VIRTUAL AVALANCHE of new musical settings of the OF Mass Propers started appearing about a decade ago, and this is a truly marvelous thing. However, a pet peeve of mine has to do with translations of the Propers. Many composers advertise their English settings of the Roman Gradual using phrases like, “These settings use the translation found in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.” 1
This statement is inaccurate. Let’s take a look at Sundays & Holy Days, which are the texts set to music most frequently.
First of all, the Communion chants from the Roman Gradual frequently don’t correspond to the Missal antiphons (which were intended for spoken Masses only). Offhand, I’d guess that perhaps half of them match. Therefore, roughly 50% of the Communion translations come from MR3.
Secondly, 100% of the Offertory antiphons in MR3 don’t match the Roman Gradual … for the simple reason that MR3 doesn’t print any Offertory antiphons.
Third, regarding Entrance antiphons, a good percentage do correspond to those in the Roman Gradual … except that MR3 only provides the first half of each antiphon. Therefore, only about 45% match.
Musically, the heart of the Roman Gradual is the collection of Graduals, Tracts, and Alleluias, and expert liturgists would agree these are essential components of the historic Roman Rite. But MR3 does not provide translations for any of these.
Moving on to the daily Masses, very little of what’s contained in MR3 matches the assigned chants from the Roman Gradual. In fact, the percentage is so small, it’s hardly worth talking about.
WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, then, even if we only consider Sundays & Holy Days, less than 15% of the Roman Gradual can be said to “use the new translation of the Roman Missal.” The quickest way to make this clear to a skeptical priest or liturgist is ask them to bring you some Offertory antiphons from MR3. (They don’t exist!)
If you’d like to learn more about this confusing subject—that is, if you’re looking to add some excitement to your day!—feel free to delve into the six (6) essays posted here . If your head is swimming by the time you’re finished reading, perhaps you’ll better understand why the Roman Gradual came to be called, “The forgotten book of the Council.”
PERHAPS SOME WILL FIND this article somewhat “out of the blue.” Well, as long as we’re being random today, I’d like to admit my mortal fear. I have a mortal dread of ending a conversation with a friend. I find it so difficult! Do you know what I mean? I think it’s really hard … and I never seem to do it correctly. Perhaps I should memorize a phrase I can always use, like: It’s been such a joy to speak with you, but I’m afraid now I must be on my way. But let us talk again soon!
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 In another article, perhaps we can delve into the fact that this terminology is not technically correct. For example, the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal actually came out around 2001 … but the USA Bishops did not allow English translations of it until 2011.