Translation of Roman Missal unites English-speaking church

The celebration of Mass is more than personal prayer and is meant to help people connect with Catholics around the world, believes Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, executive  director of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

So it is important to have a consistent order of liturgy and prayers that reflect the original Latin text of liturgy as accurately as possible, in order to help people understand their place in the wider church, the British priest told Catholic News Service yesterday.

“Liturgy is something we receive from the church, not something we make for ourselves,” Msgr. Wadsworth explained.

“We all have to bear in mind we’re not talking about personal prayer. … We’re talking about something that is the prayer of the  whole church. Liturgy is a corporate act,” he said.

Msgr. Wadsworth, a priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster (London), has spent his two years as executive director of the organization  known as ICEL explaining the significance of the translation, which is being implemented beginning in Advent in the United States. Elsewhere, the English translation has been introduced in segments throughout 2011 (or earlier) so that it will be fully in place at the start of Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year.

ICEL includes 11 bishops’ conferences as members and 22 others as affiliates.

Msgr. Wadsworth acknowledged that the new translation includes more formal language than that to which people have been accustomed. The translation has received some criticism from a limited number of liturgists, clergy and people in the pews for language that can sound awkward.

“Theology has its own vocabulary,” Msgr. Wadsworth said. “(The translation) generally expressed the idea that a lot of people thought that the  general dignity of the language should be of an elevated style.”

In conversations with CNS, liturgical directors in most of the 11 English-speaking countries that are ICEL members said the implementation has moved forward largely as planned with few delays or criticisms.

In his travels around the world, Msgr. Wadsworth has seen the same basic question arise from priests and people in the pews alike at almost every stop: “Why?”

“It’s really important to speak to that to explain that the translation that we currently use was thought to a have relatively short shelf life, 10 years. We’ll have had this 40 years,” he said.

Rest assured that the future will bring new translations of the Roman Missal as Catholics work to understand the original texts upon which the translations are based, the priest from the English Midlands said.