When Words prevent Prayer – the current state of the Eucharistic Liturgy

I have recently returned from England where I worked for 46 years. The many involved, deeply spiritual, priests I have met since my return have impressed me. This has been a cause of great joy for me. However I am deeply disturbed by the current state of the Eucharistic Liturgy they have to celebrate, along with all of the English speaking countries in the Catholic Christian church.

The present translation is Pre-Vatican 2 in its theology. It encourages a deep sense of sin which only reinforces the ego and is contrary to the message of Christ who came to say that our mistakes, our failings aren’t what matters but surrender to His transforming power is. This is what brings us closer to God and to each other, not focusing on our faltering attempts to follow his example, which only endear us to Him.

What I mean by this is that in the so called “new” translation, we start the Mass with the most abject apology imaginable for our mistakes saying first that we have greatly sinned with all the connotations this has for most people who do not view sin as a mistake. We then beat our breasts three times increasing our sense of guilt when for most people their sins are simply times when they were not able to live up to – as they would have liked – the high ideals they had set themselves. If anyone apologised to me in such a way, I would be horrified. It would seem that they felt I did not accept their apology so they have to repeat it. We are saying this to God! This is followed by the Lord have mercy. It sounds like we still do not believe we are forgiven so we plead again with this “unforgiving” God, not the one He revealed to us but the one we have created. Then even in the Gloria we plead again for mercy.

When we move to the Liturgy of the Eucharist the first part is all about praise and thanksgiving, which is refreshing, but at the Lamb of God we return to this theme again. While it is true that the last three of these prayers were in our previous post-conciliar liturgy what this “new” one is doing is placing great emphasis on sin in a way that wasn’t there before. Even one of the Eucharistic prayers stresses this once more by using the phrase “give kind admittance to your kingdom”.  The image of God this portrays is alarming!

A second issue is the very poor translation that has been produced. I am a linguist. If I had translated a text so badly in my first year at University I would have failed and been advised not to repeat because I would never pass as I had no feel for the language. A literal translation is a bad translation. As a result the beautiful previous translation of the response to the salutation “The Lord be with you” “and also with you” has been replaced by “and with your spirit”. This apart from being a literal, hence a poor translation, also teaches dualism and the separation of body and spirit which cannot happen in this life. It relegates the body to second place but the spirit cannot manifest itself without the body. We need both and both are good.

This is followed by so many badly translated Opening Prayers, Prayers over the Gifts and Prayers after Communion that are too numerous to mention. Some are grammatically incorrect and don’t make sense so the celebrant stumbles as he reads them and we all wonder what the prayer means. When I discovered that the person who translated these prayers was not translating into his first language – the most basic rule for all translation – I understood the reason for these serious errors in the texts. No wonder the President of the International committee on English in the Liturgy resigned and these texts are not attributed to this committee, as they could not endorse such poor quality work. All of this happens in the context of a beautifully worked translation agreed on by the English speaking Bishops of the world that was rejected by the Curia, a tiny group who knew better than the Bishops and professional translators! It is so arrogant! I suppose it wouldn’t matter except that the Eucharist is the central part of the Roman Catholic Christian liturgy and is valued very highly by all. Yet now it has a third rate text.

I know that the German Bishops rejected the translation that Rome tried to impose on them. What I cannot understand is why the Bishops of the English speaking world or at least of Ireland and England did not do the same. I know it was hard to accommodate the Australian Bishops but it was achieved. (Another issue would be why do we all have to have the same text? The English spoken in Australia and the U.S. is different to that spoken here and in England. Surely the liturgy should reflect that or are we confusing uniformity with unity again?)

The issue is very serious because some deeply spiritual people, friends of mine, contemplatives, who spend at least an hour a day in meditation have found this to be the last straw of a power driven authoritarian church which now touched directly on their highly valued prayer life.  As a result they no longer have attendance at Roman Catholic Eucharist as a part of their practice. Instead they find a church of another Christian denomination that has an up to date liturgy with whom to celebrate Eucharist. This is a sadness for them as they miss their previous congregation but they have no alternative. Their prayer is too important to them.

I have made a different choice but for me it is a great distraction from the liturgy I used to love. I am unable to say some of the prayers as I cannot pray to the God I love with words I do not believe in, so I have to find another way of being at Mass which is a continual struggle. It is also distressing in other ways because for example, once I accompanied a person who not only meditated twice a day but also ran two weekly meditation groups from her home. In spite of this she felt alienated from the institutional church. However after several years of listening to her, she decided to return but when faced with this liturgy she was unable to continue. This was a long piece of work for me and she was disappointed too but she could not pray in that way.

