Photo: Felix Carroll

The introduction of a new English translation of the Roman Missal will take effect Nov. 27, the First Sunday of Advent. Changes in grammar, word order, and vocabulary are reflected throughout the new text.

A Page Turner

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From the greeting through the dismissal at Mass, both parishioners and clergy in churches throughout the English-speaking world will soon be stepping into new linguistic terrain.

The result of years of painstaking work by language, biblical, and liturgical scholars will take effect Nov. 27, the First Sunday of Advent, with the introduction of a new English translation of the Roman Missal. Clergy throughout the Church, including the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, hail the new translation for its attentive adherence to the powerful meaning and beautiful imagery of the original Latin texts.

"It's an exciting opportunity," says Fr. Andy Davy, MIC, the parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish in Plano, Ill. "Through Mass, we have the opportunity to encounter Christ, so the closer we are — the more concise we are — to the actual words that Christ wants us to pray, the better we're able to worship God."

Along with other English-speaking parishes, St. Mary Parish has spent months preparing. They've held workshops, provided guidelines, and published articles in church bulletins explaining the changes and the reason for their implementation. Father Andy said the concerted catechetical efforts serve as a "preemptive measure" to reduce confusion, skepticism, and frustration for what amounts to the most significant changes in the Order of the Mass in more than 40 years.

"I think the biggest question was, 'Why do we need this?'" says Andrew Kuffel, a parishioner of St. Peter Parish in Kenosha, Wis., another Marian-administered parish. "So skepticism is our biggest obstacle. As the presentations go on and we explain the reasoning behind the updates, the skepticism has turned to acceptance.

"I think this period of preparation has given us an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a Catholic and how central the Mass is in our faith," Andrew says. "This is why we come together. This is who we are."

Still, no one expects an easy transition. Changes in grammar, word order, and vocabulary are reflected throughout the new text, in the prescribed prayers, chants, and instructions that millions of Catholics know by heart.

For instance, the Nicene Creed will now begin with "I believe in one God, the Father almighty ..." rather than "We believe ... ."

"It's a simple change," says Fr. Andy, "but it's a powerful change. It's more personal, rather than with the generic 'We.' It's like Jesus looking at us and saying, 'Who do you say I am?'"

The new translation rediscovers poetic language lost under the current text. For instance, Psalm 133 is now reflected in Eucharistic Prayer II when instead of the priest saying, "Let Your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy ..." he will now say, "Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down Your Spirit upon them like the dewfall."

As parishioners will soon experience, the new translation encourages the nurturing of a more humble, sorrowful attitude toward God, acknowledging our dependence on His grace for our salvation.

For example, in the Confiteor (Penitential Act), instead of simply saying, "I have sinned through my own fault," we will now strike our breast three times while exclaiming
"Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."

"This new translation [of the Confiteor] will help open us up to a deeper experience of The Divine Mercy by giving us words to not merely express an apology but to offer heartfelt contrition and sorrow for our sins," says Fr. Andy.

Confirmed by the Holy See in 2008 after being approved by the English-speaking Bishops, the new translation reflects Pope Benedict XVI's emphasis on a sacred encounter with the Lord in the liturgy. As the Holy Father says in his recent book Light of the World, "The point [of the liturgy] is to go out of and beyond ourselves, to give ourselves to [the Lord], and to let ourselves be touched by Him."

To that end, those who tend to recite the responses at Mass mechanically will soon find reason to look afresh at the Church's greatest prayer as a life-changing encounter with Christ.

"We can take for granted what is actually happening in Mass," says Fr. Andy. "Getting out of our comfort zone wakes us up. Even those growing pains of struggling at the beginning with some of the wording, that's okay, because we're rediscovering this great treasure of the Mass."

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RV - Dec 3, 2011

I'm sorry, but I am frustrated, angry and incredulous that all this time, money and energy was spent on something so unimportant and insignifcant. If you truly believe that "it's a powerful change", then the Catholic Church is really in deception. And if you don't understand what I'm saying, you're part of the problem in the church and not the solution. With all the problems in the Church today, this is what "the scholars" think is the solution to the problems or are they just not aware that there are problems?! My precious God, what has the Church come to?????

George - Dec 5, 2011

I truly understand. For this to concern you so much your faith is very important to you. For this my respect goes out to you. I had a less intense but certainly a prayerful wonder... why? As you I'm sure, I have come to be so very comforted and comfortable with the Mass as it was. I also remember the change from Latin to English in 1970. I felt at the time it was almost disrespectful. I was 21 years old. Imagine the challenge of Priests and Religious to get behind such a change. Their changes are even greater than ours. If our earthly spiritual leader asks us to embrace changes, I'm very confident his prayerful thoughts and conversations with our Lord have gotten him there.

I think of the 4th Joyful Mystery; The Presentation. Observing the Law of Moses, Mary & Joseph take the infant Jesus to the Temple to Present Him & consecrate Him to the Lord. This was Moses’ Law of Purification. Neither Jesus nor Mary was subject to the Law of Moses. But they accepted it with humility to teach us obedience, and humility. As I'm finding, the changes aren't so many, or so very difficult. I’m also beginning to understand why some were instituted.

I understand also that your point is... with so many seemingly more important challenges the church has today... why all this effort for these subtle changes? I agree. Let’s find a way to get MORE people to church, and especially more kids to church. Families praying together. But if these changes are important to our Holy Father in Rome... I will be obedient.

I'm 62 years old and have been active in my church much of my life. I can remember at times being on vacation and finding some churches to have very different practices, music ministry etc.. I can even remember being a little annoyed with some. Maybe we get TOO comfortable... and find ourselves less focused and too repetitious? Mass is always what WE make it. Not the Priests homily, not the choice or music or verbiage, and not what other people do.
Took me a long time to remove distractions.

Two years ago I discovered The Rosary and began saying a rosary each day. Over the past 2+ years it's been a real journey of discovery. Around this time next year I will have been a Member of the Confraternity of the Rosary and said over 1000 consecutive days. Then I met an amazing 80 year old woman who has said a rosary every day for more than 50 years! I've found the four Mysteries of the Rosary teach me everything I need to know to get closer to Jesus Christ. The path to Jesus thru Mary. I've never in my life been at such peace. When I first began it used to take me 15 minutes. Now it takes me 25-30 minutes. The reason is my focus. Every Rosary each day I learn something new, or again. I've learned it matters less how many prayers you say but "the measure of our surrender to the Father” reflected in The 5th Luminous Mystery. Sounds like you have been a great servant of God and your church for some time. I highly recommend kneeling and saying a heartfelt rosary. It’s an unmatched feeling of perfect order, and trust in God.