As you may have already heard, on Nov. 27, 2011, the first Sunday of Advent, our parishes will begin to use the third edition of the Roman Missal, which will give the English-speaking world a new translation of virtually every prayer we pray at Mass the whole year long.
This new English translation of the Roman Missal — many years in the making — was approved for use by the Vatican. The goal of the new translation, which will ask us to use language that is perhaps a little more formal than we are used to, is to make the liturgy conform as closely as possible to the original Latin texts, and thus bring to the surface the richness of our tradition contained in the texts.
So in November, while the structure of the Mass remains unchanged, the prayers and responses with which we have grown familiar these past 40 years will change. This will occur throughout the world in English-speaking nations. Our priests will use these newly translated texts when they celebrate the Mass. The prayers and some responses of the congregation also will change. In addition, sacred chants and music used in worship are being modified to be harmonious with the language of the new missal.
While most of the changes affect those celebrating the Mass, musicians and others responsible for the liturgy, you’ll also have some changes to make. For example, the new translation asks you to respond a little bit differently to the priest’s greeting, "The Lord be with you!" With the new missal, your response will be, "And with your Spirit," instead of, "And also with you."
Please have no worries that you won’t know what to do or say at Mass! Over the next several months you will hear much about the new translation through articles and inserts in your parish bulletin and the Catholic Courier, in homilies and parish gatherings, even through a video we are distributing throughout the diocese early this New Year. As well, we are planning to explore in great depth the meaning of the Mass and our faith as a natural preparation for the new missal. For example, during all the Sunday Masses in February, homilists throughout the diocese will preach on the various parts of the Mass, such as the introductory rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist and the blessing and living of the Eucharist.
I also invite you to check out a wonderful Internet resource developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the new missal: www.usccb.org/romanmissal.
Throughout the next few months as we prepare for this momentous occasion, I think this can very much be a moment of grace in the life of the contemporary church:
The implementation of the missal gives us the opportunity to catechize all generations of Catholics not just about words, but about the central act of our faith, the Sunday Eucharist, about the nature and structure of the Order of Mass, and about the liturgical year. Much work is being done in our own diocese and its parishes to educate people over the next several months. Thus our liturgical assemblies will have a deeper understanding of the full context in which the words of the liturgy are prayed.
The new translation provides me, and all priests, a graced opportunity to refresh and deepen our leadership of the prayer of our faith communities, and the liturgical spirituality in which it is based.
Parishes have the opportunity to take stock of their liturgical celebrations, and strengthen them so they will be vibrant events of faith for active and less-than-active Catholics alike. In our own diocese, clustered parishes will have the added opportunity for continuing to strengthen their liturgical life together.
Having these opportunities in front of us fills me with hope about the months ahead. As pastoral leaders and stewards of the mysteries of faith, the priests of our diocese and I can together take the next step in the renewal of the liturgy inaugurated by the Second Vatican Council with your help and prayers.
What can you do to help prepare? Here are a few suggestions from the USCCB Roman Missal website:
- Make a conscious effort to participate more fully in the Mass each Sunday and holy day.
- Take advantage of any special catechetical sessions offered by your parish.
- Visit the Roman Missal website (www.usccb.org/romanmissal).
- Study the new texts and learn more about the changes.
- Read the new texts of the people’s parts at Mass. Begin to study them so that you will be able to pray them well when the new Roman Missal is implemented.
- Pray for a renewal of love for the liturgy in your parish.
The current edition of the missal has served us well these last 40 years, and, when we say we’ve learned a great deal of it by heart, we mean it has become part of us, even dear to us.
It is difficult to say "goodbye" to an old, reliable friend; but at the same time we do not know what new blessings, by the grace of God, may be in store for us. So our first challenge is to welcome the revised missal with respect and humility.
For my own part, I am looking forward to the next few months as a time of renewal, learning, discovery and an abundance of grace. I pray you will be blessed by this journey to Nov. 27, 2011!
Peace to all.