I also worry about the message this gives to young people when they do attend Mass. We are emphasising their shadow side and playing down the goodness and positivity that flows out of their young lives. Is it any wonder that they do not return?

Of course I am just a member of the laity. We are the ones who fund everything but have no say in what goes on in the church but then if the institutional church ignores the opinions of its Priests and Bishops what hope is there that our opinion and the distress it causes us will be listened to? Still my purpose in writing this is that there must be some way to present these ideas in such a way that change can happen because I do believe that the Spirit moves us forward always. If we embark on it in some new way it will be difficult but we have the example of Pope Francis who is working against the odds to reform the Vatican and that is an enormous task. I do think we could make some progress if we keep such an important topic on the agenda in a sustained way.

I hope it will be possible to discuss this with some people in this group to identify clearly the blocks that exist and together find creative ways to troubleshoot them. I know that – although I have put this document together on my own – I speak for many other members of the laity as I have discussed all of these ideas frequently with fellow lay people. I just decided today to document them and hopefully spark a new way of resolving them?

With kind regards and full of hope,

Maire Lawless

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  1. Jane Ireland says:

    I am a contemplative and this together with the scandals has driven me from the church.

  2. Brendan Ward says:

    I think every translation will always to some extent betray the original meaning of the text. A good knowledge of the Latin language is required to get the full meaning of these texts in the Latin rite. We need to get back to studying Latin as an academic subject in order to get the full richness of these prayers. Just as we need to go back to the Greek language for the New Testament.

  3. M.O'Donnell says:

    In reply to your correspondent, I would like to endorse her point of view. Language is important as it reflects a person’s or institution’s attitudes. Like your correspondent, the language of the liturgy is an obstacle to prayer. It is difficult to accept the old fashioned pre-Vatican 2 patriarchal language with its inbuilt misogyny. This is an accurate reflection of how we interact with each other within the Church. Added to this, the deliberate use of soul and spirit without reference to mind and body creates the impression of a lesser importance of bodies. We all are aware of where that led.

  4. Paddy Ferry says:

    Brendan@2, are you serious? !!!

  5. Peter Fleetwood says:

    I am delighted to read this. I must ask Maire if she met any “involved, deeply spiritual priests” here in England. There are a few! But on a serious note, I, too, am a linguist, and a priest, and have worked in the Roman Curia, so understand all that frustrates people about it – believe me!
    The current translation is a penance for me. It is deliberately obtuse and un-normal speech. I once asked the President of the Commission responsible for the liturgy in English (a personal friend) why the opening prayer has to be one sentence in English. He said it had to fit in with the Latin. My response was “but we’e not praying in Latin, and what we now have is just not English”. I fear for people who don’t have the words in front of them, when a priest has just breezed into church without looking at the opening prayer before he has to pray it in public. It’s gobbledegook, and mad.
    As for the penance rite, I struggle to convince school teachers preparing class Masses with their pupils that invocations mentioning our sins are just not right; by choice I use the second form, which emphasises what Christ has done for us and continues to be and do. We then say “Lord, have mercy” to someone whose great goodness and mercy we have just ‘praised’, or at least mentioned. The focus there is on Christ’s power rather than on any failure of ours.
    It is sad to read of the departure of thinking Catholics who are not being ‘clever’ or arrogant, but are thoroughly frustrated by a language that really does not help them pray and, by its weirdness, simply distracts. I am not surprised at the blank looks of the very few young people I ever see anywhere near a church. I agree totally with everyone who, despite remaining, is annoyed and even angry about the attitude behind the new translation. I can only than them for staying and apologise for my colleagues.
    What can we do? I would love to hear how we can ‘stay’ and still pray! You know what I mean.

  6. Iggy O Donovan says:

    Brendan @2. To paraphrase John McEnroe “you cannot be serious”. When you say we need to know Latin and Greek to appreciate liturgy and scripture do you mean liturgical experts or all believers.? If your answer is yes then all had better study Aramaic so as to be able to read the mind of Jesus. I believe that was his local tongue. He almost certainly never spoke any Greek and had no Latin either unless he happened to pick up a few phrases from the Roman centurion.

