Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Today is the Feast of St. Monica. The first prayer is the original English translation of the collect for St. Monica and the second the revised version. As you can pray, much can be lost in translation! Which do you prefer?

God of mercy,
comfort of those in sorrow,
the tears of Saint Monica moved you
to convert her son Saint Augustine to the faith of Christ.
By her prayers, help us to turn from our sins
and to find your loving forgiveness.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with your and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
– Amen.


O God, who console the sorrowful
and who mercifully accepted
the motherly tears of Saint Monica
for the conversion of her son Augustine,
grant us, through the intercession of them both,
that we may bitterly regret our sins
and find the grace of your pardon.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
– Amen.


John Nolan said...

The feast of St Monica (4 May until Bouyer's 'trio of maniacs' got hold of the calendar) has the following Collect:

Deus, moerentium consolator et in te sperantium salus, qui beatae Monicae pias lacrimas in conversione filii sui Augustini misericorditer suscepisti: da nobis utriusque interventu, peccata nostra deplorare, et gratiae tuae indulgentiam invenire. Per Dominum ...

It would appear that the cutters-and-pasters of the Consilium removed, for no apparent reason, the phrase 'in te sperantium salus' (the salvation of those who trust in thee). Otherwise the second version isn't a bad translation. St Monica's tears are described as 'pias', well translated here as 'motherly'; 'bitterly regret' is a good rendition of 'deplorare' and the prayer makes it clear that we are asking for the intercession of both Monica and her son - 'utriusque interventu'.

Compare this with the truncated and anodyne 1973 version, which is a disgrace, although no doubt Fr Kavanaugh will prefer it.

rcg said...

They are not about the same things. I like the first.

Marc said...

The collect for today:

O God, Who through St. Joseph, Your Confessor, did graciously will to provide Your Church with a new help for the training of youth in the spirit of understanding and holiness; grant, we beseech You, that, following his example and through his intercession, we may live and teach so as to acquire an everlasting reward.

Anonymous said...

Who will be hearing these prayers when they are prayed by the priest?

Anonymous said...

Translation from Latin to English doesn't require (or even anticipate) using "thee" (...the salvation of those who trust in thee...)

"You" is the better choice for modern hearers.

John Nolan said...

Whether one uses 'you' or 'thee' is immaterial, since the phrase was excised in the NO.

Sorry, rcg, they are supposed to be about the same things, since they are supposed to be translations. I assume you are referring to the two Collects, not the prayer on the illustrated card.

The Collects are prayed aloud, preferably sung, so everyone hears them.

Any other questions?

Anonymous said...

I thought about this for a while. If I was reciting the prayer (as in the LotH), I prefer the first. It’s simplicity makes more sense as I recite it. If someone else is reciting it (a priest at Mass), I prefer the second. It’s eloquence gives a lot to ponder and meditate on.

Carol H. said...

The last one. I want to regret my sins because it makes me less likely to repeat them. The intercession of poor St. Augustine was entirely left out of the first.

rcg said...

Good point, John. I was including the prayer in my list of choices. Between the collects, if I am allowed a do over, I like the second for its reference to motherly tears.

TJM said...

Anonymous K at 12:18,

Thee is far more beautiful and profound, hence your preference for "you!"

John Nolan said...

My Saint Andrew Daily Missal has the following translation:

'O God, the comforter of the sorrowful [and the salvation of them that put their trust in thee], who had merciful regard to the loving tears of blessed Monica in bringing about the conversion of her son Augustine: grant that by their united intercession, we may grieve over our sins and attain grace and pardon from Thee.' The phrase which is missing in the NO version I have bracketed.

This is marginally better than the current English version, which contains a solecism, namely 'grant us that we may' instead of the correct 'grant that we may'. True, the Latin has 'da nobis' but it is followed by an infinitive construction (deplorare ... invenire) which English doesn't have.

Regarding the archaic second person singular, long after it ceased to be used in everyday speech, it was used in poetry, and until the mid-20th century also in prayer. Referring to God or Our Lady as 'you' in formal prayers still jars after fifty years. And which sounds better - 'To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve' or 'We, poor banished children of Eve, cry to you'? The second is certainly more idiomatic, but also more prosaic.

Had we had someone like Fortescue (whose 1913 version of the Salve Regina is poetic and memorable) to produce the English translation of the liturgy, we could have had translations that were both accurate and poetic.

As things stand, I'll stick with the Latin, thank you very much.

John Nolan said...

