HE WORD “overkill” is defined as: too much of something; the amount by which destruction exceeds what is necessary. My recent article—which discussed the “Missal propers” vs. the “Gradual propers”—elicited questions (and some consternation). Some have asked: “Is there an official English translation of the Roman Gradual published in 1974?” Undoubtedly, yes! The Roman Gradual is 99% verses from Sacred Scripture, and it seems like “overkill” to demand a specific translation in light of the 20 November 2012 statement by the Secretariat of Divine Worship. But some people enjoy overkill; it makes them feel secure. So, it’s important to remember that the translation used in the Simple English Propers (Church Music Association of America, 2011) was approved for liturgical use in the United States by Bishop Slattery on 25 March 2014, because that same translation was used in the Jogues Missal. For the record, that same translation had received an IMPRIMATUR (16 November 1989) by Most Rev. Georges Gilson, bishop of Le Mans. In addition to the (25 March 2014) IMPRIMATUR by Bishop Slattery, that same translation was published with 20 March 2014 approval by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (By the way, that same translation had also received approval for liturgical use by a bishop in Texas on 15 July 2013.)
An “Imprimatur” Multiple Times?
You might ask the question: “How can that same translation receive an IMPRIMATUR multiple times?” It happens; for example, the Fulton Sheen Stations of the Cross—which appear in the Brébeuf hymnal—received an IMPRIMATUR from two different bishops at two different times.
Other English translations of the Roman Gradual have also received “overkill” approval. For example, Andrew Motyka will soon release a Graduale musical collection which has received an IMPRIMATUR. Father Samuel Weber also secured an IMPRIMATUR (19 March 2014) for his Proper of the Mass for Sundays and Solemnities, which is his own translation of the Roman Gradual (at least for certain prayers, such as the Offertory antiphons). The Arbogast Propers would be another example, but the list goes on.
It’s important to remember that the “Missal Propers” were intended for private Masses or Masses without music. That’s why Jeffrey Tucker called them the “Spoken Propers.” Archbishop Bugnini provided an explanation for why the “Missal Propers” do not include the Offertory antiphons. 1
UT THERE IS ANOTHER BOOK which translates the Roman Gradual into English, and has “overkill” approval. It’s the Roman Missal in Latin and English given approval by Most Rev. Lawrence B. Casey (Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey) on 18 September 1966. The title page clearly says:
This edition of The Roman Missal in Latin and English contains the English translations from The English-Latin SACRAMENTARY approved by the National Conference of Bishops of the United States on September 3, 1965, and confirmed by the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on 15 October 1965 [copyright © 1966] by the Bishops’ Commission on the Liturgical Apostolate. Other material is from THE ROMAN MISSAL approved by the same National Conference of Bishops [copyright © 1964] by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc., published by authority of the Bishops’ Commission on the Liturgical Apostolate, 1312 Massachusetts Ave., N. W., Washington, D.C. 20005.
(A scan of this book is available for free download.)
Let’s examine how this actually works in real life.
Offertory • 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Here it is in The Saint Isaac Jogues Illuminated Missal, Gradual, and Lectionary with IMPRIMATUR (25 March 2014) by Bishop Slattery, printed with approval of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (20 March 2014):
Here it is the English translation approved by the National Conference of Bishops of the United States:
The Propers by Father Paul Arbogast were given IMPRIMATUR (13 November 1964) by Most Rev. Ackerman, bishop of Covington, Kentucky. If you look carefully, you’ll notice this is actually identical to the 1965 Missal:
In addition to the other “overkill” approvals—which were discussed above—the Lalemant Propers were approved (15 July 2013) for liturgical use by Most Rev. Michael Mulvey, bishop of Corpus Christi:
The Simple English Propers (Church Music Association of America, 2011) use that same translation:
In addition to the other “overkill” approvals, the Gregorian Missal was given IMPRIMATUR (3 June 2012) by Most Rev. Yves Le Saux, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Le Mans in France:
The version by Father Samuel Weber has an IMPRIMATUR (19 March 2014) by Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco. It looks almost identical to what is found in the Saint Isaac Jogues Illuminated Missal, Gradual, and Lectionary, but with a slight modification:
Bruce Ford’s 2020 American Gradual does not have “overkill” approval. (On the other hand, it is true the USCCB overruled the GIRM’s explicit requirement for approval long ago.) It uses a Protestant translation, yet the words seem similar to me; perhaps the editor should attempt to secure “overkill” approval. In any event, these settings are frequently sung at Masses during the annual CMAA Colloquium—in which the heads of ICEL and the USCCB Committee on Liturgy participate—and Mr. Ford’s settings are allowed by the 20 November 2012 statement for Masses in the United States:
The following English translation was given IMPRIMATUR (16 November 1989) by Most Rev. Georges Gilson, bishop of Le Mans:
Finally, here’s a version from the Middle Ages:
It’s fascinating to observe how closely Abbot Pothier’s version—still the official edition of the Catholic Church—matches the version from the Middle Ages; by the way, did you notice the beautiful capital letter “I” of illumina?
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Perhaps someday we can discuss whether Bugnini’s explanation makes sense or whether the true reason was that Bugnini hated the traditional Offertory prayers of the Mass, which come from the medieval period. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but—if memory serves—Archbishop Bugnini pretty much hated anything medieval. His committee eliminated the entire Offertory, replacing it with a few short prayers.