One year left: Upcoming changes in the Catholic Mass

As Catholics, we’ve really got to enjoy the next year.  We’ve got to appreciate the fact that we can effortlessly recite the congregational responses in Mass, and sing the Holy, Holy and Lamb of God without following the words or musical notes.

Advent wreath in Georgetown's Dahlgren Chapel

Because starting on the first Sunday of Advent next year, we won’t be able to do that.  When the new Church year begins on November 27, 2011, the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal—the guide that tells the priest and the congregation what to say during Mass—will be implemented.

Announced by Pope John Paul II in 2000, this change will be felt worldwide.  With the publication of a new edition of the Latin missal, missals in every language are being retranslated to better adhere to the Latin version.

When reading through the new Order of Mass, the changes at once seem insignificant and massive.  Most of the wording is very similar to the current version.  But the small changes in syntax, rhythm, tone, and imagery feel considerable for those of us who have recited these words for years and attached great spiritual importance to them.  Being able to recite the responses in Mass without effort is a kind of comfort, and a disruption of that habit will be difficult to deal with at first.

Sample changes in the People's Part. Click for the full changes.

The changes in the music will probably be saddest for me.  I had wanted to have certain versions (the Mass of Creation) of the Gloria and Sanctus played at my wedding, and now I’m not sure that can happen.

Thankfully, the words of the Our Father have been left unchanged, which in my mind is most important.

While I’m not completely happy with the decision to change the missal, I have to remember back to my middle school and high school years, when I complained about the fact that the wording in Mass was always the same.  I realized then that because the responses were unchanging, I didn’t think critically about the words I was actually saying.  Recitation became a habit that didn’t require critical thinking.   While today I don’t have as many issues with the unchanging wording, my middle school perspective can be helpful during this time of transition.

As difficult as the implementation of the new missal may be, we must recognize the positive effects it may have.  We will have an opportunity to critically examine the words we are saying, and be forced to work hard to stay engaged during Mass, rather than passively participate like we can now.  And the whole purpose of these changes in the first place was to increase our awareness of God in Mass and in prayer.

Whether or not we are frustrated, optimistic, or unsure about the new missal, recalling the Serenity Prayer seems like a good way to move forward:

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
-Reinhold Niebuhr

Information about the new missal

-Background explanations from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops

-FAQs

-Sample texts- comparing the current and new wording

What are your thoughts about the changing missal?

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One thought on “One year left: Upcoming changes in the Catholic Mass

  1. A really interesting post, Jordan – I had no idea the wording of some of the phrases would be changing soon. Personally, I thought the most significant change was in the Nicene Creed, changing “We believe” into “I believe”, etc., which obviously suggests a personal oath as opposed to a communal oath. But then again, the text of the Nicene Creed has been debated ever since it was adopted, so I suppose it is hard to say which way is more proper!

    Its tempting to compare the old and new versions and think of which is “better”, but as you pointed out, these changes were made to more closely adhere to the original Latin. While the meaning of some of the phrases has certainly changed, it would be misguided to criticize a re-translation, which I am assuming was done in order to enhance accuracy rather than for ideological reasons.

    Having made that disclaimer, I personally prefer the old wording – perhaps only out of comfort, though, as you noted. I remember singing many of these parts at mass during high school, and you develop a certain attachment not just to the words, but to the tune, which will obviously have to be adjusted to reflect the new wording.

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