  7. Joe O'Leary says:

    Maire, thanks for that hearfelt plea. Yes, the horrible language of the new translation has become a trial of faith. I said Mass in both the old and the new translations today, and there is no doubt that the old is better (even if the preces are often vacuous). The 1998 translation should be take out of mothballs and used as the basis of a new translation. It is sickening that this scandal (with the abuse scandal) is allowed to continue.

  8. Joe O'Leary says:

    Iggy, the poor Latinists in the Vatican who make such a fuss about the Latin liturgy, and ensure that we must worship in translatese, are cultural philistines, linguistic vandals, and theological and pastoral criminals.

    We need to embrace the possibilities of creative liturgy, writing new texts. The Mass can be meaningful and beautiful, but all too often simply is not. People are forcing their piety into a linguistic straitjacket and making do with half-hearted routine since they feel there is nothing better available.

  9. Thomas Keane says:

    Maybe I am asking a stupid question here, but did we really have to translate the mass word for word from Latin. I like others on here think we should have left the mass as it was pre 2011. I am not old enough to remember when the mass was in Latin. It was in the vernacular a number of years before I was born (1973), but I would love to know when it was in Latin how many of the congregation actually understood it and how many of the priests simply rattled it off, maybe not understanding what they were reading/saying. Surly we are all better off using word and a language that we all or most of us understand. As people have said here the present English used in the mass often does not make sense.

  10. Mary Wood says:

    Thank you, Joe O’L

    My former PP was young (early 40s!) and profoundly preferred to celebrate in Latin which he did every morning, though most days he also offered Mass in the English form. He found the English Mass a very painful action and his tension swathed the entire congregation. He used the “new” translation months before it became obligatory. He was still very tense and I had to forgo daily Mass as I could feel his tension screwing up my guts and knew I’d get an ulcer if I encountered that too much.

    The Advent Sunday when the “new” translation became obligatory, the congregation was stunned on arrival to discover that the free-standing altar had been removed from the church overnight and that Mass was offered at the far end of the sanctuary , in a low mutter with the priest’s back to the congregation. In his sermon he rubbished the authority and aims of the Second Vatican Council and declared the Council “had a whiff of Satan.” Worried parishioners contacted the Bishop who told the PP to restore the free-standing altar and use it; the PP never compllied.

    Some parishioners ceased to attend – those who had cars mostly attended another Catholic church. At least one couple – non-drivers – began attending a local C of E church where they found a welcome and much to learn from their liturgy and way of approaching church management, both doctrinally and practically. Although the “young” Catholic PP was finally moved after 5 years and the present PP is generally widely accepted, this couple have settled into their new church fellowship where they are very happy. They are still technically Catholic, but they describe their religious affiliation as “Christian.” They moved because they were not being nourished in their Catholic church.

    What is a believer’s responsibility? Surely we should use positive opportunities to deepen our faith, to follow Christ more nearly, and not just adhere to a structure that misleads and sets different viewpoints at variance? My Church, right or wrong? Our decision.

  11. Paddy Ferry says:

    Mary@10, that is an awful story. It makes you wonder is there any kind of vetting system at all in place before these fellas are allowed into a seminary. And, you have to ask what kind of upbringing have they had and what is their family background. I often wonder where did seminarians 1, 2 and 3 end up. You may remember they contributed briefly to this site a few years ago from Maynooth. Maybe you had one of them.
    Sadly, I have to say we have some of the same ilk in this part of the world too.

  12. Stanley Monkhouse says:

    Spot on Maire. I’m a Church of England PP who spent 20 years in Ireland 3 of them as Church of Ireland Rector in Portlaoise (despite which I was allowed membership of ACP!). I have all the same reservations about grovelling – in fact I refuse to do it. Confessions in Sunday mass are now a few seconds reflection of our humanity, then the kyries, then an absolution. I find the Agnus Dei increasingly offensive. And the invitation to communion with “Lord, I am not worthy …” makes me cringe. I’m dropping that too. As for the eucharistic prayers, I blame poor eyesight for anything uncanonical (I’m 68). If I’m disciplined by my Ordinary, I resolve to enjoy it. What are bishops for, anyway?

  13. Chris McDonnell says:

    In the Introduction to the re-printed ‘Theology of Liberation’, Gustavo Gutierrez writes “…all language is to some extent a groping for clarity.” How often do we find it difficult to put into words what we actually want to express? So we resort to other means and often, where emotion is deeply involved, we communicate through touch. Words are sometimes insufficient to express the depth of our understanding.

