Last but not least, lay Catholics can prepare themselves for the new translation by cultivating the right attitude toward the changes to the Mass.
“When we face change, it’s normal to resist,” Father Hilgartner said. “The familiar is comfortable because it’s familiar. But we can’t resist the possibility of discovering something wonderful because we don’t like change.
“Catholics need to approach this with a sense of openness and trust,” he concluded. “This isn’t about one person or one agenda. This is the collective wisdom of the Church at work, and we need to trust in that.”
The Priests’, Catechists’ and Parish Leaders’ Guide to Preparing the Faithful for the New Translation of the Roman Missal
1. Be an expert
Right now, most people have questions about the whats and the whys behind the new translation. Lots of questions. Priests, catechists and other parish workers and volunteers must be ready to answer those questions. Which means if they haven’t already done so, they need to hit the books.
“The more time leaders spend studying, learning, reflecting and praying through the texts themselves, the more confident they’ll be in their answers,” Father Hilgartner said. “It’s important to be a step ahead of the game so that as people ask questions, they’ll have the ability to answer them.”
2. Watch your attitude
In preparing Catholics for the new translation of the Missal, as in all things, attitude matters. It colors and shapes not just the work of preparation, but also the fruit of preparation — how open and accepting of the new translation people will be.
“Most laity will take their cue from their priests,” Father Stice said. “If Father is positive, most will be positive. If Father is negative, many parishioners will become negative as well. That’s why it’s so important to be positive.”
3. Be precise
Confusion breeds concerns. So don’t let parishioners become confused about what is and isn’t happening come Nov. 27.
“We need to clearly communicate that this isn’t a new Mass, it’s a new translation of a new Missal,” Father Stice said. “The gestures are the same. The posture is the same. What’s happening at the altar is the same. None of that is changing. Knowing that puts a lot of fears to rest.”
Just as a lack of precision creates concerns, so does a lack of context. That’s why, when it comes to liturgy, seeing “the big picture” helps people understand that the coming changes are a lot more natural and a lot less earth-shattering that they might otherwise appear.
Accordingly, said Father Hilgartner, parishes should make an effort to give parishioners a sense of that big picture.
“The Latin rite, as we know it, has evolved over centuries,” he explained. “It’s always adapting itself, in big ways and small ways, to the needs and signs of the time. This is just one moment in that very natural process. It is a big deal, but it’s not that big of a deal. So don’t blow the changes out of proportion. Give a little history and put them in context.”
5. Take a sacramental approach
In the Mass, gestures are never just gestures and words are never just words. Both communicate spiritual realities. The more priests and catechists use this time of preparation to help Catholics understand that, the more sense the need for the new translation will make.
“We have to do mystagogical catechesis,” Father Stice said. “We have to show people that in the Mass the symbol isn’t just a sign that points to something else. Rather, it contains the reality signified. We’re making spiritual realities present through the words and liturgical actions of the Mass. That’s why the most precise translation is really important — because the words effect and contain the realities they convey.”
Like people, no two parishes are exactly the same. As such, it’s generally a good idea for parishes to use the preparation plans laid out by diocesan Offices of Worship as the foundation for specific plans, but then build upon them to meet the unique needs of their individual community.
“The needs of an inner-city urban parish are different from those of a large suburban parish or a rural parish,” Father Gretz said. “There is no one-size-fits-all plan, so parish staff should sit down and talk about what, in addition to whatever their diocese might be asking them to do, will best meet the needs of their parish.”
7. Practice patience
Transitions take time. In the vast majority of parishes, there will be glitches and snags, questions and confusion both in the pews and in the sanctuary, long after Nov. 27 comes and goes.
And that, said Father Gretz, is OK.
“Patience is really critical,” he said, “In my ivory tower, Nov. 27 is going to be a wonderful day. But in reality, it’s going to be messy. Depending on the community, it’s could be messy for a good six months to a year. Priests and parish leaders need to remember that and know that, in the end, it’s all going to work out just fine.”
Getting Ready …
Priests and catechists from three dioceses reveal their visions, goals and plans for preparing parishioners for the new translation.
THE DIOCESE OF HARRISBURG. PA
Vision: “This time is a unique opportunity that’s been given to us by the Church to catechize people anew on the treasures of the Mass. Even more important, we’ve been blessed with a translation that really emphasizes the beauty and grandeur of the Sacred Liturgy, and which uses more biblically-based language. Together, the two can’t help but lead us to a deeper appreciation and awareness of the mysteries being celebrated.”
— Jim Gontis, director of religious education, Diocese of Harrisburg.
Goal: “I think a lot of people imagine this is going to be a lot more difficult than it is, or that the changes are more dramatic than they are. Once they see them, however, they’ve been accepting them right away and seeing the value in them. As such, we want to give as thorough and uniform of an exposure as possible to everyone in the diocese.”
— Father Joshua Brommer, administrative assistant to the Bishop and Liturgy Coordinator, Office of Liturgy, Worship and Prayer.
“Holy Words for Holy People” — a series of talks given around the diocese throughout July, August and September that introduce people to the coming changes and address any questions they might have.
Six weeks of pre-Mass catechesis, beginning in October and running through November, that focuses on the primary changes to the people’s parts in the new translation.
A series of bulletin inserts and homilies throughout the fall that cover the changes in-depth.
A six-week age-appropriate curriculum for all Catholic school children and parish religious education students in grades 2-12 that covers the nature of the Mass, the Introductory Rites, the Creed, the Offertory prayers and Sanctus, the Eucharistic prayers and the Communion Rite.
A series of diocesan newspaper articles on the changes.
Bulletin inserts, homily notes, articles and religious education curriculum, all written and produced in-house by the staff of the Diocese of Harrisburg and, in large part, available on the diocesan website, www.hbgdiocese.org.
HOLY FAMILY CATHOLIC CHURCH, DIOCESE OF STEUBENVILLE, OHIO