Sep 15, 2008

Holy See Approves First New Texts

Online Edition:

September 2008, Vol. XIV, No. 6

Holy See Approves First New Texts
for Order of Mass for the US
Accuracy assured; Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship launches "formation" resource on web

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

Two welcome road signs appeared along the complicated path to authentic liturgical renewal this summer. First, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) informed the US bishops that the English translation of the Order of Mass is now approved.

This encouraging development occurred only weeks after the US bishops had failed to approve the second of 12 segments of the Missale Romanum translation, the “Propers”, at their June meeting. Approval for the Order of Mass translation came in a letter dated June 23, from Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the CDW, to Cardinal Francis George, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which said in part:

This Dicastery has no little satisfaction in arriving at this juncture. Nevertheless, the Congregation does not intend that these texts should be put into liturgical use immediately. Instead, the granting now of the recognitio to this crucial segment of the Roman Missal will provide time for the pastoral preparation of priests, deacons and for appropriate catechesis of the lay faithful. It will likewise facilitate the devising of musical settings for the parts of the Mass, bearing in mind the criteria set forth in the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam, n. 60, which requires that the musical settings of liturgical texts use only the actual approved texts and never be paraphrased.

(The link to the letter: Letter Accompanying the Recognitio from Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments )

The clear prohibition of paraphrases will be welcome news to many who have been dismayed by the free manipulation of texts if/when they are sung.

The US bishops had approved this translation of the Order of Mass in 2006, and sent it to the Holy See for the necessary recognitio. (Some adaptations to the Order of Mass that the conference voted for were not included in this approval from the CDW, however.)

For most people, the most noticeable change in the new translation will be a more lofty style of language, in part a consequence from a literal translation of the original Latin. This is explained in the Ratio Translationis (112):

The unique style of the Roman Rite should be maintained in translation. By “style” is meant here the distinctive way in which the prayers of the Roman Rite are expressed. The principal elements of such a style include a certain conciseness in addressing, praising and entreating God, as well as distinctive syntactical patterns, a noble tone, a variety of less complex rhetorical devices, concreteness of images, repetition, parallelism and rhythm as measured through the cursus, or ancient standards for stressing syllables of Latin words in prose or poetry.

The new translation of the Order of Mass is now accessible online at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops web site (see link at end of story.)

The second positive road sign: the Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship (BCDW) is now taking the leading role in providing Catholics with formation materials for the new translations by a “Missal Formation” section on the BCDW web site. This resource was posted online August 4.

This direct source of liturgical information through an official committee of the US bishops’ conference is new. In the past, virtually all such information came through secondary organizations and publications, with, understandably, very mixed results.

A letter from Bishop Arthur Serratelli, Chairman of the BCDW, introducing the new resources says, in part:

The Committee on Divine Worship provides here materials for our priests and the faithful which can be used for catechesis and preparation for the eventual implementation of the revised texts.  Although there are international and national efforts underway to provide materials for formation, the Committee on Divine Worship would like to begin  providing information now for people to use for formation…..

It will provide people with a single place to look to obtain an orientation for themselves and others who are interested in preparing to receive the final translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal.  I hope that the extensive work of the Bishops and all involved in the process of translation, formation, and preparation of these texts will bear abundant fruit in the vibrant and authentic worship of the  Church.

One very hopeful aspect of the BCDW overseeing the formation materials for the new Missal is the greater assurance of reliability and authenticity of the information provided, which would mitigate the influence of unreliable opinions that may appear in various liturgical periodicals, workshops, etc. (some have ruefully called this the “liturgical industrial complex”). By the bishops’ making this resource available on the USCCB web site, the widest possible access is given to diocesan and parish priests and liturgy personnel — in fact, to all Catholics. This is a major change.

This web resource will be supplemented regularly on the web site, according to the report in the August 2008 BCDW Newsletter, which also mentions the work of the “Leeds Group”, a group of scholars from the US, England and Australia, who are also planning to produce catechetical materials on the liturgy. The quasi-official Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC), organized in 1970 and funded by dioceses and memberships, is also mentioned; however, the FDLC’s work will be “made available through diocesan liturgy offices and liturgical commissions”, not through the official BCDW web site, according to the Newsletter.

Link to: Letter Accompanying the Recognitio from Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Link to Missal Formation page:

Link to Order of Mass:  



Helen Hull Hitchcock

Helen Hull Hitchcock (1939-2014) was editor of the <em>Adoremus Bulletin</em>, which she co-founded. She was also the founding director of Women for Faith & Family and editor of its quarterly journal, Voices. She published many articles and essays in a wide range of Catholic journals, and authored and edited <em>The Politics of Prayer: Feminist Language and the Worship of God</em> (Ignatius Press 1992), a collection of essays on issues involved in translation. She contributed essays to several books, including <em>Spiritual Journeys</em>, a book of “conversion stories” (Daughters of St. Paul). Helen lectured in the US and abroad, and appeared frequently on radio and television, representing Catholic teaching on issues affecting Catholic women, families, and Catholic faith and worship.