Speaking to CNA in an interview, Msgr. Anthony Sherman, executive director for the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship, gave an update on the status of the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal. Msgr. Sherman stated that the changes will need to introduced with “due sensitivity,” and the opportunity for catechesis presented by the translation “will need to be firmly grasped.”
As the implementation of the revised Roman Missal approaches, workshops have been offered around the United States to prepare priests and diocesan officials for the changes to the liturgy. The latest version of the Roman Missal incorporates the most significant changes to the liturgy since 1974, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Speaking about the new translation, Pope Benedict XVI told the Vox Clara Committee in April that he welcomed the news that the new English translation of the Roman Missal "will soon be ready for publication." While expressing his hope about the arrival of the new edition, he also highlighted the need for a transition with "due sensitivity."
Commenting on the progress of the seminars that are being held across the U.S., Msgr. Sherman told CNA in an e-mail interview that the “workshops have been going well” and that they have provided “the benefit of moving many dioceses into giving serious consideration as to how they are going to encourage parishes to implement the new translation.”
The workshops have also “enabled diocesan leaders to realize that, at this moment, we will have more than a one year period of time to prepare the people for not only receiving the new translation but also proving them with an overall catechesis on the liturgy,” a step that “may or may not have happened after the Second Vatican Council.”
Msgr. Sherman also explained that the workshops have also provided people with the most up-to-date information about the state of the translation, and “as further information comes from Rome it is communicated to people as quickly as is possible.”
“People also, at the workshops, have the opportunity to express their agreement or disagreement with the translation,” he said. For some, “even if they are not totally content, they leave the workshops with a more positive attitude, ready to implement the translation as best they can.”
“For the sake of the Church, diocesan leaders and pastors are moved to try and introduce the new texts in a manner that creates as little discontent and polarization as possible,” the Divine Worship Secretariat director explained.
Commenting on the positive aspects of the translation, Msgr. Sherman said that “one of the wider benefits afforded by the new texts is the opportunity to provide a broad catechesis on the liturgy in general to our people.
“Once the texts are in use, it is hoped that there will be theological reflection on the new texts that will enable priests to even give homilies based on this material. Obviously everyone will have the opportunity to read these new texts and reflect upon them.”
CNA asked the executive director what the general reception of the changes has been.
“When it comes to translations almost everyone has an opinion and many have been open about their agreement or disagreement with the new texts,” Msgr. Sherman responded, noting that the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is “responsible for the final text that is approved for use.”
The text, he explained, is the result of a “consultation process that has involved thousands of people within the Church.”
“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was intimately involved in the process and made thousands of suggestions and changes along the way,” he added. “The other English-speaking countries of the world also made their suggestions. The whole process was a truly international English effort. Still it is important to keep in mind that the final product is limited by the shortcomings faced in any human endeavor such as this.”
“I do think the changes will work in the American Church,” Msgr. Sherman underscored. “Human nature always looks for something to be discontented about and by its very nature translation will not always please everyone.”
“The important thing, however, is that we approach the implementation with a positive frame of mind. There will be much that helps us continue in our spiritual growth and development. When that is found it should be highlighted.”
“Some things will be found that the next generation will maybe want to take a look at, but we need to be open and allow the Spirit to help us appreciate the positive elements these new texts can offer us,” he noted. “Above all it is an opportunity for all of us to grow in appreciation of the importance of the liturgy in general.”
“Many will find it hard to adjust to unfamiliar texts after nearly forty years of continuous use of the previous translation,” Msgr. Sherman noted. “The change will need to be introduced with due sensitivity, and the opportunity for catechesis that it presents will need to be firmly grasped.”
“I pray that in this way any risk of confusion or bewilderment will be averted, and the change will serve instead as a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world.”