The New Mass Translation? The Marines In WWII Had That.

Well, it’s pretty close, from what I can tell. And it makes a handy little pocket guide for the changes coming upon us when the New Translation kicks in this first Sunday of Advent. I didn’t have to invent the Flux Capacitor to find out about it either.

Caveat emptor: the language is more along the lines of what is found in the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible. There are Thee’s, Thy’s, and Thou’s, rather than the more modern version that is on the handy cards you’ll probably be consulting in your parish pews.

But everything else is a close enough match that you might just want to buy this neat little prayer book anyway. You don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy it either. True story time. Marine Corps General Holland M. Smith, known as “Howlin’ Mad” Smith by the troops, utilized this very prayer book. How do I know? Look at what I found on page 321 of a book written by Charles Lee Lewis, published in 1950 entitled, Famous American Marines, An Account of the Corps: The Exploits of Officers and Men on Land, By Air and Sea from the Decks of the Bonhomme Richard to the summit of Mount Suribachi.

General Smith, who had not slept the previous night, spent another sleepless night reading his Bible. Though a Methodist, he also read a Catholic Prayer Book and My Daily Readings from the New Testament and the Daily Mass Book which had been distributed by the Chaplain’s Aid Association.

Going in harm’s way has an effect like that on some of us. As an added bonus, this little pocket sized marvel also includes daily prayers, night prayers, litanies, prayers before and after Communion, a Rule of Life for Soldiers, prayers for Confession, etc. etc.

I bought my copy about a year ago and only recently dusted it off. I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost every change to the Mass coming this Sunday is already right here. Put together by a Paulist priest named Fr. John J. Burke, he seems to have followed the direct translation route rather than the dynamic equivalent method that was rolled out in the USA after Vatican II. Bravo Zulu!

I believe in the Nicene Creed instead of “We”? Yep, right there on page 16.
And with thy spirit instead of “And also with you?” Yep, on page 17 and page 25.
Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; say but the word and my soul shall be healed? Right there on page 27.

In fact, this would also be a very handy guide for use in following the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, as both the Latin and English translations of the Liturgy are presented side by side. That way, see, Joe Six-Pack, USMC could, and can still, follow along.

Do you know what it doesn’t have? Any references to American exceptionalism whatsoever. Instead, it includes prayers for enemies, prayers for authorities, a prayer for purity, and a prayer for victory. There are also prayers for before action, and for after. Prayers for the dead, and prayers for Holy Communion.

In fact, I don’t think there is anything lacking throughout its 65 pages. It is a testament to the attention to detail of Fr. Burke that I would wager that this prayer book could not really be improved upon. Not if you want one that slips readily into your back pocket, which this one does easily. Something else to be thankful for is that Roman Catholic Books, out of Ft Collins, CO has put it back into print.

Toward the very end of this little jewel is an essay by Fr. Burke entitled A Short Way to Truth. Here it is in it’s entirety,

What is your most important business in this life? — It is to save your soul. “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul,” says our Blessed Saviour (Mark viii. 36).

What must you do to save your soul? — You must follow the religion taught by Christ. “Go ye into the whole world,” He said to His Apostles, “and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be condemned” (Mark xvi. 15, 16).

How many religions did Christ teach? — Most certainly only one, for this plain reason, that He cannot contradict Himself. As St. Paul tells you, there is “one Lord” and “one Faith” (Ephes. iv. 5).

What, therefore, is to be thought of the many religions in this country? — As our Saviour taught but one religion, it must follow that all these religions are false except one , wherever that is. Hence St. Paul says, in his epistle to the Galatians (i. 8): “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a Gospel to you other than that which we have preached, let him be anathema.”

Is it not very uncharitable to say that all religions are false except one? — It is not more uncharitable than to point out the right road to one when he is on a journey, and to tell him all other roads will lead him astray.

But are you not safe in following the religion in which you were born? — From what you have been reading, it is as clear as noonday that you are not safe in following the religion in which you were born, unless it be the one true religion which Christ taught.

But how are you to find out the true religion? — You must truly and heartily repent of all the sins you have committed; you must have no other wish than to learn the will of God and to do it; you must be resolved that neither persecutions nor losses, nor worldly interest, nor anything else whatsoever, shall prevent you from doing the will of God, when you know what that will is; and you must often pray that He will teach you His holy will, saying: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts ix. 6). If you will follow this advice, you may be sure that God will hear your prayer and lead you into the right way (Luke xi. 13; Matt. vii. 7,8).

You should also look about you, and inquire which is the one true religion. You will soon find, in the New Testament, that Christ established a Church upon earth; that He built it upon a rock, and declared that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. xvi. 18); you will find that He gave His Church authority to teach His religion and commanded all to hear and obey it (Matt. xviii. 17; Luke x. 16; Acts ix. 6, 7; x. 5,6), that this Church cannot teach error , being “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. iii. 15), and that by following what it teaches you will be freed from all doubt and perplexity about the way to heaven, and will no longer be tossed about by every wind of doctrine (Ephes. iv. 11-15). You will find, in short, that you will be as sure of learning the religion of Christ from this Church as if you heard Him speaking to you Himself: “He that heareth you, heareth Me” (Luke x. 16).

A further examination will make clear to you that this Church is no other than that which you often truly say was the first and will be the last and which all Christians say they believe when they repeat the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.” Yes, this is the Church which Christ built on a rock, which has stood for nineteen hundred years, and has triumphed over all the persecutions raised against it; this is the Church from which all other churches have separated, whilst it has always remained the same as our Saviour established it. Death! Judgment! Heaven! Hell! Eternity!

After reading that, Father Burke recommends praying a Hail Mary and a Prayer For All In Trouble,

Most Blessed Virgin, in your life of glory, remember the sorrows of earth.

