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Still More Translations

Since Fr. Joe has opened up the discussion on translations, I thought I would join in. While writing my masters' thesis, I created the table below to compare certain translations of three collects from the Roman Missal. The first column is the Latin. The second is a "traditional" translation of the text taken either from Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer (1st and 3rd prayers) or from an attempt at one by the historian Eamon Duffy. The third is the ICEL translation from the 1973 Sacramentary, still currently in use. The final column are the revised collects from the ICEL Sacramentarythat was approved in 1997 but rejected by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 2002.




ICEL (1973)

ICEL (1997)

11th Sun in OT

Deus in te sperantium fortitude, invocationibus nostris adesto propitius, et, quia sine te nihil potest mortalis infirmatis, gratiae tua praesta semper auxilium, ut, in exsequendis mandates tuis, et voluntate tibi in actione placemus O God, the strength of all them who put their trust in thee, mercifully accept our prayers; and because though the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping of thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed. Almighty God, our hope and our strength, without you we falter. Help us to follow Christ and live according to your will. O God, the strength of all who hope in you, accept our earnest prayer. And since without you we are weak and certain to fail, grant us always the help of your grace, that in following your commands we may please you in desire and deed.

12th Sun in OT

Sancti nomini tui, Domine, timorem partiter at amorem fac nos habere perpetuum quia numquam tua gubernatione destituis, quo in soliditate tuae dilectionis instituis. Grant us, Lord, not only a constant fear of your Holy Name, but also a constant love of it, for you leave no one without your guidance whom you have firmly established in your love. Father, guide and protector of your people, grant us an unfailing respect for your name, and keep us always in your love. Lord God, teach us to hold your holy name both in awe and in lasting affection, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you establish in your steadfast love.

30th Sun in OT

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, da nobis fidei, spei et caritatis augmentum,et, ut mereamur assequi quod promittis, fac nos amare quod praecipis. Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command. Almighty and ever-living God, strengthen our faith, hope and love. May we do with loving hearts what you ask of us and come to come to share the life you promise God of holiness, increase within us your gifts of faith, hope and love, and enable us to cherish whatever you command, that we may come to possess all that you promise.

When we compare the 1973 and 1997 translations, it seems clear that the ICELtook to heart some of thecriticisms they received about the 1973 collects. The 1997 versions are more faithful to theoriginal Latin andconvey a number of concepts that were essentially left on the cutting room floor in 1973. What I do not have at my disposal--and would love to see if any readers out there have access to them--are the collects from the same Sundays in the ICEL translation that was just considered by the USCCB.I would like to place them on the chart above and see how much better (or worse, depending on your point of view) they really are.I often find in this debate that critics of the (pre-2001) ICEL continue to refer back to the1973 collects as if there had beenno development since then. That is not the case.Earlyin the revision process, the ICEL conducted a consultation withits member episcopal conferences in which theissue of the "register" of the language of the collects was raised by many bishops. I think there is no question that the1997translations are more "sacral" in character than the ones from 1973. One can still quibble, of course, about whether, for example,a phrase like "enable us to cherish" adequately renders the forcefulness of "fac nos amare." But, by and large, I think the improvement is significant, even if I might quibble with some of the specific decisions.I think this is important because defenders of the Congregation for Divine Worshipsometimes suggest that the promulgation of Liturgiam Authenticam and the restructuring of ICEL were the only way that we were going to get English prayers that werean improvement over those of 1973.I think the historical evidence suggests otherwise.



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Thank you for raising the issue of the '90's ICEL translation, Peter. What remains to be fleshed out is the answer to the question, "given that the ICEL translation of the '90's is so manifestly an improvement over the one currently in use; and given that it was approved by most/all of the English-speaking conferences at the time; why, when it arrived in Rome, was it essentially a dead letter?"FWIW - this article from the Tablet from January '04 provides what seems to me the right answer:

Re-reading that Tablet article is enough to make one cry out in despair.

