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A Striking Contrast

Three additional thoughts in what is already a rich, although very depressing, discussion about the new English translation of the Roman missal.First, I have read, very carefully, the many examples quoted in MWO'Reilly's post below, of prayers from the new translation. I have declaimed them in my mind, extending the pauses as necessary and emphasizing words to make the meaning clear and even give some power and beauty to overall Latinate construction.I think it can be done. I think Bob Imbelli will be able to do it. So will any other presider with a very good voice, unusual reading and speaking talent, and perhaps a Shakespearean sense of rhythm. And how many of these are there in most of our parishes for most of our Masses? I am old enough to remember the way most priests handled the Latin of yore. It was atrocious.Second, I have read the Anthony Esolen's article about the new translation at the First Things website, which someone who likes the translation recommended in an earlier thread on this topic. Esolen's article is based on a simple premise: If the first post-Vatican II translation was bad, the new one must be good. But decades ago there was a very broad consensus that the first translation was seriously wanting. The bishops and ICEL were hard at work on a new translation that captured much of what the first one had lost and was motivated by at least many of the concerns Esolen reflects. The effort was suddenly ripped out of their hands. Any fair comparison has to compare examples of their effort to those of the new translation.Finally, what is very striking about Esolens article is the contrast between his own genuinely English prose and the Latinized English of the prayers. His prose: short sentences, varied rhythms, colorful and vernacular vocabulary. His explanations of the prayers are forcefull and accessible. The prayers themselves are at best ok; they certainly need those explanations. I am not proposing Esolens prose as a model for the Mass. But the contrast is telling.


Commenting Guidelines

Okay, Mr. Steinfels - let's insert a little levity in terms of your first point - "Mapping a Liturgical Sentence": the last 40+ years, survey after survey and even the work you supported with Mannion's project, preaching is considered to be mediocre at best; presiders/deacons ability to "proclaim" is mediocre at best. Doubt that this "new translation" will work miracles in this area - it will only make mediocre slide to unintelligible.Your last two points, in my experience, hit the nail on the head. This translation, in reality, is dealing with a symptom; not the disease. Ars celebrandi has been a growing and increasing issue since the 1980's. It's not that the VII liturgical reform failed; it is that is was never really tried - via appropriate, targeted, and valued seminary training; refocus on ars celebrandi, etc. Bishops increasingly paid lip service to the church's liturgy.Found Esolen's opinion to be on the extreme fringe - not many translation experts would agree with any of his points of view and doubt that he had any involvement with the original ICEL and wonder how he can comment on such a worldwide group that toiled for decades to produce a liturgy that inspired folks to full and active participation. (Again, reality - their best efforts still depended upon how presiders and bishops implemented their work)

Bill -- do you know anything about Latin? I studied it in high school and college, and while I'm not an expert by any means, Esolen makes an unimpeachable case for the prayers that he discusses that the previous translation was so sloppy as to border on dishonesty.

SBWho would you say "doesn't" have a personal connection? Me, being Byzantine? I find the new translation to be quite poor in relation to English and understanding of English, and it is based upon a very non-English sentiment imposed upon an English audience. It doesn't translate well into English what they are trying to do. So much is lost in this translation, including beauty, it's not funny.

As the date for full implementation of these liturgical changes draws close, the response in at least my parish community is trending against them. I don't expect that any critical mass has been achieved as yet, but I have been surprised at the emotional reaction especially among women.My questions about these liturgical changes:1. Who among the faithful, in the pews, did the hierarchy ever conduct any MEANINGFUL CONSULTATION prior to ordering these liturgical changes?2. Who, or what, are making money off of this change? How much for all the training of the priests and liturgists? How much for all the new printings of the very expensive ceremonial books?For me, until I hear some plausible, credible answers to these questions, I think Catholics at the parish level should just IGNORE the changes and insist on continuing with the liturgy as has been our custom for years.Just like the response to the teaching of Humane Vitae years ago where Catholics essentially have ignored the ban on birth control, Catholics should exercise the "sensus fidelium" and reject this bad brainstorm of the hierarchs.

"The effort was suddenly ripped out of their hands. Any fair comparison has to compare examples of their effort to those of the new translation."Is there such a comparison out there, preferably written by someone who doesn't have a personal grievance at issue?