    Maybe this is why there has been so much concern expressed over the New Translation of the Roman Missal since its introduction on the first Sunday of Advent 2011. Language is indeed a groping for clarity and that has something to do with our experience of the words we use in prayer. Literal translation doesn’t help with appreciation of expression for it can so easily miss the nuance of language. It can also disturb the historical root that feeds our linguistic exchange. Many priests I know express their concern that, with use, it is getting harder not easier for them to pray the Eucharist with the words we now have in the Roman Missal.

    Poetry is the use of language in a cared-for way, the story told through words and lines shaped and formed with a deliberate, spare intent. As such, poetry can be a time of prayer, for it leads us to a place apart where we can listen to the voice of the Lord through the gift of words that the poet uses. There is precious little poetry in the translations now on offer

    It is significant that the Association of United States priests included this comment on their website a while back.
    The resolution on the new English missal asserts that it has “caused disharmony, disruption and discord among many… frustrating rather than inspiring the Eucharistic prayer experience of the Christian faithful, thus leading to less piety and to less ‘full, active and conscious participation,” and that it “has created pastoral problems, in particular because of its cumbersome style, arcane vocabulary, grammatical anomalies, and confusing syntax.”

    In the natural evolution of language we can accommodate change and variety in both structure and vocabulary. You only need to see how much science has contributed to the vocabulary of everyday speech patterns in recent years. Our difficulty is with a translation that involves the use of archaic phrases and structures that serve only to hinder meaning, not enhance it. It does not speak to us in the present tense.

    So Gutierrez was right on the mark, language is ‘a groping for clarity’ and we should make every effort not to get in the way and hinder understandable discourse.

  14. Eileen Clear says:

    Thank you Maire, for expressing much of what I would have liked to say. To this day, I cannot respond with ” And with your spirit” (to “The Lord be with you”). As you say, it is dualistic. I would add that it challenges the doctrine of the Incarnation if one takes the view that, by becoming a human person, God did away with the line that separates the sacred and the secular, giving everything the potential to be holy. (Except that which is evil, obviously). I am also upset that innocent children – the few who are in the congregation – if reciting the Confiteor, have to say that they have ” greatly sinned”!!! This, as you describe, along with many of the prayers reinforce the sense of not being good enough. Good news? A related issue is the language and concepts in some of the hymns in common use. Can one imagine our Mother, Mary, taking Jesus aside and reminding him thus: “Don’t forget, son – that shower – you have paid the price of their iniquity.” And why would we be asking Mary to remind him of our sinfulness anyway?? I know a church where “Oh mother I could weep for mirth” is still sung. How many of us, when in a good mood, go about our daily routine, with the word ‘Immaculate’ giving us a spring in our step? As for “sanctify my breast” What does this mean? The language of our liturgy and hymns is alarmingly foreign to young people (and to many of us older folks) and quite unrelated to their lives. Except when, as sometimes happens, the celebrant brings the Word alive in an insightful homily. And Jesus made a point of using parables so people would understand his message.

  15. Joe O'Leary says:

    It’s not only since its introduction but for many years before its introduction that the new translation has been causing outrage. Thousands of very qualified people warned that it would be a pastoral disaster (notable Bishop Trautman, bullied by the other bishops led by the late Cardinal George) and that a Latin teacher would give it a failing mark if presented as a translation exercise. The complacency of the half-informed who thought they were gaining brownie points by fulsomely admiring the new translations and the zombie-like behaviour of the bishops’ conferences compounded this scandal, which has disheartened millions of Catholics.

    As to “sanctify my breast”, etc., let’s not pick holes in old hymns that sustained people’s faith and devotion for a hundred years. Let’s find more suitable hymns for today, if we can. I love the hymns of Charles Wesley, which are of great literary as well as theological merit — could we ever steal them from our sister church? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFckP0F93JM

  16. Aaron Milavec says:

    The Idolatry of Conformity in our Eucharistic Liturgies

    Since one finds no tradition for a wooden recitation of memorizing prayers within ancient Judaism (other than the Shema of Deut 6:4f), it would have been a remarkable “departure from tradition” had Jesus imposed upon his disciples a prayer of fixed words (“recite after me”). The Lord’s Prayer, as a result, needs to be seen as a schematic summary of themes that Jesus used in his prayers. On each different occasion, Jesus would have spontaneously expanded on these themes and adapted them to the present circumstances. No Jew in the first century would have done otherwise!

