By Scott Alessi
In the not-too-distant future, Catholics will see a number of changes to the language of the liturgy, including many of the prayers and songs that have become second nature to regular Mass attendees.
With the impending arrival of the new English translation of the Roman Missal in U.S. parishes, Catholics are being encouraged to start to familiarize themselves with the new responses and prayers they will be reciting at Mass. To help ease the transition, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a website (www.usccb.org/romanmissal), which provides background on the translation of the missal and a list of changes to the Mass that will impact clergy and worshippers.
By publicizing in advance the changes Catholics will see in the Mass, the U.S. bishops hope to give people ample time to learn about the revisions before they actually happen, said Msgr. Anthony Sherman, executive director of the U.S. Bishops' Secretariat for Divine Worship.
"We've encouraged bishops and priests to begin to put these things into their bulletins so the people can see what is going to be coming, so the first time they look at these texts is not when the missal is produced," he told Our Sunday Visitor. "That's the goal -- to set up a situation in which, when the missal finally does arrive in the parish, the people aren't in shock about it."
The third edition of the Roman Missal was issued by Pope John Paul II in 2000. Soon after, work began on the translation into various languages following the Vatican's guidelines, which were outlined in the 2001 instruction Liturgiam Authenticam ("The Authentic Liturgy"). The revisions to the missal include prayers for the observances of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic prayers and additional votive Masses.
The English translation of the Order of Mass, which will be used in every English-speaking country in the world, was approved by the U.S. bishops in 2006 and confirmed by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments last year. Although the changes cannot take effect until the entire revision of the missal is complete, Msgr. Sherman said the U.S. bishops felt that it was necessary to release the revised text to the public to allow time for proper catechesis before the new missal makes its way into parishes.
"Some people will say that the first time around, when we did the formation for the English translation of the Roman Missal, there wasn't enough catechesis," he said.
"But today, there is nothing preventing any Roman Catholic in the United States from going to the website and beginning to become informed about it. And if more and more parishes [were] starting to use this material and begin to put it in their bulletins -- that is a good preparation for [the changes]."
The one question that the bishops cannot answer, however, is when parishioners will see these changes take place. The U.S. bishops are expected to vote on the translation of the final section of the missal during their general meeting in November, at which time the text will be sent to Rome for approval. Once the Vatican approves the text, the U.S. bishops will begin the process of preparing the missal for use, which could take more than a year, Msgr. Sherman estimated.
"Each country has to adapt it according to its own particular practices, so it has to be worked on, and we have to work together with publishers to put out the missal," he explained. "So it will take a year plus [from that point] before the final text will get into the parishes."
When the missal is introduced, worshippers will see changes to the wording in roughly a dozen parts of the Mass, including the Gloria, the Nicene Creed and both forms of the penitential rite. Priests will also see many changes to the prayers they recite during the Mass.
Msgr. Sherman said that he does not expect it will be a major challenge for people to adapt to the new responses and that publishers are likely to develop cards and worship aids that will assist in the transition.
"The people's parts are not significantly changed, and I think probably within a few months people will adjust to it," he said.
For the liturgical songs, Msgr. Sherman said that music publishers are working with the new translation but will attempt to keep the arrangements as close as possible to the ones that Catholics are already familiar with. Publishers plan to release the new music as early as possible to give music ministers time to prepare and to give parishioners a chance to become familiar with the music before they hear it during Mass.
As the official introduction of the new text draws closer, the U.S. bishops plan to release an implementation manual for parishes to use in getting ready for the changes, Msgr. Sherman said. There will also be regional workshops for priests and diocesan leaders and they hope to make more of the priest's prayers available so clergy can begin practicing them to get accustomed to their wording and cadence before proclaiming them during the liturgy.
The only limitation on preparing for the new missal translation, Msgr. Sherman said, is that parishes must avoid the temptation of using any of the new missal in their worship prior to its official implementation.
"The one thing we do not want to have happen is that parish X across the street has jumped ahead and started using the new text and parish Y isn't," he said. "That would just create great confusion. We want to move on this in a coordinated, concentrated way."
The new translation, Msgr. Sherman said, attempts to remain as faithful as possible to the original Latin syntax, which will result in prayers that in some cases have a deeper meaning than the previous translation. While it may take some time for Catholics to learn and understand the new translation, he said that in time it will help the faithful to grow and develop in their spiritual lives.
"The first time around when these translations were done, they were done rather quickly, and sometimes maybe things were not captured that were contained in the original Latin text that now will be," Msgr. Sherman said.
"On the other hand, when you recapture a lot of different elements, it is going to take us time to understand the content of these prayers, which in some instances will be richer than before," he added. "And so everybody has to be aware that it is not a question of catching it the first year around.
"These prayers are meant to be present for 30 or 40 years, and they will gradually begin to shape and form people over the years. And the people themselves will have the opportunity to be able to dig a little deeper into the significance and meaning of each prayer."
The following are examples of changes that Catholics will see when the new Roman Missal is implemented:
Scott Alessi writes from New Jersey.
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