October 15, 2010

New Mass translation has many reasons, provokes hopes and fears

By Sean Gallagher

Why are the words of the Mass changing?

Father Patrick Beidelman succinctly addressed this basic question at the start of his presentation to 12 priests who gathered on Sept. 16 at the rectory of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis for a workshop on the new English translation of the Roman Missal that will be used beginning the weekend of Nov. 26-27, 2011.

He expects Catholics across the archdiocese to put this question to their pastors in the year to come, and wanted to offer the priests a helpful answer.

The words of the Mass are changing, Father Beidelman said, “because two popes looked at the various translations of the Roman Missal around the world for a number of years, and they thought that the missals could be done better because some content was missing and, at times, some of the prayers were skewed.”

Father Beidelman also recommended that the priests have realistic expectations about the quality of any translation of the Mass from its original Latin texts into English.

“No matter what you do when you translate from one language to another, you’re going to lose something,” he said. “Any translation is going to be imperfect. If you’re striving for something that is perfect, I think you’re going to be disappointed.”

On the other hand, Father Beidelman noted that having a more accurate English translation of the Mass is important because Latin scholarship in some regions around the world is relatively poor. Therefore, many people responsible for translating the Mass into other languages base their work on the English translation since English is becoming more and more an international language.

“So the stakes are a little higher for the English texts,” he said. “And [the Vatican] is going to be a little more strict with what they allow and don’t allow, where there’s permission given and what adaptations are granted.”

But according to some priests who attended the workshop at St. Simon the Apostle Parish to help them prepare for the new translation, many Catholics across the archdiocese may have a difficult time with the changes after having used the current translation for decades.

Father Michael O’Mara, the pastor of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis, recalled getting used to a new Mass translation in the 1970s while growing up at St. Mary Parish in Greensburg and, from that, draws hope for the upcoming changes.

“I can remember making the changes at our parish in Greensburg and having new little prayer cards with the responses on them,” he said. “I felt a lot of energy there [back] in junior high.

“I’m hoping that this is going to [give us] a new energy. Yeah, we’re going to have to get our noses back into the books. But I think that this is going to be a great opportunity for us to bring some new life back into it.” †

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