a crucial missing word

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Oct 14, 2005

These days I'm dividing my time between two projects: plowing through reports from the Synod on the Eucharist, and organizing my thoughts on how the Boston archdiocese collapsed. This morning the two threads came together.

The Synod is tackling very important issues, because if you don't understand the Eucharist, you can't understand the Church. The Eucharist is what makes the Church different from any other religious body. The Eucharist is what makes the Church, period.

Now it strikes me that for the past several decades, Catholic leaders in Boston have been doing their best to assure the surrounding society: "Don't worry about us; we'll fit right in; we're just like you." (From a sociological point of view, by the way, that's an odd position for a majority group to take.) But as a Church we are not like the rest of society. Insofar as we are Catholics, defined by the Eucharistic bond, we are something different from the rest of the world: something other. That's one of the marks of the Catholic Church; she is holy.

Then I recalled one of the more glaring errors in the English translation of the Mass: in the Suscipiat. The Latin reads:

Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis, ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque ecclesiae suae sanctae.

And every day we say:

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church.

If you were teaching a high-school Latin class, and a student submitted that translation, you might think that he had carelessly forgotten the last word: sanctae. But here it's not a careless error; it's a deliberate choice not to proclaim that the Church is "holy."

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Ancilla Domini - Oct. 20, 2005 1:41 PM ET USA

    Glad to see someone highlighting this inexcusably faulty translation - it irks me every time. At least some of the other glaring translation errors - number of "mea culpas", paraphrase of "domine non sum dignus", and "et cum spiritu tuo" - have some colorable explanation in terms of flow or idiom. I can think of no reasons for leaving off "holy" except improper ideological ones. Is it appropriate for an obedient Catholic to simply respond (discretely) with the approved Latin version at Mass?

  • Posted by: Cupertino - Oct. 14, 2005 10:24 PM ET USA

    Aspirng Boston Irish Catholics were desperate to gain acceptance from Protestant society starting in the 40s. Children were sent to non Catholic colleges because the degrees acquired would gain them acceptance into Protestant society. But they attended a Tridentine Mass every Sunday and said the suscipiat while they flouted Catholic moral norms.Church leaders publically approved such persons. Common folks got the message. It was well along before the English liturgy appeared.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 14, 2005 5:45 PM ET USA

    And yet the phrase translates literally into Spanish: El Senor recibe de sus manos este sacrificio, para alabanza y gloria de su nombre, para nuestro bien, y para el bien de toda su SANTA iglesia.(emphasis mine). If we recite the Suscipiat correctly when my family attends Spanish mass, why is it impossible to add one small word to the English text? What are we afraid of? Of course, the Church is holy-She was instituted by our Lord Jesus. To maintain otherwise is...what?

  • Posted by: thomasmore - Oct. 14, 2005 12:40 PM ET USA

    Convert1994, sad to report that the same words are used in the dissent-capitol of the world; the Boston Archdiocese I attend daily mass in Harvard square in Cambridge, MA and I'd estimate that about one-third of the people there say : "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of God's name, for our good, and the good of all God's Church". It is profoundly disturbing every time I hear it -- they're words of protest.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 14, 2005 9:13 AM ET USA

    Convert, not to mention the deletion of masculine pronouns for God. I always find that annoying. My personal "favorite" is Godself. Gimme a break.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 14, 2005 7:48 AM ET USA

    If you were teaching a high school Latin class and a student translated 'Credo' as 'we believe' you would fail him!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 14, 2005 7:41 AM ET USA

    Would sanctae imply a distinction, and possibly be misconstrued as triumphalism? We wouldn't want anyone to think that Catholics are different than the other Christian denominations, religions, or the simply (humbly) spiritual.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 14, 2005 7:14 AM ET USA

    Phil, it gets worse than that. I was playing trumpet at Orientation Mass at the University of Dayton last fall and I heard this: "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at our hands for the praise and glory of God's name, for our good, and the good of all God's Church." That's right! OUR hands not YOUR hands!!! At UD everyone is a priest, I guess, and the consecration is done by all present at Mass. The inclusive language was not from an approved text either. Pray for us, Fr. Chaminade!