DDW confirms new Lectionary for Great Britain

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has announced that “the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has confirmed the approval by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales for the new Lectionary.” Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland will also share this new edition of the Lectionary for Mass.

Their new Lectionary is based on the English Standard Version of the Bible – Catholic Edition and will use the Psalm translation from the e Abbey Psalms and Canticles.  In this sense the Lectionary will be similar to the edition recently published in India. The new British edition of the Lectionary will be published by the Catholic Truth Society (CTS) and is approved for use from Advent 2024.

As a final note, and forgive me for being pedantic, but allow me to offer a correction to the press release, the new ESV edition of the Lectionary is approved for Great Britain but not the “British Isles.” In other words, it is approved for the regions served by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. However, it is not approved for use in Ireland, which is served by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Did you Celebrate the Vigil of Pentecost?

Paschalis Sollemnitatis, the 1988 CDW letter on the celebration of Easter, suggests that we should celebrate a Vigil at Pentecost:

Encouragement should be given to the prolonged celebration of Mass in the form of a vigil, whose character is not baptismal as in the Easter Vigil, but is one of urgent prayer, after the example of the Apostles and disciples, who persevered together in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as they awaited the Holy Spirit

Notitiae the official journal of the Congregation suggests how to celebrate such a prolonged vigil [259 (2998): 156-15]. This allows for the use of all four options for the Old Testament reading given in the Lectionary for the Vigil Mass. As in the Easter Vigil, there are prayers after each reading and then the Gloria is sung. This is followed by the Collect, a New Testament Reading and the Gospel. First Vespers of Pentecost may directly precede this celebration.

In 2008 the second edition of the third edition of the Roman Missal in Latin (the Supplementum  to the editio typica tertia), added the material from Notitiae and formalized it into the text of the Roman Missal. These were in turn translated in the current 2011 English translation of the Roman Missal.  In the United States, the 2017 Supplement to the Lectionary for Mass provide a clear arrangement of all the readings of the prolonged vigil.

This is all well and good.  But I personally have never heard of such a prolonged vigil being celebrated in a parish context. So, the question I am posing in this post is whether any parishes actually take advantage of this possibility of a prolonged vigil? I hope that other PrayTell readers have experienced this, but I suspect that in most places it is a casualty of the attitude that sees any change to the regular Sunday liturgy as being simply too bothersome to implement and that especially something optional will rarely be celebrated.


Cover image by geralt at Pixabay.

Handwritten liturgical manuscripts

All of us are familiar with the liturgical books of earlier centuries and, in particular, from centuries predating the invention of the printing press.  The scholarly editions of such works as the Ordines Romani are mainstays of liturgical scholarship. Yet once liturgical books began to be printed, the custom of having handwritten manuscripts fell out of use.  Printed books are simply easier, more economical, more certain and have become the main means of proclaiming liturgical prayers and readings. Sometimes these books were annotated with notes for the presider, and this was even the case before the Post-it note was invented (and which had the initial use of helping tag a hymnal for liturgical use). The twentieth century saw the use of photocopies, mimeographed pages and even occasionally such innovations as disposable liturgical books (such as this loose-leaf Lectionary published by Liturgical Press). In recent years electronic screens, such as iPads are being used in some churches.

Yet recently here I came across a new handwritten liturgical book, prepared for current liturgical use.  Here in the Pontifical University in Maynooth, we own a volume called the “Cardinal Ó Fiaich Memorial Gospel Book.” This book was commissioned from Timothy O’Neill, a modern scribe , who very consciously works in the tradition of the ancient Irish scribes going all the way back to St. Colmcille (Columba). The alphabet is a variation on the Roman alphabet, an insular script, that was used in the writing of the Irish language until the middle of the twentieth century and which developed also into a typescript that was also used in printed material. The Gospel Book was created in memory of Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiach (1923-1990), the Primate of All Ireland, who had been Professor of History and President of the Pontifical University. The hand-written manuscript on vellum pages, bound in leather. The late Cardinal was a champion of Irish history and culture and a great number of sponsors came together to sponsor the book. It contains the official Lectionary translation used in Ireland using the Jerusalem Bible version of the Book of Gospels, but it does not contain everything in the 672 pages of the pint version, rather it contains the Gospels for the highlights of the liturgical year and is often used on these days for the celebration of the Eucharist in the seminary community in Maynooth. When not in use in the liturgy, the Book is safely stored in the Russell Library, which stores all the precious books in the Pontifical University’s collection.

I am not aware of any other handwritten liturgical books in liturgical use today. The closest thing I know about is the St. John’s Bible project commissioned by St. John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, MN, although this is not a ritual edition per se. Maybe readers know of other such books. I include a sample of the pages of the Cardinal Ó Fiaich Memorial Gospel Book, for readers to look at. The vast majority of the readings are in English, but the section for St Patrick’s Day gives the Gospel in Irish. Here St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas are photographed, Please note that there was a deliberate effort to give emphasis to the words of the Gospel and the Gospel design was programmed to highlight the written words and letters and was deliberately written without images.


ESV Catholic Edition not Catholic enough?

In 2019 the Augustine Institute in Colorado published the English Standard Version Catholic Edition.  This is a Catholic edition of the popular Evangelical Protestant translation that is owned by Crossway publishing house.

This translation is closely related to the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible.  But it is revised so that the new edition “emphasizes ‘word-for-word’ accuracy, literary excellence, and depth of meaning.” The Catholic Edition was prepared under the auspices of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India which released a new edition of the Lectionary for Mass based on the ESV in 2020.

