- one ACTA Co-ordinator’s perspective:
Members will know that ACTA’s National Leadership Team have been in touch with Cardinal Elect Vincent Nichols and the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to discuss the negative comments about the new Mass translation, which ACTA leaders hear so often around the country. The LT is grateful to Anne O’Connor, our Shrewsbury Coordinator, who decided to collect those she received herself and to forward them to the National Leadership Team. This is her story.
Anne begins with her own personal reflections:
“When our son graduated from Cambridge the ceremony took place in Latin: an age-long tradition. After a few sentences our seven-year old daughter turned to me and whispered: “that man’s talking rubbish!” This is not to imply that Latin is rubbish – far from it, but something that can’t be easily understood has little or no meaning to the listener, which leads neatly to the problem of new translation of the Mass. Because of its clumsy cod-Latin phraseology, its loss of the poetic and, far worse, its distortion of meaning I am now reduced from active participant to passive (and angry) bystander. I have discovered that many share my disappointment and frustrations but, because we are all polite and don’t like to make a fuss, we have been talking in whispers and not voicing our true feelings.
“No more. There is a growing, and increasingly vocal concern, that something must be done. Many in England and Wales, priests and people alike, feel strongly that, far from increasing our appreciation of the Mass, the new translation is harder to understand and represents a backward step from the beautiful simplicity of the former version. However whilst many of us ordinary lay people struggle with the new translation of the Mass think how much harder it is for those priests who would dearly love to have kept the old version, or, better still, been given the opportunity to use the discarded 1998 translation.
“My own particular bugbear is 'consubstantial'…… I studied Latin at school so understand what the word means but who on earth uses that kind of language nowadays? I have worked extensively with Confirmation groups and could not in all conscience ask young people to say these responses. Why have the Mass in English at all if it bears little resemblance to the way people talk?
“Also, the change of wording from 'for all' to 'for many' is a massive shift and makes us seem like an exclusive sect that only favours the chosen few. The whole translation seems obsequious - ' kind admittance' 'we dare to say', ‘graciously’ etc., and points to some sort of judgemental, capricious god - far removed from the God of love. And as for 'under your roof' – I know it refers back to the Roman centurion but how many people are conversant with that story? The simple ‘I am not worthy’ was clear and deeply personal. The 1998 translation was beautiful and rich in poetry and spirituality - why was it discarded?”
Anne shares what two priests in her diocese said to her about writing a letter to the Bishop; others have said the same in private conversations:
One Priest speaks: “As one who often uses the 1998 Collects instead of the new translation I would hope that the letter is sent so that we keep the issue of the translation at the forefront. The problem will not go away until the translation is scrapped and we adopt the 1998 version which gives a much richer translation and much more worthy liturgical language. I am heartily sick of the subordinate clauses in the Prefaces and some of the Collects and prayers are unintelligible, you end up wondering who you have prayed to and for what!!"
Another Shrewsbury Priest’s testimony:
"This translation has ripped out the heart of my personal spirituality as a priest. After more than 30 years of celebrating mass in the previous translation, with all its faults, I now struggle to celebrate it at times, as I get too upset or angry with it to derive much spiritual benefit, other than knowing intellectually that I am united with Christ despite the language. It is still, after two years one of the things people mention, yearning for something more accessible. I have the 1998 version and it is a tragedy it was never implemented."
Other comments made to Anne as ACTA Coordinator
- “It certainly is dreadful, and obsequious. The manner in which it came about was not acceptable, either. We could do without a return to sectarian ways.”
- “I often use the collects, prayers over the offerings, and post communion prayers from the ‘98 translation as well as the seasonal inserts for the Eucharistic prayers.”
- “I had not looked at this translation (the 1998) although I was aware that one could find it. I have just downloaded two parts of it, to look at particular sections, including the creed and the Eucharistic prayers. Our chaplain has used the latter sometimes and last year Father X talked to us and told us he uses this translation all the time in saying mass where he ministers, so some people are benefiting from it all the time - lucky them!”
- “Like many thousands of Catholics in England I have found attending mass difficult since the new translation was foisted on us. I know Catholics who can no longer face going to mass. Some now go to Quaker meetings instead so they can take part in worship on Sunday. I go less and less, and when I do take my old missal and try to concentrate on that. It works to a degree, but it is hard to blank out grating phraseology……….”
- “A review is urgently needed; hopefully this will not be some laborious, dragged-out affair. In the meantime, surely we could revert to the earlier version? It would be simple enough. Many Catholics are crying out for this. Getting back to 'the God of love' is paramount.”
One ACTA member shared with Anne the letter they had written to their local Bishop
Dear Bishop……………., It appears from my recent reading of the Tablet that there may be an opportunity to review the translation of the Mass that was imposed on us two years ago. I’m sure I do not need to repeat the many criticisms that have been made of this translation, as they are by now a matter of public record. I just wanted to formally add my own name to the list of those who are deeply unhappy with this translation. If only ordinary churchgoers had been consulted at the outset!
Nevertheless, the good news is that there is already a wonderful translation waiting in the wings, so to speak, namely the 1998 version, that has already been approved by our bishops. I hope that you yourself will support the adoption of the 1998 version at the very earliest opportunity. And, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the leadership were able to learn the lesson here, acknowledge its mistake, and commit in the future to engaging ordinary members of the church much more actively and valuing their views. Modelling such behaviour, it seems to me, is just what Pope Francis is doing.
You can find the 1998 Translation on this web-site – from the top of the Home page, click documents, then liturgy.
February 1st 2014 Anne O’Connor, ed. Jean Riordan.