While the discussion of the Propers is critical and intersting, it is the Ordinary prayers that are most upsetting from the "... with your spirit" to the much discussed "...shed for the many." I know the explanations but still find it all wanting and stultifying

"Esolens article is based on a simple premise: If the first post-Vatican II translation was bad, the new one must be good."With all due respect, Esolen's article does not begin with that as a premise at all. It's what he demonstrates by argument and example. Specifically, he explains through several examples, which he says are not cherrypicked: 1) what the original Latin prayer says and means; 2) why the original "translation" was so terribly inadequate; and 3) why the new translation far better captures the theological meaning and beauty. Henry: if you could be specific, that would help. And if you write a comment using non-awkward English sentences yourself, you might even be convincing.

Studebacker - actually, I studied latin for 7+ years and used in for years in worldwide community discussions - the order's statues and constitutions had to be in latin (altho next to no one understood this - a few had to translate back and forth so that all discussions could be in national vernaculars).Esolen chooses to re-write history....except his revisionist history picks and chooses and starts - not with facts but his opinion and biases; if not out and out ideology. VII overwhelmingly passed SC and its dynamic equivalence translation methodology. His comments about this are inaccurate; if not downright dishonest. His latin bias is poor liturgical history and omits centuries of liturgical practice and development. A balanced, research based analysis would place "latin" in its proper perspective (it also was a vernacular from greek and aramaic and most experts would state that it wasn't even high class latin but the language of peasants - to quote from Reginald Foster, pre-eminent latin scholar today - it was the language of prostitutes). Both early church liturgies and scripture were translated using dynamic equivalence. Almost all expert translators posit dynamic equivalence. Yes, we do need to make sure that the "original" latin is correct but the liturgical tradition then is to translate in the most poetic, meaningful, and proclaimable manner possible. (LA is a deficient guideline; poorly written and articulated; and this new translation breaks the rules of LA hundreds of times when that seems to have been the point of LA in 2000?).And these are comments restricted to Esolen and translation - it doesn't even begin to talk about the process used over the last 12 years which, some canon law experts state, is not even valid.We worship the Trinity as a community of faith - we don't worship latin. LA and its ilk smacks of the gospel stories about Jesus and the Pharisees and the Temple High Priests who were rigid about rituals as if the rituals were gods. Esolen and the USCCB appear to have "coined" a new term - "sacral vernacular"...whatever that is?

Jim and David -- what's so upsetting about having a better and more accurate translation? I understand the impulse to be conservative and never change anything, but it's a little odd when people fly into a rage because a response ("and with your spirit") that was never mistranslated as to any other language (French, Spanish, etc.) is at long last correctly translated into English.

So, Bill, can you refute anything that Esolen actually says about specific prayers? So far, I'm seeing lots of people who are mad and full of insults, but no one who can refute Esolen on specific details. (Again, I'm asking if you can refute what he says about the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, the postcommunion prayer from the same mass, and the preface for the Feast of the Transfiguration -- namely, he claims that the original prayers meant such-and-such, the first "translation" was egregiously wrong, and the new translation is better.)

Studebaker - from the PrayTell Blog from Xavier Riendfleisch: examples that you are specifically asking for:II. Prayer over Offerings, Fourth Sunday of Advent: The significance of the prayer is lessened by translating qui as just as. The sense of the Latin implies a confidence that the action of the Spirit, who filled the BVM with his power, will now sanctify these gifts. The point is that it is because the Spirit filled Mary with his power that we have confidence that he will sanctify the gifts, not merely that the way the Spirit filled Mary with power will be the same way he fills the gifts with power."Altari tuo, Domine, superposita munera Spiritus ille sanctificet qui beatae Mariae viscera sua virtute replevit"2008 Gray Book - approved.....O Lord, may that Spirit who filled the womb of blessed Mary with his power sanctify the gifts laid upon your altar.2010 Final Version - not approved but printed and will be used.....May the Holy Spirit, OLord, sanctify these gifts laid upon your altar just as he filled with his power the womb ofthe blessed Virgin Mary. One more example (you can read the link)8. Introduction of a Theological ProblemAlternative Collect, Baptism of the Lord. The Received Text mistranslates the Latin. The parallel structure of foris agnovimus (adverb-verb) and intus reformari (adverb-verb) suggests that foris modifies agnovimus, not similem. More importantly, is the Received Text translation indicating that if in saying Christ is outwardly like us, we are implying that inwardly he is not like us? If so, it suggests Apollinarianism a fourth century Christological heresy that denied the human soul in Christ. In addition the Received Text fails to translate mereamur.Of course, the most hilarious is the communion collect for Christ the King - it contains this great latin translation - ".....the immensity of his majesty". BTW - members of ICEL informed Vox Clara of these and numerous mistakes - no response except that when these surfaced in public, a number of ICEL members were fired.For your perusal:

Here is one last post that compares the efforts and explanations of ICEL, 1967 with the 2008 Gray Book: comparison w/explanation:1967 ICEL Commentary 1967 Experimental Translation 2010 TranslationLines 1-4: Te igitur.Because of the importance of unifying this prayer with the sanctus and especially with the preface, a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, the expression in this spirit of thanksgiving is used to convey the weight of igitur and to sum up the theme of the preface (cf. Botte-Mohrmann, LOrdinaire de la Messe, Paris-Louvain, 1953, p. 75).Supplices rogamus ac petimus. In many instances Latin words such as supplices and pairs of words such as rogamus ac petimus are employed for reasons of Latin rhythm and style or rhetoric; they do not represent thought content which need be or should be explicitlytranslated in another language. Other examples are placatus (line 37), digneris (lines 7, 44, 79 etc.), cognita-nota (lines 16-17), donis ac datis (line 74). In this case, the force of the Latin rhetoric is carried by the expression we come to you ... we ask you since theword come is here intended to embrace the sense of suppliance and petition and to set the mood for what follows.Clementissime. The English spoken style does not have anything corresponding to the Latin multiplication of adjectives; in fact the effect in English is to weaken rather than to strengthen the sense. In this particular instance to translate clementissime directly wouldviolate English usage, which rarely attaches an adjective to a vocative; the meaning of clementissime is carried into the English by the tone of the first two lines. Other adjectives which have been similarly treated in this translation are temo ... vivo et vero (line20), hostiam puram, hostiam sanctam, hostiam immaculatam (line 76), etc.We come to you, Father, in this spirit of thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ your Son.Through him we ask you to accept and blessTo you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept and bless

Going off of "the immensity of his majesty," I fear that I'll have a very hard time not snickering whenever we pray the new Gloria full of its Latinate phrases. I'll always think of this Monty Python clip (at :40)

From left field: I find these arguments exceedingly tedious. How does one canonize some Latin prayers? Obviously, other rites have what are generally taken to be satisfactory liturgical texts, in a variety of languages.Second, I know of no serious biblical scholar who is looking for a translation of the bible that is "most accurate." Accurate to what in what context? Raymond Brown, for example, said that different translations are appropriate for different uses of the biblical texts. That fits well with the prevailing notions of what counts as acceptable translations of any number of other texts, e. g. the Aeneid. Third, so far as I can see, what we are confronted with is a matter of obedience. OK/ There's nothing in principle wrong with obedience. But don't make bad arguments for what you command. And I shouldn't make bad arguments for disobedience.In the air, whether one likes it or not, there is the sense that this argument is not at bottom about the translation from Latin into English, but is rather about relationships among various members, of the worshiping community. Specifically, what is the status of the laity, on one hand, and the clergy, on the other hand, in the communal celebration of the Eucharist? There is no doubt that there is no Eucharist without the priest. But when the community gathers for the Eucharist, are the laity doing something or just receiving ministrations from the clergy? So far as I can tell, the laity are full fledged members of the community that offers the worship. Neither they nor the clergy ought to be coerced into the position of having to "talk funny" to celebrate the Eucharist, even if that means that one does not adhere to some slavish conception of what good translation is. So, o.k., we have to obey if we don't want to mess up the Eucharistic celebration. Just don't give any more silly arguments!

Bill -- you say, "Some examples that you are specifically asking for:"No, those are most certainly not what I specifically asked for, although they are interesting. I specifically asked if you, since you seem to disagree with Esolen, could address any of the prayers that he specifically analyzes in great detail. I take it you cannot do so?

