By Father Patrick Carrion - The Priest, 12/1/2010
We have a year left with our old Roman Missal translation. This liturgical year will have many “this is the last time for that prayer” moments. The translation will be met with lots of mixed feelings, but all change is met with mixed feelings. There will be moments of loss and moments of hopeful relief as we anticipate not having to say that wording again. The Secretariat of Divine Worship of the USCCB has been working diligently at giving workshops around the country to make this transition go easily, minimizing the anxiety as much as possible.
The one prayer that needs to stay, at least for the period of the transition, is the prayer inserted between the Lord’s Prayer and its doxology:
Deliver us, Lord from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Obviously, there is no evil in the changes but we all have encountered those who do not deal well with change. Their response or reaction to the changes may not be expressed to the celebrant in the kindest of ways. Those post-Mass “Father, do you have a moment?’’ can be rather heated when parishioners vent how much they think the new translation is off base, ridiculous, another indication the Church has lost touch with reality, awkward, a waste of time, etc., etc. The list of harsh vitriolic responses from a few will be something from which we all need to be delivered. Priests will need this insertion prayer to be “granted peace in our day.” I casually mentioned in the bulletin one Sunday that I attended the USCCB workshop, and somebody is already complaining (but he always complains).
A lot of the acceptance by the parish will be contingent on how much the parish priest leads his people into acceptance. All the bulletin inserts, all the adult education sessions on Roman Missal revision by the liturgy committee, all the Web site programs will be undermined in an instant if the priest says, “These translations are ridiculous.” or any of the phrases listed above. People follow their leaders. Maybe some of the translations seem ridiculous in the beginning simply because they are new. We need to keep our feelings in check and share them with only fellow priests when we are having one of those “I hate everything” kind of days. Sharing our frustration with the parishioners may fall under the insertion prayer covering “in your mercy keep me from sin.”
But we know that no matter how strongly we priests publicly support the translation and genuinely like it, there will be those who will ruin the new beauty and mystery by their consistent negative comments, sucking grace moments from the liturgy just celebrated because they hate change or hate the Church or you or themselves or all of the above. It is then we invoke the prayer “protect me from all anxiety.”
All the moments of frustration, anxiety and our own temptation to react negatively to the translation or a parishioner will one day dissipate into a “joyful hope” as we come to accept and enter into the celebration in the deeper way the translations is trying to take us. Once we allow it to take us there, we will be able to experience our Savior, Jesus Christ, in a renewed way.
I enjoyed the USCCB elevator story exercise. It entailed creating a one-minute response to that agitated parishioner who needs to know why we are making these changes — the one who never reads any of the bulletin inserts explaining it. My elevator story is the following:
It is like renovating your house. It has not had a coat of paint or new flooring or furniture in decades. It has gotten old, routine, and is in need of something. You decide it is time. You gather the family to pick colors, furniture, designs, etc. This is no small or easy task as not everybody has the same idea in mind. Choices are finally made. Now it is time to do the awkward transition. The new look is unfolding; the old look is fading. The painters have taken over your house; there is no peace and quiet as the workers are busy on the extreme makeover. You are even having second or third doubts because the color looks different at home on the wall than it did at the store. The workers are finally gone, the new look is in, all the furniture is back in order. You sit back and take it all in and smile, thinking, “We should have done this years ago.”
I have been wondering how best to celebrate this liturgical out with the old and in with the new. I am not a liturgist in the academic sense, but after 28+ years I have some pastoral sense of what might work and what might not. I am considering displaying the new Roman Missal in the vestibule of the church for several weeks prior to its usage. Heightening its awareness may add to the joyous anticipation of finally using it. When Mass ends on the last weekend of the present missal, we will ritually (a.k.a., dramatically) close it and process out with it. It served us well for decades; we should give it some honor. Then, on that First Sunday of Advent, the new book, which has been enthroned in the vestibule, will be ritually processed in and given a proper blessing prior to opening it for the Opening Prayer.
Two years from now, once it is all over, people will not even remember the previous Roman edition. Change is hard for people but, once through it, it will be fine. It will be fun watching the “Christmas and Easter Catholics” who missed all the preparations. They will be the ones still saying “and also with you” while the “regulars” are saying “and with your spirit.” Fortunately both phrases are five syllables so all will end at the same time. They will be stumbling, not knowing to open their cheat sheet, as we all get used to saying “consubstantial” with the Father.
It will take the holiday Catholics a little longer to catch up since their exposure to it will have been a little less than that of the rest of us.
I feel so sorry for those being ordained in spring/summer 2011. They will be leading people in prayer for up to a year, getting their own liturgical style down, getting used to the Eucharist prayers, when just as they become familiar with their style: all new prayers. Getting used to being a priest and all its expectations, then adding the pressure of all new prayers and new books is a lot to process in one’s first year of priesthood.
It might be easier for us veterans. By then we may have most of the prayers memorized, our comfort level in the sanctuary will probably be higher, and being able to improvise when needed will help us be at ease with the changes. Having familiarity with priesthood and ritual gives us an added advantage to navigate the new translation. The newly ordained have everything new and, on top of that, must switch to the new translations. The translation might even create a renewed spirit for us veterans. We may have been on auto-pilot so long that the prayers have become just words. We have exhausted (or, more accurately, given up) allowing the words to go deeper into us. We have exhausted trying to harvest the mystery that lies within the words and the ritual. Maybe having new words renews our attempt to go deeper into the mystery and harvest new meaning, new excitement. Maybe November 27, 2011, will be like celebrating Mass for the first time again! TP
FATHER CARRION is the pastor of Holy Cross, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mt. Mary, Star of the Sea in Baltimore, Md., and is the director of the Deacon Formation Program for the Archdiocese.