Furthermore, we cannot compare translations unless we have the original Latin text. I do not have a bilingual daily missal for the OF, since it would be of no practical use to me, although I have a Sunday one. So before comparing translations, I would ask Fr McDonald to publish the Urtext, as Fr Zuhlsdorf does.

Simply to say 'I prefer X to Y as a prayer' is to miss the point. Those who put the NO together actually included some venerable Collects from the Veronese sacramentary which were not in the existing Roman missal. This scholarship was vitiated by the fact that unless they were heard in Latin by those with a reasonable command of the language, they were rendered in a bowdlerized paraphrase which conveyed little of their theological content and richness.

Those who worshipped habitually in English never actually heard the Paul VI Mass until 2011. Now that's a thought.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Translation, especially liturgical translation, is more art than science. Douglas Hofstadter, author of "Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language" (1997) in which he explores the meaning, strengths, failings, and beauty of translation, noted that the work of a translator can be compared to a camera lens.
The translator always "does something" to the text. It might be the rearrangement of words (Spanish places adjectives after the noun, English before) or the choice of a phrase in English for "infinitive construction (deplorare ... invenire) which English doesn't have."

Is the highest goal of a translator the most exacting "literal" translation of a text? (I don't think many literal translations exist.) It would seem that the translator's work should be guided by the purpose for which the text is given. In prayers that are meant to be heard (not read) and understood by everyone in the room, a more "prosaic" translation might be preferable if that makes it more accessible to the hearer as the prayer is being prayed.

Maintaining Latin syntax, called for by Liturgiam authenticam (no 20), is problematic, given the significant differences between the syntax of Latin and that of English. For example, English places subjects and verb close together in a sentence while Latin often holds the verb at the end. English is commonly SVO (Subject+Verb+Object) such as "Man bites dog." Latin is often SOV (Subject+Object+Verb) giving us "Canem____vir______mordet," literally "Dog man bites."

There are other differences.

TJM said...


So what, those rules exist in other Romance languages as well. And there are other differences in expression. Take the French "j'ai faim." In English it literally translates as "I have hunger" rather than "I am hungry." But no decent translator would use the literal translation when rendering French into English.

Why not respond in Latin next time so we could judge your command of the Church's mother tongue?

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

LA 20 does not call for Latin syntax to be maintained, which is linguistically impossible. English, for example, is heavily Latinized in terms of vocabulary, but is not highly inflected; German is more inflected than English but has very few Latin cognates, and so on.

What LA 20 does not allow are additions and omissions as to content; and paraphrases and glosses. English is less terse than Latin, so needs more words to convey the content accurately. Yet in most of the 1973 Collect 'translations' the English prayer was considerably shorter than the Latin since key content was simply left out. 'It means roughly the same thing' would not pass muster in an exam.

An example is 'pias lacrimas'. 'Pius' can mean several things in Latin, and Vergil frequently uses it to describe Aeneas. You will recall how Aeneas carries his father Anchises from burning Troy on his shoulders. This is filial piety; Aeneas is being a dutiful son, just as Monica is being a dutiful mother when she weeps for Augustine.

This is quite an important adjective in the context. If a candidate translated it as 'holy' or 'pious' he would not be marked down; if he failed to translate it at all, he most certainly would be. Were he to ignore 'utriusque interventu' he would lose more marks.

You are quite right in holding that translation is more than a literal rendition of the original text. It also should try to convey as far as possible the form and structure of the original. I also agree that sometimes (thankfully not often) the 'new ICEL' translators were too literal. This is not because of LA; it was an understandable reaction to the omissions, additions and crude paraphrases which marred the 1973 renditions.

Latin word order is not arbitrary; it often conveys emphasis. 'Vir canem mordet' emphasizes the subject. 'Canem vir mordet' emphasizes the object.

John Nolan said...


It was said of an Englishman that his French was so bad that one didn't know if he was very hungry or he had a fat wife.

TJM said...

John Nolan,


John Nolan said...

Every time I have heard the Rosary recited in public, it has had the following:

'Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name ... ' (Archaic language.)

'Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee ... ' (Ditto.)

'O God, whose only begotten Son, by his life, death and resurrection has purchased for us the reward of eternal life; grant, we beseech thee, that meditating on these mysteries in the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise.' (Translation of a Latin Collect, retaining the form of the original, with nothing added and nothing omitted.)

I have never seen anyone reading these prayers. They know them, and have done since childhood. If there are 'more accessible' versions, why haven't they caught on?

