About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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“The argument moves from the existence of the thing to the correctness of the thing: what is, ought to be. Or, a popular variant: if a thing is, it doesn't make any difference whether it ought to be—the correct response is to adjust, to learn to live with the thing.”
— L. Brent Bozell, Jr.
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Liturgical Translations
published 1 May 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski

534 John XXIII O OFFICIAL ENGLISH translation of the Roman Gradual has ever been created. This seems rather odd when we consider that the Gradual has always been (and remains) the first option listed in the GIRM for the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion. Some have suggested that publishers could solve this problem with a hybrid translation, mixing together bits and pieces from “currently approved” liturgical translations. The editorial committee for the Jogues Illuminated Missal seriously considered such an approach, but after much deliberation, a better path was found. The Introduction contains information about the problem and its solution, and I won’t here duplicate that information. My purpose is to delve a little bit deeper. As someone who assisted in this book’s production from the very beginning, I can speak with some authority.


REMINDER: For everything which does have an official translation (e.g. the Lectionary Readings), the Jogues Illuminated Missal uses the approved versions for the United States of America.

IN 2001, THE VATICAN ISSUED an important document 1 reminding us (§36) that vernacular translations must posses a certain “uniformity” so Catholics can more easily memorize key Scripture passages, especially the Psalter. In other words, the same Psalm verse shouldn’t be translated differently when it occurs in different places. For example, the Entrance Chant, Responsorial Psalm, and Offertory should employ the same translation.

However, we’re a long way from achieving this goal. For example, consider how verses 6-7 from Psalm 68 (67) are rendered in our current USA Lectionary (based on the NAB):

The father of orphans and the defender of widows | is God in his holy dwelling.
God gives a home to the forsaken; | he leads forth prisoners to prosperity.

This differs from the translation in the actual NAB Bible:

Father of the fatherless, defender of widows— | God in his holy abode,
God gives a home to the forsaken, | who leads prisoners out to prosperity.

The Revised Grail Psalter, which is currently approved for liturgical use (and will someday replace the current Lectionary texts), renders that same verse as follows:

Father of orphans, defender of widows: | such is God in his holy place.
God gives the desolate a home to dwell in; | he leads the prisoners forth into prosperity,

The current Roman Missal (2011) gives yet another variant for the Entrance Antiphon (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time):

God is in his holy place, | God who unites those who dwell in his house;

The current Gregorian Missal of Solesmes (2012) chose a hybrid approach, and therefore adopts the Missal translation for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. However, when an identical passage occurs in another place (Entrance Antiphon for the feast of the Holy Family), they give yet another translation:

God is in his holy dwelling place;
the God who causes us to dwell together, one at heart, in his house;

Thus, we observe five (5) different translations of the same brief Psalm passage, and all are found in current liturgical books. It should be obvious that we’re dealing with a complex problem. 2


THE PROBLEM GOES DEEPER

The problem goes deeper still. The USA liturgical books themselves are not consistent.

For example, the Latin word “QUI“ is translated three different ways for the exact same passage.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B   (source)
Qui custódit veritátem in saéculum,   =   The God of Jacob keeps faith forever,

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C   (source)
Qui custódit veritátem in saéculum,   =   Blessed is he who keeps faith forever,

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B   (source)
Qui custódit veritátem in saéculum,   =   The LORD keeps faith forever,

Hundreds more errors have been found. For example:

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A   (source)
Deus erat in Christo mundum reconcílians sibi,
et pósuit in nobis verbum reconciliatiónis.

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C   (source)
Deus erat in Christo mundum reconcílians sibi,
et pósuit in nobis verbum reconciliatiónis.

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
and entrusting to us the message of salvation.

Some might propose a lazy answer for these inconsistencies, suggesting that the differences come from Vulgate vs. Neo-Vulgate or Greek manuscripts vs. Latin. However, careful examination of my examples reveals that such an assertion is unsustainable and has no bearing whatsoever on the discepancies.


