Peter Westfield reflects on the opportunities and challenges presented by the new translation of the Roman Missal and recommends some useful resources
The new translation of the Roman Missal presents parishes which use the Roman Rite with both opportunities and challenges. Perhaps the greatest of the opportunities is the scope which introducing the new translation gives for reflection and teaching on the Mass, Introducing the new translation is a chance to examine how we perform our liturgies, and how they might be improved.
At the same time, the challenges are vast: there will be pastoral implications to using the new translation, as congregations have to learn new music and new forms of the Ordinary of the Mass. This is perhaps summed up most concisely in the response to ‘The Lord be with you,’ which changes from ‘And also with you’ to ‘And with your spirit.’
There are several approaches to thechanges which may prove helpful. It is important to emphasize that the purpose of the new translation is to provide a liturgy which is more faithful to the original Latin, and that the change is not a local decision but one which affects English-speaking catholic Christians across the world: but it may be of more practical use to highlight the ways in which the new words bear striking similarities to those of Dr Cranmer’s Prayer Book!
In addition to the official material, a number of publishers have produced books which are designed to accompany the new translation. Probably the best value for money is Mgr Bruce Harbert’s Companion to the Order of Mass (CTS, 96pp, pbk, 978 1860827365, £2.50) in the Living the Liturgy series from CTS. This little book is an excellent commentary on the Mass, accompanied by several beautiful colour pictures. The CTS website
Two other publications which I have found useful are The New Missal: Explaining the Changes (Patrick Jones et al., Veritas, 64pp, pbk, 978 1847302724, £7.49) from the (Irish) National Centre for Liturgy; and At the Supper of the Lamb: A Pastoral and Theological Commentary on the Mass (Paul Turner, Liturgy Training Publications, 176pp, pbk, 978 1568549217, £13.50) from the Archdiocese of Chicago. The former is particularly good on what has changed and why; the latter takes the form of a detailed commentary on the Mass, with extracts from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, a short background article on each liturgical action, and questions for discussion and reflection. It could thus be used equally profitably by individuals or by a group, and like much of the other material here will be of value long after the changes are well embedded. My only quibble is that the layout could be clearer.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of material available to help introduce the changes, both practically and on a catechetical level. A short article such as this cannot hope to provide a comprehensive list of such material, but it is hoped that it will at least give the reader an idea of the sort of thing which is available.
It may be sensible to start with the official channels. The website of the Liturgy Office for England and Wales
ICEL has also commissioned an interactive DVD, Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ, which is based around five foundational essays onto which are added a variety of videos, graphics, music and text files to create a wide-ranging catechetical resource. I did not find the DVD particularly easy to navigate, and I am not a great lover of ‘talking heads’ videos, but nonetheless, there is a lot of excellent material on the DVD. More information can be found at