United with Christ in a death like his...

It's not my intention to comment on this page on the several difficulties I'm having with the translation in the new Roman Missal.  Still, there are places in the new book that I'm finding increasingly difficult to use.  Consider, for instance, this text which is to be included in the Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for the Dead (for example, at funerals):

Remember your servant N.,
whom you have called
from this world to yourself.
Grant that he/she who was united with your son in a death like his,
may also be one with him in his Resurrection. 

In a death like his...  I don't have the expertise or facility with Latin to compare this translation to the Latin text.  I do, however, have the capacity to know what most people think of when they hear someone speak of "a death like" Christ's.  Can that be anything but crucifixion? 

Would the following not faithfully communicate what's intended, without any confusion:

Grant that he/she who was united with your son in his death
may also be one with him in his Resurrection. 

In fact, that's what I prayed at a funeral I celebrated on Tuesday of this week. 

I speak the words of the canon in a way that I hope invites the assembly into the prayer being offered.  But if they are listening carefully and praying with me, what are they to make of the text above? After using the previous translation for over 38 years, Ive been as careful as possible in these first 5 weeks in being faithful to the new texts.  But moments like this in funeral liturgy give me pause.  That I consciously made a change in the text leads me to wonder what changes other priests are making and where that will lead us.

Some of the new texts that I expected to be most problematic for me have, rather, been easily incorporated into my prayer and its vocabulary but I continue to discover texts that may obscure or confuse both the prayer and us who offer it.

I'd be especially interested in hearing response to this from readers who are priests and may or may not be experiencing similar difficulties.


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  1. "consubstantial"..in the Nicene Creed. Come on, that really makes it clearer to all and the word just does trip off the tongue so nicely!

    I would hope that priests do have the "freedom" to change wording particularly in the example you just showed us in your funeral liturgy.

  2. I have had several funerals now with the new translation. When I studied the text before the first funeral, I had the same thought. How did they get that translation and what will the family think?
    Poor pastoral experience is my guess.

  3. Austin,
    You bring up a great point. I think that a lot of us are trying to be faithful to the new texts. I believe lots of priests are truly practicing with the new texts, and are trying to find ways of proclaiming these texts in ways that are prayerful and meaningful. However, like you, I've been faced with these texts at several funerals, and I just have to change them, for the same reason as you've raised! I know that this will not be popular with my bishop, and that I might get "in trouble" but I see my job as pastor as helping people to pray and come to appreciate their faith at a difficult moment such as these.
    These new texts are not perfect, and some are very difficult. I don't want to get into the middle of the "translation wars" since I am not a Latin scholar...but I do have a responsibility as a pastor to help my people to pray at these special times.
    My simple input into the larger discussion, is, as I've been sharing with other colleagues is: Let's develop an English translation for the American church. We have the translators, we have the liturgists, we have the liguistic experts who can put together a proclaimable, poetic translation. I know this won't be popular with lots of folks, but this translation is just not helpful to us pastors in "the field."

  4. Alice: nothing in the new Missal or the GIRM gives priests such freedom. In fact, such freedom is denied. Thus, the dilemma!

    Brian: I agree that deficient pastoral experience might be part of the problem here. The question that remains is what is good and legitimate pastoral practice?

    Fr. X: I can't easily join you in calling for an American translation. There's a value in a common translation for all English speaking peoples and the example I cite on this post would be, I think, problematic in any English speaking country.

    My question: what's a legitimate parochial pastoral response that is faithful to the Missal and to the spiritual needs of the people whom the Missal is intended to serve?

  5. We're struggling in Ireland also with the new texts. I'm not entirely convinced about the "accurate translation" line that is given. For instance "nimis" in the "Penitential Act" could be arguably translated as "I have excessively (nimis) sinned". In that instance at least, there was a judgement made for "greatly."
    What worries me more is the image of God the language creates. We're "imploring" "beseeching" etc.
    I wouldn't like to have an American English edition- to be honest I find the new American Bible translation not the most lyrical on the tongue. We're moving from the jerusalem bible translation to the New Revised Standard Version. I wonder if that will be applied in the U.S. also.

