Ecclesiastes 1:9

Brothers and Sisters,

There was a mistake that the bishops of the United States made decades ago that was only recently corrected.  Nearly half a century ago, the Vatican allowed the Mass to be translated from the original and official Latin into local languages.  Translating, as you may know, is a very difficult job for anyone; not only does that translator need intimate knowledge of both languages, but further needed is excellent knowledge of the meaning of phrase to be translated.

For example, think of how many words we have in English that roughly equate to the word “good.”  If I needed to translate the word “bonum” from Latin I would need to decide from good, virtuous, special, extraordinary, great, excellent, outstanding, brilliant, exceptional, splendid, and many others – all of which are accurate translations from the Latin bonum.  To translate the word accurately, I would need to understand the word in the context the whole sentence and the meaning of the phrase.

You may remember the jarring experience back in December of 2011 when we began the new translation of the Mass (changing, among other things, “and also with you” to “and with your spirit”).  To be clear, the original Latin text has not changed (“et cum spiritu tuo”), the only thing that changed was the English translation.  How did the translation change so wildly?

Well, the “last straw” was a blatant mistake that could only have been intentional.  In the Eucharistic Prayer, we now pray that “from the rising of the Sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to Your Name,” and this is indeed what the original Latin says (“a solis ortu usque ad occasum oblatio munda offeratus nomini tuo”).  However the English translation given to us up until December 2011 said “from East to West a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.”

Alarmingly, the notes from the translators indicate that the words “East to West” were specifically chosen to address the Cold War, which was at its height when the translation became official; the translators wanted to change the worship of the Holy Faith based on the international conflict. That notion is backwards; rather, we should change how we deal with anything and anyone based on the Holy Faith, precisely because the Church is above politics.  In short, here’s how the famously outspoken Catholic philosopher G.K. Chesterton put it:

to most people of the world, the Church looks like it is behind the times, in actuality the Church is beyond the times.

God be near,

Father Jeremy