    This same line of reasoning applies to the Eucharistic prayers. Here, as in the Lord’s Prayer, the plural form (“we” and “our”) indicates that one is dealing with a prayer used in a group setting. The one chosen to lead the prayer would be expected to know the thematic progression of themes and to expand them to fit the special moods and concerns of the group assembled. When prayers were pleasing to the faithful and embraced their own heart-felt sentiments, the congregation practically shouted the “Amen” [“So be it”] at the end of each prayer.

    In the case of delayed rains, for instance, the Mishnah (200 C.E.) goes so far as to suggest that the prayer leader chosen to lead the morning prayers on the day when the fast begins ought to be “an experienced elder who has children and whose cupboard is empty so that his heart should be wholly in the prayer” (m. Taanit 2:2). The choice of an “experienced elder” with hungry children surrounding him at home was clearly done with the expectation that his prayer would embrace both his mastery of the prayer form along with his heart-felt experience of suffering due to the cries of hunger from his own precious children.

    Prayer leaders in the early church were not expected to memorize and recite fixed prayer formulas. Even in the Gospels, the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew differs from that found in Luke. This testifies that the early disciples were never schooled to memorize and to woodenly repeat the words of their Master.

    This tradition of favoring spontaneous prayers following a schematic summary of themes continued to be guide the following centuries. Justin Martyr (C.E. 150), for example, spoke of “the presider” at the Eucharist as giving thanks “at considerable length” and “according to his ability” (First Apology 65, 67). He surely was not thinking of a rote recitation of fixed Eucharistic prayers that had a fixed length and a fixed wording. The Apostolic Tradition (C.E. 220), in its turn, presented an elaborate set of Eucharistic prayers for various occasions. The presiding bishop, however, was bound by this rubric:

    It is not at all necessary for him [the bishop] to utter the same words as we said [note the oral emphasis] above, as though reciting them from memory, when giving thanks to God; but let each [bishop] pray according to his ability. If indeed anyone has the ability to pray at length and with a solemn prayer, it is good. But if anyone, when he prays, [merely] utters a brief prayer, do not prevent him (9).

    Here again, the prayer of the celebrant was characterized as being “at length” and “solemn”–terms that could not apply to a “canned” prayer where the length and mood were fixed in advance. Beyond this, the push to regiment prayer leaders and to require that they “read” standard prayers from a printed text only came about at the Council of Trent where fixed, static canonical prayers were mandated as a remedy to reformers like Martin Luther who simplified the canonical prayers and translated them into a melodic German vernacular so as to make them immediately intelligible to all the people.

    Please note here that the immediate result of Martin Luther’s innovation was that hundreds and even thousands of Germans were pleading with their pastors to do for them what Martin Luther had done for his congregation. Luther never imagined that he had to gather a committee of experts and produce a single authorized translation of the Latin liturgy. Far from it. Luther trusted that reforming pastors would, at the right time, heed the wishes of their congregations and to do what was necessary.

    This is what I liked about the hundreds of experimental liturgies that erupted spontaneously after 1965. I especially loved the Greek Orthodox liturgies where, using simply and catchy English melodies, the entire congregation joyously and solemnly sang the Sunday worship with their Saints in heaven, alternating back and forth with the celebrant. I was so caught-up by this that I organized my students to come with me and to experience “what our Catholic liturgies might soon become.” But then the lock-step regimentation mandated by Rome set in. By a given date, the priest was to turn to the congregation and say, “The Lord be with You!” And the congregation was to respond in unison. By a fixed date, the Gospel was to be read in English after having been read in Latin. And so, by a series of small, regimented steps, innovations were imposed upon every congregation, whether they were ready for it or not, whether they understood it or not. No one was to go ahead. No one was to be left behind. Everyone was to worship our Father in just the same way at every step of the way. We Catholics had learned nothing of the liturgical genius of Martin Luther.

    Many of the comments above signal the abuses of the Vatican-approved translators who regimented a rigid conformity to Latin texts from the third to the fifth centuries. I myself taught at one Catholic seminary wherein the professor of liturgics insisted that, “under pain of grievous sin,” no priest was permitted to shorten or expand any of the liturgical prayers for any reason whatsoever. This is pure nonsense (as I have already hinted at above) and the best way to deaden liturgical celebrations. One has only to examine the English-language Book of Rites composed after Vatican II and notice how often the rubrics direct the presider to “use this or other suitable words” that best befits the occasion.