Stuart,This is by far your worst reasoning ever. In other discussions you worked in logical sequences and even if I disagreed with you I respected your reasoning. It is clear you are out of your competence. Bill D exhaustively destroyed your assertions. In detail. Now you are floundering and you have devolved into continual non sequitors. Bill D is on point, not just interesting while you are off the wall. Maybe you should read the satire that Bill referred to at the beginning of this thread. piece says it all.

Bernard -- The question of accuracy does seem important, doesn't it? Assuming that you agree with the notion that the Catholic mass is actually important, and that what we're doing here in American English is supposed to be saying a translation of the Roman Missal (given that we're not strictly held to the Latin any more), shouldn't the translation be, well, an actual translation? To take some of Esolen's examples, what is the excuse for translating "sancte Pater" as merely "Father" or "beatae Mariae" as merely "Mary"? These are not just nitpicky complaints that could be raised about any translation whatsoever, nor are they examples of idioms that make no sense to try to translate literally. They are Latin words with well-known English equivalents that were simply left out before (whether from stupidity or sloppiness doesn't matter).

I'd also note that besides Latin, Esolen knows Italian, German, French, Anglo-Saxon, and Greek. He has translated Dantes Divine Comedy (3 volumes, Random House), Tassos Jerusalem Delivered (Johns Hopkins University Press), and Lucretius On the Nature of Things (Johns Hopkins University Press). The latter was praised by Kenneth J. Reckford, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the following terms: "Esolen has the rare gift of being both a fine poet and a lover of languages. His diction is poetic and natural; he has a fine ear for sound, and the translation benefits greatly from being read aloudas Latin poetry was meant to be. This translation is clear and forceful. It can, and will, be read." His translations of Dante have received even higher praise. Not only that, Esolen is himself one of the most elegant essayists I've ever come across. I'll take his opinion about what constitutes a good translation over the opinion of several individuals here who, however well-meaning, have little (if any) expertise, and who can't even write a single comment themselves without awkward phrasings, misspellings, errors of punctuation, and/or grammatical errors.

All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing goodthat Christ may find an eager welcome at his comingand call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven.Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christwith righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.The first paragraph above is the present version while the second is the translation to be prayed next Sunday. Esolen then proceeds to call the new translation "muscular" and the image of "running" to meet Jesus. I mean this is an English professor's poetic license gone theatrical. His tying this all in with the ten virgins escapes logic. Do read Esolen's article. It is a great propaganda piece revealing how he has been part of the new translations while full of speculation. How the second prayer is more scriptural than the other is baffling.

Some may view Esolen as a mere propagandist (see the embarrassing comment above) but Giuseppe Mazzotta, Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale, offers a highly favorable view of Esolen's skill as a translator:"Above all, Esolen rightly understands translation as a total enterprise, which means that translating the Divine Comedy is not simply a matter of finding often impossible equivalences between Italian and English. On the contrary, it entails translating the whole cultural context of the poem..."Esolen has produced an incomparably good work, which is likely to become the standard poetic translation of the Divine Comedy for years to come."

Thanks, Bill. Here is another example from a series of articles by Gabe Huck on translation:".....consider the collect for the First Sunday of Advent in the new book:Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,the resolve to run forth to meet your Christwith righteous deeds at his coming,so that, gathered at his right hand,they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.Come again? Contrast that with the banished version of the 1998 book as approved by all the English-speaking bishops:Almighty God,strengthen the resolve of your faithful peopleto prepare for the coming of your Christby works of justice and mercy,so that when we go forth to meet himhe may call us to sit at his right handand possess the kingdom of heaven.Not great, but because it was apparently judged a failure by the norms of LA, it was replaced with Grant your faithful . . . Judge for yourself.My observation - Volumes have already been written on the dangling latin phrase, "righteous deeds at his coming" which seems to be picked up by the later sentence...."they may be worthy to posses the heavenly kingdom". ONLY - "they" does not refer to "righteous deeds" but to the "faithful". But, as Mr Steinfels stated, am sure that all of our well-trained presiders will make this clear by their pauses, intonation, etc.???A later Advent Sunday collect has another dangling phrase - "these passing things", which also seem to refer to a later "they" only the "they" are the faithful; not "passing things". Oh yeah, well the experts at the USCCB website must have missed this - to save the situation they produced a long winded theological explanation of "passing things" when that is not even the primary subject of the collect. Oh well!Studebaker - to your two phrases.....I posted the ICEL 1973 commentary and the Comme Le Prevoit rules of dynamic equivalence so you would understand that the original ICEL faithfully applied and implemented the directives given them. Phrases such as holy Mary or blessed Mary (yes, literal translations) were shortened following dynamic equivalence and to better get across short, brief english words, phrases that contained the meaning for most folks who prayed the 1973 translation. ICEL's explanation provides reasons for these choices - they are consistent and faithful to their directives. You can be sarcastic; you can reject and dismiss their efforts but you are comparing apples to oranges and your ideology comes through. Did you read any of the analyses or links therein?

