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The Roman Missal: Embracing the New Translation View Comments
By Father Richard Hilgartner

SOON WE WILL BE noticing some changes at Mass. At the beginning of Advent, newly translated prayers will be used at liturgy in the dioceses of the United States (and throughout the English-speaking world). In this article, we’ll take a look at the reasons behind those changes. They offer us a chance to understand more deeply the liturgy itself.

The Roman Missal, source of the prayers, is now in its third edition. It is marked by a shift from the style of language of its predecessors. The first and second editions of the Roman Missal in English (formerly called the Sacramentary), officially introduced in 1974 and 1985, respectively, were marked by a style of English that was immediately accessible and easy to understand. The prayers themselves, though, were not always accurate translations of the original Latin texts.

The Roman Missal, Third Edition, on the other hand, makes use of a more formal style of English. Its translation from Latin to English was completed in 2010; the new translation is now ready for use in U.S. parishes. The prayers are intended to be more literal renderings of the original Latin texts so that the meaning contained in them is accurately expressed in English.

Listening to and praying the prayers of the Mass, essential ingredients of active participation in the liturgy, will require some work. Some background on the nature of the prayers, the principles of translation and the purpose of liturgical prayer will help all of us to take up this work.


Father Richard Hilgartner is executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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