11/16/2011 12:07:00 PM New translations recover richness of Latin, says monk
Catholic Sentinel photo
Fr. Jeremy Driscoll talks about the process behind the new Missal translation.
ST. BENEDICT — Translating a text from another language, particularly one of ancient origin, isn’t just a matter of matching words and grammar.
“It’s also looking at a whole world of thought and feeling that are inextricably entwined,” said Benedictine Father Jeremy Driscoll, a theologian who spoke in October to a crowd at Mount Angel Abbey about the English translation of the Roman Missal. New translations go into effect Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent, the biggest change to the Mass since the 1960s. The Abbey’s series of talks, Christian in the World, focused on the change and had a larger-than-usual turnout.
However, debate started in earnest in the 1980s, regarding concerns of the English translation. For the past 10 years, Father Jeremy and members of Vox Clara painstakingly reviewed every line of the Roman Missal. The changes, he said, are not about trying to produce texts from scratch, but about trying to more accurately produce the richness of Latin.
“This is not just about the next six months,” Father Jeremy said to the crowd. “It’s about years and generations to come, people who are going to be praying long after we’re gone.” Change becomes necessary because language is alive and always evolving, he said.
“The decision to celebrate the liturgy in vernacular languages is an obvious good when the majority of the worshipping community no longer understands Latin well,” Father Jeremy said to the Catholic Sentinel in 2010. “But when we think of this happening in many languages around the world, it is important for Catholic unity to strive to keep all the vernacular languages as close to the Latin original as possible. Otherwise, as the decades and generations pass, Catholics in English speaking countries will have very different experiences of the faith than those in, say, Spanish or German or French or many other language groups.”
Catholics will note three main types of differences in the new translation, Father Jeremy said. There are longer sentences, a higher linguistic register and a broader vocabulary.
Some of the changes have been criticized. Father Jeremy pointed out that if a line sounds strange, it may indicate there is more to be learned by worshippers about the context and meaning.
He cited the Nicene Creed for example, which has structural changes from “we” to “I.” This is a closer translation of the Latin and, on another level, lets Catholics take personal responsibility for what they are saying, Father Jeremy said.
Another presentation, featuring Benedictine Father Paschal Cheline, will take place at Mount Angel on Dec. 10. The cost to attend the talks, “The New Roman Missal: Much Ado About Nothing, Much Ado About Something,” is $15.
Father Driscoll has been a monk of Mount Angel Abbey since 1973. In 1983, he earned an advanced degree in patristics from the Augustinianum Patristic Institute in Rome. He has been teaching theology in Mount Angel Seminary since then. In 1990, Father Jeremy was awarded a theological degree from the Pontifical Athenaeum Sant’Anselmo in Rome, writing his thesis on ancient Egyptian monasticism.
He has published three books and 15 scholarly articles on the topic. He also teaches at Sant’Anselmo. In 2002, Father Jeremy was named as advisor to the Vox Clara (“clear voice”) Commission for the Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican, which oversaw the new English language translations for Mass.
In 2004, he was chosen for the Pontifical Academy of Theology and the next year was appointed by Pope John Paul as consulter to the Congregation for Divine Worship. Father Jeremy remembers when the liturgy changed to English when he was a 10-year-old. It was a beautiful gift, he said, for people to be able to pray in English.
For more information, log on to www.mountangelabbey.org/library/christian-in-the-world.html.