Translating the Roman Missal 1: Translation and participation

Thomas R. Whelan

The goal of translating liturgical text is to facilitate the assembly in deeper participation in the liturgical action, as well as in comprehension of the Mystery being celebrated. We also need to appreciate how text functions within its context of ritual. This article seeks to explore these aspects of translating the liturgy. Thomas R. Whelan is Associate Professor of Theology at Milltown Institute, Dublin.

Addressing a gathering in 1965 of approximately 250 people who had come together to discuss the task of translating liturgical text into the vernacular, Pope Paul VI used the well-known words of St Jerome to describe the virtual impossibility of their task:

If I translate word for word, it sounds absurd; if I am forced to change something in the word order or style, I seem to have stopped being a translator.
That is how St Jerome describes the dilemma.

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