Father Paul Turner, right, speaks to Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, pastoral minister at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Granby, Mass., and Father Charles Kuzmeski, Pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary. (Photo by Lenora Sumsky)
WEST HARTFORD – With the revised translation of the Roman Missal set for release in less than six months, priests, deacons, lay ministers and the faithful are preparing to understand, appreciate and implement this third edition, which represents the most significant change to the Mass in over 40 years.
Nearly 300 people attended presentations on the new translation that were held at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield and Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center during April. The first was for priests of the Archdiocese of Hartford. The latter were retreats that were open to the public.
Father Paul Turner, former president of the North American Academy of Liturgy, gave the presentations. A liturgical scholar and prolific author, he also serves as a facilitator for the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), the commission that the bishops in the English-speaking world set up in 2003 to draft the liturgical texts.
"The first question we get about the new translation is, ‘Why are we doing this?’" said Father Turner, at one of the sessions at Holy Family.
There are two reasons, he said. "One of them pertains to the content of the book and the other pertains to theory of translation."
The revised missal will be the third edition since Vatican II; and with each edition, there are some enhancements, some expansions, and some corrections of material, he said. On the level of content, there will be some new prayers, new feast days and some new instructions for priests, known as rubrics.
"To me, this is noncontroversial; it’s a no-brainer," said Father Turner, who used analogies to illustrate his point.
It’s like you are a teacher transitioning from a second-edition math textbook to a third-edition textbook. You want the newer edition because it will help you teach better and do your job better. It’s also similar to a computer program you truly love that is version 2.0; when 3.0 becomes available, it’s better and you just want to have it, based on the level of content.
What have been questioned, he said, are changes in the text that reflect that the Vatican changed its theory of translation. The method of translation used during preparation of the first and second editions of the missal favored the way we think and speak and structure our speech, Father Turner explained. The method used for the third edition aims to translate texts in the most exact manner, without paraphrases, omissions or additions.
"This is what has prompted so much discussion and concern about the edition. It also means that everything is going to sound different. Even though the Latin prayers have not changed, the translation of them does," he said.
"I was with the camp that thought it was a really bad idea when I first heard about it," said Father Turner. "But I have to admit that [with the new translation] a little more precision comes in what we are praying about and for; we catch more of the meaning from the Bible than we did before and [we gain] more consistency among other languages."
Because some of the translations are "cumbersome," he said, people are asking, ‘Why that is better?’"
"The answer to that question is always in the Latin," said Father Turner.
He provided examples of differences between acclamations currently used and those that will be used when the new edition is released. The response to the priest’s greeting, "The Lord be with you," will change from "And also with you" to "And with your spirit." This is a more precise translation of the Latin text, he said, and makes the English translation consistent with other major languages. (The Latin form of spirit is spiritu, Italian, spirito; French, esprit; and Spanish, espiritu.)
Bishops in the United States have been working to ensure that priests and lay people understand and appreciate the changes. Father Turner suggested multiple ways to get the word out to people, including in homilies and bulletin inserts and through adult formation.
"A shift like this is really trying to strengthen the foundation of our faith," said Father Turner. "It is a golden opportunity for people to learn more about the Mass we share.
"I really believe, in my heart, that the people who worked on this intended to help us pray better," he said.
Legions of people were involved in putting together the new translation in a lengthy and highly consultative process that began in 2002, when the third edition of the Roman Missal was published in Latin by the Holy See.
Father Turner said that the new text was sent to seven publishers in January. When all the publishers have their text ready, ICEL will proofread the 1,500-page work.
"Publishers have been told that they can accept orders of the books but not to release the books until October 1st for implementation in November," said Father Turner.
He said that although the process could have been better, the final product is praiseworthy.
"On the whole, I think they’ve done a wonderful job. I think it will be a richer translation. It will help us experience the treasures of the Church in a new way. It will give us a new regard for the prayers that we say and for the meaning of the Mass," he said.
Father Turner, who has a doctorate in sacred theology, also is the pastor of a parish in Cameron, Mo. He said that as a youth, he became interested in the liturgy through music. He plays the piano and organ.