Liturgical Triumphalism

November 2013By Bill Kassel

Bill Kassel is a writer, communications consultant, media producer, and liturgical musician based in Michigan. His essays, original songs, and random rants can be found online at his blog, His forthcoming novel, My Brother’s Keeper, is currently being presented for publication.

During the early 1980s I was involved in a?Catholic music ensemble that had started out as a typical “guitar group,” accompanying at Vigil Mass on Saturday nights, but grew into a freestanding music ministry involved in diocesan events and evangelistic outreach. Through my involvement in music ministry I was frequently exposed to the prickliness of left-leaning Catholics. Once, when we were to give a concert for a community of religious women, we found our repertoire subject to pre-approval. A song containing the line “Keep going onward till the battle is over” raised eyebrows. We had to explain that the lyrics were metaphorical and the battle in question was merely the struggle of life.

Playing for a variety of parishes and retreats, I witnessed such post-Vatican II novelties as question-and-answer homilies, extemporized Eucharistic prayers, and of course, liturgical dance. Performing at a large religious-education conference, I was introduced to a colorful array of “progressive” Catholic characters — both clerical and lay — as well as to diverse theological speculations that stretched the limits of Christian orthodoxy.

In other areas of my life, too, I have encountered the outlook of the Catholic Left. Working as a freelance writer and creative director, I once developed publications for a Catholic women’s college with a highly regarded nursing program. The nursing director objected to a photograph I intended to use as a cover image: a student receiving her pin signifying completion of the nursing curriculum. The director, a nun, explained that featuring an individual student so prominently “doesn’t reflect our charism,” which was oriented to group sharing rather than individual accomplishment.

I cite these incidents not to disparage nuns — or free-thinking theologians or liturgical dancers, for that matter — but to illustrate my firsthand experience with the Catholic Left and its ideological sensibilities.

You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.

Back to November 2013 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
"Were they (the Novus Ordo translations) so prosaic as to confuse people about the fundamentals of the faith, so inaccurate as to lead us into error and schism? Most people don’t believe that."
Yes. They were. They did lead to error.

"I can appreciate that cradle Catholics of a certain age might find vindication in the new missal..."
Aside from the snarkiness of the writer's comment, it remains to be seen if as many Catholics actually leave the Church due to these small changes in the translation as the massive numbers of Catholics who were lost following Vatican II.

I have heard the writer's comment before about the "Lord I am not worthy" translation losing the "meaningfulness" of the prayer, but here the writer displays his lack of *real* understanding of the prayer: the reference to the Centurion's comment is to express not our unworthiness to receive Communion so much as to express our willingness to believe, sight unseen, in the power of God to heal us. Remember, please, that Jesus responds to the Centurion's statement by saying that no matter where he has traveled he has found few of "such faith." He goes on to say, "Go; be it done for you as you have believed." He does not say, "Be it done for you as you have been unworthy." So you see, the real meaning of the prayer WAS lost in the "old new translation," and now that it's been put right, perhaps the real challenge is for our priests to do what they are supposed to do, and explain to us what is going on and why. Catholics didn't used to improvise liturgy for a reason.

Further, I'm not sure where you got the translation of the Nicene Creed, "old" or "new." (Interesting that what is now "new" was "old," and now it's "new" again.) But in a 1956 St. Pius X Daily Missal, the words are, "He was also crucified for us, suffered under Pontius Pilate and was buried." The Apostle's Creed from that same date says, "...suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried." So I'm not sure what the newest of the new translation says, but it isn't what the *real* old translation was.

I was lucky enough to have attended a parish as a child in which we really did get instruction from the pulpit each Sunday, and we really did get good Catechism classes. I don't know everything, by a long shot, but I can tell you that a lot of the meaning of the Mass was lost - and was horribly improvised - following VII. If people are happy and excited to see more reverence at Mass, don't call it triumphalism. Maybe call it relief? Or shall we call your statement "Trust me, the question has not been settled among the laity" sour grapes?
Posted by:
November 07, 2013 12:26 PM EST
I offer the perspective of a relatively recent convert (2005). I entered the Church at age 51 from a life of non-practicing, lukewarm Protestant belief. I attended "services" at Christmas and Easter but otherwise rarely, and felt a growing sense of absence of any lasting purpose in my existence. My wife and I (she at that time was a lapsed cradle Catholic) were never blessed with children, and although I was happy in my profession, there was something missing, and it felt much deeper than the absence of offspring. In any event, I experienced a profound conversion and was called to the Catholic Church in no uncertain terms by the Holy Spirit, a great gift for which I cannot adequately express my gratitude. As I knew nothing whatsoever about Catholic doctrine or liturgy, the past nine-plus years have been a most enjoyable learning experience, starting even before I entered the RCIA process. To me, from the very first time I attended, the Mass was so much more rewarding than the Protestant worship practices I previously knew that it never occurred to me to question anything. My concentration on reaching the goal of full communion with the Church overshadowed any possible attention to lesser concerns.

Only after my reception at that blessed Easter Vigil of 2005 did I realize, while attending a weekday Spanish Mass at that same parish, that the English translation of the Roman Missal was different in a few places from the Spanish. I then bought a small booklet containing the Ordinary of the Mass in seven languages (including the original Latin) and saw that in addition to the Spanish, the translations in German and Italian were much closer to the Latin than the English version. I started doing a little research out of curiosity, and learned of the headlong rush into "dynamic equivalence" undertaken by the ICEL after the Council, which I found both disappointing and confusing. As I continued to learn about the post-conciliar course of the Church in the West, especially the damage caused by the proponents of the "spirit" of the Council, it became clear that the translation issue was only the tip of the iceberg.

Thus, I welcomed the revised translation, not because the changes were major, but because they were clear evidence of a turning toward what the Council really taught, that "hermeneutic of continuity" so eloquently advocated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and others. The vehement opposition of the "port side of the Barque of Peter" merely served to further convince me that the revised translation was absolutely necessary. It isn't that big a thing in the grand panorama of Church history, but it is a symbolic as well as substantive repudiation, in its own relatively small way, of the errors that have so wounded this Church that I have come to love so much. And thanks be to God for that!
Posted by: fmagill54
November 11, 2013 11:19 PM EST
I agree that Triumphalism must be avoided because it is alienating.
However, there is no excuse for an inaccurate translation and that is what had happened.
A correction was necessary.

At my former parish, we used a combined English-Spanish missalette and even with my crippled high school Spanish I could tell that the translations were significantly different and the Spanish version was better.
Clearly, repair was needed.
Posted by: altgraubart
December 05, 2013 01:10 PM EST
Add a comment