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New translation of the Misssal

Bishop John McAreavey speaks to Intercom about the new translation of the Missal

Can you tell me some of the history behind the new translation?

I attended a meeting of ICEL for the first time in July 2002. The Latin text of the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal (editio typica tertia) had been published in 2000. In March 2001 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments had issued an instruction Liturgiam authenticam, subtitled, On the use of the vernacular languages in the publication of books of the Roman Liturgy. This document was in preparation for many years and reflected some unease with the vernacular translations that were prepared in the years following the Second Vatican Council.

The move to the use of the vernacular posed a whole set of decisions for those preparing liturgical texts. It was a new project. It is likely that the periodic renewal of liturgical texts will be an ongoing feature in the life of the Church, as vernacular languages are subject to change in a way that was not the case with Latin.

Why do we need a new missal?

The insistence of the Holy See that a new style of translation be adopted meant that the preparation of a new text of the Mass became necessary. At a personal level, I found that through my involvement in this project, I became convinced that the preparation of a better translation would reflect more accurately the meaning of the prayers of the Missal. This is important in several ways: firstly, for the sake of the unity of the Catholic faith, it is important that the vernacular translations reflect accurately the meaning of the original Latin prayers; secondly, the prayers of the Mass, both those that are used at every celebration (the Order of Mass) and those that vary, influence and mould the faith of the people who pray them.

What is going to change?

Most of the changes in the new Missal will affect the priest. However some common responses of the faithful will also change. A few examples:

  • The response to The Lord be with you will change to And with your spirit. The word spirit in the Latin (Et cum spiritu tuo) was translated in all European translations of the Missal.
  • In the penitential rite, the phrase through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault has been brought back.
  • The prayer before communion reads as follows: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. This translation evokes more clearly the scriptural text on which the prayer is based.

The prayers said by the celebrant are often quite different in style. At present the collects of the Mass, for example, are easy to say, as they are broken into short sound-bytes. The new prayers often form one sentence that captures better the balance and richness of the original Latin. However they will be a bit harder to pray and, at least initially, priests may need to cast an eye over them before Mass. As an example, I have looked at the collect for Trinity Sunday:

Present text


you sent your Word to bring us truth

and your Spirit to make us holy.

Through them we come to know the mystery of your life.

Help us to worship you, one God in three Persons,

By proclaiming and living our faith in you

Proposed New Text

God our Father,

by sending into the world

the Word of Truth and the Spirit of Sanctification

you made known to humankind your awesome mystery;

grant us, in professing the true faith,

to acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory,

and adore the Unity, powerful in majesty

Is a catechetical programme being planned?

It is expected that the new Missal will come into use towards the end of 2010. A catechetical programme is being prepared for use in all the English-speaking countries that will use the new Missal. As soon as this programme is ready, we will need to begin a process of familiarisation so that both celebrants and congregations can adapt to the new texts.

We have become accustomed to the prayers of the Mass that we have used since 1973. I was ordained that year and have never used any other text. For all of us who will be faced with the change of prayers, this change will initially be quite unsettling and has the potential to cause confusion, not to mention annoyance.

Do you expect people will be able to adapt to these changes easily?

Change is never easy and, as people get older, it gets harder. I do not think it will be easy, but with good preparation it will be possible. We have to adapt to change in all areas of life. It is important that all priests use the new texts. Were division to arise in the texts that priests use at Mass it would be damaging to the unity of the Church and confusing to the faithful.

The texts of the Mass that we currently use have been in place since 1973. The task of re-translating the Missal has given the Church the opportunity to learn from the experience of the years since then. In some instances, as will be clear from the examples I gave above, elements that were omitted from the present text are now being reclaimed. This is not unlike the situation of church buildings from which elements were removed in the years following the Council and which, in a later refurbishment, once again found their place in that church.


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