Students Embrace New Missal
Chelsey Sterling, Tower Staff
February 3, 2012
Filed under News
Two months since launching the new Roman Missal, students at The Catholic University of America have proven to be largely supportive, despite the initial apprehension surrounding the change. The new Missal’s intent is to make the English translation closer to both the original Latin and subsequent translations from that text. Changes include the response, “And with your spirit” (replacing the original, “And also with you”), as well as new wording for the Creed and Eucharistic Prayer.
While opinions on the new translation– begun on November 27, 2011– vary, they generally seem to follow patterns determined by regularity of Mass attendance. Through interviews conducted throughout January, The Tower found that regular Mass attendees were more likely to support the new translation than those who attended Mass less than once a week.
“It’s a really beautiful way to celebrate Mass,” said Catholic University sophomore Shannon Ballou, who said her Mass attendance as “pretty regular.” She described the new translation as “more authentic.”
Such responses seem typical of the University’s students. Of the recorded responses (of which about 65 percent were from past or present Catholic University students) more than half were positive, while 26 percent were negative and the remaining 15 percent were indifferent.
“I think we’re all settling into hearing things for the first time,” says David Pennington, Associate Campus Minister for Liturgy and Worship at the University’s Office of Campus Ministry. “[The responses] haven’t become part of our DNA yet. We’ll get there.”
In November and December of 2011, Campus Ministry sponsored an information campaign that included literature and information sessions in an effort to educate University students on both the changes, and the reasoning behind them, advanced by Church authorities. As a consequence, most University students who described themselves as regular Mass attendees seemed at least generally familiar with the reasons behind the change.
Among the individuals who expressed displeasure with the new translation, most cited uncertainty as their primary concern, either due to lack of familiarity with the new translation or a feeling that the Church’s decision had been made arbitrarily. University student Margaret Boehl said the new translation was a “way for the Catholic Church to make waves.”
Catholic institutions within the U.S. have engaged in efforts to educate churchgoers about the recent changes. During the Second Vatican Council, the Mass was translated from its original Latin into the vernacular. Since this translation, the bishops in various countries have attempted to ensure that the translations accurately reflect the original Latin text so that the entire Church worships collectively. Proponents of the new translation argue that to make any translation more closely follow the Latin text is to more closely represent the original intent of the Mass.
“It’s going to the heart of what the Mass is as the pinnacle of the Catholic faith,” says University student Christina Heifferon.
“I love it,” adds James Clement, a sophomore. “It gives us a fuller understanding of what is going on in the biggest celebration.”
In addition, proponents argue that a translation that brings the English text closer to the original Latin brings it more in line with all of the other translations, furthering the Church’s intention of unity.
“If we no longer know the mother tongue of our Church, then a translation is very valuable for putting us in touch with the mind of our Church and of the whole Church,” says Reverend Bernard Mulcahy, O.P., a theologian and contributor to the widespread Catholic publication Magnificat.
University graduate Nedjée Saint-Fleur seems to agree. “My first language is French, so the new translation actually is closer to what we say [in France],” she says.
Furthermore, because the Mass is a spoken expression of the written text of Scripture, it must be worded in a way that is clear to the auditory participant. When spoken, long passages of connected sentences can become difficult for the modern audience to grasp and contextualize.
“The elements of [consecutive sentences] belong together,” explains Anthony Esolen, a professor of English at Providence College, in Magnificat. “When we separate them into their own sentences, we lose the theological connections between them. They no longer form parts of an intricate whole. […] That is not the way of the new translation.”
While questions about the reasons behind the translation seem to be lessening with time, new questions are arising concerning the repercussion of the decision.
“People will probably say there will be minor changes need to come in a couple of years,” says David Pennington. “But mostly for presider’s prayers, not for people in the pews.”
For ongoing questions regarding the new Missal, contact David Pennington at email@example.com.