Since the First Sunday of Advent, the Catholic Church in Britain and in other parts of the English-speaking world has been using the complete new translation of the Missale omanum authorised by Blessed Pope John Paul II and published in Latin in 2000.
Some of the texts were first introduced at the beginning of September and this gradual introduction was a prudent pastoral measure which has been widely appreciated by the clergy, religious and lay faithful. It is too early to give anything other than first impressions. These impressions fall into two categories: from those who proclaim the texts, bishops and priests, and from those who hear them, the lay faithful and religious.
Since the Lectionary from which the Scriptural readings are proclaimed remains unchanged the lay faithful are not called upon as individuals (for example, lay readers) to proclaim any of the newly translated texts. The new translation for the congregation is evident in the modification of the responses.
Those who spoke and wrote pessimistically that the new translation would cause widespread discontent have been shown to be wrong. As with anything new, some of the responses and prayers take a little getting used to, in particular the Prefaces and Canons of the Mass.
One area of agreement in England and Wales, Scotland and Australia, is on the quality and production of the Missal, and the various editions published by the Catholic Truth Society (CTS) under the incisive and thoughtful leadership of Fergal Martin, its general secretary. Fergal was born in Birmingham, and his parents, devotees of Blessed John Henry Newman, attended Mass at the Birmingham Oratory in Edgbaston.
During a recent wide-ranging interview Fergal told me: “When we presented the Missal to the Holy Father at the Vatican he leafed through the book and paused on one of the illustrated pages and commented on how important it was for liturgical books to be beautiful.” Fergal explained that the CTS has published various editions of the Missal. “There are what are called the ‘ritual editions’, the definitive and complete texts, used during the liturgical celebration – that is, the large missal, or book, which the priest uses.
“I think we are the only publisher who offered this book in three sizes. Our research indicated that a large ‘altar edition’ for use in every Church was the primary need. There were also other environments and liturgical settings where a smaller, medium-sized replica of the same book might be necessary, such as convents, monasteries and schools. There was definitely a need for something more portable, easy to bring for a celebration elsewhere. Thus, the ‘chapel edition’ was born.
“Also, there was a requirement for a handy small desk volume of the missal, for reference and liturgical preparations, ideal for the presbytery bookshelf or parish desk. So what CTS call the ‘study edition’ has also been produced.
“Then we have what are known as ‘people’s editions’. That is, the Sunday missal and the daily missal, which many Catholics will have at home or bring to Mass with them. These contain the Order of Mass and the Lectionary readings.” Fergal added: “In the Sunday and daily missals we decided to take an original approach. We have put all the prayers of the Mass in both Latin and English in parallel double columns, so that people can more easily see where these new translations have come from.” Asked which particular CTS publication he and his family had chosen to use and why, Fergal paused for a moment and replied: “We are using the daily and the Sunday missal. My wife, Carmen and I like to prepare for Mass with the children beforehand, by looking at the readings, and one or two of the prayers that might provide a key to the liturgy of that week.
“I have always been greatly helped by what a priest told me: ‘The Church believes what she prays, and prays what she believes.’ That is a great help.” During the past few weeks priests and lay faithful in parishes up and down the length and breadth of the land have asked how the CTS went about the mammoth task of publishing the Roman Missal, the most challenging and complex project in its 145-year history.
Fergal, the man who helped to mastermind the project explained: “Technology today makes such projects far easier than for our predecessors: I think of all those publishers in the past who had so many amazing challenges to face and met them all with skill and tenacity in order to produce beautiful books. Piero Finaldi, our project manager on the missals, felt keenly we should emulate that tradition, that heritage.
“Without any exaggeration: by invoking the Lord’s help and inspiration every day, and giving it endless thought and preparation. We were researching models and possibilities for over a year before we were even invited to tender, along with other publishers.
“The team here dissected every edition of a Missal they could find, like taking a bicycle apart to see how it all sticks together: what made it beautiful, what it lacked. We knew we needed to engage the skills of a top-class printer and binder: the ‘ritual editions’ are in one sense essentially highly technical assembly jobs, drawing together paper, leather, bindings, ribbons, tabs, texts, art and music and assembling them into one elegant volume.
“On the other hand, editorially it is a labour of love: choosing the art, the colours, the design elements, the page layout, the subtle interweaving of design and elements of the liturgical year, and above all meeting the highest standard that the Church herself lays down for such liturgical books and their translation. Even the line breaks within a sentence are subject to rigid guidance and copyright.” He paused for a few moments, then said: “The CTS team was headed by Piero, who has been with us for more than 12 years, together with CTS production staff, Glenda Swain and Corre Ruse, who formated and designed all the elements. A team of freelancers fed all corrections and checks to Piero at our office based in Vauxhall, south London.
“Throughout the project, Piero was in constant contact with the three bishops’ conferences – England and Wales, Scotland and Australia – their readers and checkers, as well as our own internal liturgical publications group and clergy advisers. There were also periodic visits to our Italian printers and binders who were a joy to work with.
“My own background is legal publishing, starting life as a trainee barrister many moons ago. I have been at CTS now for 16 years, and like many of the staff here my Catholic faith is extremely important to me. I consider it a rare privilege to have been entrusted with a project of this importance.” Fergal continued: “Notwithstanding the tremendous work involved in preparing the Missal the CTS was still able to prepare some pastoral aids to help with the introduction of the new translation. These booklets have proved to have been very successful and much appreciated. Among them were three well received booklets: Understanding the Roman Missal, Participating in the Mass and A Simple Guide to the Mass by Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, a distinguished liturgist.” Asked if the CTS planned to publish further pastoral liturgical publications by this and other authors during 2012, Fergal replied: “Yes. We are developing a series of booklets on ‘living the liturgy’, which we hope will renew people’s interest and be a good source of information and even rediscovery. The booklets by Abbot Cuthbert really do hit the mark, meeting the average, normal Mass-goer at just the right level.” As the interview drew to a close Fergal gave a characteristic smile and said: “I am delighted that our various editions of the new translation of the Roman Missal have been so enthusiastically received.
“I should like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who works with the CTS and especially our members and donors who encourage and support us in so many ways, and wish them and all the readers of The Catholic Herald a very happy and peaceful Christmas 2011.” Peter Jennings is a journalist, writer and broadcaster. He wrote/edited Benedict XVI And Blessed John Henry Newman, The State Visit, September 2010, The Official Record