WHEN TRANSLATIONS ARE BAFFLING

Sometimes, our approved translations are nothing short of baffling. For example, consider the Responsorial Psalm that comes after the 2nd Reading during the Easter Vigil:

Official Latin Refrain
Consérva me, Deus, quóniam sperávi in te.
(source 1)   •   (source 2)
Current Lectionary Translation (2014)
You are my inheritance, O Lord.
(source)

For decades, publishers have sought permission to repair translations like this, but none has been granted. By law, all must follow the approved USA translations (which are under copyright). However, such errors would have been eliminated if people had followed the Vatican directive of 9/26/1964:

Missals to be used in the liturgy, however, shall contain besides the vernacular version the Latin text as well.   (source)


THE TRANSLATOR IS A TRAITOR

I don’t wish to enter into discussions about translation. After all, the Italians have a saying: “The translator is a traitor.” Qualified translators understand that, essentially, we translate ideas … not word-for-word. 3 At the same time, our current translations sometimes stray needlessly from the clear and traditional meaning of the text. For example:

Official Latin Antiphon from the Neo-Vulgata
R. Tu es refúgium meum, exsultatiónibus salútis circumdábis me.

Current (2014) Translation in the Lectionary
R. I turn to You, Lord, in time of trouble, and You fill me with the joy of salvation.

Some may accuse me of dwelling on insignificant discrepancies which, I concede, many priests have probably failed to notice. This isn’t surprising, since psalm paraphrases have often been employed over the past five decades. (Note: This is technically allowed by current legislation.) Furthermore, very few people realize that hundreds of “variant” texts have been approved for liturgical use in the United States, and these hardly ever resemble the official texts. For example, in a popular book by OCP, the following (approved) variant is provided for the Responsorial Psalm:

Official Lectionary Translation (2014)
Psalm 27 (26): 4
One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek:
to dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life, that I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD and contemplate his temple.
OCP Publications Variant
Psalm 27 (26): 4
One thing I know:
I want to go there,
where I can always stay,
to gaze upon your face all my days.
...

The good news regarding this “loophole” of approved variants is that Ted Marier’s beautiful responsorial psalms can still be used. Here’s an example:

      * *  Example Score — Theodore Marier Responsorial Psalm


CONCLUSIONS

I hope this brief essay has provided some additional reasons why the editors of the Jogues Missal, Lectionary, & Gradual made their choices.

The translation we chose is fully approved for liturgical use (25 March 2014). In 1990, Paul Le Voir said our translation “is distinguished by its fidelity to the original Latin and by its tastefulness.” This is not a hybrid. It’s an elegant, accurate, modern, unified translation of the Roman Gradual. Many have chosen this exact translation for use in their books, such as:

Simple English Propers (CMAA, 2011)
Lalemant Propers (Corpus Christi Watershed, 2012)
Laudate Communion Antiphons (Motyka, 2012)
Gregorian Missal (Solesmes, 1991)
Hymn Introits for the Liturgical Year (Hillenbrand Books, 2005)

No matter how many revisions of the Roman Missal, Lectionary, or ICEL Psalm Refrains appear over the years, our translation will never go out of date, owing to its inherent properties. It can also be used with other collections (which employ a variety of translations and sources) such as:

Graduale Parvum (Birmingham Oratory, 2013)
St. Louis Gradual (Fr. Samuel Weber, forthcoming)
Collections of Propers in English (Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB)
Arbogast English Propers (WLP, 1964)
Plainchant Gradual in English (St. Mary’s Press, 1965)
American Gradual (Bruce E. Ford, 2008)
Graduale Romanum (Solesmes, 1974)
Simple Choral Gradual (Richard Rice, 2011)
Entrance, Offertory, & Communion Chants (Peter R. Johnson, 2013)

Many more could be added to this list!



NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:

1   The Fifth Instruction for the Right Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council: Liturgiam Authenticam.

2   And I have not even mentioned Engish liturgical translations for other territories (e.g. Great Britain) or the various translations used in the Divine Office.

3   Ideology can certainly play a role, as well. Some claim that Fr. Adrian Fortescue (perhaps excessively) went out of his way to avoid cognates and “Latinate” phrases.