    Does not even God get bored with the mindless repetitions of our Sunday prayers? Are we to imagine that there has been no worthwhile progress in theology and spirituality beyond the fifth century? Are we to imagine that, after training a priest for eight years, God wants to dumb them down to merely reading prayers word-for-word as set down by Vatican-approved translators who insist that “one size fits all occasions”? As for myself, I thank God that I have had the delight and the grace of spending ten years in a Franciscan parish wherein small artful improvisations were introduced into the Eucharistic prayers every Sunday. As John Henry Newman wrote, “To live is to change; to grow perfect is to have changed often.”

  17. Maire Lawless says:

    I am greatly encouraged by the warm and thoughtful responses to my concerns about the present state of the Liturgy. If so many of us agree I wonder would there be any way of taking this forward in some way? I was particularly touched by Chris Mc Donnell’s words when he said that for many priests “it is getting harder not easier for them to pray the Eucharist”. That is my experience too and as such is a very serious issue for us all. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions about how we could possibly progress this issue by some means in a positive supportive way ? Otherwise it would just remain as an expression of opinion which is helpful but does not lead to any change.

    And yes Peter, I did meet many deeply spiritual priests in England too whose ministry and openness I greatly appreciated. Some of them did what they could to make the English make sense which was a great help but isn’t the answer to your query about why “the opening prayer has to be one sentence” that of someone who has no basic knowledge of translation? The challenge as you know is to translate as accurately as possible from one language to the other in a way that is not only intelligible but reads well. A direct word for word translation using the syntax of the original does not achieve that. As you say “it is not English”. I wonder why this happened ?

  18. Seamus Ahearne says:

    Maire’s article states the obvious. Many of us have summed up our experience (and frustration) over the years in similar language. Some of us wonder if it is worthwhile repeating the same mantra. However, this is too serious to be allowed continue as it is. Our Liturgy has been mangled officially by those who appear to know nothing of what worship is.

    There is presently, a Committee meeting regularly working away at further translations. They met in Edinburgh recently; met in London recently; they meet in Washington usually. Might it be an idea (or even a good idea) to send this thread and other similar threads to this Committee? It isn’t right to burden them with such important work when their translations, may be destroyed later by some who have no knowledge of English and definitely no awareness of Liturgy.

    This has happened before. The gentle man and mild character Maurice Taylor might like to read this thread. He suffered previously in seeing the work his committee did, being crudely smashed. He has written extensively on this.

    This new humble and simple Church of today with Francis, surely can have no truck with the rubbish presently foisted on us. It is bad theology. It is bad Liturgy. It is very bad English. It lacks the poetry of faith. These words are ever so easy to say: We got it wrong. We made a mistake. Let’s fix it. I am sure that a few bishops in Ireland might even feel the same. Be bold. Be truthful. Do it.

  19. Donal Dorr says:

    I’m very moved by your article, Marie, and by many of the other contributions. I think the way forward could come in two stages. The first would be to persuade the Irish Bishops to take Pope Francis at his word and decide to authorize the use of the 1998 translation ‘ad experimentum’ (as a trial run) which other bishops conferences could adopt if they wished to do so. Pope Francis has laid down clearly that this decision of the Irish bishops would need only ‘confirmation’ by Rome.
    The second stage would be for ordained and non-ordained Christians to campaign for approval for the adoption of far greater flexibility as was practiced in the early centuries of the Church – as outlined so convincingly by Aaron in comment 16 above.

  20. Eddie Finnegan says:

    I would be curious to know whether any or many, ordained or not, on this site who regularly use or experience the new Irish translation of the Mass – whether in the Gaeltacht, Breac-Ghaeltacht or Galltacht areas of Ireland – have m/any of the same difficulties, criticisms, withdrawal symptoms, outright rejection or even mini-hang-ups over occasional phraseology in ‘An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach’ as have bedevilled the introduction/imposition of the “New” béarlagair Anglaidin since Advent 2011 and before. ALAR in its complete altar edition was published over a year ago and in use from the 1st Sunday of Advent 2017. Given that Veritas had by then sold most of its first run of 800 at Eu.300 a copy, its use must by now have given rise to enough evidence from priests and congregations as to the reception – fáilteach nó neamhfháilteach nó fuarchráifeach – of the new béarlagair Gaelaidineach. We know the quality of the people who worked over nearly fifteen years to produce the new Irish Mass translation – Cathal Ó hÁinle, Padraig Ó Fiannachta nach maireann, linguists, theologians, native Irish speakers of the main dialects, and bishops of the Gaeltacht areas – but, just like the ICEL team, they too found themselves working to the literalist Liturgiam Authenticam rules, indirectly subject to Vox Clara. and to some extent since 2011 derivative from the “New” English version. But perhaps An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach has had a happier outcome.

