Way back when in 1962 when Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council he told the world and hundreds of clergy and theologians that “We are not on earth to guard a museum but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life.” Vatican II roled out a series of reforms, including the creation of pastoral councils, female lectors, no longer requiring the laity to kneel as they received communion and the biggest, and most welcomed change–Mass said in the vernacular. In 1963 the Mass was translated into the languages of the world but the translation into English, as explained in this fantastic NPR article, was hastily done. Before his death in 2005 Pope John Paul II comissioned a ‘re-translation’ of the Latin Mass into English.
Now, some 48 years later the New Roman Missal has rolled out and I am cringing.
I’ve talked about the New Roman Missal here before. And I have truly been preparing myself for this day but I sat in my pew today on the verge of tears. I learned to pray and worship in a certain way, always reciting loudly and murmuring Eucharistic Prayers to myself during the consecration. Things were not so different that I did not know where I was or who I was, it just was not that homey, ‘I’m here for peace’ feeling.
Is this translation more accurate? Of course, however, I am having trouble viewing this new translation as purely for the strength of the Mass and English speaking Catholics, religious and laity.
The NPR article I linked to above brought on particularly salient point that is popping up even in the Mormon circles I run in we are all wondering is this translation a move to reign in the American Catholic Church. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have notoriously given local parishes and archdioceses control over the laity in their respective areas. The USCCB is not a liberal organization, they stick with the Vatican on a wide range of topics but do not micromanage American clergy, a notion that makes plenty of conservative Catholics uncomfortable. In Mormonism there is complete ‘correlation’ of material being handed down from the General Authorities in Salt Lake City. The lessons for LDS Sunday school and the wording of Sacrament Meeting prayers in Logan, UT are the same ones people are hearing in Ghana or Samoa. I am becoming willing to see these new translations as the Vatican’s move to correlate American Catholics.
The only good thing I am slowly starting to see in this whole translation Mass is that it is forcing all of us to focus in on the importance of the things we do in and say during Mass and why. Essentially, we can not be on auto-pilot. We have to pay attention.
RIP ‘Old’ Roman Missal 1963-2011, I’ll miss you and tell my children all about you.