Third edition of missal is a more literal translation, workshop participants learn

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, April 10, 2011

Come the weekend of Nov. 26 and 27, Catholics throughout the United States will be using the new translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, and they will be saying new formulations of the prayers and responses they have been offering for the last 40 years.

The new version increases the emphasis on Scriptural references and allusions in the order of the Mass and will bring the prayers said by English-speaking worshippers closer in line with those said by the faithful in other languages, said Todd Williamson, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Divine Worship.

But they will also include some unfamiliar terms and complex sentence structures, which might be difficult for people to get used to.

So now is the time to learn about the changes — both what exactly they are, and what the reasoning is behind them, Williamson said.

To help, the office has scheduled several workshops for clergy, parish staff, musicians, educators and lay leaders.

At a March 26 workshop, Williamson and Franciscan Sister Renee Simonelic went over the changes with several dozen participants, many of whom came in with some trepidation.

It’s important to understand that this is not a new Mass, Williamson said. This is a revised version, the third edition of the Mass promulgated after the Second Vatican Council. This version is not even terribly new; it was promulgated in Latin in 2000, offered as a way to commemorate the jubilee year and to allow the hundreds of new saints canonized by Pope John Paul II to be recognized in the calendar.

“These are not new prayers,” Williamson said. “But if they’re not new, then why do they sound so different? It’s translation.”

More specifically, it’s a different emphasis in translation. In 1969, English translators focused on getting the meaning the same. But in 2001, the Vatican instruction Liturgiam Authenticam called for “formal equivalence,” or using something more akin to a word-for-word translation.

For example, the prayer response said at the showing of Communion will change from “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” to “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

The new translation — which is more similar to the responses given in other languages — points more directly to its Scriptural origin, the story of the centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant but says he knows it is not necessary for Jesus to enter his home to do so. The point of that story, Williamson said, is the faith of the centurion, not his unworthiness. “At that moment, we should be declaring the faith of the centurion,” he said.

Ken Ricci, a parishioner at St. Barbara Parish, 2859 S. Throop St., said he is excited about the changes because they will help reconnect Catholics to the Gospel – something that got lost in the translation after Vatican II.

“The Catholic Church at the time failed to explain the changes,” he said. “What an opportunity we have been given to expose Catholics to the Scriptures.”

But Ricci and fellow St. Barbara parishioner Barbara Hudren said the opportunity comes with responsibility.

“We feel a definite need to help prepare our people for the changes,” Hudren said.

“If we can educate people, we can excite them about the Gospel,” Ricci said. “If we do it poorly, it will be just one more change.”