    So much of Máire Lawless’s post and of most of the comments which follow is a welcome fresh look at what has been canvassed at length and breadth, if not always at this depth, on this site ever the years that I’m reluctant to toss in my ha’pence worth. But when Máire describes “the beautiful previous translation of the response to the salutation “The Lord be with you”, “And also with you”, I would have to conclude that in liturgy as in everyday life beauty is in the eye or ear of the beholder. After 41 years of “And also with you”, I had grown accustomed to its awkward banality but I could never see it as equal to “Et cum spiritu tuo.” Though I have to admit that after seven years I do not yet find “And with your spirit” falling trippingly from my tongue, I can’t see the latter, whether in Latin or English or Irish, as teaching us any form of dualism or the separation of body and spirit. For once I can agree with Liturgiam Authenticam’s suggestion that it derives from the age-old patrimony of the Church, East and West, Greek and Latin. In fact a quick flick through St Paul’s letters shows it as one of his favourite valedictions to friends and co-workers, men and women, in the local churches: e.g. “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you,” or “The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, my brothers,” as the final verses of Galatians, Philippians, 2nd Timothy and Philemon.

    Anyway, is a literal translation always an irredeemably bad translation, and do we always have to pursue the colloquial – beautiful or banal – in search of dynamic equivalence? I’m only asking! Why after Paul VI’s 1970 Missal were Italians, Spanish, French, Germans (and local churches of their former empires) quite content with “E con il tuo spirito”, “Y con tu espiritu”, “Et avec votre esprit”, “Und mit deinem Geiste” ? You’d expect that these guys should have displayed a more independent and rebellious SPIRIT towards Roman uniformity than the Anglophones, if the response were so dualistic!
    It strikes me that if we can just go for dynamic equivalence, a more authentic Irish language translation of the whole formula “Dominus vobiscum / Et cum spiritu tuo” might be “Go mbeannaí Dia dhibh / Dia is Muire duit” rather than “Go raibh an Tiarna libh / Agus leat féin” as we had from 1970 to 2017.

    And, Máire, with reference to the parenthesis in your seventh paragraph, are the Englishes of Ireland and England so similar that we shouldn’t have different liturgical translations and hymnody to do justice to the genius of both? I’m by no means the first to make so outrageous a suggestion. When Seamus Ahearne@18 says: “(T)his is too serious to be allowed continue as it is. Our Liturgy has been mangled officially by those who appear to know nothing of what worship is,” we must remember that these official manglings, jettisonings, forgettings and ignorant impositions did not begin in the first decades of this century or relate only to the loss of a temporary shared vernacular liturgy, only as good in parts as the curate’s egg, to which we had more or less accustomed ourselves over the forty years around the turn of the 3rd Millennium. I’m sure we must go back past the Patrician Year of 1961, past the Eucharistic Congress of 1932, past Paul Cullen’s 1850 Synod of Thurles, past O’Connell’s 1829 Emancipation, past especially England’s 1795 foundation of Maynooth . . maybe, who knows, past the Venerable Bede and even the 664 Synod of Whitby, if we are to appreciate how the hiding under a bushel the light of Ireland’s traditional ways of approaching God has denied us a truly Irish contribution to liturgical renewal and the enrichment of both Irish and English translations of the Missale Romanum in the 21st century. But here, perhaps, I should hand over to Donnchadh.

    65 years ago in 1953/4, five years before the Second Vatican Council could have been even a twinkle in the eye of Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, Donnchadh wrote a paper for Ireland’s youth, published by An Réalt, the Irish-speaking praesidium of Legio Mariae. Its title was “The Integral Irish Tradition”. It is available, with five other talks or papers by Donnchadh between 1949 and 1963, in a Cumann na Sagart 2006 selection, “Dúchas agus Creideamh in Éirinn – More than a Language”.

