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?

“Revealing Ramadan” & “Choosing to be Catholic” preview

To accompany Ramadan, the holiest month is Islam which started this week, Speaking of Faith re-released their program, Revealing Ramadan.

While I’m not Muslim, I see Ramadan as a time to learn more about Islam and how it is practiced in the U.S. and around the world.  I listened to this program last year during Ramadan and it greatly helped my understanding of the spirit behind this season and this faith.  I hope it helps you too.

Nick and I after serving at a Mass over which our great-uncle, John, presided.

In the next several days, I’ll be posting a series of excerpts called “Choosing to be Catholic” about my experiences being Catholic.  I have been writing this essay for most of the summer, but it seems appropriate that it will be finished during Ramadan.  In addition to learning more about Islam, I am trying to look at and further understand my own faith.  As is commonly said, only when you know yourself can you begin to know others.