Among the sundry tasks with which my new assignment presents me is overseeing the transition to the new translation of the Roman Missal in the parishes of the Rosebud Reservation. The transition here promises to be rather smoother than in other places, at least in part because the people here do not seem to have as many ideological hang-ups as their sibling Christians in certain other locales. And many, particularly elders, already have experience praying in another language—Lakota—which gives them intuition into the reasons behind the change. As a lay cantor who participated in a workshop on the new translations explained to me a few weeks ago, “Lakota is a very spiritual language, and we understand that when we translate into English something gets lost.” The new translations are simply an attempt—imperfect, like all human endeavors—to recover a bit of what has been lost.
Among the complaints I’ve heard about the new translations from other sources is the objection that changing the Creed’s “We believe” to “I believe” diminishes the communal nature of the Mass. In some ways this is a strange objection, since the Creed’s first line is one instance in which the 1973 translation simply gets the Latin wrong, something obvious to anyone celebrating Mass in another of the major modern languages, which correctly translate “Credo” into the first person singular. Given that the 1973 English version is the outlier in this instance, there’s something self-defeating in defending a supposedly more communal word that in fact puts a distance between English speakers and the rest of the international Church.