Grading the Missal
The new translation of the Roman Missal was implemented in parishes on the first Sunday of Advent, 2011, six months ago. To explore how Catholics in the pews and behind the altar are receiving the translation, we asked four people from around the country who are knowledgeable about liturgy to describe what they have personally observed, heard and experienced.
By Edward Foley
On the morning of the First Sunday of Advent last November, we were prepared. The workshops had been well attended, the pew cards were in place, and the new settings of the eucharistic acclamations that we had been singing since September were starting to feel familiar. After the opening song, I intoned the Sign of the Cross and then the greeting: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Nine hundred of the baptized thundered back, “And also with you.” First there was a moment of shocked silence as the assembly realized what had transpired. Then they collectively burst into loud and sustained laughter. Our journey into the new translation of the Roman Missal had begun.
That was last November. Since then, assemblies have been earnest in their responses, demonstrating a strong commitment to “getting it right.” The short responses are firmly under control, and there is obvious earnestness as worshipers crack open the worship aid after the homily and prepare to revisit the Creed many had learned in their childhood. We have yet to venture into the retranslated Nicene Creed; anecdotal information suggests that it is being abandoned in many places. The new response to the Communion invitation is still a little wobbly. At the beginning of Lent I changed the dismissal text to “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” I think the brevity of the cadence may have caught them off guard, and I was surprised that their normally powerful “Thanks be to God” was unconvincing.
As far as I can tell, my brother priests are struggling much more than members of the assembly. One sacristan for weekday Eucharist echoed that perception when empathetically opining “these are some tough texts.” It is a point echoed by many members of the clergy. Sometimes there is no extended conversation but only a passing comment about the “word of the week.” Prevenient, from the Prayer over the Offerings on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, is one example that received a lot of clergy airtime.
Many priests are working very hard to stay faithful to the texts. Some for whom English is a second or even third language report they are employing only one Eucharistic Prayer (II) for the time being until they get the cadence and language down. It is a practice that I know at least one native English speaker also has adopted. As I travel around the country, I have heard from a few priests who are vocal about their unwillingness to say certain texts: the phrase for many in the institution narrative over the “chalice” is the prime example. More often, however, I hear of presiders who are employing a strategy of selective proclamation, editing out some of the more obscure language and occasionally dropping the ever-recurring “we beseech you.” It suggests that the hybrid English liturgy might be on its way to being even more so.
Learning From Mistakes
By Don Shane
Directives regarding the celebration of the Eucharist following the Second Vatican Council had a direct impact on me as a new priest. I worked hard to understand the history and the rationale for change. I was excited to share with the people the thinking that the church wanted them to experience a deeper intimacy with Jesus through the Eucharist. The changes often seemed drastic. The altar now had the priest facing the congregation, and often there was an altar in front of an altar. Changes in music often seemed inappropriate. There was a gradual change from Latin to English and finally the complete use of vernacular English. Many were happy to pray in the vernacular. Many were hurt and disappointed and felt that reverence for the Real Presence diminished. There was real division.
On the national scene it was a time of protest. It was the time of Vietnam, flower children, free love and demonstrable rejection of systems and values. The “God is dead” philosophy came on the scene. Some theologians supported the use of violence to bring about social justice. Not only were the values of our nation questioned but also the values of our church. Priests were leaving in large numbers. For many it was a time of chaos and of great soul searching.
Vatican II, Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI directed that we examine each sacrament and make sure that we celebrate the sacraments much as they were celebrated in the early church. We were directed to implement changes and we did. Many Catholics were upset. It seemed as if the church was not the stable rock it claimed to be but instead was swept up in all the chaos. Many left the church. Looking back, we who were priests at the time should have done a better job explaining the changes and making use of teaching opportunities.
In Advent 2011, when the time came to begin using the new Roman Missal, church leaders and pastors were able to draw on what they had learned about implementation from mistakes of the past. Leaders at both the national and diocesan level developed a marvelous preparation program for priests. There was unity throughout the country. In my archdiocese we set aside eight consecutive weeks to present to parishioners the history of the various parts of the Mass and the rationale for the changes that we know will be in place for a long time. All of it has been a great opportunity to study the Mass more closely and to reaffirm that it is our greatest prayer, our greatest spiritual treasure. This time, because pastoral leaders at all levels respected our people and gave a thorough preparation, we all came away with a great appreciation and reverence for the Mass.
As a celebrant I have been frustrated that I can no longer recite prayers of the Mass from memory. The language, though faithful to the Latin, sometimes seems clumsy and awkward. But knowing that we are closely aligned to the church throughout the world in the celebration of the Eucharist makes it all worth it. We priests, especially the older priests, just have to get used to it. It is already becoming more and more comfortable.
