After a decade of work, the greatest liturgical milestone for American Catholics since the 1970s is right around the corner: The Vatican has approved a new English translation of the Roman Missal, and the U.S. bishops have fixed the roll-out date in the nation’s parishes for the beginning of Advent 2011.
“The use of the third edition of the Roman Missal enters into use in the dioceses of the United States of America as of the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, 2011. From that date forward, no other edition of the Roman Missal may be used in the dioceses of the United States of America,” stated Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in his Aug. 20 letter to the nation’s bishops.
In addition to the translation work, the U.S. bishops’ conference, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and other national and international liturgical organizations have devoted the last two years to preparing texts and catechetical materials designed to smooth the transition to the new translation of the Mass and deepen appreciation for the more accurate language of the texts. Now that the entire translation has been approved, those materials will be key during the full year needed to get the published text into the pews.
In late June, the Vatican formally signed off on the translation and issued guidelines for publication. A month later, approval was given for additional prayers for the penitential act at Mass, the renewal of baptismal promises on Easter Sunday, and for American feasts including Thanksgiving, Independence Day, and the observances of saints’ feast days for Damien of Molokai, Katharine Drexel and Elizabeth Ann Seton. A “Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life,” which can be celebrated on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, was also approved.
Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, noted in prepared remarks, “I am happy that after years of preparation, we now have a text that, when introduced late next year, will enable the ongoing renewal of the celebration of the sacred liturgy in our parishes.”
The fruit of a lengthy — and, at times, contentious — dialogue among bishops in the United States and among bishops’ conferences throughout the English-speaking world, the introduction of the new translation is viewed as a golden opportunity to advance the “New Evangelization” in the life of the Church.
“From the very beginning, the Church has held to this axiom: The way we pray reveals what we believe. The law of prayer is the law of our faith,” noted Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia.
Cardinal Rigali is a veteran of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy and the Vox Clara committee established by Pope John Paul II to aid the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in supervising the English translation. He noted that the translation process was closely followed by both the Congregations for Divine Worship and the Doctrine of the Faith.
“If the whole of Catholic doctrine is expressed in our liturgy, it’s fitting that both Vatican congregations collaborated on the translation,” said the cardinal.
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