forbidden and sudden adaptations had to made across the Catholic world.

  • Tony Esolen


    With all due respect — the new translation is not Ciceronian. If anything, the translators still relied too much on dividing the text into sentences, rather than allowing parallel clauses to build up one after the other. In other words, it moves in the direction of being a text to declaim rather than to read with the eye, but not nearly as far as it could have. The fact is, a series of mid-length sentences, with many full stops and many changes in grammatical subject, is HARDER to read aloud while keeping the hearer’s attention than is a smaller number of periodic sentences. It would be interesting to take any of Martin Luther King’s speeches and see how many sentences of his exceed 50 or 100 words. Quite a few, I’ll bet. What makes oratory memorable is precisely what departs from everyday conversation. A poor or middling speaker will be carried by the language. Unless we believe that Anglicans who use the Book of Common Prayer are just smarter than the rest of us?

    As for the musical settings, well — I remember no consternation in 1970, when the more accurate translation was replaced with what we now have. Surely then there were musical settings that could no longer be used. I have no doubt that there are composers who can set an accurate translation of the Gloria to music. But none of this is to the point.

    The translator’s job — especially if he is translating prose into prose — is really rather humble. It is to render faithfully as much of the original language as possible: the primary meaning, secondary meanings, and rhetorical emphasis.

    Here is the Gloria:

    Gloria in excelsis Deo
    et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

    Meaning: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.

    It is a verbatim citation from the Nativity narrative in Scripture. Both the meaning and the allusion are obscured by our current paraphrase: “peace to his people on earth”.

    Laudamus te, benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te, gratias agimus tibi
    propter magnam gloriam tuam.

    Meaning: We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory.

    What we have now: Lord God, heavenly King,
    almighty God and Father,
    we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.

    What’s wrong: the address is imported from the following lines, and thus the calling upon the name of the Father is split from calling upon the name of the Son. Then the great rolling list of verbs is cut short, with five verbs contracted into three. To make matters worse, two verbs are switched about, so that “we give you thanks for your great glory,” a really interesting affirmation, becomes the tamer “we praise you for your glory,” with the adjective “great” unaccountably suppressed. The rest of the list too is rearranged: praise, bless, adore, glorify, and give thanks becomes worship, give thanks, and praise, with “adore” and “glorify” suppressed. There really is no excuse for this sort of thing.

    Domine Deus, Rex caelestis,
    Deus Pater omnipotens.
    Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe,

    Meaning: Lord God, heavenly king,
    God the Father almighty,
    Lord Jesus Christ, only-begotten Son

    What we have now: the lines are split from one another, as I noted:

    Lord God, heavenly king,
    almighty God and Father …
    Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father

    That second “of the Father” had to be smuggled in from the next sentence because the “translators” had for no good reason separated the addresses. Meanwhile, the key word “unigenite” is dampened down into the adverb “only,” in “only Son”. What has happened to the “genite” or “begotten”? It’s not there. Why on earth not?

    Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris,
    qui tollis peccata mundi,
    miserere nobis;
    qui tollis peccata mundi,
    suscipe deprecationem nostram;
    qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

    Meaning: Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
    You that take away the sins of the world,
    Have mercy on us;
    You that take away the sins of the world,
    receive our prayer;
    You that sit at the right hand of the Father,
    have mercy on us.

    What we have now: Hash. The threefold supplication is suppressed, the three introductory clauses contracted into two:

    Lord God, Lamb of God,
    you take away the sin of the world:
    have mercy on us.
    You are seated at the right hand of the Father:
    receive our prayer.

    What excuse can be made for this? It is an example of cutting and tossing away and pasting. What happened to the powerful repetition of “have mercy on us”? Or the powerful repetition of “you that take away the sins of the world”? What, it would take an extra fifteen seconds to utter? Would make people late for soccer practice? And why is the plural “peccata” translated by the singular “sin,” rather than “sins”? For theological reasons? But the translator’s job is not to indulge his own theology.

    The rest of the prayer was translated, not paraphrased.

    To put it bluntly: I would not do to a secular author what these people did to the sacred liturgy. Don’t get me started on what they did to the lectionary.

  • Jeffrey Pinyan

    I remain convinced 1) that the new translation is NOT of poor quality, 2) that it is within people’s comprehension without being plebian, 3) and that it is still necessary to properly catechize all the faithful (lay, religious, ordained… everyone). The proper kind of catechesis, as called for by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, is a mystagogical catechesis: interpret the liturgical rites in the light of salvation history, explain the purpose of those rites, and relate them to the Christian life.

