Tag Archives: Mass changes

New words at Mass: How did it go at your parish?

November 27, 2011

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A woman reads the new words for Mass prayers from a pew card Nov. 26. (Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit)

With the implementation of the new Roman Missal this weekend at parishes across the United States, I was curious how worshippers at my parish’s Saturday evening Mass would adapt to the changes to the words of many prayers.

While no one seemed too flustered, autopilot did kick in for many people, including a gentleman sitting behind me who was having trouble remembering that the response “And also with you” — previously spoken five times during the Mass — had now changed to “And with your spirit.” He ended up being one for five.

My parish, like most others, provided worshippers with pew cards highlighting the changes, and the priest who presided at Mass briefly held up a card each time a new response was coming up.

For the longer prayers, people took the cues and read accurately from the cards, although they noticeably stumbled over still-unfamiliar words like “consubstantial” and “incarnate.” When it came to the quick, brief response, “And with your spirit,” however, people forgot to glance at their cards and there was a noticeable mix of old and new responses. To his credit, our priest didn’t seem to stumble over any of the newly worded prayers he was responsible for speaking.

My parish offered a great deal of catechesis about the changes in bulletin inserts over the last several months. So did The Catholic Spirit, through a six-month series on the changes and a special edition focused on the new Roman Missal (see TheCatholicSpirit.com/newromanmissal).

Still, change is never easy, and no one should expect a perfectly smooth transition to new prayers the first week after 40 years of having different words ingrained in our minds and hearts. People will inevitably acclimate themselves to the new language in the coming weeks and months.

How did the changes go in your parish on this first weekend?

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Ease into the changes that are coming to Catholic Mass

March 1, 2011

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The changes in the Mass that Catholics saw following the Second Vatican Council were fought by a few, loved by some and endured and eventually accepted by many.  Now that a new English translation of the Mass is coming our way in Advent 2011, publishers are cranking out explanations to help smooth the transition from words many have said and heard for 40 years to words we’ll say and hear come November.

I read one awful one — I won’t name it lest it get any undue publicity at all — but it was attack-dog like in blasting anything that has happened in Catholic life since 1962 as the reason Rome had to “correct” the Mass.

On the other side of the ledger is “Understanding the Revised Mass Texts,” a product of Liturgy Training Publications in Chicago. Written by Father Paul Turner, a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO, this simple, 50-page booklet is a pastorally sensitive work that is well worth the $1.25 per copy. And there are discounts for parishes that purchase in bulk.

Explaining first why and how the Mass text have been revised, the booklet takes a factual yet positive approach to the changes, but it does so with the sensitivity of an understanding and compassionate pastor who knows his flock. Take for example:

“The new translation employs a more formal style than we use in ordinary conversation. Many sentences are longer. The vocabulary is broader. As with all change, there will be challenges. The adjustments will take some effort, but the results should be worth that effort.”

And then there’s this:

“By turning attention to the original Latin texts, the Church has raised some unintended fears. Many Catholics who lived through the era of the Second Vatican Council want reassurance that its reforms will remain. They hope that the recent compassionate outreach to those who prefer the 1962 Mass in Latin does not foreshadow a wholesale withdrawal of the vernacular. It does not. English is here to stay. It will be enriched through a reexamination of the original texts in Latin.”

Father Turner points to differences in attitude and rhythm that some may notice, and, as he walks readers through the various places in the Mass where words have been changed, consistently reinforces that the aim was to enrich our prayer by bringing the language closer to the original, often highlighting echoes of passages from Scripture.

He notes where changes are small and minor and when they are major, as in the words of the Gloria and the Creed. The previous translation and the new translation are printed side by side so the changes can be absorbed visually, too.

The changes are pointed out, the differences explained, and the purpose for the change named: Here’s what the translators were trying to achieve. Again, it’s a very positive analysis, one that seems intended to help Catholics appreciate the benefit that the translators were aiming for.

Yet this work isn’t afraid to point out that the word “consubstantial” that we’ll be reciting in the new translation of the Creed is, in the author’s words, “a mouthful” and “a very unusual word.”

“In the entire revised translation of the Mass, this is probably the one word that will raise the most eyebrows,” the booklet notes. It certainly did for this writer, and I’m not convince it isn’t a mistake. The meaning and use are explained, though, as describing a very unusual thing — the nature of Jesus Christ — and Jesus is not like anything else.

I’m still not sure that isn’t simply rationalizing, but I’m going to take heart in Father Turner’s reminder that after a time and so many uses Catholics will get use to the new language.

Others won’t think so, of course, and their proof may be in those who haven’t gotten over those Mass changes from the 1960s. I’m hoping, though, that these changes are going to have a side benefit that will outweigh whatever negative emotions linger from these new revisions of the liturgy: Helping Catholics better understand and appreciate the Mass. As the changes are explained, booklets like “Understanding the Revised Mass Texts” take each part of the liturgy and help readers see its purpose, why it’s part of the Catholic tradition, how we are brought closer to God and to one another through our prayer together. That’s a good thing. — bz

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