    Kind regards
    Tom Cox CC
    Ferbane Parish
    co. Offaly, Ireland

  6. Good that you changed the words...especially at a funeral, a time when sensitivity to those we often don't see on Sunday is very important.

    I can see the value of an American translation. It would give us back what has been our right to pray in the vernacular. Not all English speaking countries speak the same English. Often words,phrases etc can have different meanings. That's just part of the problem with MR3.

  7. I can see what they're trying to say in the text you highlight -- the phrase "a death like his" meaning something more like "dying as he did" -- but it's like they asked someone for whom English is not their first language to express that.

    What were the English qualifications of those who did the translation? Do they write poetry or at least good prose in English? Also, do they at least purport to understand that good translation is of the *sense* of what is written, not each literal word.

    For us Anglicans, worship in the vernacular is key, so I am cringing on your behalf in reading about the new translation you have to us.

    BTW, I was drawn into this by your post about the lovely salad in a squash in your most recent (as of this moment) blog entry. Looks yummy!

  8. I would hope that all priests are keeping a list of the new translations that they find problematic and that they would bring these concerns to the appropriate venue for discussion.

    In my view, Fr. Ryan's approach (a year's trial run) would have been the correct route to take. He wasn't listened to unfortunately.


  9. The Latin is "Concéde, ut, qui complantatus fuit similitúdini mortis Filii tui, simul fiat et resurrectionis ipsius," which is translated literally as "Grant that he who was planted in the likeness of the death of your Son may at the same time be (in the likeness) of his resurrection."

    The whole phrase is a paraphrase of Rom 6:5, which is one of the most popular New Testament passages families choose for funerals: "Si enim conplantati facti sumus similitudini mortis eius simul et resurrectionis erimus," which is translated by the New American Bible (which is used in the lectionary funerals in the US), "For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection." It's referring to the "death" of baptism!

    The "like his" means fundamentally what Father actually said at Mass in the change he made — death in general, not crucifixion in particular — but I think a little of the link to St. Paul's expression is lost by the "dynamically equivalent translation." I would also guess that if the family at the funeral in Concord requested Rom 6 for the epistle, there was no excision made to the lectionary of the same text of "like his."

    I think the reason why such a change wouldn't be made to the lectionary is two-fold: (1) a recognition that St. Paul's words need to be understood in context, specifically referring to baptism; and (2) a humility that one shouldn't tinker with the word of God.

    I'd propose that the same two-fold principle be applied to this case of the prayers for the dead in Eucharistic Prayer III: that we either presume the people will work to understand the passage in context or catechize them about the proper context and meaning; and that humbly we shouldn't try to change the words that the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit (albeit in a different way than Sacred Scripture!) has asked all priests to pray.

  10. Thanks for your informed comment, FrRJL!

    I do understand the baptismal reference here. In my parish, the church is laid out such that we are able to bring the casket to the font and do the sprinkling from its waters - at which time I make a very explicit connection between the funeral ritual, the deceased's baptism and our dying with Christ in baptism in hope of rising with him to eternal life. In fact, I briefly refer to Paul's words in Romans which, as you'll recall, were part of the rite prior to the publication of the OCF.

    Given that there's not much time for catechesis at the time of death and that many gathered for a funeral aren't regular worshippers, I hope that my handling of the opening rite has a catechetical edge to it. It still strikes me, however, that there's something about the translation of the remembrance in the EP that's confusing.

    Apart from mistakes made out of old habits, this is the only change I've consciously made in the new translation.

    Your comment is very helpful and gives me pause.

  11. Father, would you reconcile for me, please, these instructions from the Roman Missal "However, the Priest will remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass." and what you wrote above, "...But moments like this in funeral liturgy give me pause. That I consciously made a change in the text leads me to wonder what changes other priests are making and where that will lead us..." Many thanks.

  12. Clearly, Michael, the two statements cannot be reconciled.


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