Everything Rite is Wrong Again

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.


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Thomas Piatak
9 years 5 months ago
Some very sensible observations. 
9 years 5 months ago

Thanks for these good points. It is interesting hearing from the perspective of one training to preside at liturgy using the new Missal. Perhaps this is a good opportunity for those priests who were seminarians immediately preceding the shift to the use of the vernacular to voice some of their experiences. Furthermore, one of my concerns (in addition to those you listed) is that many Catholics don't want to spend the time to get used to the new Missal. Obviously there were many other issues involved, but a number of studies report that a major reason why there has been such a decline in "practicing Catholics" over the last fifty years was the move to the vernacular. I, of course, think there are even more important reasons. But, I am still wary that "time" might drive many people away. Also, your point on instruction is crucial. I am curious how many people at your school even know this is coming later in the year. I can speak from experience that at other theologates, it isn't exactly common knowledge. People who take a liturgy class know about it, but I would suspect as many as 60% have no clue what is coming. I would suspect that the numbers in the Church at large are even higher. In other words, we are already faced with having to rush this instruction. In any event, I will try to take your advice, and be charitable (for now) with you spilling hosts!
Eric Sims
9 years 5 months ago
Great observations right up to the point where you used FUBAR.
Having spent 23 years in the military I can tell you exactly what it means and although it may be sanitized, the term is NOT appropriate for a Catholic website.
Good heavens, with all the education you cannot think of a better term?
Katie Fisher
9 years 5 months ago
I guess I must be a bad Catholic, Eric - I laughed out loud when I read fubar.  I think of all the thousands of people - some very, very religious - who use the word snafu all the time without knowing it is a military acronym.

On a more serious note, the willingness of the lay parishner to accept the new translation depends on the unified acceptance of clergy and theologians of the translation.  If there are any disagreements, the laity will perceive the lack of enthusiasm for the new translation and will balk - then Fr. Jims description of what will happen in parishes , whether you agree with his choice of "words" or not, will definitely come to pass.
9 years 5 months ago
I'd like to think that the author's use of the acronym, "FUBAR," was an attempt - a failed one, mind you - to demonstrate how the vernacular can be better than the formal; but I sense that it was just an ironically poor choice to express the author's perception.

I don't see an issue with people catching on to the new Missal; a few announcements prior to its roll-out, and an ongoing reminider at the beginning of mass to pick up the books and follow along will make for a smooth transition.

As for the need for instruction on its meaning, I think that in this age of information, those who seek will find their answers in the many venues in which knowledge is transferred these days; those who do not seek probably do not care and will just follow along unquestioningly.

Juan Lino
9 years 5 months ago
Good points.   Regarding your question: What about instruction?  In the parish where I conduct Adult Faith Formation classes, the pastor and I are using tons of material that we've found on the internet - either for free or to purchase.

For example, the USCCB has a great site devoted to the changes with wonderful explanations: http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/

Liturgy Training Publications has a great booklet titled: Understanding the Revised Mass Texts, Second Edition by Paul Turner

There are also several blogs devoted to explaining the changes - for example: http://causafinitaest.blogspot.com/ (note - this is NOT my blog so I am not engaging in self-promotion!)

They key is to start now as we are doing - slowly at first and then with a big push as we get closer to Advent.
Nora McKenna
9 years 5 months ago
Anyway, we all get to buy new missals! I love missals. As the oldest living female in my family at the age of 50, I have inherited all kinds of missals from the late 19th C. on. The oldest is horribly un-PC - it's bound in real ivory.
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