Which English Translation to Use Abroad

And More on Kneeling at Mass

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ROME, JULY 12, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: At least two new English translations of the Roman Missal will be put into use this year. England and Wales will implement their translation in September; the United States will implement its in November. My question regards which translation should be used for Masses in English when celebrating in Rome. Are the translations the same? Is one to be preferred? — J.M., Rome

A: Although this question specifically refers to Rome, which has some special characteristics, its scope is wider than the Eternal City. It is of interest in all places where Mass in English is celebrated in countries where English is not an official liturgical language.

By the end of the current year most native English-speaking countries will have introduced the new translation of the Roman Missal.

In English-speaking countries, and in countries that use English in the liturgy as a common second language, the bishops’ conferences either publish their own missal or determine which version is to be used. These countries roughly correspond to the full and associate members of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). The full members are: Australia, Canada, England and Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Scotland, South Africa and the United States. Associate members are: the Antilles, Bangladesh, CEPAC (Pacific Islands), Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, Malaysia-Singapore, Malawi, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. With rare exceptions, only the approved Missal is permitted for use within the country.

For all other countries a priest who celebrates Mass in English may use any approved version of the new English-language missal.

Exceptions to this general rule of thumb would be Masses celebrated in embassies, extraterritorial military bases, or the various national colleges in Rome which naturally use the missal of their respective countries. They are also usually allowed to use the calendar and particular liturgical uses of the home country. Parishes set up to attend to the needs of particular nationalities may also do likewise.

At the same time, the differences in the versions are slight and on most days the missals would be perfectly interchangeable.

The differences between the missal of one country and another usually involve the particular adaptations of each bishops’ conference to either the text of the missal, the liturgical calendar and the norms of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).

There are relatively few variations from one country to another in the ordinary of the Mass and in the texts that are common to the entire Church. Among variations approved for the United States are additional prayers for the penitential rite and allowing for the renewal of baptismal promises on Easter Sunday.

More common are the national propers: collections of orations and formularies for feasts and commemorations proper to each nation. Instances of such celebrations are St. George in England, St. Patrick in Ireland (as a solemnity), Our Lady Help of Christians in Australia, and special formularies for Independence Day in the United States.

Individual missals may also have texts for special celebrations such as the Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life, which can be celebrated on Jan. 22 in the United States.

Adaptations to the General Instruction also vary from country to country. Such variations are generally incorporated into the text of the GIRM itself prefixed with the phrase: «In the diocese of Country X.» The United States has many adaptations regarding elements such as the choice of music for Mass, kneeling for the Eucharistic Prayer, standing for Communion, Communion under both kinds, materials for sacred furnishings and vessels, the vesture of lay ministers, the use of white for funerals and silver and gold for solemn feasts, and the use of instruments other than the organ for the liturgy.

Under normal circumstances such particular liturgical law is local and applies only to the country for which it has been approved.

One must usually follow the calendar of the country of celebration, irrespective of the language in which the Mass is celebrated. Thus using the Irish missal in Florence or Berlin does not convert St. Patrick’s Day into a solemnity.

Nor do general permissions granted by the Holy See to a national conference travel with the missal. For example, it is always necessary to investigate the local norms regarding such things as the faculty to distribute Communion under both species, since these fall under the authority of the local bishop.

On the other hand, laws which simply codify existing customs but do not change the universal law may be followed. Thus U.S. citizens could continue to practice kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer during a European pilgrimage even though this might not be common practice in a particular country.

* * *

Follow-up: Kneeling at the Final Prayer

Related to our comments regarding kneeling for the final prayer (see June 28), a reader from Bhopal, India, wrote, «I am glad you explained the meaning of postures during the liturgy. I still have a doubt in my mind regarding ‘kneeling.’ I very well remember that the Second Vatican Council banned kneeling at Mass. I am surprised to see that you reintroduce it in your writing. We never had another council to decide on changes to be made. I believe that nobody has the legal right to go against the council decision. Could you please explain?»

I fear that our reader was misinformed regarding the decisions of Vatican II. The only conciliar statements remotely related to postures are Nos. 30-31 of Sacrosanctum Concilium:

«30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.

«31. The revision of the liturgical books must carefully attend to the provision of rubrics also for the people’s parts.»

This is hardly carte blanche to abolish kneeling, a longstanding practice which was substantially reaffirmed and mandated in the reformed rites. It would appear that it is yet another example of reforms supposedly mandated by Vatican II which cannot actually be traced in its texts.

I therefore did not «reintroduce» kneeling for the simple reason that it has never been abolished. It might be possible that in some places it has fallen into disuse because ministers gave the faithful incorrect instruction. In some cases the lack of kneeling is the result of so-called church renewals in which the kneelers were removed.

This does not appear to be the case in India, although it might be true for some regions. Indeed, priests from that country assure me that it is common practice to kneel throughout the Eucharistic Prayer and for the Lamb of God.

It is also possible that a bishops’ conference in a mission country could decide that kneeling might be interpreted negatively in the context of a particular nation’s spiritual patrimony. In such a case the episcopal conference could ask approval from the Holy See to change the postures used by the faithful during Mass.

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