    It is also available (sincere thanks to “Shane” of LUX OCCULTA who used contribute to this forum back in 2011/2012 . . .) at this link: http:lxoa.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/the-integral-irish-tradition/

    A companion pamphlet – “Our Mass – Our Life: Some Irish traditions and prayers” by Diarmuid Ó Laoghaire SJ, 1968 takes a similar approach to Dúchas agus Creideamh as the Integral Irish Tradition, and (again thanks to Shane of Lux Occulta) can be read at this link: https//lxoa.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/om.pdf
    Click both pamphlet covers to read the originals in PDF.

    ‘Donnchadh’ was of course An tAthair Donnchadh Ó Floinn, a Corkman from Kanturk in Cloyne Diocese, a student of Clonliffe and Maynooth, priest of Dublin, lecturer in English. Latin and Logic at All-Hallows, contributor to several Dictionaries over forty years, member of the Irish Placenames Commission, great champion and chaplain of An Réalt and Legio Mariae, author of well-loved works of Devotion in Irish and English, Professor of Modern Irish at Maynooth for near a quarter-century, translator of the Synoptic Gospels for An Bíobla Naofa which he did not live to see in its published form, teacher and mentor of outstanding scholars such as Tomás Ó Fiaich, Padraig Ó Fiannachta and Charlie Hanley/Cathal Ó hÁinle (chief translator of ‘An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach’) – and, to the mind of anyone fortunate enough to have known him even for a few years, a walking saint. Donnchadh’s last declining years were as PP of Bré Chualainn/Bray. His ‘The Integral Irish Tradition’ has still much to say about ár nDúchas is ár gCreideamh is ár Liotúirge.

  21. Joe O'Leary says:

    Quite effective is the 1973 translation of the Roman Canon, whereas the new translation is a nightmare

    Of course the 1973 preces were banal, since they were only temporary, and were replaced in the excellent 1998 translation, wantonly blocked by the Vatican though approved by all English speaking bishops’ conferences.

    Now the perpetrators of this mess are trying to fix it by more inane tinkering. No bishops will confess their criminal negligence.

    And I don’t think our complaints on this combox, which are the same complaints made when the new translation was first unveiled about ten years ago, will any impact.

  22. Joe O'Leary says:

    Three times in my life I said: This is such a huge and obvious mistake and the public will never accept it — they just cannot go through with it! And those three mistakes were:

    1. Brexit. 2. Trump. 3. The New Translation.

  23. Paddy Ferry says:

    I had a 4th, Joe, Scottish Independence. Thank God there were enough sensible people in Scotland not to let that catastrophe happen.

  24. Maire Lawless says:

    I really like your reply Donal . I agree with the two stages you suggest and that was where my thinking was going too but perhaps it would be best to try to get agreement by the Irish Bishops on the 1998 translation first “ad.experimentum”. (It would give us all a breather and a breath of fresh air if it happened.) Having tried this and if not all the Bishops agree would it be possible for the Bishop’s who do agree to run a pilot in their dioceses which could be evaluated afterwards? Or would it be better to approach the Bishop’s more likely to agree to pilot it first? Or some other possibility?

    Have you any ideas on how this can be brought to their attention in a gentle positive and supportive way?

    The second stage , and I too agree fully with Aaron’s comment might come later but a first step would be really welcome to begin freeing things up
    and allowing the Spirit to move.

  25. Joe O'Leary says:

    Paddy, reading John O’Malley, SJ’s “Vatican I” I can add a 5th: the rushed through definition of papal infallibility in 1870.

    Did it have providential good effects? No doubt. But look at its bad effects: the anti-Modernist frenzy, the alliance of the Popes with fascism, the papal braking of Vatican II, the drastic over-centralization, the curbing of the charism of the world’s bishops.

  26. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe, I just assumed papal infallibility was a given.

  27. Mary Burke says:

    A comment from Michael Neary, a (former/current?) member of Vox Clara would be appropriate.

  28. Paddy Ferry says:

    The funeral Mass of Fr. Kevin Kelly, the English theologian, is taking place in Formby tomorrow, Oct.9th, at noon. He died on Sept. 25th aged 81.

    During the controversy leading up to the imposition of the then new liturgy, he wrote to the English bishops expressing his disquiet. I now share the piece once again below, “The Vatican’s Tahrir Square?”. I am now not quite sure where I first came across this –perhaps even on this site. But, when I did, I immediately shared it with Cardinal O’Brien whom I had been pestering about the awfulness of the new liturgy. He immediately sent it to all the Scottish bishops but all to no avail.

    The Vatican’s Tahrir Square?

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