At the moment, the Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales and of Scotland are in the process of editing their own new edition of the Lectionary for Mass based on the ESV. I believe that this edition is almost ready for publication.

I have nothing against the ESV per se. I have actually had a copy of the translation on my bookshelf since well before the Catholic edition was published. I believe that everyone can benefit from exposure to a variety of Bible translations and the ESV has a definite place in such study. But my views are on record, where I explain my opinion that that ESV is not the best choice for a new Lectionary in countries that are currently using the Jerusalem Bible In their Lectionary.

In the United States the ESV Catholic Edition has become quite popular with many Catholics.  However, there is very little chance that it will be adopted for liturgical use in the US.  It also is in a certain competition with the Ignatius Press edition of the RSV, which was used for the very successful Bible in a Year Podcast and the edition of the  NRSV that Bishop Robert Barron is publishing as the Word on Fire Bible.

Late last year the Augustine Institute published Bible Translation & the Making of the ESV Catholic Edition by Dr. Mark Giszczak, Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture at the Augustine Institute Graduate School of Theology. Here he explains the case for the ESV Catholic Edition. He gave an interview on his book on the Catholic Bible Talk blog. This was a very popular post that generated 67 comments.  Yet a few weeks later Catholic Bible Talk posted the revelation that the Augustine Institute was in the process of producing their own new translation of the Bible, the Catholic Standard Version. This led to consternation on the blog, and the post has so far generated 124 comments. Since then, two additional posts on the new CSV have been published there, and the new translation has passed from rumor to fact with the publication of some photos of the Gospel of Matthew, the first volume of the new translation shortly to be published by the Augustine Institute.

If PrayTell readers have time and interest, I would suggest that they spend a few minutes reading this series of posts on the Catholic Bible Talk blog and, more importantly, the many comments that they have generated. I find them to be a great insight as to where many Catholics who care about the Bible are. Some are excited about the new translation, others feel that the Augustine Institute have abandoned the whole ESV project, while others express the opinion that the ESV was not Catholic enough to start with. In any case, without the benefit of any special insight on the matter, it does seem strange to me that a publishing house that has so recently invested so much time and energy into producing a new Catholic edition of the Bible as its sole US publisher, would decide to produce a totally new translation that will be in direct competition with the earlier edition.

I doubt any of this will have the slightest affect on the adoption of the ESV for liturgical use in India and Great Britain. But the discussions illustrate the myriad of factors and opinions in the debate as to which is the best Bible translation to use in Roman Catholic liturgy in English speaking areas.


Cover image: Alex Leung – English-Greek Interlinear New Testament: ESV available under a Creative Commons license

For the Season of the Word: A Biography of the Lectionary

I have mentioned a number of times in posts for the Pray Tell blog that I was privileged for a number of years to work with Lucien Deiss, CSSp (1921–2007), who was part of the group appointed after the Second Vatican Council to assemble the Lectionary for Mass. Fascinated to be with someone who was (to use a phrase that emerged years later) in “the room where it happened,” I would often ask him questions about the Lectionary and its creation—the psalter in particular. A man of genuine humility (who also had as one of his greatest fears speaking uncharitably about others), I was not successful in prying loose many stories or much information from him.

So nothing Lectionary-related could have delighted me more than to learn that Paul Turner had written a “biography” of the Lectionary. Within the hour, I had secured permission to do a review for the blog. (Full disclosure: the prospect of receiving a free copy of this book was no small incentive!)

The introductory section gives a thorough background of the project beginning with the Council itself, and then progressing through the personnel and more than three hundred schemata that eventually were approved by Paul VI in 1969. The overarching criteria used were encountering Christ in the liturgical year (especially through a larger offering of Old Testament passages), the influence of early twentieth-century advances in scripture scholarship, and a concern for catechetical effectiveness. The organization was around the principles of harmonization (especially Old and New Testaments), semi-continuous reading/proclamation, and giving certain pericopes “pride of place,” retaining them for special Sundays and feast days.

As you might imagine, the bulk of the book consists of a presentation (and bit of analysis) of the readings as they are presented through the course of the liturgical year. Where an original proposal or plan was later altered, it is noted—and only rarely with any sort of speculation as to why the change may have occurred. This restraint contributes to the sense of solid research and scholarship that permeates this book. A section on weekdays follows, with much helpful correlation made between weekday liturgies and the conciliar revisions to the liturgical calendar. Though not as in-depth a presentation (which would have likely doubled the book’s size), the same care is taken as in the “Sundays and Solemnities” section.

In eight pages of “concluding observations” there is a treasure trove of insights which flow from the author’s work on this book, as well as from his years of ministry as a preacher and musician. Included are some honest presentations of ways in which the Lectionary has been critiqued over the years. A “dossier” of the studies on lectionaries from the members of the original working group concludes the book.

For a work in this genre, the absence of indexes seemed, at first, a curious omission. Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that aside from the enormity of the task, it would have again increased the size of the book substantially. The price for a softcover book may seem high, but for a resource like this that can be turned to again it is, in this reviewer’s opinion, a fair price to ask.

Fortunately, this book arrived near the beginning of the new liturgical year, and so I have already had three weeks to discover that it makes an excellent Sunday-by-Sunday spiritual companion, and would be well worth offering to parish lectors. Though the scholarship is—as one would expect—important and exemplary, it may be as a partner in formation with the Lectionary and the liturgical year that its greatest contribution might be made.

Turner, Paul. Words without Alloy: A Biography of the Lectionary for MassCollegeville: Liturgical Press Academic, 2022. $34.95. 296 pages. ISBN: 9780814667637, 6763.

REVIEWER: Alan Hommerding