Catholics Prepare for New Mass

As Catholics start the holy season of Advent, there will be some changes in how they celebrate Mass. Starting this weekend, Roman Catholic churches across the United States and other English speaking countries, will use a new translation of the missal, the text and prayers used by the priest and congregants at the Mass.

Described as a more literal translation of the original Latin text, many parishes have been preparing for the change for several months, which will mark one of the most significant changes to how Catholics worship in more than 30 years.   

“When they come to mass they want something they can count on, so it’s going to be kind of difficult. I admit that,” said Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who leads the Archdiocese of New York. “But I think in the long run they are going to highly appreciate it.  The newer translation is more poetic, more uplifting, more reverent, more awesome, as my nieces would say.”

While the new missal is the outgrowth of work that started during Vatican II, this new translation was announced by Pope John Paul II in the year 2000, known as the Jubilee Year by the Church. Over time, an international committee of specialists empowered to translate liturgical texts on behalf of the Church completed a series of drafts and revisions.

Among the changes, when the priest offers the opening blessing, "The Lord be with you," the response is changing from, "And also with you" to "And with your spirit."

This is a better translation of the Latin, “et cum spiritu tuo,” according to Father Thomas Scirghim who teaches theology at Fordham University. But more importantly, Scirghi said this new greeting has a different emphasis.

“It’s not directed to the priest himself, personally, but rather in his role as the one who mediates the presence of Christ to the assembly,” he explained.

But this new translation, while more linguistically consistent with the original Latin, may also result in a text that sounds more exclusionary.  One striking example is in the Eucharistic prayer, where the text is changing from, “which will be shed for you and for ALL,” to “which will be shed for you and for MANY.”  

Scirghi said people “seethe” in response to this portion of the text.  Others have complained that the new text is being imposed on the faithful and is not ready for its debut. One priest from Seattle created an online petition which has accumulated more than 22,000 signatures asking “what if we just wait.”  

While Scirghi does not believe the new text is meant to be exclusive, he thinks there are still questions about its effectiveness.

“The question will be: does it help us pray better together?  Does it give us a better understanding?” he said.