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To Belong More Deeply: New Words, Same Mass Print E-mail

November 17, 2010 | The Long Island Catholic Vol. 49, No. 30 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY


Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, the priests of the diocese were invited to attend a clergy conference. These semi-annual gatherings of the priests and bishops give us priests the opportunity to spend some time together in prayer and fellowship while focusing on some issues of importance for our pastoral ministry. Msgr. James Swiader, vice rector of our seminary, organizes and conducts these meetings that are voluntary but which are truly a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon and evening with brother priests of our diocese.

While we often invite experts from outside the diocese to present a theme for information and discussion, that was not the case this time. Msgr. Swiader, as part of a group that is working on a new Sunday Mass initiative, suggested we use this gathering to present to the priests a vision of a process that would in the next two years address a number of inter-related issues for our life as a Church, in particular our life as the Church that celebrates the Divine Liturgy of the Sunday Mass.

One important event that is shaping these initiatives is the fact that on the First Sunday of Advent next year, November 27, 2011, the Church in the United States will begin to use the new English translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. This last sentence probably needs some explanation. After the Second Vatican Council, when the liturgy and sacraments were determined to be celebrated in the vernacular, or local languages, there was of course the challenge of translating the texts into the local languages. A group called ICEL or the International Commission for English in the Liturgy came into being. This group was charged with the translation and, in a comparatively brief time, did a good job of giving us the translation of the Roman Missal for use at Mass. Thus we have been using the Roman Missal in English published in two kinds of volumes: a Sacramentary, which has the texts of the prayers and petitions of the Mass found in the Roman Missal, and a Lectionary, which contains the readings at Masses for Sundays, feast days and ordinary days of the year.

We have been using this for the past forty years. In the meantime two things happened. The Holy See, which has ultimate authority over all liturgical matters in the Roman Catholic Church, revised the Latin Missal, not once but twice. This alone necessitated a new translation for English-speaking countries. The second issue, however, was that the translation of forty years ago was not as exact as it should have been. Some found deficiencies on a theological level and others found inconsistencies and even omissions of parts of texts as they appeared in the Roman Missal, which is the norm for all translations.

ICEL and the 11 English-language bishops’ conferences bent to the new task which has taken more than 10 years. During this time, the Holy See published a new set of norms to be used in translating the Latin text. The major new norm was an insistence on formal equivalence or very accurate rendering into English of the Latin text, theologically and formally.

After much work and even more discussion, the ICEL translations with modifications suggested and accepted by bishops’ conferences were sent to the Holy See for their review and, if they accepted the work, their approval. Not everyone was pleased with every line of translation, which is understandable. To that end, the Holy See established a special group of bishop advisors from the English-speaking countries involved. That group, called Vox Clara or “clear voice,” looked at the translation and reviewed those words or phrases that seemed to be in dispute for one reason or another. The Holy See was happy to have their input because they are all native born English-speaking and pastors who have their own dioceses. The Holy See thus made some further changes to the ICEL translations which, only recently, have been incorporated into the text of the English translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal — which Missal, as I said, is the norm for the celebration of Mass in the Roman Rite throughout the world. That is the translated text which will be published and put into use in our country on the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011.

At our clergy conferences last week, Msgr. Jim Vlaun presented an overview of the vision and spirit that we hope will animate and guide the implementation of the new Roman Missal in our own diocese. Msgr. Andrzej Zglejszewski, as director of our Diocesan Office of Worship, explained how we would go about the preparation and presentation of the new Missal in our parishes. He will make available to priests, deacons, parish staff and others the materials we will be using in our diocesan efforts this coming year.

For my part, I wanted to emphasize that this is a great, indeed extraordinary, opportunity for us as a Church not just to learn a few new phrases or different responses from the past. Much more, we have the chance truly to deepen our appreciation of the Mass, enter into the celebration of the Sunday Mass as the Eucharist which is the source and summit of all our worship.

Unfortunately, a national paper that calls itself Catholic but which specializes in being an organ of dissent and disruption in the life of the Church chose this time to give publicity to a negative report from a few advisors to ICEL. This does not come from ICEL itself. Rather it is a few consultants who basically do not accept that the Holy See had the right to form Vox Clara or to respond with some changes suggested by United States leaders to improve the text. No one should pay any attention to such backroom gripers. While no translation is ever or can ever be perfect, no translation of the Mass has been given as much attention, care and expert pastoral and theological commitment and effort as has been the new translation soon to be published for the use of us all beginning in Advent of next year.

In the months ahead, in our parishes and in our various apostolates, we will be bringing forth the riches of this new translation and, as we do so, we are all being invited to renew our commitment to Christ in the Eucharist through the full and active participation of us all in Sunday Mass and every celebration of the liturgy in our parishes and across our diocese. This will lead to a renewal that will give new life and energy to this local Church. It will deepen our love for the liturgy and our unity as the one Body of Christ. As His Church here on Long Island, the Diocese of Rockville Centre can deepen our faith, renew our hope and make our love for the Lord and one another ever more fervent and real. Nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord, we then can “put out into the deep” and become evangelizers of one another, of our neighbors who may not know the riches of the Sunday Mass, and of all the men and women in our communities who thirst for the love that only God can give and which He offers to us in abundance at every celebration of the Mass.

To that end I am now writing a pastoral letter to you all that will be published for Advent and Christmas with the title: BELONG MORE DEEPLY.

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