Despite a few 'rough spots,' Catholics adapt to new missal translation
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Years of planning went into it, followed by catechesis over the past several months via workshops, classroom and video presentations, diocesan communiques, bishops' pastoral letters, parish bulletin inserts, and countless stories and special sections in Catholic newspapers.
All of it was done to prepare everyone, from clergy to the people in the pews, for the first use of the new English-translation of the Roman Missal as Advent began with Masses Nov. 26-27.
By all accounts, despite "a few rough spots here and there, and occasional 'and also with your spirit' and other hybrid responses ... it looks like we made it!" said Father Richard Hilgartner, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Divine Worship.
Pictured above: An altar server holds a copy of the new English translation of the Roman Missal during Mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Alexandria, Va., Nov. 27. The new missal was used for the first time in churches across the nation on the first Sunday of Advent. Churchgoers at St. Joseph's took the changes in stride and with good humor as they stammered through the new wording. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)
"We are now praying with the Roman Missal," the priest said in a Nov. 28 email to employees at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.
He told The Catholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese, his home archdiocese, that it will take time for people to grow accustomed to the new language, which is more literally translated from the original Latin than the earlier translation.
While there may be a short-term sense of entering unchartered waters, he said, in the long term the new translation may provide opportunities to enrich prayer life.
"We'll have new words and new images in our prayer, so I hope that ultimately people will hear things that speak to their hearts."
In the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., at St. Gregory the Great Church, Massgoers received step-by-step guidance with the new wording from cream-colored pew cards, produced by Magnificat.
While many parishioners visibly held the cards and did their best to follow along, some left the cards sitting in the pews.
Following the 5 p.m. vigil Mass Nov. 26, head usher Clairmont Sampson said he thinks the new translation is "wonderful. It's going back to the old Latin, the way I remember."
But it has been nearly 40 years and he doesn't necessarily recall all of the words so the pew cards, he said, came in handy and will help parishioners "adjust easily," he told The Tablet, Brooklyn's diocesan newspaper.
Marlene Saunders, parish trustee, was equally receptive to the changes. She feels the language is more personal and invites people into "more of a relationship" with God.
Although she knew of the changes, Saunders was grateful to have the pew card in her hand during Mass. "It's simple to understand," she said, adding that it kept her from making any mistakes.
At St. Michael-Resurrection Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Father Roger Keeler offered the blessing, "Lord be with you" during the Nov. 26 Mass.
Having used the same response for 40 years, many parishioners replied, "And also with you." Others replied for the first time using the new response, "And with your spirit."
"I think the new translation is very much like the old one, from way back when I was first at church, pre-Vatican II, except it's not in Latin," said Mary Griffith, a St. Michael-Resurrection parishioner.
The biggest difficulties will be unlearning familiar liturgical language, getting accustomed to the new language of the revised Missal and remembering when to kneel, she told the Western Catholic Reporter, newspaper of the Edmonton Archdiocese.
For most Catholics in the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., reciting unfamiliar words in familiar prayers at Mass turned out to be little or no challenge. Preparation for the new word changes helped make the transition smoother, said many Catholics interviewed after weekend Masses.
At St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Bishop David L. Ricken celebrated the 9 a.m. Mass. In his homily, he asked parishioners to turn and wish each other a happy Advent by shaking with their left hands.
"That is the way the liturgy is going to feel for a while," he said. "Like we are doing something we are not used to. We have to retrain ourselves to be comfortable with it. So eventually it becomes rote."
"I think it's very spiritual," said Joan Pierre of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in De Pere. "I think it's more alive. The music is upbeat. I love it. I really do."
"I also think it's very spiritual and it has been easy to follow," Lynn Danen, also from Our Lady of Lourdes, told The Compass, Green Bay's diocesan newspaper. "I think it's great that they have cue cards to help us out because we're so in touch to saying what we're used to saying and this will help us out."
Another fellow parishioner, Dan Ritter, said he was not overwhelmed by the changes. "I'm kind of underwhelmed," he said. "I don't see that big of a difference. I learned an entirely different Nicene Creed 70 or 75 years ago so I've always been kind of stumbling around, ever since I was a kid because the new one I never did get it. Now it's back again to being different again."
In the Archdiocese of Detroit, John Fleming, 90, a member of St. Aloysius Parish in downtown Detroit said: "I got out all my old missals from when Latin was on one side and English on the other and it seems more like what I used to say a long time ago. It is awkward for me now to change back, but I don't think it's a great obstacle.
"I've lived through much bigger changes when the Mass was no longer in Latin and when the priest turned to face us. ... Like everything else, you get accustomed to it," he said.
Father Richard Bondi, pastor of St. Theresa of Lisieux in South Hadley, Mass., in the Springfield Diocese, said that his parishioners have been generally receptive to the changes and he credits that to having made available a number of educational programs at the parish level.
"What we've tried to emphasize is not just the words and the changes to the words, but rather, the call to conversion, the opportunity for all of us to go deeper," he told iobserve, the diocese's communications outlet.
In Toronto at St. Brigid's Parish, Diana FitzGerald, who teaches catechism to Catholic children attending public school, noted the new language is more difficult, especially in a city full of immigrants whose first language may not be English.
"Consubstantiation, that's a very difficult word," she told The Catholic Register. But even the difficult words may eventually get easier, she said. "You get used to it."
For Maria Martinez, the surprising thing about the new English translation is how some of it is closer to the words she grew up saying in Spanish. Right off the top, the new reply to the priest's greeting of "The Lord be with you," now translated as "And with your spirit," is just what is said in Spanish -- "Y con tu espiritu."
At St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, Va., in the Arlington Diocese, misspoken responses at morning Mass Nov. 27 elicited a few knowing smiles and nudges among family members. Some parishioners said they preferred the older translation, with Jean Miller saying the new one was "a little confusing," and her husband, Earl, adding that he doesn't like change.
But others took the new translation in stride.
"The changes weren't as many as I thought," Claire Le Seur told the Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper. "It'll take a couple of weeks (to learn)."
"I think it will be a positive change," added Toni Maltagliati.
A call for comments on the new translation posted on Catholic News Service's Facebook page brought more than 50 responses by midday Nov. 29. A few said they didn't like it; one respondent said "the priest's language is awful" in the new version, the new sentences were "fragmented" and used "terrible grammar."
Some admitted to stumbles, but overall respondents praised the new translation.
"I think it's great to mix it up a little. Otherwise we become robots and recite our lines without any thought. I think it's what we all needed. Feels fresh and new. I'm for more change," said one person.
"Stumbled a few times during Mass yesterday, but the new language is beautiful. Richer than the original, pedestrian translation," said another.
The USCCB's Secretariat of Divine Worship provided guidance for disposing of the old Sacramentary once the new Roman Missal was implemented. Dioceses must handle disposal "with respect" by burying it in "an appropriate location on church grounds, or perhaps in a parish cemetery if there is one."
"In lieu of burying old liturgical books, they could be burned, and the ashes placed in the ground in an appropriate location on church grounds. It is advisable to retain a copy of the Sacramentary for parish archives or liturgical libraries."
— Catholic News Service
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