Note the last eight words of the Latin original: 'et imitemur quod continent, et quod promittunt, assequamur. 'Imitor' and 'assequor' are deponent, and their 'passive' endings make a striking assonance. 'Et ... et' is Latin's elegant way of saying 'both ... and', and note how 'imitemur' and 'assequamur' frame the two short 'quod' clauses.

The English translation is equally elegant. It requires four more words (three personal pronouns and an auxiliary verb), but the juxtaposition of 'contain' and 'obtain' gives the ending a lapidary quality which Latin achieves by ending with a verb. It's stylish Latin and stylish and memorable English. What's not to like?

TJM said...

John Nolan,

Perhaps the archaic translations are more elegant and hit a nerve? Maybe if the Mass had been translated using the more archaic forms of the English language, it would have been more spiritually satisfying to most (other than left-wing, condescending loonies who know better than anyone else)

John Nolan said...

Liturgy is formal worship, and requires formal language. Not all Christian groups have liturgy; the Puritans banned the Anglican Prayer Book and relied on Scripture, preaching and extempore prayer.

Informal language is often ambiguous and imprecise, which is why it is not used in legal documents. Its use in a liturgical context also encourages informality in dress, posture and general demeanour, together with a lack of attention to detail. The net result is not simply unliturgical, it is actually anti-liturgical (and some of the more extreme proponents of informality probably didn't want a liturgy at all).

Of course, if one uses elevated language it is inevitable that some will not understand it. Shakespeare's plays appealed to all classes, but people in Elizabethan and Jacobean times did not address each other in iambic pentameter replete with elaborate poetic imagery, and it can be safely assumed that the uneducated 'groundlings' would not have understood everything declaimed by the actors. Things like the porter scene in Macbeth and Mercutio's dirty jokes in Romeo and Juliet would have had a direct appeal, but in many cases they just had to get the gist of what was being said.

Putting everything into a vernacular language instantly intelligible to a child or a retarded adult will certainly communicate, but only on a basic level, and cannot be used as a template for accurate translation. Yet the doctrinaire vernacularizers were advocating this very thing.

Anonymous said...

Oh, by all means, let's go archaic!!!

How 'bout Wycliffe, 1389...?

Our fadir that art in heuenes,
halwid be thi name;
Thi kingdom cumme to;
be thi wille donas in heuen and in earthe;
giv to vs this day our breed ouer other substaunce;
and forgeue to vs oure dettis,as we forgeue to oure dettours;
and leede us nat in to temptacioun,but delyuere vs fro yuel.

They'll be breaking down the doors to come back to church...

TJM said...

Anonymous K,

Per usual, you have nothing of substance to offer, just snark.

Anonymous said...

No, not snark. It's one of those archaic translations you were wishing for.

Remember when you said, " Maybe if the Mass had been translated using the more archaic forms of the English language, it would have been more spiritually satisfying to most..."

Or did you forget you said that? Or have you discovered that archaic ain't such a good idea after all?

John Nolan said...

Anonymous, as a matter of interest, how do you pray the Our Father? In 1975 new 'ecumenical' versions of the Gloria and Credo were approved. Also on the table was a version of the Pater in modern English. Some Protestant denominations adopted it, and there are similar versions in use here and there.

The Catholic bishops opted to keep the version then in use, which (minus the doxology) is identical to that in the 1928 BCP and is still used today. Up until the 1960s Anglicans used the 1662 version ('which art in heaven', 'in earth') whereas Catholics prayed the 1759 Challoner version ('who art in heaven', 'on earth'). One change was made: 'them that' became 'those who' sometime in the 1960s.

Of course, it's not just traditional prayers that maintain the archaic second person singular; traditional hymns do as well.

Wycliffe's middle English version is a translation of the Vulgate of St Matthew's gospel - interesting how he deals with 'supersubstantialem'!

TJM said...

Anonymous K,

You are good for a laugh. You realize of course, that in 1389 as was the case in 1965, the Pater Noster was spoken or sung in Latin at Mass. So the translation into the vernacular was irrelevant. So I would have been just as comfortable at Mass in 1389 as I was in 1965.

Anonymous said...

Again, you are ignoring what you said. You wished for archaic translations into the ENGLISH language.

Your words: " Maybe if the Mass had been translated using the more archaic forms of the English language..."

You are, obviously, changing your tune...

John Nolan said...

Anonymous and TJM

Can we stop this childish point-scoring? Opportunities for intelligent argument are being overlooked in favour of fruitless and juvenile ping-pong.

Anonymous said...