new roman missal – one month later

It`s over a month since the new translation of the Roman Missal was introduced into all English-speaking dioceses around the world. Has it made any difference in our liturgical worship? Has it, as promised, sent our prayers mystically soaring on Latin-gilded wings? Have our devotions become more meaningful thanks to the theological richness of phrases from bygone days? These are still the early days, but here are some thoughts from my wee corner of the world…

First of all, I appreciated the low-key approach of my parish to the Missal. There was no hoopla, or long lectures rationalizing the translation. We just did it; with expected stumbles along the way. But then came Christmas, when pews are overflowing with visitors.

The new translation added to the unease felt by some of our sisters and brothers who join us for special feast days and celebrations of life`s passages.  Eager responses to familiar prayers were cut short as mistakes were realized. Folks fumbled through pamphlets. Some gave up and followed the prayers in silence. One young person summed it up this way, “I`m an intelligent person. Coming to Mass made me feel stupid. I don`t know what I`m supposed to say anymore!” This saddened me. We`re supposed to promote a spirit of welcome and hospitality within our worshipping community. Will this new language deepen separations and build walls between those who are “in” and those who are “out”?

And, it’s not only the occasional church goers that are feeling stupid. I attend Mass regularly and I`m still responding with a warm and friendly “And also with you”! The feeling of stupidity is quickly followed by either an embarrassed giggle, or anger and frustration. And then I have to struggle to regain a prayerful mind-set. So much for deepening my sense of devotion!

I use the Canadian Living with Christ missalette for praying the daily scripture readings. The difference in wording of the Collect,(previously known as the Opening Prayer), reflects the style of language in the new translation.  On the page, it stands in sharp contrast to the clean simplicity of our NRSV Lectionary. Here is a sentence from today’s Collect,

O God, who in the blessed child-bearing of the holy Virgin Mary kept the flesh of your Son free from the sentence incurred by the human race, grant, we pray, that we, who have been taken up into this new creation, may be freed from the ancient taint of sin.

Difficult words to read. Even more difficult to speak out loud in a smooth and flowing manner.

I’m trying my hardest to give this Missal a chance. Will I ever get used to hearing “chalice” rather than “cup”? Will I remember to invite Jesus “under my roof”? Can I eventually embrace the renewed focus on our abject sinfulness with the requisite beating of the breast? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear of your experiences with the New Roman Missal one month later…

11 thoughts on “new roman missal – one month later

  1. I really love the new translation…it’s poetic…and anything that makes us Catholics stop and think about what we are praing instead of just saying words as a habit is a good thing! We are all focusing on the Mass!

    1. I find the Eucharistic prayers cumbersome and excessively long-winded. In my efforts to try and understand what it all means, as the priest struggles with the new prayers, I am distracted from what is taking place on the altar. “We’re all focusing on the Mass!”, not all of us I fear, as we are too frustrated with the prayers. Oh well… I have taken the advice of the poet Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain”. I’m not going to complain anymore, it is still the Mass after all, and for that I am most grateful.

      1. I`m joining you in trying to change my attitude and not complain too much, Dan. But it is a struggle. I admire those who have the faith to remain focused on the mass regardless of what they think of the translations. For me, it`s just such a distraction at the moment. Perhaps it will change as time goes on. sigh…

    2. Being nudged to stop and think about what we are saying is a good point. This was my husband`s thought, too. I`m eager to know how others are experiencing the new translation. Thank you so much for your comment. I`m happy to hear your positive response.

  2. My husband and I was in a different location for several months. Here in Texas we only have the news words for the responses at mass instead of old and new versions that we were looking at in Ohio. This seems to help. But it is hard to see the new translation in a positive light. Of course, we are still in the early stages but….it is hard to see the words as poetic or flowing or even make sense in some cases. And when we use the word consubstanial and incarnate of the Holy Spirit within a few sentences of each other it is a challenge! And when we listen to the words the priest is saying it doesn’t sound like good changes to me. But like with most things in the Catholic Church most people in the pews listen to what is told to them and try their best. Kathy

    1. Thanks for your response, Kathy. Much of my sadness and frustration comes from the lack of dialogue and collaboration on these changes. I wish there was less silent obedience in the pews and more open dialogue.

  3. Well, now we all know how wordy Latin is 🙂
    I’m getting used to the assembly’s responses, except for the “roof” one. The Eucharistic Prayer just sounds like a jumble. Under the previous version I’d close my eyes and follow the flow of words, like a river, bringing loved ones to mind, etc. Now I feel like I’m on a choppy ocean! I hope I get used to it.
    On another note: During recent attendance at an Episcopal church, which uses basically “our” previous version, I was struck with the thought: Well now English speaking Catholics are in union with other Catholics, but we’re out of union with our Protestant “siblings”!

    1. Actually, Latin is much less wordy than English (on the back of the dollar bill the words “Annuit coeptis” equals the English “He has looked with favor on the things that have been undertaken”). So the fact that the Latin sounds wordier tells us how much had been left out of the previous, very defective translation. We were losing much of the wealth that our prayers in translations that preferred brevity to accuracy. Having that wealth to share with anyone who visits us and prays with us is far more important than continuing to say the same thing as they do in their worship. If their prayers were similar to ours, it’s because they followed our earlier ones. If they’d like to pray along, then I doubt ICEL would prevent them from using the new ones as well, which are much better. Of course the moment of transition is difficult; selling out all future generations to prevent a brief period of difficulty would just make no sense.

      1. Hi Mike. It`s true that for some Catholics Latin is more prayerful than the post-Vatican II vernacular translations. As with many things, it boils down to personal preference and style. For those who wish to celebrate the Mass in Latin, this option is still available to them. Sadly, we now have no options in English except for the new translation. I don`t think it`s a matter of `selling out` anything. One of the great gifts of Catholicism is its diversity of spiritualities, acknowledging a glorious tapestry of charisms and prayer forms. I wish we could learn to embrace this diversity rather than see one as superior to another.

  4. Rich, I agree also with you…and with your spirit! 😉 The key to ecumenism is to focus on what unites us in our belief and in our worship. The more we use ultra-Catholic language of bygone times, the more out of sync we will be with our sister churches.

    Thanks for joining in the dialogue!

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