  • Sister Maria

    Peace be with you!

    We live in Wales GB. Those of us who are old enough to remember the translation of the liturgy into English, remember what a joy it was to hear God’s Word in our own language and the awe and understanding it evoked. Personally, I have never heard the Extraordinary form, or seen it. But you know, the Gospels are written in Greek, preserving, the scholars tell us, the tones of the Aramaic that Christ used. It was rapidly translated into Latin. Now, the Son of God could have used the current liturgical language of Hebrew, but He did not do so: He wished to be understood!

    We have been given a New covenant, a New commandment and New wine; we are invited to bring forth things both New and old. He put the New before the old, because, according to St Augustine, He gave it preference. Could we accept a New translation, with love and gratitude and keep moving forward to a New heaven and a New earth?

    With very humble respect, the perfection of the Gospel is to forgive seventy times seven, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and love one another. In Matthew 25, God does not even ask people how they celebrated the Eucharist.

    If I am wrong enlighten me…..

  • Tony Esolen

    Dear Sister,

    You are right about charity, the perfection of the Gospel in our lives.

    You are right, too, that Jesus taught the people in Aramaic. He wished to be understood.

    But when he went into the synagogue, he read the Scriptures in Hebrew. When he prayed the traditional prayers at the traditional feasts, he surely prayed in Hebrew. And there is something more to be said about that Hebrew, too. The Hebrew of the Psalms and the prophets is different from the Hebrew of the historical books. That is, there are word forms that are old and sometimes formulaic, that appear only in the poetry, not in the prose. So when the Jews prayed the Psalms, they were often using words and forms that had otherwise faded from the language. That is one of the features of poetry, wherever you find it.

    My objections to the current translation are these:

    It is often inaccurate, and misleading — and many, many words and phrases and clauses are suppressed or thrown away entirely.

    It uses language that is banal and flat. It seems allergic to poetry.

    It is meant for the eye reading the words off the page, not for the ear and the auditory memory.

    The new translation corrects the first two of these problems pretty well.

  • Warren Anderson

    I look forward to the introduction of the new translation.

    For those concerned with the setting of the Gloria, for example, and claim the new translation is awkward, it may be of use to recall that not everything we intone at Mass must be metered. Point of fact, the music of the Liturgy in the Roman Rite is first and foremost the presentation of pitched speech chanted according to the rhythm of speech rather than metered song. The nuance of pitch inflection is employed, for example, to preserve and enhance meaning and memory while sustaining a clear delivery (no amplification required!). Music with a regular beat can become a fixation (one parishioner asked me once to play more dancey music at Mass!) and can thus obscure the text as easily as rabid polyphony.

    The style of “musical” presentation which best conforms to the Church’s desire to preserve the sacredness of the text is, as Holy Mother Church has stated and restated often, chant. The Church admits certain styles of composition into Her liturgies because certain modes of communication respect the dignity of the word and other vehicles do not.

    Let’s leave the crafting of beautiful music to faithful and skilled composers who are capable of rendering the text in a way that preserves and promotes those considerations which have been articulated by the Church. Its time that the troubadours, i.e., guitar slingers and djembe thumpers, surrender the sanctuary and allow the temple musicians to do the work of restoration.

    If all that sounds a bit elitist, perhaps it is. If by elitist one means faithful to the true, the good and the beautiful, then we all should be elitists. The new translation of the Gloria will not be much of a stretch for any competent composer.

  • Regina Rosowska

    Lex orandi, lex credendi. When we pray with informal and mistranslated words, it affects how we believe.

    Much of the new translation feels like following along in the English side of the Traditional Latin Mass’s missal… that’s what I am so excited about! After falling in love with the TLM less than a year ago, already the Novus Ordo that I’ve had all 18 years of my life seems foreign and imperfect. Not after advent next year!! [smiley=happy]

    The dissenters will show their face for this… when the new missal goes into effect we’ll know who doesn’t follow Rome, once and for all. Deo Gratias!

