New Roman Missal

On the first Sunday of Advent, 2011, the Church will begin to use the revised English translation of the 2002 Roman Missal.

“Be not afraid.”

The new translation will not contain as many changes as you may fear. It will simply seek to convey in more accurate language the richness of the Mystery we celebrate.   Let us use this as an opportunity to “brush up” on not only what is new to us but on what remains the same “yesterday, today and forever.”

This new English translation will not affect the scripture readings or the Prayers of the Faithful.  The new translation affects the words we speak or sing and the prayers the priest says. None of the changes, including the ones we will experience soon, ever change the meaning of the Mass.

The Missale Romanum or Roman Missal is the book that has all the prayers used for the Holy Mass. After the Second Vatican Council, the church revised the Missale Romanum. It was translated from Latin into various languages rather quickly, with different countries producing a vernacular version in the years subsequent. Canada published its own in 1974.

In 2001, a new instruction was released to govern translation, stressing greater fidelity to the original Latin, and the use of more elevated language in the liturgy. The consequence of that decision was that a fresh English translation would be prepared. This took eight years of work in consultation with bishops’ conferences in all the major English-speaking countries. And now that translation is ready for use.

But what was the problem with the existing English Translation?  It often did not translate at all, but rather substituted.  For example the response to the Lord be with you. In The English translation is And also with you.  The original Latin is Et cum Spiritu tuo.  The correct translation is and with your spirit.   The current English leaves out the word ‘spirit’ entirely.  That’s not translating, but changing the meaning.  Even more curious is that the other major languages did translate the phrase accurately: Italian (E con il tuo spirituo), French (Et avec votre esprit).

There are four benefits to a better translation:Important theological matters won’t be missed with a more accurate translation.

1. English speaking Catholics will be praying the Mass as it is supposed to be.

2. English speaking Catholics will enjoy the common prayer they ought to share with Catholics of different languages.

3. Important theological matters won’t be missed with a more accurate translation.

4. The biblical richness of many of the Mass prayers will be clearer in the new translation.

The basic form of the Mass has been the same since the time of the early Christians.  The first Masses were said in the language everyone spoke at the time, Latin.  Then in 1964 bishops from English-speaking countries set up the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) as a response to Vatican II, which allowed the use of the vernacular when it would be helpful for the people.  The languages spoken in the universal Church were now many and varied and the time had come to make the Mass more understandable for everyone.  The first translation into English was more concerned about getting across the thought that is expressed in the original Latin text than in the exact words.  As a result a few things needed to be corrected to make it more accurate a translation.  In Liturgiam authenticam in 2001, Pope John Paul II called for a revision of the texts we have been praying.

The new revised missal is more faithful to the original Latin text and more formal in style.  Many of the sentences are longer and the vocabulary is more extensive.

 The result is prayers that express more clearly why we pray, why we hope, and how we present ourselves before God.

Latin uses a number of different words for pray, mercy, and love.  The new translation uses a variety of English words and avoids the needless repetition of some words.  As previously mentioned the new translation will help us better connect the words of the Mass to the Scripture readings.


Listed below are a few links with more information and also a link to the full version of the General Instruction of the New Roman Missal.


The General Instruction of the Roman Missal

Roman Missal Information for Parishes

Roman Missal Information for Music Ministers