Our people have been most receptive. Not only do they participate enthusiastically, they also have demonstrated much tolerance for the celebrants, who sometimes stumble along. The congregation seems to appreciate the sense of solemnity the new translation brings. I think we have solemnity without losing the sense of the Lord’s closeness to us. Our people are supportive.
Parishioners and priests have learned more about the beauty of the Eucharist. Pope John Paul II’s wish that the vernacular of English-speaking countries more closely follow the Latin translation of the rest of the world has been accomplished. The implementation has been successful beyond my expectations. We really did learn from the late 1960s and 70s. We are blessed indeed.
Rev. Don Shane is the pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Church in Omaha, Neb., a parish of over 2,800 families.
Making Sense of Change
By Diana Macalintal
The first time the new translation began to make sense to me was last January at a diocesan Mass. In the Diocese of San Jose, Calif., we celebrate Mass in 11 different languages every Sunday, and over half of our households speak a language other than English at home. To reflect the reality of who we are, every major diocesan liturgy incorporates multiple languages, with English, Spanish and Vietnamese as the primary ones.
Most of the people at that Mass were English-speakers. Our bishop, however, according to custom, led the Sign of the Cross and the opening greeting in Spanish. When the assembly got to the response, “Y con tu espíritu,” it clicked. That means “And with your spirit!” I could sense a light bulb turning on.
The assembly’s newly revised English responses have been coming more naturally over the months, except for the response to the invitation to Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy....” Even at the Chrism Mass in Holy Week, packed with members of the clergy and parish leaders, we still could not find the common cadence to make this a unified response. Most assembly members no longer need the pew cards, but they still scramble for these aids at the Nicene Creed. Many parishes have opted to make more use of the Apostles’ Creed.
The people in our diocese, in general, can recall the new words. But do the new words help them pray? That is still uncertain. At a gathering of parish liturgy coordinators, I asked the participants if their assemblies were now more engaged or less engaged in the Mass. The overwhelming response was that they have mostly lost touch during the priest’s prayers. Perhaps this was true before the new translation, but those leaders perceive that their assemblies find the prayers unmemorable and unremarkable. When the parishioners do notice these prayers, it is for the wrong reasons. The most-cited example I have heard from lay leaders and clergy alike was the phrase prevenient grace from the prayer over the offerings for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Most of our priests have been publicly silent about their opinion. The priests I have heard celebrating the Mass, including our bishop, have been very diligent in practicing the prayers. Those who have been most successful pray more slowly and deliberately. Yet some who have privately shared their opinions about the texts with me have hoped that we might have a revision of the revision within the next several years. One heartbreaking comment I heard from a priest shortly after the feast of the Immaculate Conception and again after Ash Wednesday, when the imagery of the prayers seemed especially unfamiliar, was that he was “embarrassed in trying to pray it.”
The new translation has brought us closer to one another, but in some ways it has drawn us further away from communal prayer. The good we have seen is an increased urgency to attend to the other “languages” of the Mass: music, hospitality and preaching. In the meantime, we will continue together to do our best with what we have been given.
Diana Macalintal has been the director of worship for the Diocese of San Jose for 10 years.
Some Confused, Many Composed
By Jan Michael Joncas
When considering the musical reception of the new translation of the Roman Missal, one must first realize that it takes time for any new musical repertoire to become sung prayer in a local worshiping community. For this reason, and because the worshiping communities I am most familiar with are parishes, monasteries, university centers and convents of women religious in the upper Midwest, I need to make clear at the outset that my remarks are limited and tentative.
Since the new Missal was implemented in the United States, I have been especially interested to see how many of the chants included in it are being used in parishes. This repertoire is divided into categories, including chants for the priest’s prayers, dialogues between individuals and the assembly and litanies, hymns and acclamations sung by the assembly. Despite a significant educational effort aimed at the clergy and music ministers prior to the implementation, as well as a plethora of printed and recorded aids for the clergy, I do not experience a strong upsurge in the number of priests who are chanting the collect, the prayer over the offerings, the post-Communion prayer, the prayer over the people or the eucharistic prayer, using either the simple or the solemn tones. I have heard more priests chanting the dialogues at the introductory rites, before the Gospel, before the eucharistic prayer (continuing with the preface), and at the concluding rites than previously, with congregations gradually becoming familiar with their responses. Very few of the communities with which I have celebrated have used the Missal chants for the Lord, Have Mercy (in either Greek or English, whether troped or not), the Glory to God, the Holy, Holy, Holy (in Latin or English) or the Lamb of God (in Latin or English). These elements are almost always sung to settings other than those offered in the Missal, although the Missal chants are sometimes done a capella at daily Masses. I have never heard the Creed chanted.
