The Spirit of the New Translation

One of the most refreshing changes in the new translation of the Mass is the translation of perturbatio as “distress” instead of anxiety. This new phrasing brought back a very good memory for me of a professor I had in seminary, a most interesting man with an interesting history. His name was Nicholas Sprinc. He was one of three foreign faculty members that the future Archbishop Whealon of Hartford had contracted for Borromeo Seminary College. Unlike the two others, he had been born in...

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August 25, 2011

'Under my roof'

In his apostolic exhortation, “Verbum Domini” (“The Word of the Lord”) Pope Benedict XVI advocates for a much more aggressive biblical formation in the Church, even recommending diocesan-level programs of study for the laity. In connection with the subject of catechesis, the pope says: “A knowledge of biblical personages, events, and well-known sayings should thus be encouraged; this can also be promoted by the judicious memorization of some passages which are particularly expressive of...

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August 22, 2011

'The mystery of faith'

Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes in the new English translation of the Latin Rite has to do with the acclamation that responds to the consecration. Before talking about the changes, it is worth our while to think about this part of the Mass. First of all, what is happening? The insertion of an “anamnesis” (literally a “remembering”) of the people was a change brought in at the Second Vatican Council. It was a liturgical borrowing from one of the Oriental Rites. The words are...

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August 15, 2011

'Lord God of hosts'

One of the oldest prayers of the Mass is the “Sanctus,” or, as most American Catholics say, the “Holy Holy Holy.” It is composed of two parts, the first of which is based on the hymn Isaiah heard the angels singing when he had a vision God in the Temple (Isa. 6:3) and the second contains the greeting of the crowds when Jesus entered Jerusalem before his passion (Matt. 21:9). This latter contains a citation of Psalm 118:25-26: “Hosanna … Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The...

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August 08, 2011

'For you and for many'

I have written all of these essays not as an expert but as one inevitably involved in the process of the change of the translation we use of the Latin Rite. The Mass is the most important part of my work. Any change of the words is something that is bound to affect me. But perhaps the piece of the new translation that I will feel the most is the change in the words of consecration. For 30 years I have said those words and there will be a hurdle for me to adapt, just because of habit. The...

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August 01, 2011

'My sacrifice and yours'

Another of the changes of the new translation of the Latin Mass into English has to do with the invitation the priest makes to pray “that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” The response to this has remained the same, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.” The celebrant’s words have changed, however. Why the change from “our sacrifice” to “my sacrifice and...

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July 25, 2011

Credo II

The second change in the creed that has been talked about a great deal is the translation of the Latin “consubstantialem.” This was translated as “one in being” and now is to be “consubstantial.” Apparently, this was the topic of some debate because it is alleged that people will find the new wording “awkward” or will not understand it. The real awkwardness of “one in being” is that it can mean many different things. I can imagine a modern Juliet saying she is “one in being” with her Romeo....

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July 18, 2011


The first change of language in the new translation of the Latin Mass for this part is a return to its original meaning. The word “credo” in Latin means “I believe,” not “we believe.” What we say is “our” faith, but it is the faith of each one of us. “Our” profession together insists on my personal expression of belief in the essence of Christianity that is the creed. There are some people who use the royal “we” in conversation to sometimes comic effect. There is an anecdote of Queen...

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July 11, 2011

'My most grievous fault'

One of the phrases in Latin from the old liturgy that survived in literary writing, at least, was “mea culpa,”  which means “my fault.” In the old Confiteor, this was said three times: “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. This declaration of guilt was accompanied by the movement of hitting the breast with the right fist. The gesture communicated acknowledgment of guilt and symbolic penance. Somehow the intensive triplication of: “my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault” got lost in...

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July 04, 2011

'And with your spirit'

I was a boy when the Mass was translated into the vernacular, but I remember a joke my uncle told about the response in Latin to the greeting, “The Lord be with you.” He asked me whether I knew the phone number to heaven. I did not. “Et cum spiritu two oh,” he said. That was when phone numbers had letters and numbers together. The joke comes to mind because of another change that will be noticeable in the new Missal. The response that was, “And also with you” shall become “And with your...

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