Since we are in Advent, I thought I'd do a post relevant to the season.
The New English translation of the Roman Missal
There are two forms of the Mass in the Roman rite of the Catholic Church. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass (sometimes referred to as the "Tridentine Mass") is the ancient and reverent form, where mostly Latin is used, and the priest celebrates it ad Orientum ("to the east"), facing the same direction as the people, as he is leading them in prayer. This form is very beautiful and spiritually uplifting, especially when the priest sings and chants the entire Mass. Unfortunately, since the 1970s, many bishops, in complete error, suppressed and even forbid the celebration of the Extraordinary Form. Thankfully, our wonderful current Pope, Benedict XVI, issued a statement a few years ago that cleared up the status of the Extraordinary Form, proclaiming it is and always had been valid, and every Catholic has the right to participate in this form of the Mass if they want to. It is now making a strong comeback, especially among young adults.
The second is the Ordinary Form (also known as the "Novus Ordo"). It is an abbreviated form compared to the Extraordinary, and has more options, such as celebrating it in the vernacular, allowing lay people to read the scripture readings and to distribute the Eucharist, and letting girls serve as Altar Servers. This form is more casual, and the focus is more on community than on spirituality.
The main problem is that the English translation of this form was done in a hurried and haphazardly fashion, resulting in the English translation being more of a paraphrasing of the Latin source text in very casual, conversational English. The Vatican wisely found this to be inferior, and requested the Roman Missal be re-translated into English in a more faithful way. After a decade, it is finally completed and approved, and will begin to be implemented over the next year.
Having had a chance to read the new translation on the USCCB website, it is a great improvement over the current translation. It corrects many of the flaws, and uses a higher form of English more worthy of the Mass. It also revives a sense of spirituality that the old translation lacked. I am definitely happy with this, and excited for when it replaces the old translation. My only hope is that we also get some new Liturgical music that is more worthy of Mass than the bland "Kingston Trio" style pseudo-folk sing-a-longs we currently have to suffer through in the Ordinary Form. If there are any parish music directors reading, please trust me: chant is your friend. And throw the pan flutes in the garbage.
Oddly, there is a small, yet obnoxiously loud, group of people (mostly far-left extremists... you know, the kind who think felt banners and cloth streamers are more beautiful than traditional statues and icons, and believe holding hands during the Our Father is more important than to recieve the Body of Christ while kneeling) who are against the new translation. These people would prefer all spirituality be removed from the Catholic faith, leaving it little more than a social justice organization.
English Bible Translations
The Douay Rheims is the traditional Catholic Bible, in use for over 500 years. It is a literal translation of the Latin Vulgate, the official Bible of the Catholic Church for 1500 years. It is accurate and completely free of doctrinal errors. It is in "Shakespearean" English and was revised in the mid-1700s by Bishop Richard Challoner. I use this Bible for serious prayer and devotional reading. In the U.S. in the 1940s, a revision of the New Testament was published by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. This "Confraternity Version", as it became known as, removed much of the archaic language and fine tuned the overall translation. In my humble opinion, it is one of the best versions of the New Testament. It is still available from a few publishers in a pocket book format. Unfortunately, the Old Testament was never revised.
The New American Bible is a modern English version that is translated from original language texts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. Work on the Confraternity Version Old Testament was abandoned to work on the NAB instead. In the U.S., Scripture readings in Liturgy are taken from a slightly altered version of the NAB. This is the only modern translation of the Bible to use the phrase "Amen I say to you" spoken by Jesus in the Gospels, instead of the more common "truly I say to you". A Revised Edition of the NAB is due to be published in a year or two. I hope the new edition will include the altered version of the New Testament that is used in Liturgy (and is very similar to the Confraternity New Testament). Although this version has some critics, I like it, and I use it for more casual reading. (UPDATE: The New American Bible Revised Edition will be published on Ash Wednesday. The Old Testament has been fully revised, and the excerpts I have read seem very good. The Psalms have also been completely revised, and are much better than the 1992 revision which was riddled with inclusive language and banal word choices. Unfortunately, the New Testament was not revised at all, so the Liturgical changes, such as the restoration of "Hail full of grace", will not be included.)
The Jerusalem Bible was published in 1966, and in English speaking countries outside of the U.S., it is used in Liturgy (although that is starting to change). J.R.R. Tolkein worked on the Jerusalem Bible. It is hard to find in the U.S., but I have an old paperback copy I found at a used bookstore. I like it, but to me, it reads more like a novel than Scripture (which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage). A revision, "The New Jerusalem Bible", which is not approved for use in Mass due to the use of inclusive language which changes the meaning of some Scripture passages, has been the most popular Catholic Bible in the English speaking world outside the U.S. The revision is said to be a more literal translation than the original Jerusalem Bible. In the Old Testament, both versions use the name of God "Yahweh" in place of "the Lord". There is one particular translation choice I do not care for. In Matthew 16:18, where it traditionally reads "you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church...", the New Jerusalem Bible uses "community" in place of "church".
The Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition is a revision of the King James Bible and places the Duetercanonical books in proper Catholic order. Since it is a revision of the King James, this is the best Bible for converts to the Catholic faith, and is very useful to those who are apologists or who have dialogue with protestants. Many modern Catholic theologians and conservative Catholics prefer this version (its rabid fans can be called "RSV-onlyists"), and it is used in the English translations of the Vatican's documents (including The Catechism of The Catholic Church) and the Pope's encyclicals, a concept that could be traced back to the booklet The Catholic Religion Proved By The Protestant Bible. However, there are many who say, due to the RSV:CE's protestant origins, the choice of words used in the translation, while being technically correct, lack doctrinal certainty. In addition to the original RSV:CE, there is the "Revised Standard Version: Second Catholic Edition" which removes the archaic "thees" and "thous" the RSV:CE has, and makes some minor translation improvements, there is the "Oxford University Press RSV:CE", which is a hybrid of the original RSV:CE and the 1971 RSV protestant revision, and there is "The New Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition", which, like the New Jerusalem Bible but to a greater degree, uses inclusive language which changes the meaning of many Scripture passages. Sadly, the Bishops of English speaking countries, such as Canada and the U.K. are choosing to replace the Jerusalem Bible in Liturgy with the New Revised Standard Version, despite it's many flaws and the Vatican initially not allowing it for use at Mass. In my humble opinion, either the Revised Standard Version: Second Catholic Edition or even the New Jerusalem Bible would be a better choice.