  • Robert C

    For far too long the prevalence in interpretation of Vatican II has been from the perspective of hermeneutic rupture as opposed to that of hermeneutic consistency. That consistency was not thought to be brought into challenge by the spirit of the council. Unfortunately, as the Holy Father has pointed out,

  • CF

    Mr. Esolen, thank you so much for your comments here. I am in a curious position liturgically. As an American living in Poland, I attend Mass in the vernacular Polish six days per week. As soon as I got accustomed to the Polish Mass (could understand it; I am not fluent in Polish), I began to notice that the Polish translation of the Mass was different from the English. In Polish, the Gloria is exactly as you translated it in your comment. I was born too late for the Latin Mass, but early enough that adults around me remembered it. I knew that when the Poles said, ‘And with your spirit’ their response was more exactly from the Latin and that they say, ‘I am not worthy that you should come to me’ (not exactly what the centurion said) they were more accurate than we were in the US. Oddly enough, listening carefully to the Polish Mass has been my education in what the Latin original probably said.

    On Sundays, I assist a priest who celebrates Mass in English for English-speakers in our diocese. We use a lectionary and sacramentary from the US. The Polish priests have never murmured about the strange translations, nor have any Poles ever asked me, ‘Why do you the English prayers in the Mass leave things out?’ (such as ‘through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault’ which is said in Polish and which I somehow know in English despite not being able to remember ever having said it in the confiteor in English). I am eagerly awaiting the day when I find out we can toss the sacramentary we have now and replace it with the new missal. I will happily pay for the replacement myself. How wonderful to be given the full richness of the Mass! Now if only the translations of the readings had any poetry or beauty to them!

    A frustrating thing I have to deal with in Poland is Polish helpers with the English Mass who find the Mass in general ‘boring’ and anything traditional ‘boring.’ They have no idea the great treasure they have in having a good translation of the Mass, or priests who almost without exception celebrate the Mass with absolute fidelity to the rubrics. Some lay Poles that I work with would be thrilled with a dumbed-down liturgy and jazz or blues or hard-rock “masses’ to make things more ‘interesting.’ They’d gladly throw away the Polish liturgy’s beauty and dignity for the ‘screaming teens with tamborines’ Masses that chilled my soul and still give me nightmares 30 years later. Volunteering at the English Mass is their chance to experiment with tropes in the Agnus Dei or with a ballad-like Gloria the likes of which I’ve never suffered before and hope never to suffer again. I escaped the banality and tedium of the American Mass, discovered – for the first time in my life – the beauty of the liturgy in the Polish Church, and strangely find myself working among lay Poles who want to create an English Mass straight out of suburban America in 1968.

    I’m learning everything I can about the liturgy in order to be able to speak clearly and knowledgably to our good Polish priests about the horrors some of our Polish volunteers are visiting on the English Mass. Mr Tony Esolen’s comments have given me some good points. I’d like to hear more from Mr. Esolen on any subject!

  • mns

    I think as usual Pope Ratzinger is going the wrong way. Jesus did not use formal or sacral speech. Jesus preached in the local language, using ordinary expression and stories. Jesus told his followers that God loved them and was their intimate friend. He preached a kingdom of equals, where Man no longer needed the Temple to pray to his Maker. Because of this wonderful love, God gives each Christian the ability to overcome their limitations thru grace and love their fellow men as God has loved us. This is God’s rEVOLution, and how we create the Kingdom of God on Earth. Jesus didn’t wear vestments that cost as much as a new car. He didn’t celebrate Eucharist in Gold and Silver that needed to be locked in a vault. He didn’t try to be an Emperor. He didn’t live in a fancy palace, or require marble altars and statuary costing millions. He said help the poor, feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless. Visit the imprisoned. Aid the sick and dying. That is how you honor God. He didn’t speak Latin, make magic gestures, or recite secret prayers. Jesus partied with his friends, and made all welcome…rich, poor, prostitutes, and tax collectors. Pope Ratzinger’s efforts to ‘undo liturgical abuses’ ahould be called SHOWBOATING -abolishing popular worship and instead creating a theatrical stage show to impress and promote, and preserve the power of the hierarchy. He is creating a formal worship that is the opposite of teh message of the Gospel and a profound perversion of the Good News.WWJD? Probably fire the Pope Pharisee on the spot and demand return of his church to rational governance by working men, married men, and men who knew how to love children.

  • Tony Esolen

    Pretty darned venomous, that last comment.

    Let me repeat points I’ve made already in support of the article.