I'm not sure I understand what Esolen's qualifications as a translator have to do with this. I'm willing to concede that (usually) the new translation is an accurate translation of the Latin (as long as it didn't offend the ideological presuppositions of the Vatican, such as removing the word "stand" from Eucharistic Prayer II despite its clear presence in the Roman Missal). But is it proclaimable? Is it prayable? These are the far more important questions, and as far as I know, Esolen isn't an expert on these matters.The most important point is the one raised about the comparisons between texts. To compare simply this new one to the original translation from the 70s is insufficient. The (much better) translation approved by the English-speaking bishops in the 1990s and summarily rejected by Rome (before they went ahead and changed the translation rules) must be taken into account.

They must have put a lot of work into the new translation because I have a St Joseph Missal from the 60s and the people's part is almost word for word.

For those interested, a link to the 1998 translation (British version) is available here:

" Phrases such as holy Mary or blessed Mary (yes, literal translations) were shortened following dynamic equivalence and to better get across short, brief english words"So what you're saying is that English-speaking people are too impatient to bother with longer phrases such as "blessed Mary," and just saying "Mary" is close enough? We're not coming up with a translation aimed at illiterate preschoolers here, although even they might be able to handle the "blessed Mary" term.

Andy -- given that the 1998 translation kept such glaring inaccuracies in the congregation's responses (leaving out "spiritu" or the word "holy" in the Suscipiat), I could easily understand why the Vatican might want to toss the whole thing and start again with competent translators who weren't trying to cater to the belief that people are too dumb to handle a few word changes here and there.

Andrew, If you can give us a sampling I would appreciate it. Esolen has done us all a favor by showing us the comparison between the two translations. His commentary certainly gives us room for thought. Unfortunately he uses his well deserved reputation and sullies it , in my opinion, with this foray into politics. Yet it is a conversation which has more meat on it and helps us see the picture more clearly.

Stu--The same Vatican that required a change from "seen and unseen" to "visible and invisible" in case we were too dumb to figure out that angels and not just sub-atomic particles were included? I suspect the reasoning behind the 1998's decision had nothing to with your explanation and was rather a pastorally sensible one not to change the people's prayers without very good reason.Bill--I honestly haven't looked at it much, just found the link. All I can say is that I've been able to read the prayers through and get their meaning on the first time around, without having to return two to three times just to understand what is trying to be said.

OK, I've slogged through this to-ing and fro-ing and have decided that it is much ado about what?For the next month of 2, the faithful sheep will dutifully pull out their little laminated cards and follow along with their parts. When it comes to what the presider is saying, however, that will be a different story altogether.I suspect that some parishes will fall into line and the rest of us, after dutifully giving the new tranlation a chance, will fall back into our old ways. Priests - now that will be even more interesting.

