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Hola, Misal Romano!

The new Spanish-language translation of the Roman Missal is out—and here’s how it came about

The millions of Spanish-speaking Catholics in the United States will find a few things new and different about Mass by Advent 2018. According to the decree of Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), that’s the date that the Misal Romano, Tercera Edicion, the new and newly-approved iteration of the Spanish-language translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal (Missale Romanum) will become the required Spanish-language liturgical text for the Mass in Catholic dioceses around the country.

Earlier this year, the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship announced that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome had confirmed on July 1, 2016 that this edition of the Misal Romano had been approved for use in the United States. The USCCB, in turn, decreed that it could be used beginning this year on Pentecost Sunday, May 20, and was to be the required text by December 2, First Sunday of Advent 2018.

The promulgation of a new missal proper to this country is good news indeed. According to a recent report by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C, there are approximately 30.4 million Hispanic or Latino people in the U.S.

Imported Goods

Before Misal Romano came along, bishops and priests in the United States relied on imported texts to serve the Spanish-speaking population in U.S. parishes. Father Andrew Menke, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Divine Worship, told Adoremus Bulletin that “For the most part, people [in the U.S.] have obtained Spanish missals from Mexico, but some also use versions from Colombia, Ecuador, or Argentina. Rarely, the edition from Spain might be used.”

The new approved American edition is especially welcomed from a liturgical standpoint as it will provide much-needed consistency in the text and continuity among U.S. dioceses and parishes, Father Menke said.

“We hear stories of priests who serve multiple parishes who find themselves using different Spanish versions of the Missal, even on the same day,” he said, adding that “the new Missal follows the liturgical calendar of this country and includes Spanish translations of the various Saints’ days on our Calendar. This will also contribute to the national unity of Spanish-speaking Catholics.”

The new Spanish-language missal offers other improvements, Father Menke says, that priests will notice immediately.

“For one thing, the layout and arrangement of the new U.S. Spanish Missal will be almost perfectly parallel to the English version of the Missal used in this country,” he says. “That ought to be helpful for priests who offer Mass in both languages. Spanish Missals from other countries tend to rearrange a fair amount of the material, with respect to the Latin and English editions.”

Harmony and Variety

The vital link between liturgy and sacred music has also played a part in the new missal, Father Menke says, noting that it includes “the same amount of music as in the English edition, which is a very substantial increase over what’s included in any other Spanish missal. The music is similar to the English melodies, and both the English and Spanish are ultimately based on the chants in the Latin edition. This has potential to not only add a certain solemnity to the music of the Mass, but also promotes a unity between liturgies celebrated in Spanish, English, and Latin.”

Although unity of translation was a top priority for the most recent English translation of the Roman Missal, Father Menke says that the same concern was mitigated in the Spanish translation by factors that speak to the variety found within the Spanish language.

“The Holy See was not insistent on arriving at a single, worldwide Spanish translation of the Missal,” he says. “Most people seem to agree that there are greater regional variations in Spanish than there are in English, and this might be the reason for that decision. Even so, the heart of the Missal—the Order of Mass—has a translation that is common to all Spanish-speaking countries, except for different customs regarding the second person plural form of ‘you.’ So there are differences between the missals of Spain, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina. Other Spanish-speaking countries adopt one of these forms of the Missal.”

Speaking of Mexico

Because the largest group of Spanish-speaking faithful in the country comes from Mexico, Father Menke says, the U.S. Bishops decided that the new missal should use the Mexican edition as its base text. This decision also makes sense, Father Menke says, because “many other immigrants in the U.S. come from countries that have also adopted the Mexican version of the Missal.”

While the U.S. bishops could have prepared their own Spanish translation of the missal, Father Menke says, it was determined a number of years ago that the effort that would require would not be a prudent use of resources. So even though the bishops took an integral part in the preparation of the English translation of the missal, for the Spanish version they have “simply adopted another Conference’s translation. The only new translations are for things like adaptations and Saints’ days of the U.S. English edition. Relatively speaking, that wasn’t a difficult process.”

The adoption of the Mexican text in this manner, Father Menke adds, also means that because the Mexican text was approved after promulgation of the Holy See’s instruction on liturgical translations, Liturgiam Authenticam, the American text also met the requirements of the instruction.

“Whether that means,” he says, “the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam were applied in exactly the same way they were applied in the case of English translation—or the French or Italian or German or any other language—would take a careful linguistic analysis.”

Two points of contention in the English translation, shifting from a paraphrase to a translation of the Domine, non sum dignus, and the retranslation of the pro multis from “for all” to “for many” were not nearly as provocative in the Spanish translation prepared for the new missal, Father Menke says.  

“From what I’ve been told, these things weren’t as controversial in the Spanish-speaking world as they were for some people in English-speaking countries,” he says. “The Domine, non sum dingus was never paraphrased like the old English version was, and didn’t even change from the 2nd to the 3rd Spanish editions. However, the Spanish version isn’t quite as literal as the new English version—whereas we follow the Latin and say ‘under my roof,’ the Spanish continues to say ‘into my house.’”

The pro multis did change for the new Spanish missal, Father Menke notes, from “for all” to “for many”; however, he adds, “this change has been in effect for quite a few years in Spanish-speaking countries, and I get the impression it didn’t cause a stir when it was implemented.”

Viva Liturgia!

While the changes are, relatively speaking, minimal in the new Spanish text, Father Menke says, the very newness of the text serves as an entree for pastors to teach their flock about the liturgy.

“The introduction of the new book could be a great opportunity to present a renewed catechesis on the Mass, or to highlight the Saints of the U.S. liturgical calendar,” he says. “The inclusion of the chants could also be an opportunity to introduce a beautiful style of music that has been part of Catholic worship for centuries, but that has been largely ignored for the last fifty years.”

Besides now having a new Misal Romano available for liturgical use, Father Menke says, the Spanish-speaking faithful in this country also have other ritual texts in Spanish translation in their parishes that are officially approved for use in the U.S. The USCCB has already approved Spanish editions of the rites for baptism and marriage, for example, and a Spanish version of the Book of Blessings approved by the U.S. bishops is currently in Rome awaiting approval.

“There are also plans to try to have a Spanish Lectionary ready in several years,” he says. “But sometimes the bishops decide that there isn’t a need to prepare a Spanish version of every liturgical book. For example, there might not be a large market for some Spanish liturgical books in this country, and that would mean that the per-unit cost would be too high, or that cases of unsold books would sit in a warehouse for years. In that situation, if the bishops of this country haven’t approved a liturgical book in Spanish (or any other language, for that matter), we are free to use one that has been approved by the bishops of another conference.”

Joseph O'Brien

Joseph O'Brien

Joseph O’Brien lives on a homestead with his wife Cecilia and their nine children in rural southwestern Wisconsin. He is Managing Editor of Adoremus Bulletin, a correspondent for the Catholic Business journal, and poetry editor and cocktail reviewer for The San Diego Reader. He has a BA (1995) and MA (2004) in English from University of Dallas, Irving, TX.