Fr. Paul Kavanagh, director of liturgy for the Edmonton Archdiocese, displays the new Roman Missal, which will be implemented across Canada on Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent.


Fr. Paul Kavanagh, director of liturgy for the Edmonton Archdiocese, displays the new Roman Missal, which will be implemented across Canada on Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent.

November 21, 2011

When Catholics begin using the new Roman Missal on the first Sunday of Advent, they will find an "awesomeness" to the new translation that maybe wasn't as present in the previous incarnation, said Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast.

The new translation will mark the shift from using principles of "dynamic equivalence" to "formal equivalence" on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27. Its aim is to improve the liturgy, said Prendergast.

"It's an historic moment in the life of the Church and the English-speaking world."

The new, more literal translation of the original Latin text will give particular attention to maintaining biblical references and avoid simplifying the words and phrases into contemporary terms.

The current translation, in effect for about 40 years, was primarily concerned with how the translated text would be understood by the community for which it was being translated and was often simplified to reflect contemporary English usage.

"The hope is that the higher register of the vocabulary and the restoration of biblical allusions will enrich our life of prayer, heightening reverence and making the liturgy more solemn, more beautiful," Prendergast said in an interview.

Prendergast was the Canadian representative on the Vox Clara Committee, formed to oversee the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

In 2000, Blessed John Paul II announced the third edition of the Roman Missal. While the order of the Mass will stay the same, many things have happened since the last edition was implemented including additional Eucharistic Prayers and the canonization of many saints, whose feast days were added to the liturgical calendar.

As well, in 2001, the Holy See changed the manner in which liturgical texts are to be translated to ensure accuracy and faithfulness to their Latin origins in a document called On the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publication of the Books of the Roman Liturgy.

The statement was issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Some of the more noticeable changes for churchgoers include the much-used response "And also with you" being replaced by "And with your spirit."

The invitation to Communion now includes the words "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof," while the Penitential Act includes "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."

But the prayer that has undergone the most change is the Gloria, said Prendergast.

"When translators translated it in the 1970s, they not only abbreviated it but they rearranged the wording," he said. What was lost in translation was the going overboard with praise of God. "We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you" has now been added.


The language itself won't bring people closer to the liturgy, said Toronto Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau. "It's understanding why they say it which will bring people especially close to the liturgy."

Boissonneau said the new translation will make the scriptural roots of the prayers a "little more clear."

"We'll be speaking the same language in our liturgy as we do in the reading of the Scriptures."

Father Gilles Mongeau, director of the master of divinity program at Toronto's Regis College, offers an online course on the changes to the new Missal along with a day-long workshop.


Mongeau said the more formal language will help people focus their attention on the sacred and let them hear all the scriptural elements in the prayers.

"If you don't hear that, you don't realize just how profoundly we are made to enter into the world of the Bible when you are at Mass," he said.

"This new Missal is an occasion for us to . . . put a little bit of effort again - both priests and people – into what Vatican II calls "full and active participation in the liturgy."

Christian McConnell, who teaches liturgy and the history of the liturgy at the University of St. Michael's College, thinks the changes will get a mixed reaction.

"But already, there are people who are reacting positively to it because the more formal nature of the language strikes them as more lofty and more appropriate for the sacredness of worship."

McConnell said parishioners can expect some clumsiness and awkwardness in the sound of the translations, "because good Latin style and good English style aren't exactly the same."

"That's the trade-off if you adopt a formal equivalence approach. You're prioritizing the accuracy of one word after another over the question of what good style would be in the receptor language."

For more information, see

Letter to the Editor - 12/05/11