Look with kindness on those who suffer, who struggle against difficulties, who drink unceasingly the bitterness of this life.

Have pity on those who love each other and are separated.

Have pity on the lonely heart.

Have pity on the weakness of our faith.

Have pity on the objects of our affection.

Have pity on those who weep, those who pray, those who fear…Obtain for all, hope and peace.


How can you get a copy? T’would be a great instrument in the hands of anyone serving in the Armed Forces, and anyone else for that matter. Do what I did and contact this website, that’s how. A great stocking stuffer idea, for sure.

Semper Fidelis

Update: Fr. Tim Finigan of  the hermenuetic of continuity has footage of a Mass aboard ship before the landing on Iwo Jima.

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  • Stephen Taylor

    Hmmmm, the Catechism says that there is salvation outside the Catholic Church, yet what you quoted does not seem to say that. On the other hand, I do like the thought of buying this prayer book, when I can afford it on disability income. That will probably be ….. when you send me one, Frank. :-) Good post, my friend.

  • Ambrose


    Actually, you should reread paragraphs 846 through 848.

    It still affirms that there is no salvation outside the Church. Granted, however, it does say that: “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”

    The caveat of ‘invinceable ignorance’ doesn’t appear to have been laid down as we know it in a Church document until Lumen Gentium and Ad Gente (the references the catechism uses), both of which were published after this prayer book. So what he says is accurate and true, the Catechism agrees with it, only the caveat of invincle ignorance is added.

  • Nishant Xavier

    Excellent! Nice to see the Gospel preached in a no-nonsense, authentically Catholic way by a priest. Small wonder we hear anything like this anymore.

    However, invincible ignorance has a long history in the Church’s tradition, as the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia points out.

    However, it should be made as clear as day that ignorance is definitely not a means of salvation. What it means is that God will make known to the person Himself either through a direct internal enlightenment, or by sending an Angel, according to St.Thomas. And we would still be presumptuous and sinning in hoping for this and failing to do our part. Ordinarily knowledge of the Trinity and the Incarnation is absolutely necessary for salvation, for as St.Thomas says, no one can know God who holds a heretical opinion about him. In truly extraordinary circumstances, the faith that suffices for first grace and justification, culminating in a “baptism of desire” of the person involved, may include merely “that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him”, as St.Paul puts it.

  • RJS

    Invincible ignorance is not the 8th sacrament. Every singe person (except the our Lord and the Blessed mother) are born into this world separated from God and on the road to eternal damnation. The only way to be saved is to receive an infusion of grace into the soul, which takes place at baptism.

    Invincible ignorance may indeed excuse from sin, but it is not a sacrament, and will not infuse grace into the soul. Therefore, those who die invincibly ignorant of the Catholic Church will be damned, since “without [the Catholic] faith it is impossible to please God”.

    And we also need to be clear on what consitutes invincible ignorance, and what constitutes vincible ignorance.

    St. Thomas, Summa: “I answer that, Ignorance differs from nescience, in that nescience denotes mere absence of knowledge; wherefore whoever lacks knowledge about anything, can be said to be nescient about it: in which sense Dionysius puts nescience in the angels (Coel. Hier. vii). On the other hand, ignorance denotes privation of knowledge, i.e. lack of knowledge of those things that one has a natural aptitude to know. Some of these we are under an obligation to know, those, to wit, without the knowledge of which we are unable to accomplish a due act rightly. Wherefore all are bound in common to know the articles of faith, and the universal principles of right, and each individual is bound to know matters regarding his duty or state. Meanwhile there are other things which a man may have a natural aptitude to know, yet he is not bound to know them, such as the geometrical theorems, and contingent particulars, except in some individual case. Now it is evident that whoever neglects to have or do what he ought to have or do, commits a sin of omission. Wherefore through negligence, ignorance of what one is bound to know, is a sin; whereas it is not imputed as a sin to man, if he fails to know what he is unable to know. Consequently ignorance of such like things is called “invincible,” because it cannot be overcome by study. For this reason such like ignorance, not being voluntary, since it is not in our power to be rid of it, is not a sin: wherefore it is evident that no invincible ignorance is a sin. On the other hand, vincible ignorance is a sin, if it be about matters one is bound to know; but not, if it be about things one is not bound to know. (END)

    Invincible ignorance is “ignorance… that cannot be overcome by study”. Since we live in the “information age”, where just about anything we want to know is at our finger tips, it is hard to imagine anyone living in a developed country whose ignorance of the one true true Church could be considered “invincible”. But, as mentioned above, even if the ignorance was invincible, such ignorance will not infuse grace into the soul.

    Where invincible ignorance does affect salvation is when one who is already in the state of grace commits a sin that is objectively mortal, yet, due to invincible ignornace, is not aware of the gravity of the sin. If the person was already in the state of grace, and, through true invincible ignorance, performed an action that was objectively evil, he would not lose the state of grace through the act. In this way invincible ignorance would “save” him.

  • Tapestry

    I believe that everyone will be saved unless they really don’t want to be in Heaven with God though baptism by water is the primary way; you have to remember that baptism by desire or because you proclaim Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior then die for that statement is also included in types of baptism. That takes great grace to make declaration like that in many lands.
    I also believe that babies that die from abortion or at birth or because of abuse are nothing going to to be damned, just for lack of baptism, God takes care of his little ones. He said so!

  • Fr. Michael

    I’ve been giving copies of the Catholic Prayer Book for the Marine Corps to good Catholics since I discovered it in 1999. It is portable, practical and orthodox. There are a couple of retired priests I’ve given it to who were in WWII and they smiled when they saw it and have told me stories of using it back then. It is a great little prayer book and affordable enough to be able to gift it to others.