About half the communities I have visited since the implementation of the new Roman Missal use what I call a retrofitted musical setting of the Order of Mass, by which I mean a setting composed for the earlier text that has been modified to fit the new translation. Good examples would be the new versions of Marty Haugen’s “Mass of Creation” or Richard Proulx’s “Community Mass.” While there have been some signs of confusion—portions of the assembly singing by heart what they remember of the earlier setting, while others sing the new setting according to the printed score—this transition has actually been smoother than many predicted.
The other half of the communities I have visited since the implementation of the new Missal are using new musical settings of the Order of Mass, with no particular setting seeming to dominate. While some hoped that the implementation would establish a common English-language repertoire for the Order of Mass in the United States, I see no evidence of that happening. The vast majority of the communities I have visited employ settings from one of the three most popular liturgical music publishers (GIA Publications, OCP, World Library Publications) or from a composer in their own community. Very few employ settings from smaller publishers or Internet sources.
In my judgment, the major disruption in musical practices that some predicted would occur at the implementation of the new Roman Missal last year has not occurred. Communities with strong musical traditions took the changes in texts in stride and are already familiar with at least one new setting; they may be taking on the challenge of incorporating the entrance and Communion antiphons in creative ways. Average communities struggle to find musical settings of the Glory to God that both respect the new text and invite congregational participation. Communities with little or no musical tradition might be best advised to work on a foundational repertoire of dialogues and acclamations, possibly from the Missal chants.
Communities are generally obedient and will do whatever they are told. In some places, extra effort was made to prepare and educate. Missing however, was any persuasive reasoning for much of the "Latinization" of previously familiar prayers and the disturbing introduction of I for we, consubstantial, under my roof, for many (not all), chalice for cup. There seems to be an obvious effort to supersize pious and reverential language for the sake of itself, and many instances of changed phrases that seem to be no improvement, just a new way of twisting the words which adds to confusion.The prayers for the priest to recite are simply overly complex, clumsy and in some ways, a departure from our previous theological understandings. It is very hard to find them either eloquent or inspiring. And we are in dire fear of what will be changed in the prayers for the non-eucharistic rites outside of Mass. The people are obedient since they have no chance of making any changes and objections lead nowhere. But are we really winning their hearts and minds?
But, "Come under my roof," how does that more closely express the true concept of asking to "come to me??" It does not.
Overall, the new wording does not have what
the drafters trumpeted it would have: "a poetic and elegant flow to the words."
In many places the new missal strains English Grammar (as in a 64 word sentence read by the priest). Even its defenders admit that the language can be clumsy and awkward.
So, how can clumsy, awkward and grammatically incorrect language in English benefit in communicating a beautiful liturgy to the laity?
Unfortunately, it appears the drafters and the present church made these liturgical changes mostly to show they could do so in a repositioning response to Vatican II (and instead of simply going back to a universal Latin Mass, which most of the laity would not have accepted).
After all, what is wrong with having one of the responses say: "It is right and just [to give him thanks and praise]?" In fact, I think it adds a good deal to reiterate that one is giving thanks and praise.
To most of the laity I have spoken with, it does not seem such a big deal one way or the other in terms of this language of the liturgy. That is why they seem quite perplexed as to why the changes had to be made at all.
Change can be a good thing, but if its main purpose is to go back, is that really change? It is 2012, not 1952. I would prefer that the Church required everyone to go to Mass yesterday on a Holy Day of Obligation (Ascension Thursday) but most of the American church has decided (and not because of Vatican II either) to let the nearest Sunday count instead. I would prefer the 1952 version of a real Holy Day of Obligation, but that apparently is not the future in the Church. As a result, I cannot hang onto the past. Why do the drafters?
Some weeks ago there was an article at the blog of the Archdiocese of Washington that I believe was titled It's Not About You - speaking about the register of the language now used - which answered some of the complaints about the choice of words.
We do address the King of Kings in a markedly different way than we speak to each other, and rightly so.
I wonder if we couldn't recieve an indult to use the sacramentary until the missal is cleaned up?
If the Church is really "the people," and the people are expected to think as they pray, many of the new translations will never be fully accepted because they are simply nonsensical.Can anyone explain why a proclaimed Creed should start in the first person singular (with "I believe"), but then alternate freely, back and forth with first person plural ("for us men and our salvation," "for our sake he was crucified")? It's NOT prayerful The illogic of this flaw is distracting and erosive of prayer. Are we praying as a community? Or are we to be solitary indiviuals in prayer? Or both? Or neither? "Just be quiet and read the card!"
Am I one of "the many" for whom Christ's Blood was shed, ....or am I not? Are we? Who is not included in "the many"?As I said before, it is we the people who will ultimately make our prayer. Changes may be "approved" and/or "recmmended". But they are ultimately accepted or not by the people who are the church. Personally I decline to use the new translated versions of the new Missal, preferring instead to praying what I know in my heart, at a pace slightly off from that of the Assembly perhaps, but prayerful nonetheless.
