The updated translation of the Roman Missal will be put into use on Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent, and ultimately should lead Catholics to a deeper faith, according to Father Paul Turner, a facilitator for the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.
But the journey probably won’t be an easy one, he acknowledged.
"I think initially we should expect some confusion and some wonderment about what’s going on, but I do not think we should be discouraged," Father Turner recently told the Catholic Courier." People will come to a deeper appreciation of both their faith and their heritage,"
The priest will visit the Diocese of Rochester next month to speak about the revised translation of the Roman Missal at the annual diocesan convocation for priests and pastoral administrators. He said he hopes to help participants in the May 2-4 gathering in Corning understand how and why the Roman Missal was revised, and how the changes will affect people.
"There are two main reasons why we’ve got this new missal," Father Turner explained. "One of them pertains to the content, and the other pertains to the translation."
The edition of the Roman Missal currently in use dates back to 1975, so the 2011 edition will include updated content that has been sharpened and freshened since then, Father Turner said. The adoption of this new edition of the missal is no different than a college professor’s decision to use an updated edition of a textbook, or an individual’s decision to upgrade a computer program from version 2.0 to version 3.0, he added.
"It just has a few more things in it. To me this is the noncontroversial part of it," he said.
He said controversy tends to come into play, however, when people begin talking about the translation entailed in this new edition, because the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments issued new guidelines for translation in its 2001 document Liturgiam Authentican, or "The Authentic Liturgy."
"The Vatican has changed its theory of translation into the vernacular from ‘dynamic equivalence’ to ‘formal equivalence’" Father Turner said. "A dynamic-equivalence translation is one that favors the receiving language, in our case English. Formal equivalence is trying to honor the original language," he explained.
The theory of dynamic equivalence used in the 1975 edition favors the translation of concepts, rather than actual words, so the Roman Missal currently in use includes words, phrases and sentence structures that feel comfortable to most Americans. The original Latin text of the current edition includes many long, complex sentences, which were broken up into simpler English sentences because officials at the time feared the original structure would be difficult for people to comprehend. Now, however, Vatican officials have come to believe that the structure of the missal is as important as the content, he added.
"They believe that this (change) will help us to get a translation that is deeper," Father Turner said.
One of the changes that has been the subject of much discussion is the people’s response to the priest’s greeting at Mass, he noted. When the priest says, "The Lord be with you," the people will now say, "And with your spirit," instead of, "And also with you." This change was not made lightly, and it has a strong biblical foundation, he said.
"The response, ‘And with your spirit,’ has a long history in Christianity. It can be found in the letters of St. Paul," Father Turner said.
Early Christians used such dialogue, and it is hoped that bringing it back will help make people more aware of the connection between the Bible and the words they hear at Mass, he added.
Father Turner said he believes this new translation of the Roman Missal will challenge Catholics at first, but that they gradually will become accustomed to what they’re hearing at Mass and grow to appreciate it.
In the meantime, non-Catholics, those who have been away from the church or those who have been uncomfortable at Mass might be more inclined to return amid this confusion.
"We (regular church-goers) don’t know our responses either, so we’ll all be on the same page," Father Turner remarked.