Hennessy's View

Domine, non sum dignus

“men of good will” and other changes

Gloria in excelsis Deo. Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

The English version of the Roman Catholic Missal changed at the start of Advent. The new translation is truer to the Latin original.


The response to “The Lord be with you,” change to “And with your spirit” from “and also with you.” The Latin, et cum spiritu tuo translates exactly into “and with your spirit.”

Another change that thrills conservative Catholics, is the consecration. For decades, we’ve complained that the Novo Ordo was wrong when it said, “It will be shed for you and for all … “ The correct translation from Sumerian would be “It will be shed for you and for many …”

Some Catholics believed that the erroneous translation to “all” instead of “many” prevented transubstantiation—the bread and wine being the body and blood of Christ. This correction brings great relief to many.

My favorite correction, though, won’t be heard until Christmas.

A song in the mass, the Gloria, goes away during Advent, the time Christian’s prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth. In the Gloria is a subtle but profound correction that carries meaning to Catholics and to the whole world.

For years we’ve heard that the angel who appeared to the shepherds declared, “Peace on earth and good will to men.”

But that translation lacks accuracy.

“Peace on earth and to men of good will,” is the correct interpretation.

When the Novo Ordo Missal was prepared, church leaders chose openness over accuracy. “All” sounds more inclusive than “many.” “Peace on earth and good will to men,” covers everyone, not just the good and faithful. The result, though, muddled theology and scripture.

The lesson here is important: words have meaning.

When we use the wrong words in order to soften our message, we usually succeed. But if we soften our message enough, we lose the meaning of the message intended.

That’s not to say we should put a sharp edge on our speech or treat sensitive subjects callously. Instead, we use language and actions necessary and proper in the most loving way we can.

The angel and Christ used words of exclusion: many, not all, and men of good will. But the invitation was universal: all may choose to be saved.

Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to men of good will.


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