COLUMBIA — Ellyn Forbes, the liturgy and music director at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, is preparing for a new translation of the prayers of the Mass and other related changes.
“I think that it will bring some new life into the church,” Forbes said. “It will allow people to think about what they are saying instead of just saying the words automatically.”
The revisions are meant to be a more literal translation of the Missale Romanum, the Latin book that contains the "prayers, chants and instructions for the celebration of Mass in the Roman Catholic Church," according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
There is no scheduled date for churches to begin using the new translation, but Columbia churches anticipate starting on the first Sunday of Advent in 2011.
Background on the Roman Missal
According to a timeline from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
The new translation is based on the third edition of the Missale Romanum, which was published under Pope John Paul II in 2002. Whenever the pope issues a new edition of the Missale Romanum, work begins to translate the Latin text into vernacular languages around the world.
The International Commission on English in the Liturgy, or ICEL, is responsible for preparing the English translation, called the Roman Missal. ICEL was formed at the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, when bishops from English-speaking countries agreed to work together on the first official English translation of the Mass.
Previously, Mass had been celebrated only in Latin. In 1963, the Second Vatican Council approved the use of vernacular Mass for the first time.
The Rev. Dan Merz, chairman of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission in Jefferson City, said the initial translation of the Missale Romanum was completed in 1974; a second edition came out in 1975; the current English translation was published in 1985.
The coming translation is based on new instructions for translating liturgical books into vernacular languages, the Rev. Dylan Schrader of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church said.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, those instructions, from the document Liturgiam Authenticam, were issued by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2001.
ICEL revised its statutes in 2003 and soon began translating the new edition of the Roman Missal in accordance with the Liturgiam Authenticam requirements.
The Vatican approved a major section of the Roman Missal, called the Order of Mass, in 2008. The Order of Mass includes the prayers and structures that do not change from Mass to Mass.
Merz has written about the revised edition of the Roman Missal for the Catholic Missourian newspaper. He has also helped in some of the translations.
“I’ve been involved in the translation process for the new Missal through Bishop (John) Gaydos,” who oversees the Jefferson City diocese, Merz said. “As the U.S. bishops would review a section of the Missal translation for approval, Bishop Gaydos would ask for my comments.”
Merz said it's been rewarding to see that some of the suggestions made to the Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship in Washington, D.C., were accepted — "although the final version of the translation remains to be seen,” he said.
“The new translations in English will be more in tune with how the Catholic world in other languages prays the Mass. The new missal, therefore, will be decidedly more catholic, with a lower c, throughout the Catholic, upper c, world," Merz said.
Preparing for change
Workshops and pastoral days have been scheduled throughout this year to train priests and diocesan leaders about the new changes.
Forbes, of Sacred Heart, said that about a month ago, she attended a workshop where she not only learned about the revised edition but also read some of the new translations.
“It is written in early modern British English, which is a more classical style, more flowery and more poetic,” Forbes recalled.
“The new translation of the missal is much more faithful to the original Latin text,” Schrader said. “The currently used translation, completed in the early 1970s, tends to paraphrase and to introduce new expressions not found in the original.”
Merz said liturgical language encapsulates faith and how people want to live in faith.
“It inspires and instructs, and I believe the new translation is considerably richer in scriptural allusions and vivid metaphors,” he said.
The Rev. Simon-Felix Michalski of the St. Thomas More Newman Center at MU plans to attend a seminar on the new Roman Missal in September in Oklahoma City. Until then, he will be studying educational materials sent by the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, as well as preliminary translations.
So far, Michalski’s job has not changed much. He said the only thing he has had to change is what he studies because he is still learning the rituals.
“I haven’t been doing this for years and years," Michalski said. "I’m still a rookie – or baby priest.”
Other people in the church are preparing for the missal change.
“It has already been set to music, so now it just has to be learned by the choir,” Michalski said.
The Diocesan Liturgical Commission in Jefferson City plans to help prepare parishes for the new missal by setting up a calendar for training throughout the diocese, Merz said.
“The articles that I wrote last summer were simply the first step in a much larger and broader effort to prepare the diocese for the new missal,” he said.
A variety of resources available in print, audio and visual media will probably be used in the parishes.
Michalski is excited about the change.
"The language more closely reflects the awesomeness of God," he said.
Merz is also enthusiastic.
“It’s not perfect, and it’s not a silver bullet that will solve all of our problems," he said. "But I believe that language is important, especially within something as essentially important as the liturgy.”