"I think it can be done. I think Bob Imbelli will be able to do it. So will any other presider with a very good voice, unusual reading and speaking talent, and perhaps a Shakespearean sense of rhythm. And how many of these are there in most of our parishes for most of our Masses? I am old enough to remember the way most priests handled the Latin of yore. It was atrocious."Hi, Peter, I agree that many presiders will be challenged to untangle all of these complex sentences and subordinate clauses into proclamation, particularly if they try to do it on the fly. If they want to take the care to do it right, they will need to prepare, in a way that, for the most part, they haven't needed to do until this Sunday for the text of the liturgy. They may need to mark up their texts, showing pauses, emphases, and so on.One thing that will be helpful is that liturgy is by its nature repetitive, so in the case of the Eucharistic prayers and shorter texts that are ordinary, they can be expected to get progressively better at it each time they proclaim it. If they do actually take the trouble to mark up their books, those marks will be there the following year when that week of the year rolls around again.FWIW - I rarely attend to the collects and postcommunions. It may be that, those not being my parts, I don't have as much interest in it. And it may be that, even in the form we've been using the last 40 years or so, they've been poorly proclaimed. It is possible that, now that they seem to be "meatier" in content, *if* they are well proclaimed, I may be more drawn into them than I have in the past. We won't know for quite a long time, of course.

Grant it, dear friends, that howsoever much Mr. Esolen may have garnered splendid and appropriate praise for his notable and worthy translations, his argument, were it to run forth thus in clauses miraculously accumulated and, with appositional phrases and nominative ablatives, repeatedly interrupted, no one, we deem, would have persevered willingly and freely much beyond the initial sentence, and grant it, we plead, that while his complaints, offered in his plain-spoken English, regarding the first translation, have, we humbly admit, some merit, directing our eyes and souls, as they do, toward certain lost connotations and allusions, his conclusions that the current translation, exemplified in passages not, he testifies, harvested like the fruit of the cherry tree, successfully resolves those unhappy faults and is, therefore, satisfactory and effective do not, our minds yearning for clarity and our hearts for understanding, emerge at the last convincing.


I agree with many of the observations here and following the earlier posts by J. Peter Nixon and Mollie Wilson O'Reilly. The words of the translation are only part of the problem, but replacing one flawed translation with another flawed translation is not going to help. Jim Pauwels, it would be nice to think that repeating the same texts over and over will make the presider more careful in his phrasing so that he prays them more meaningfully. Unfortunately, repetition can also have the opposite effect. Bill deHaas, I agree with much that you say in this thread and in the others, but your opening comment seems to miss my doubts about the skills of the average presider. You also say something about the work I supposedly supported "with Mannion's project." I'm afraid that I don't know what you are talking about.

SBSeveral things. First, much of what you provide here, in your ramblings, are outright fallacies. For example, you use argument from authority -- "he is a translator with people saying he does good translations" as an argument that he is right in the needs for a particular translation. This does not work. You are acting like we do not deal with foreign languages (even when many have showed otherwise) and so we must listen to him. No-go. This fallacious argument also goes with your debate about how people write. I am not doing a translation, trying to write beautiful sentences, or the like. I am just doing quick comments. Second, you seem to not understand the nature of translation itself. That is what happens quite a bit. The arguments here remind me of many KJV-only promoters. They even take selections of texts and compare them, saying, "See why KJV is the only way to go?" Same argument, same method, same ignorance of language and how translation works. Same confusion in thinking there is a good, perfect translation. There is not. And you say the Vatican said no to a different translation because the people doing the translation didn't know how to translate properly. What a load of rubbish. They knew how to translate; if the Vatican only had arguments with a word here or there, it could have been changed and the rest kept. Indeed, in any translation activity, this is what happens (I bet there were a lot of editorial changes to the Divine Comedy when Anthony Esolen translated it! Does this mean he didn't know how to translate?)The reality is, this is a poor translation for liturgical use. It makes me wonder if _that_ is what some want, so that people will just use the Latin.

I'm remembering Greek class in college, when our tutor used to point out the literary merit of the more complex sentences. Socrates spoke with greater complexity than Meno, for example. Meno spoke bluntly. Socrates spoke more gracefully, nesting meaning within meaning. His sentences were like "Chinese boxes," somewhat palindromic in structure, with the heart of the sentence in the middle.

Just a few more thoughts.I think so many confuse translation as if one is just working with code and it is a kind of code-breaking, so that, once you know the code, you can just replace one word in one language with the same word in another. This, of course, is not true. Even before addressing the meaning of grammar, the meanings of words between the two languages will never be exactly the same. Another thing, certain parts people are upset about, I like. "And with your spirit" is, imo, appropriate. I don't see the problem with it. It is, other aspects, often with the longer prayers, we see real problemsBut as a whole, I still wonder, if it was rendered into bad English for a purpose, so that the Latin will be suggested as the solution. "Well, if it can't be done well in vernacular, we need to move away from it." That we get quite a bit of defense of this poor translation from those who seem to prefer celebrating in Latin seems to say quite a bit. They are trying to promote something they will not use. Why? [side note, though I am Byzantine, I do go to Roman liturgies too, so for me, it is not as if I am talking about something which I have no association with].