"But, by and large, I think the improvement is significant, even if I might quibble with some of the specific decisions."It's hard to argue with that. Nonetheless, too often the ICEL seems like the Cliff's Notes translation. The 11th Sunday stretches the bounds of what might be reasonably called "translation."

I agree with Peter that by and large "the improvement is significant" of the 1997 ICEL over the original (with which, alas, we are still saddled).Had the 1997 revision received the "recognitio" for ten years, our current situation would be so much better, not to mention having benefited from 10 years of more adequate liturgical prayer.

Dr. Lender, I presume. You say "Nonetheless, too often the ICEL seems like the Cliffs Notes translation. The 11th Sunday stretches the bounds of what might be reasonably called translation.Which ICEL are speaking of? Peter Nixon went to some trouble to afford the opportunity to compare the 1973 with the 1997. As for the 11th Sunday, could you specify what is wrong in particular and provide the text.

So far in these threads about translations, the discussions have largely centered ont translating individual words. Those problems are obviously real. But it seems to me that the *structures of the sentences* also convey meaning. Poets are the experts at structuring sentences to convey meaning, and I don't think the English translations will improve until the best Catholic poets available are called in as consultants. I might also note that some of the best English critics now consider the KJV to be largely poetry, which, no doubt, is one reason why it is more memorable for both Cathollics and Protestants, not to mention the unchurched. What it lacks in contemporary vocabulary it more than makes up in conveying meaning by sentence structure. But that seems to take genius.

Ann,I can just see the classified ad.Help Wanted. Genius, theologian, equally proficient in Latin and English sought for thankless translation project. Thorough knowledge of Catholic spirituality and theological history required. PhD or STD in liturgical studies required. Demonstrated exceptional diplomatic skills required. Infinite patience highly desirable. No salary, some expenses paid.

Funny, Kathy :-)But the Anglicans did find an equivalent translator several centuries ago, didn't they? And the Holy Spirit might help to find that genius -- or two, or three. By the way, the Minnesota St. Johns Bible was overseen by one great calligrapher and a team of other calligraphers. Maybe that's what ICEL needs. Now if we can just wait several more centuries to find one . . .

There are plenty of qualified translators, but the philistinism and bureaucratism rife in the Church is unable to find them. The French, to their credit and profit, hired the poet Patrice de la Tour de Pin.Those 1997 translations look fine to me -- am I to understand that they were blocked by the Vatican? Similar worthy translation efforts have been blocked in Japan.

"Had the 1997 revision received the recognitio for ten years, our current situation would be so much better, not to mention having benefited from 10 years of more adequate liturgical prayer."Indeed. But the CDWDS under Medina seemed to be less concerned with benefit and more with politics. Episcopal mouthpieces like Serratelli seem content to repeat the error they made with sex predators; turn it over to the "experts." Better bishops, please.

Presumably the CWL subscribers among us have read John Wilkins's 2005 article about ICEL, "Lost in Translation," but just in case...

Here are the current proposed English translations of the Collects for those Sundays in Peter's comparative table: 11th SundayO God, the strength of those who hope in you, graciously hear our pleas, and since without you mortal frailty can do nothing grant us always the help of your grace, that in following your commands we may please you in purpose and action. 12th SundayGrant us, O Lord, fear and love of your holy name always and in equal measure, for you never cease to guide those you fix firm in love of you.3oth SundayAlmighty, everlasting God, increase our faith hope and charity, and make us love what you command, so that we may be fit to attain what you promise.

Perhaps someone can comment, but my recollection is that the 1997 translation was more than a simple translation - it also revised the missal itself. For example, IIRC, the proposed opening rites were more simplified than what we have now, on the principle that it is a less important liturgical unit than the liturgy of the word.Sound familiar to anyone?I believe this is one of the reasons the '97 translation was never accorded the recognitio - and subsequent to it, Liturgiam Authenticam prescribed against this sort of liturgical revision.

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