    1. It is not a translator’s job to impose his ecclesiology on what he is translating. Especially when his job is to translate prose into prose, his job is a humble one: to render as faithfully and cogently as possible the primary meanings, the secondary meanings, and the rhetorical emphases of sentences. If anybody wants to defend the current translation, the one that just chucks words and phrases out the window, that cuts and rearranges and pastes, well, you are welcome to try. As I’ve said, I know something about translation.

    2. It is not true that Jesus did not use a sacral language. He preached in the language of the people. That is certainly true. But when he prayed, he prayed the immemorial prayers of the Jews. He prayed the Psalms. He read the Scripture in the synagogue. No doubt he quoted from the Scripture. That was in Hebrew, not Aramaic. And there’s more. As I have said, and it does grow wearying to have to say it over and over, the Hebrew of the Psalms and the poetic portions of the prophets is not the same as the Hebrew of the historical books. That is, there are word-forms that you will only find in the poetry; word-forms that are old and venerable.

    3. It is not true that only the elites love what is old and venerable. In fact, the reverse is commonly true. Most ordinary people still like poetry in meter and rhyme; it’s the elites who sniff at it. Most ordinary people like music with melody and rhythm; it was the elitists who invented the atonal. Most ordinary people like stained glass windows and statues; they liked the communion rails. It was the architectural and theological elitists who ordered them to rip the things out.

    4. Jesus did not create a church without hierarchy. Hierarchy is in itself a good and holy thing. Jesus chose the twelve especially above the others, and among the twelve favored Peter, James, and John, and he loved John best, though he chose Peter to be the head of the others. Jesus said, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” implying that indeed there will be a first and last in the kingdom of God. The inequality of blessedness among the saints is for Catholics de fide. Why should it not be? Do we really think that anybody in heaven will be exactly as blessed as the Virgin Mary?

    5. In my experience, what parades itself as a Mass “of the people” is usually a Mass commandeered by a minority of the people, those most active in the liturgy, at the expense of all of the rest of the people.

    6. It is precisely to keep people from showboating that liturgical reform is so necessary.

  • Dismas

    We’ve waited long enough. The New Missal is an opportunity to put an end to the liturgical abuses, secular humanism, heretical modernism and general confusion experienced in our post Vatican II American parishes. We are not the US Catholic Church. We are are part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are members of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Please show your support for the Holy See’s recognito. Sign the petition, We’ve waited long enough.

  • Mary Conces

    It has worried me for years that many seem to think that a vernacular Liturgy somehow automatically explains itself and renders all worship, indeed, all religion, immediately intelligible and doable. And, it seems, people who are not particularly interested in language as such, or personally involved in Church matters,(“ordinary people”) just assume that whatever form of the Mass they are used to, in their own language, came into being automatically–even magically. They have to trust the representatives of their Church to bring Jesus Himself and His words to them as authentically as possible–reaching back to the time He spent on earth and up, out, in , to Him in eternity. The Catechism; a standard sacral language for the Liturgy, the Bible; carefully preserved documents–all provide touchstones for what we are continually translating into practice in our daily lives. We will never be finished until we die; we will never be done learning until we “know as we are known”–unless we start thinking we know it all, are good enough. We, especially we “ordinary people”, need to be lifted up to God; we need to be exposed to even more truth than we think we already know–more than we think we can stand. Elevated language, splendid vestments, churches, music, speak to us of Him who is elevated beyond our reach, but who reaches down to us. Jesus spoke to the people on the roads, by the seaside, in the fields, in their own language–but he spoke beautifully, brilliantly. Even the most ephemeral, colloquial translations evince the radical splendor of His ideas. He worshipped His Father with His people in their ancient tongue. (Thank you, Professor Esolen, for insights into its form.) The Temple in Jerusalem, which He loved as His Father’s House, was no hovel, by all accounts. But even the Temple, the Vatican, the descriptions of the heavenly Liturgy in the Old and New Testaments, the most solemn Pontifical Mass, are nothing compared to God’s glory. But all those attempts to convey it have uplifted ordinary people through the centuries and helped them to see His glory in their ordinary affairs. Even the poor and destitute do not live on bread alone. The priest who puts on a fine chasuble (an heirloom, not his personal property) is not glorifying himself; he is obliterating himself. Language which is out of the ordinary (not incomprehensible) conveys sentiments, concepts, which are anything but ordinary. The new translation will be capable of conveying a sense of the permanence and transcendence of the Church to ordinary people, but only if it is presented to them with respect and understanding.

    Sorry to rant, but I figure I’m putting my two cents in so late that nobody will read it anyway.