KathyHaving more complex sentences like that is fine for philosophy, but liturgy is something else....

Henry,I don't understand why even the language of liturgy shouldn't "lift up [our] hearts." We are there to be lifted up. "Grace elevates and perfects nature."

It should lift our heads, but there are many ways that can be done. Prudence is needed.

C.S. Lewis, an Anglican, warned that a vernacular liturgy means a changing liturgy. Language changes and philosophies of translation change. But it is a bit much to hear people who had no sympathy for those who were upset by the abolition of the millennium-old Latin liturgy to foam at the mouth at a few changes in wording.I presume that they have now adopted the maxim: When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.

I guess Jesus was thinking of Socrates and Meno negatively when he said: "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants."

Mr. Steinfels, thank-you for this post (and for your witty and illustrative comment in the thread). Thanks as well to all the commenters.There may be very good arguments for why the translations in the new missal are better than the ones we've used for the past 40 years. There may be good arguments for why the translations in the new missal are an improvement over the work the ICEL and the bishops were doing 20 years ago.Arguments that explicitly or implicitly rely, even in part, on the majesty and superiority of Latin compared with English (or Spanish or Igbo) are not those good arguments. They are, in fact, bad arguments that serve only to muddy the waters of our discourse.Occasionally I'll see a bumper sticker that reads "God Made the Irish #1" or "God Made the Scots a Wee Bit Better". While I appreciate the sentiments and where they come from (it can't have been easy being close neighbors to the English these past few centuries), the result is a deformed and dangerous theology.The first half is exactly and profoundly right---God made them. It's the second half that starts down the path of racial or ethnic superiority that's problematic. I'm pretty sure (as sure as I can be) that path leads to hell---both in this life and the next. J. S. Bach wrote great religious music. So did Thomas A. Dorsey. To spend time arguing that one wrote "greater" or "more exalted" or "better" music is to miss the point, and miss it rather badly.

The poorest people used to find their education in churches. Rhetoric, symmetry, architecture, art, music--one could find a liberal education at Mass.Mass could be for all of us what this community is for these young French men

Most got no education when they found no true place within the liturgy, as was the case with Western "tridentine" liturgies. The disconnect was more than language. The turn to vernacular and promotion of lay participation allows for liturgy to be used for catechesis, but even then, we must understand liturgical language is not the same as a philosophy textbook.

The Dialogues of Plato are not a "textbook." They're a masterpiece. The Mass ought to be a masterpiece.

The Dialogues of Plato are a different genre than liturgical celebrations. And the Dialogues are often used as a textbook, but that is beside the point. The point still is that different genres will have different expectations and needs. Mass is not a philosophical treatise, it is worship.

It ought to be a masterpiece.

And what we got in this new translation is not.

"And you say the Vatican said no to a different translation because the people doing the translation didnt know how to translate properly. What a load of rubbish. They knew how to translate; if the Vatican only had arguments with a word here or there, it could have been changed and the rest kept."Well, the point is that if Vatican saw that the most obvious errors had been left unchanged, it knew it was dealing with "translators" who had based their work on faulty assumptions. Making just a few word changes wouldn't suffice to deal with that problem.

"The reality is, this is a poor translation for liturgical use."Here's the thing, Henry. On the one hand, I see an expert translator who is celebrated for his translations of Latin and Italian poets. I know him to be a wonderful stylist in English essays. And I can read a lengthy article in which he explains, with close analysis of several prayers, why the old translation was so bad and the new translation is so much better. On the other hand, I see someone who is neither an expert translator nor an elegant stylist in English (indeed, your writing is more consistently awkward than any other native English speaker that I've come across). Moreover, you do not even try to refute any of Esolen's actual arguments as to why those specific prayers are now better translated.



About the Author

Peter Steinfels, co-founder of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture and a former editor of Commonweal, is the author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.