I don’t usually like to talk about religion on my blog, but this time I want to. Yesterday was the day that the New Roman Missal was launched in Roman Catholic churches across the United States. Supposedly, it’s the biggest overhaul of the wordings and prayers since Vatican II in the 1960s. And because it’s a big change, and many don’t like change, there are those who are against it.
Before the changes were implemented at Mass yesterday, I went to several seminars at my church that explained why each change was made and the clear reasoning behind it. For the first time, all of the English-speaking countries in the world (Australia, England, the US, etc.) will have one version of the Missal – not many different ones, as it has been in the past. This promotes unity, which is important because the meaning of “catholic” is “universal.”
The new Missal is also a more direct translation of the Latin words that were used in Mass before Vatican II. At first, I didn’t get it. I thought to myself, “If we’re going to a translation that’s closer to the Latin, then why not just go back to Latin?” And my theory on that is that the use of Latin in the Mass alienated people – they felt removed from the service because they could not understand, a big part of the reason why the Mass changed to the vernacular.
The new translation also comes more directly from the Bible – things we say in Mass are taken almost word for word from the Bible, which draws the whole experience (celebrating Mass and reading the Bible) together. Scripture matches the prayers and the responses we say at Mass. It’s satisfying.
I know that there are many out there who disagree with the changes, and I can understand why. But we have to remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect translation. The Bible’s true message has been translated and worked over so many times throughout history that it is very different from the way it was in its original languages when it was first written – and even that is very different from how it was when Bible stories were told orally. Each denomination of Christianity has its own translation of the Bible, which has resulted in countless versions and translations over the years – and each denomination thinks their translation is the “right” one.
Basically, humanity is deeply flawed and the world we have built is not perfect. We do the best we can with what we have and where history has brought us. We should realize this and not expect perfection anywhere, in our translations or in our religions. If you’re Catholic, I recommend that you approach the new translations with an open mind and an open heart.