Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Not your father’s Missal

By John Andrews
Director, Department of Communications

Our response is instinctive. When the priest says to us, “the Lord be with you.”

“And also with you…”

Get ready to forget what you know. Some of these familiar responses are gone in favor of new ones.

Beginning some time in the next 12-18 months, Catholics in the United States will start using a new English translation of the Roman Missal, which sets forth the prayers and recitations said at Mass. The U.S. Bishops gave their final stamp of approval to the English translation at their Fall Meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday.

Now comes the arduous unlearning and relearning at the diocesan and parish levels. For some the changes will feel akin to learning a new version of the pledge of allegiance. A few examples:

  • “And also with you” becomes “and with your spirit.”

  • In the Nicene Creed – “one in being with the Father” becomes “consubstantial with the Father.”

  • “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…” becomes “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”

In their final discussion of the translation this week, the bishops seemed to acknowledge that changing the ingrained responses would not please everyone. “In an undertaking this large there’s bound to be something for everyone to dislike,” quipped Archbishop George Niederauer, who called the process “sincere and hard fought.” Indeed, some, led by Bishop Donald Trautman (Diocese of Erie, PA), wanted to keep debating the new verbiage.

But most of the bishops were ready to put the Missal to bed, evidenced in the vote that carried nearly 90% approval and the audible sighs of relief that followed the Tuesday afternoon general session when the new Missal was approved.

The English language version is intended to be a more literal translation of the latest Latin texts approved over a decade ago. Bishops also hailed the new Missal as an opportunity for Catholics to renew and deepen the experience of the Mass. While we’re learning these new words and phrases we might actually reflect more on their meaning, goes the thinking.

And while it might seem like the present version of the Missal was printed on stone tablets, it is probably worth noting that the Missal has been retranslated many times, most recently after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

So this linguistic journey we are about to take in our liturgy might be seen as the carrying on of Catholic tradition. “The words used in liturgy pass on the faith of one generation of the Church to the next,” said Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli, who presented the final changes to the Conference.

Besides, we’ll have our missalettes to get us through, right?

“And with your spirit…”

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