what if we said wait

Have you heard about the impending changes in the liturgy, in particular with the new literal translation of the Latin to English recently approved and set to be implemented soon in a church near you?

Whether you answered yes or no, I suggest reading this essay by Michael G. Ryan, pastor of St. Jame's Cathedral in Seattle in America Magazine: What if We Said, "Wait?".

Recently the Archdiocese of Seattle sponsored a seminar on the new translations for lay leaders and clergy. Both the priest who led the seminar (an accomplished liturgical theologian) and the participants gathered there in good faith. When passages from the proposed new translation were soberly read aloud by the presenter (I remember especially the phrase from the first eucharistic prayer that currently reads “Joseph, her husband,” but which in the new translation becomes “Joseph, spouse of the same virgin”), there was audible laughter in the room. I found myself thinking that the idea of this happening during the sacred liturgy is no laughing matter but something that should make us all tremble.

There’s more: the chilling reception the people of the dioceses of South Africa have given the new translations. In a rare oversight, the bishops of that country misread the instructions from Rome and, after a careful program of catechesis in the parishes, introduced the new translations to their people some months ago. The translations were met almost uniformly with opposition bordering on outrage.

It is not my purpose here to discuss in detail the flawed principles of translation behind this effort or the weak, inconsistent translations that have resulted. Others have already ably done that. Nor do I want to belabor the fact that those who prepared the translations seem to be far better versed in Latin than in English. No, my concern is for the step we now face: the prospect of implementing the new translations. This brings me back to my question: What if we just said, “Wait”? Read the whole essay

There's also a website: www.whatifwejustsaidwait.org

Well worth the read and some pondering.


Anonymous said...

We have a year to get ready. I am not sure why more time is needed. The essay strikes me as thinly veiled obstructionism.

Also, the arguments advanced by some that the new texts are going to be too difficult to understand by the average Catholic in the pews are insulting.

No one seemed all that concerned about interruption to anyone's prayer life when the vernacular was foisted on the faithful 40 years ago.

This quote in the America article made me laugh when I read the article:

"Not in my wildest dreams would it have occurred to me then that I would live to witness what seems more and more like the systematic dismantling of the great vision of the council’s decree."

I have also read Sacrosanctum Concilium, and wonder why this statement was not implemented:

"36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites."

My assessment is that the great vision of the council has not yet been fully implemented. Re-translations that better align the meaning of the Latin and the vernacular would seem to me to advance the work of this particular council.

Lastly, let us all bear in mind that it is not up to us to make these decisions, because the Council documents clearly state:

"22. 1. Regulation of the Sacred Liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop."

Lydia P

David said...


No one is questioning the authority of the bishops to regulate the liturgy and its translations.

BUT, the new English translation is a joke. It makes mocks the English language and first-language English speakers by imposing a slavish word for word literal translation of the Latin text. English rhythms and cadences, the stuff that makes English prose beautiful are totally ignored. The dignity of the Mass in English is under attack, and there seems little respect for English speakers in this new translation. That's why people are getting upset. Just ask the South African Church that has been using some of the people's parts for the last year.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps faithfulness to the original text is deemed more important than English cadence and rhythm.

Will you still be calling this translation a joke when it is adopted next year? I would never say that about the current translations, although I find them quite clipped and lacking in depth of imagery, but to call them a joke and an affront to my dignity would be inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments. I remain with Father Mike. Mary Christenson