"For All" vs. "for Many"

And More on Hand Missals

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ROME, NOV. 8, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Being part of the English world, I will be celebrating the Eucharist with the new translation from the first Sunday of Advent 2011. Even though I have grown to appreciate the translation I have used since my ordination, I am willing to adopt the new translation. In fact, to those who complain, I suggest we should have a «new» translation for every new generation so that we never become so used to the words that we fall into the trap of mechanical recitation. However, there is one word which I cannot for the time being accept to use. That is the word «many» in place of «all» in the prayer of consecration. I have read all the theological explanations, but for as long as I hear the Pope pray «per tutti» in Italian, then why should I restrict it to «per molti»? Will I be guilty of disobedience if I continue using «for all» until I observe that all other languages — and especially the Holy Father — also reduce it to «many»? — F.D., South Africa

A: With all due respect, Father, I think you would not have asked the question if you did not already suspect the answer.

If you go ahead with this idea, then effectively you would be guilty of disobedience and perhaps also be a source of scandal and doctrinal confusion to the faithful. It is important for us priests to remember that the faithful have a sacred right to receive from us the liturgy that the Church proposes and not our personal ideas and inclinations.

You are also aware that the application of liturgical translations is territorial. The fact that the Italian bishops have not yet completed their new translation, or that the change has been applied in Spanish in many Latin-American countries but not yet in Spain, is a technical matter. Each language and country will go at its own pace, and we cannot arbitrarily decide to go against the Holy See and the bishops’ conference because of a bureaucratic backlog in some other country.

English is in the forefront for many good reasons, not least among them being that the new translation will be a de facto model for many other countries lacking specialists in liturgical Latin.

As you have read the doctrinal arguments in favor of this change (see our column of May 24, 2011), you are surely aware that this linguistic adjustment in favor of a more accurate translation of the Latin changes nothing in Catholic doctrine with respect to Christ’s dying for all. Because of this, the Pope and any other priest can say «for many» when celebrating in Latin, French, Polish, Spanish and soon English, while still saying «for all» in those languages where the translation is still a work in progress.

Therefore, I would suggest, that instead of unreasonably creating confusion among the faithful and possible conflict with your fellow priests, it would be much better to put aside your personal views and make use of the change as an opportunity to explain to the faithful the meaning behind the changes, especially the ideas mentioned in the letter from the Holy See mandating the change. To wit:

«d. ‘For many’ is a faithful translation of pro multis, whereas ‘for all’ is rather an explanation of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis.

«e. The expression ‘for many,’ while remaining open to the inclusion of each human person, is reflective also of the fact that this salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one’s willing or participation; rather, the believer is invited to accept in faith the gift that is being offered and to receive the supernatural life that is given to those who participate in this mystery, living it out in their lives as well so as to be numbered among the ‘many’ to whom the text refers.»

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Follow-up: Use of a Hand Missal at Mass

Several readers wrote in asking for clarifications on the Oct. 25 piece regarding the use of hand missals.

First, let me clarify that as far as possible I try to ground my replies on some official document rather than simply give my opinion. In this case, practically the only official document that touched upon the theme was the one we quoted from the U.S. bishops. That document discouraged using participative aids for the readings. It is an official document but is admittedly fairly low level, and is more concerned with practical than with spiritual matters.

When I said that the «general preference» was to discourage the use of hand missals, I was taking my cue from the original question, which referred to bishops and priests. By «general preference» I meant the opinion of a large sector of liturgists and pastoralists. I did not refer to official documents, since the only one I found was the above-mentioned text which simply reflects the «general preference» among specialists.

Since my personal views have been requested, as a good Irishman, I will attempt to simultaneously argue both sides of the question.

First of all, we must recognize that the authentic ideal of active participation is above all an interior union with Christ’s mystery. External participation should manifest interior participation but cannot substitute for it.

From the point of view of external participation the ideal situation is that the Liturgy of the Word be so well proclaimed, and the faithful so attentive to what the Lord desires to tell them, that there should be no need or desire to follow along by reading the texts. After all, if we are unable to follow the readings, how can we hope to follow the homily?

At the same time, it is fair to say that achieving this ideal is infrequent at best. Readers are often less than polished, microphones less than pristine, and even attentive priests and faithful can fail to memorize the psalm response on the first go. Besides all this there are people who are hard of hearing or who have to keep an eye on young children, etc.

Therefore, my personal opinion is that while the faithful should be formed to aspire to the ideal external situation, this situation should never be imposed. Each pastor should freely determine what participative aids are needed in his community. Each member of the faithful should freely decide as to what best helps him or her to achieve authentic interior active participation. A person who finds that following the missal helps get more out of the readings should not be discouraged from doing so.

It might not be the ideal from the point of view of external participation, but here internal participation has the priority.

Some readers suggested that one reason in favor of using the missal was to keep certain ministers in line. One reader wrote: «It was common (and still is) for lectors and priests to modify words they read — the prescribed prayers and Scripture itself — or even replace them altogether, particularly with so-called inclusive language. However, how is anyone to know if the liturgical texts being proclaimed are actually the prescribed texts? Only if the laity does in fact read along could such liturgical abuses be detected.»

Our reader was not suggesting that this is a principal reason to use missals. Personally, I do not agree that this would be even a good secondary reason for doing so. I am certainly against all improper improvisation, but I would insist that the use of missals should be motivated exclusively on the basis of fostering better participation at Mass.

In other words, if abuse is detected as a result of following along with the text, then that is fine and good. But it should never be a motivation for doing so, as this would be a cause of constant distraction and impede full active participation.

I would also disagree with the suggestion made by some correspondents that the use of missals was discouraged in order to favor such ad-libbing by ministers. I believe, rather, that those who discouraged the use of these p
articipative aids were motivated by a sincere desire to promote active participation as they saw best.

I believe it is possible to share the same goal while maintaining sincere differences of opinion as to the best means of achieving it.

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Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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