Like other dioceses across the nation, the Diocese of Trenton is preparing for the implementation of the third translation of the Missale Romanum (Roman Missal), the ritual text of prayers and instruction for the Catholic celebration of Mass.

To help familiarize priests, deacons and lay leaders serving in parishes with the text revisions and new translations, along with addressing their questions and concerns, a two-day “Welcoming the Roman Missal” regional meetings was held Aug. 10-11 in Monmouth University, West Long Branch.

The workshop, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship and the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, was one of 20 being held throughout the country between April and November. Participants at Monmouth University included a contingent of some 280 representatives from 16 dioceses.

Diocesan bishops who were present included Bishop John M. Smith, who offered opening remarks, Coadjutor Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who led the opening prayer, Archbishop Donald Reece of the Archdiocese of Kingston, Jamaica, a friend of and frequent visitor to the Trenton Diocese, and Auxiliary Bishop Paul H. Walsh of the Rockville Centre Diocese.

Led by presenters Father Richard Hilgartner, associate director of the U.S. Bishops’ Divine Word Secretariat, and Dr. Dolly Sokol, director of development for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, participants learned about the background of the new translation, were given an overview of the new texts, reviewed demonstrations of the chants of the Missal, implemented strategies and discussed leading a community through change.

“This is such an important time in the life of the Church because it involves worship, and that is what the Church is about – worship of God in the communities of our faithful,” said Bishop Smith, in his welcoming remarks Aug. 10.

“And it’s in our parishes where the communities of our faithful are found.”

History of the Roman Missal

The current Roman Missal was promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969 in Latin. The Missal contains the prayers for the Mass and it has been translated into many languages so that the Mass can be celebrated in the vernacular. The Holy See confirmed the English translation for the Order of Mass and the complete English translation of the Roman Missal was approved in 1974.

International Commission on English in the Liturgy prepared the translation. Based on consultations with bishops conferences, ICEL translated the texts with simple, contemporary language, mild paraphrasing and new metaphors.

Within a year of the English translation, the Holy See issued a new edition of the Roman Missal, in Latin, and a second edition of the English missal was published in 1985, and is currently in use. This edition included several additions to liturgical texts, but it did not change the text of the Mass.

Even at that time, experts raised concerns about the English translator’s accuracy, beauty and imagery. In 2000, Pope John Paul II promulgated a third Latin edition of the Roman Missal. This edition was completed in 2002.

Although the Holy See confirmed the translation April 30, 2010, the U.S. bishops have not yet received a final text which underwent editing by Vatican offices. The USCCB expects to implement the new translation on the first Sunday of Advent in 2011.

What's Changing? An Overview

Many of the changes in the Roman Missal pertain to the parts of the Mass in which the laity respond to prayers said by the priest.

The changes will affect some of the most recognizable parts of the liturgy. That includes the familiar greeting and sign-of-peace response, “and also with you,” which will become “and with your spirit.”

Changes to the Confiteor (“I confess to almighty God”), the Gloria, Nicene and Apostles’ creeds have also been made. Most notably in the Nicene Creed will be the introduction from “We believe” to “I believe,” and many biblical and poetic images which had been hidden in the translations, such as “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” (Communion Rite) and “from the rising of the sun to its setting” (Eucharistic Prayer III) have been restored.

For priests, the new translation of the Mass means learning some prayer texts never spoken before. Some words that have been used the past 40 years have been reconstructed in new grammatical cadences. Other words expressing the authentic meaning the Church intended in Latin may seem, in some instances, odd for public usage. Yet, as language is formative, priests will be challenged to look at the theological and spiritual meaning of the prayers they offer differently.

Technical language and vocabulary specific to the faith is also used in the new translation, so words like “chalice” (the cup used at Mass for the wine that becomes the Blood of Christ), “consubstantial” (describes the unique relationship between God the Father and the Son) and “incarnate” (describes the great mystery of God becoming flesh in Jesus) may initially sound unfamiliar, but are part of the vocabulary of Catholic faith and worship.

Priests are going to be encouraged to chant certain parts of the Mass, especially in the areas of dialogue (the Kyrie – Lord Have Mercy, Christ Have Mercy, Lord Have Mercy; prayers over the gifts and the final prayer after the reception of Holy Communion).

Music will also experience a significant change in the new Missal.

Completely re-written musical tones for the prayers of the priest-celebrant are included and will require some training. Since the translation of some common prayers of the people will be slightly altered, music that accompanies the selections is also being rewritten.

All of the liturgical publishers are making adaptations to the ritual parts of the Mass (Gloria, Creed – which is usually not sung, Holy, Holy; memorial acclamations and Lamb of God), and liturgical composers, such as Marty Haugen, composer of the wellknown Mass of Creation, are considering whether to publish new material that incorporates the changes or to make adaptations to their already published works.

Why is the Translation Happening?

The way Mercy Sister Eleanor McCann, associate director of the diocesan Office of Worship, explained it, the revision of the Roman Missal extends beyond changing the terminology and using different words.

“The point,” she said, “is to get closer to the precise translation of the original language of Aramaic, Greek and Latin as well as becoming more faithful to the Scripture from which many of these phrases flow.”

Another reason for the revision, Sister Eleanor said, is the attempt to incorporate a “liturgical language into our lives.”

“It’s a language that lifts us up in our worship together, a language that is different from how we speak on the street. Therefore, it has a more poetic nature as opposed to prose,” she said. “Many of the sentences are structured in such a way that they end with a statement that is intended to lift our hearts as the sentence concludes.”

Sister Eleanor said she hopes that as Catholics become more accustomed to the new translation that they will become more familiarized with the Bible.

The reason for the revision of the Roman Missal is that the “Church is attempting to raise the bar of the prayer level of its people so that when we come together as a community, our minds and our hearts are touched by sentences and phrases that are uplifting or consoling, that ring true to the experience of the human heart and bring us closer to God,” she said.

“I do believe the Church is hoping that we will find ourselves in a different place interiorly because of some of these changes; that we will be slowed down and we won’t be quickly reciting our prayers along, but that we will be praying our prayers.”

“I think the new translation is going to help us all to appreciate that when we hear our prayers and pray our prayers in the liturgy that we are going to recognize phrases that we have read in Scriptures and hopefully make connections with our own private reading of the Bible in the collective worship in which we share.”