ST. FRANCIS – The latest English translation of the revised order of the Mass in the Roman Missal is not expected to be officially incorporated into the liturgy for at least two years, but priests and liturgists in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee received a preview of it from one of the people who has worked on the translation.

During his presentation to the priests Sept. 30 at the Cousins Center, Bishop Blase Cupich, bishop of the Diocese of Rapid City, S.D., termed implementation of the translation as “a fresh opportunity to do renewal of liturgy for your people.”

A member of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Scripture Translation since 2002, Bishop Cupich said that thorough catechesis would be needed to prepare people for the changes.

“We need a coordinated, massive, comprehensive introduction to the Roman Missal within the church in this country, and presented in a way that allows Catholics throughout the country to understand what is happening and to use it as an opportunity to renew the liturgy,” he said.

History of liturgical language

Bishop Cupich reviewed the early history of liturgical language, noting that for nearly 10 centuries, Mass was celebrated in the vernacular. In the sixth century, a body of Latin hymns, prayers and rubrics were compiled and used by those who knew Latin. Five centuries later, Latin, already the language of scholarship, philosophy and science, became the language of worship.

The bishop said that “there are some schools of thought today who challenge the need for a language of the people” because they see people participating spiritually or intellectually in the liturgy. But he refuted that, referring to the words of Pope Paul VI from 1965, when the pontiff cited the vernacular “to be necessary to make its prayer understandable and grasped by all. The good of the faithful calls for this kind of action, making possible their active share in the church’s worship … (the vernacular) means that you, the faithful, so that you may be able to united yourselves more closely to the church’s prayer, pass over from being simple spectators to becoming active participants.”

Not ‘reform of reform’

Bishop Cupich cautioned, “This is not ‘reform of the reform’ – all that language we’re hearing from people who have an axe to grind or who are trying to cause trouble for the church; this is an ongoing attempt to try and have an actual translation of the Latin into vernacular. This is the first time in the history of the church we have done this; we have to be patient with ourselves.”

The bishop explained why an accurate translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal, published in 2000, was needed.

“English is seen as the universal language. Texts throughout the world take their translations from the English,” he said. “There is concern that the English translation is as accurate as possible so that when others use it, they are not distanced from the Latin.”

As an example, he noted that “many of the prayers” in the second Latin edition (1975) translated into English (1985) “address God as though we were telling God something as opposed to praising God for who he was.”

“The reason we say, ‘Dominus vobiscum’ (The Lord be with you) and ‘Et cum spiri tu tuo’ (And with your spirit) as a people in response is not that we are addressing the priest who had said that; we’re addressing Christ whose presence the priest represents,” Bishop Cupich said. “We’re addressing the person of Christ. You are ordained in spirit to be Christ present. The risen Christ is there. We believe that the risen Christ was there, present.”

Noting that all other language groups use “And with your Spirit,” the bishop added, “This is an example of the nuances that were lost in the early translations.… What is being proposed offers a richness that we’ve missed.…”

Opportunity for spiritual growth

He told the priests not to “be pulled between the NCR (National Catholic Reporter) and the Wanderer (newspapers),” but to learn as much as they could about the changes, to “defuse hot wires by engaging in intelligent discussion” and helping people answer the question, “What is this translation offering us in the renewal of liturgy?”

Bishop Cupich said that in his diocese he was taking a “hopeful approach” in explaining the changes, emphasizing the opportunity for spiritual growth they provided.

“We hear a lot today from a lot of folks that there is a lack of belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But I think the real problem is that people don’t really understand that Christ was truly risen; he’s active and working in our midst,” he said. “We come together at Sunday Eucharist not to fulfill our obligation as we do to be with the Lord, the risen one, in our midst, to renew us, to change our lives, to transform us.”

He encouraged the priests to examine the possibilities the new translation would provide.

“Just think in your imagination what we could create in this country if the bishops together decided that the catechesis for this new Roman Missal would be done within the same period of time at every parish in the country,” Bishop Cupich said. ”We would create the best of renewal and enthusiasm within our Catholic Church that we haven’t seen in a long time.”