FCLC Reacts to New Translation of Catholic Mass


Catholic Mass changes can be found at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, across the street from FCLC. (Laura Chang/The Observer)


Catholic Mass changes can be found at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, across the street from FCLC. (Laura Chang/The Observer)

The Roman Catholic Church began a new liturgical year by celebrating Mass with a new English translation of the Roman Missal intended to be truer to the Latin original. On Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent, student and faculty alike from Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) saw the introduction of the Roman Missal, Third Edition as both a blessing and a challenge.

Advent is the liturgical season in which the Catholic Church prepares for the birth of Christ at Christmas, lasting exactly four weeks and four Sundays before Christmas.

Reacting to this change, students remained optimistic, but questioned the reasoning behind the alterations. Kiara Shepherd, FCLC ’12 and a member of St. Pius V Catholic Parish in Jamaica, Queens, shared her experience.

“I was drop-kicked into this new spiritual place. I had to ask, can you explain this to me again?” Shepherd said. “ ‘And with your spirit?’ This is new.”

She continued and said that she felt the changes to the liturgy were rather sudden.  “I felt like it all happened in the course of a summer, and now we have to know all of this new stuff by Nov. 27; they could’ve given people more warning and they could’ve explained it better,” Shepherd said. “It’s easy to remember the new responses and spit it back, but for people who really care about this, the question is, why?”

According to Thomas J. Scirghi, S.J., associate professor of theology at Fordham, the idea of revising the English translation of the Roman Missal dates back to its original translation published in 1973. It is the rubric used for the celebration of mass. Scirghi said that ever since the translation, there were some complaints.  “[T]hese complaints gathered steam after years,” he said. “The opponents of the Missal claimed that the translation was rushed, since, after Vatican II when it was decided that we would pray in the vernacular, there was a call for the new translations as soon as possible.”

Pope John Paul II added further momentum behind the argument by suggesting a new translation of the Missal with the Jubilee year in 2000.  “And when the pope suggests something,” Scirghi said, “it had better happen.”

According to a document released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops (USCCB), this year’s completed new translation includes “prayers for the celebration of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Masses and prayers for various needs and intentions, and some updated and revised rubrics for the celebration of the Mass.”

Reactions to this have been mixed, but many see the new translation as an opportunity for further learning.  “I see an analogy in preparing for class,” said Rev. John McDonagh, S.T.L., “the book demands more of us and it does demand preparation to look over the text.  But this is perfect for university life as it invites a number of points for reflection that make themselves known.”

In addition, Scirghi said that he sees this goal playing out in the Missal as well. “I think the idea is that it should elevate the way we pray.”

He said that the language of the Missal differs from the language of the street.  “We might talk here on the street quite informally, but if the pope were to walk in then we would be rather formal with him,” Scirghi said. “So in certain contexts, in certain situations we use a more formal language, in this case a sacred language, and it reminds us that we are in the presence of God.”

However, Judith M. Kubicki, C.S.S.F., associate professor of theology at Fordham, cited the importance of keeping possibilities open for the implementation of the new Missal as well for improvement upon it.

Kubicki said that there are no guarantees. “The thing we need to hope for is that somehow through these texts we will pray, and hopefully pray better,” she said. “But I think the proof of whether it will be better will be tested by time.”