Following up on Kerry’s post about liturgists who are concerned with the new Missal, I thought it might be useful to share some practical observations and concerns about its implementation.
As part of our training for the priesthood, every Jesuit scholastic headed toward ordination at my theologate takes a course on “Celebrational Style,” basically teaching us the ins and outs of how to preside at liturgy. As part of the practical element of the course, each of us organized and presided at one major staged liturgical event (the fake wedding mass at which I presided, alas, included me accidentally sweeping the (fake!) Eucharistic hosts onto a very real floor), and also presided at two fake weekday masses, meeting with the professor afterwards to go over a video of these events.
Most of us will not be ordained before the new Missal goes into effect (scheduled to become official in Advent 2011—less than ten months from now), so our professor had us use the new Missal translations. Not much point in training people for a mass they will not say. A side effect of this was that our staged masses could be a kind of rehearsal for what will happen when the new Missal is rolled out, because these were all group efforts—friends and classmates served as lectors, acolytes, Eucharistic ministers, and congregational participants—and therefore looked and felt, more or less, like what parish masses will look and feel like a year from now on the average weekday.
The most obvious changes are in the Creed and in some of the congregational responses (most prominently, from “and also with you” to “and with your spirit.”) The Eucharistic prayers are different (I’ve been anticipating saying my first mass with EP IV for almost a decade, and they went and changed it on me!), but not drastically so. Most of us will notice the change to “and with your spirit” and the change from “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you” to “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” more than anything, at first.
So what happens when a parish community first meets these changes?
Crickets chirping in otherwise silence. No one knows what to do. The loudmouths (I include myself) sometimes still say the old responses out of habit, throwing everyone off; the more conscientious folks are careful to say the new ones, but a bit hesitantly; and most folks do what Catholics always do when they are not sure of the words. We say nothing.
What’s the solution to this? Time, obviously, first of all; everyone got used to the mass we have today, which was a far more dramatic departure from the Tridentine Rite, and we’ll get used to this. And instruction—we will all need instructional materials listing the new responses, and hopefully (please, please, please) explaining why it was felt the changes were necessary. And charity—because Father is going to screw this up, and so is the deacon, and so are the musicians, and so is half the congregation, and the first week of Advent in 2011 at almost every English-speaking parish is going to be F.U.B.A.R.
We have time. What about instruction? And as for charity—well, I think we all suffer from a lack of that, in ourselves and in our brethren, and we all know how awful its lack can be in our communities. It may be what we need most of all for this particular wild ride.
Jim Keane, S.J.