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A Giant Leap Forward for the Ordinary Form

Gary Penkala

Msgr. Andrew R. Wadsworth Msgr. Andrew R. Wadsworth [see bio], spoke in Charles Town WV, at the invitation of Dom Daniel Augustine Oppenheimer, Prior of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem, at their Priory of the Annunciation. Monsignor's talk, part of a symposium on The Liturgical, Theological and Pastoral Importance of the New English Edition of the Roman Missal, dealt mainly with the development of the Roman Missal from Vatican II to today.

Dom Daniel opened the Symposium with a theological reflection on liturgy, noting that the Church must embrace both forms of the Roman Rite. While the Canons regularly celebrate Liturgy according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962) and the Latin Divine Office, they are supportive and indeed enthusiastic about what the new translation means to the Church today. It embodies a giant leap forward in the way we worship in the vernacular.

Here is the timeline that was distributed at the Symposium, an explanation of which comprised the majority of Msgr. Wadsworth's talk.

  1. Sacrosanctum concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the first document of Vatican II [December 4, 1963]
  2. Pope Paul VI issues Motu prorpio letter, Sacram liturgiam establishing the Consilium, which oversaw the implementation of Sacrosanctum concilium [January 25, 1964]
  3. International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) takes shape [April 1964]
  4. Comme le prévoit, the first document on translation technique, promoting "dynamic equivalence" [January 25, 1969]
  5. Missale Romanum promulgated in its Latin form [April 3, 1969]
      Sources of the Orations:
    • Ancient manuscripts, like the Gelasian Sacramentary (6th-8th century), the Veronese Sacramentary (6th century), the Gregorian Sacramentary (8th century) and the Missale Romanum (1474), including orations not necessarily in the 1962 Missale Romanum
    • Centonized prayers, ones formed form more than one source
    • Prayers of more recent composition
  6. U.S. bishops approve English translation of the Order of Mass [November 13, 1969]
  7. English translation of the Order of Mass confirmed by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship [January 5, 1970]
  8. U.S. Sacramentary (as the Missal was then called in the U.S.) approved by the USCCB [November 12, 1973]
  9. Sacramentary confirmed by the Holy See [February 4, 1974] and text published in the U.S.
  10. Missale Romanum editio typica altera (second edition) promulgated in its Latin form by Pope Paul VI [March 27, 1975]
  11. U.S. Sacramentary — Second Edition, in English [March 1, 1985]
  12. Consultations on further revisions to the Sacramentary begin [Fall 1987]
      Reasons for Revision:
    • Not all the content of meaning of the original Latin text is expressed in the ICEL translation.
    • There is an absence of the vocabulary that we use to express so many concepts of faith.
    • The everyday language of the texts is not always suited to the character and demands of our liturgy.
  13. New U.S. Sacramentary approved by USCCB — Vatican denies approval [November 1996]
  14. Missale Romanum editio typica tertia (third edition) promulgated in its Latin form by Bl. John Paul II [April 10, 2000]
  15. Liturgiam authenticam, the second document on translation technique, promoting "formal equivalence" [March 28, 2001]
  16. Vox Clara committee established to oversee work of ICEL [April 2002]
  17. General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) approved by the USCCB, prompting rubrical (not textual) changes in the U.S. [November 2002]
  18. ICEL reorganized and new statutes developed [September 15, 2003]
  19. English Draft of the Order of Mass [February 2004]
  20. Order of Mass approved by the USCCB [June 15, 2006]
  21. English translation of the Order of Mass confirmed by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship [June 23, 2008]
  22. Missale Romanum editio typica tertia reprinted in its Latin form with additions and typographical corrections [October 6, 2008]
  23. Roman Missal for Use in the Dioceses of the United States approved by the USCCB [November 17, 2009]
  24. Recognitio (approval) granted by the Holy See for the English translation [April 2010]
      The new translation immediately offers:
    • A fuller expression of the content contained in the original texts
    • A more obvious connection with the Scriptures that inspire so much of our liturgy
    • A recovery of the vocabulary of faith that will enrich our understanding of the mystery
  25. Publication of the new editions of the Roman Missal, as it will now be called [October 2011]
  26. Implementation of the full text of the Roman Missal

According to Msgr. Wadsworth,

The Mass remains the same, although it will sound different and we shall all have to apply ourselves to receiving this gift from the Church. There will be implications for some of the music used at Mass; Missal chants will now be shared with all English-speaking Catholics.

The implementation of the new translation is an opportunity:

  • to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the Paschal Mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist
  • to take a further step towards full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy to which the Church invites us
  • to examine now we celebrate the Eucharist as the "source and summit" of the Church's life by a careful reading of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal

The liturgy is something we receive from the Church, not make for ourselves. It is the most obvious sign of our unity of faith and is a powerful instrument of God's grace in our lives. The preparation of this new translation has been, in every sense, a work of the Church. Over 700 English-speaking bishops throughout the world have collaborated in the long process of its preparation and men and women from our own countries have made a key contribution in bringing this work to fruition. Pope Benedict urged us all to make the most of the possibilities the new translation of the Missal offers for genuine renewal when he said:

I encourage you now to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration. "The more lively the eucharistic faith of the people of God, the deeper is its sharing in the ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples" [Sacrosanctum concilium, 6]
Address of Pope Benedict XVI, Sunday, 19 September 2010.

At the conclusion of his talk, Msgr. Wadworth entertained questions, during which two very interesting points were made concerning the value of this new English translation, countering its critics who see it as elitist, inflated language encumbered by slavish adherence to Latin style and vocabulary.

1. While there is certainly value per se in using a sacral, elevated language for worship, there are practical considerations as well in lifting the language of worship above the family-room and bar-stool pedantry that plagued the Second Edition translation. There are 11 national conference members of ICEL who will be using this new translation [Australia, Canada, England and Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, The Philippines, Scotland, Southern Africa, the United States of America]. Further, there are another 22 nations using English on a partial basis, who will use the translation, but did not participate in its production. On the level of every-day speech, those 33 countries vary greatly in their common parlance, so much so that many idioms are not understood from country to country, even using the same language. To arrive at any consistent uniformity among the language-use groups, one needs to rise at least to the level of literary prosody. On that level, all English speakers can agree — and consequently understand the meaning of the text. This level of literary competence is further embellished with a sacred vocabulary, as Msgr. Wadsworth has noted, that leaves no doubt as to the purpose and efficacy of this prayer-language.

2. The ideal process of translation involves linguistic experts trained in both Latin and their native tongue, who translate directly from one to the other. As fewer and fewer students persue Classical language study (a situation highly lamented by Msgr. Wadsworth), every language group, particularly those outside the Romance language family, does not have the expertise to effect a direct translation from Latin to their native tongue. These groups, particularly among the countries of Africa and Southeast Asia, are turning to the English version as a starting point for translation, since English is rapidly becoming the most widely-understood language on the planet. The importance is thus clear in having a highly accurate English version from which these groups can work. Were the English-speaking Church to pass on to them flawed paraphrases akin to those with which we've lived for forty years, we'd only be perpetuating the liturgical crime of our post-Vatican II haste.

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