We are sheep. But we are being poorly shepherded by the bishops of the USCCB. This new missal does not create universal Catholic unity - in fact other countries' bishops have declined to change. Would that ours had shown that kind of courage and concern for their sheep.
More NEWSPAPER, more NEWSPAPER! I can still smell the fish!
“Like the Dewfall …”, “Under my roof …”. The first recovers happy boyhood memories when at sunrise, a few steps from home, I walked barefooted sometimes with other kids, on the grass, wet with dew. Such a happy memory and so enjoyingly wet, everything bright fresh at the start of the new day!“Under my roof …”, these words too, filled with restful memories of boyhood, of a boy half asleep on the wooden floor, lulled into slumber by the music of raindrops falling on galvanized roofing, each pitter-pater, pitter-pater, like crystal notes of a symphony sometimes in crescendo batoned by the wind, the sweet smell of rain wafting through jalousied windows. Such pleasant slumber!
I don’t like change, especially unnecessary liturgical change, that was so satisfying and understandable, as was the Mass prayers before the recent revision. But the two lines quoted above are stirring for me, so I like that part of the revision.
I agree with Mike and Michael, the first two who commented. Even when I practice, I still have a difficult time with the "word structure". I tries cannon #1 for Christmas. Was that ever a big mistake. Never use that mess again. If "Roof" was so important to be honest to the translation why was "servant" changed. Is a person less important than a thing?When ever the priests get together, if the conversation lags, just mention the new translation and everyone has something bad to say about it. Isn't this what happens when the pope gets old? The "offices" at the vatican take over. What can we do? Tell our people to write the Nuncio and complain? Tell our bishops that Bishop Trautman was right and they have to complain to Rome?
The changes have been a nice distraction for a church which hates change and improvement . A big boondoggle for PhDs and publishers!
One outstanding question is why the German Bishops were apparently able to refuse the Vatican's request for a new translation? The German Bishops in September of 2010 apparently stated that: "good German texts" should not be replaced by "unfamiliar interpretations." (see America Magazine, January 3, 2011 for quotes and a discussion) If in fact the German Conference of Bishops were allowed such a preliminary rejection, it seems that these heralded changes may not be found under everyone's roof!
What I wish would happen is that the Vatican would push for certain prayers to always be said in Latin. Imagine going anywhere in the world and suddenly hearing the Sanctus or Agnus Dei. It would be instantly familiar to everyone and be an exact marker of the spot in the mass. It would also mean something truly universal was going on.
Thank you for your wonderful article, Grading the Missal. I made up my mind to be as objective as I could humanly be when the new missal was introduced. I listened attentively, looked at the old and new translations and asked myself "Why is this needed?" "How does this help us pray?" "Who asked for this change?"
There were few if any reasonable answers. I have come to my own conclusion. This is just one more abuse of power that I have begun to stand up against. The verbiage is clumsy, artificial, gramatically incorrect with sentences four lines long and a clear throw back to pre-Vatican II language.
Priests have been chastised for improvising so that the message is understandable; others have been punished and denied pastoral placement. All for making decisions based on conscience? What has this Church come to? Command and comply or you will be drummed out.
Vatican II released us from the bondage of that rhetoric but those in power believe that we must be drawn back into blind, mute obedience. Well, not me. I find the rhetoric silly, affected, misogenistic and once again placing the laity, those whose donations keep the lights on, in a subservient position once again.
The music parts were introduced last summer. When the choir restarted at Labor Day, they were singing the new music with the new translations, mostly unison. To the choir and general congregation, it was just another music setting that took some getting used to.
The one (of three) deacons who sings does more than before. But that trend started as a personal commitment of his own dating back to his ordination. The
other two do not sing. It is probably best that way. We have to know and accept our limitations.
The priests are not singing more. Two small prayers, one at the start of Mas and one just before the distribution of Communion are said or sung by the cantor. We have a professional tenor cantor with a strong clear voice. It is easy to defer to him.
Other than the Mass parts, the choir repertoire has not changed. Two sources dominate: classical composers (e.g. Faure) and modern composers of good
polyphonic music, mostly not Catholic.
Net result: nada, except for general griping, which happens anyway but now has a liturgical focus. I just hope that those who invented and implemented these changes got a good warm fuzzy.
On a personal note, I know and understand enough Latin, and appreciate well written English, to think too many of the changes are ill-begotten abominations.
Such is the way of autocratic bureaucracy.
At my work, We recently did a major corporate reorganization. I had philosophical differences with the leaders of the division into which I was placed. I posted out and am transitioning to another division. This may be coloring my view of the new translation. I don't find that an option in my liturgical life.