BALTIMORE — The long-delayed translation of the Roman Missal took another step forward at this month’s U.S. bishops’ meeting.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting in Baltimore Nov. 16-19, voted to approve Mass propers for saints’ feast days, U.S. adaptations to the Roman Missal and other parts of the missal (see sidebar).

That concluded a translation process that began in 2000, when Pope John Paul II introduced in Latin a third edition of the Roman Missal since the Second Vatican Council.

But although the bishops’ conference has already launched a website to help pastors and laity familiarize themselves with the coming changes, it still seems to be too early for most people to start learning about the new translation. The earliest the new missal could be put into use appears to be Advent 2012.

Even that seems iffy, said Chicago Cardinal Francis George, president of the USCCB.

“We don’t know that. Nobody knows that,” said the cardinal, who has been a member of the Vox Clara Committee that advises the Vatican on English translation.

In January, said the cardinal, Vox Clara will finish its work on the Roman Missal and give it to the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, which issues the recognitio, or approval.

“We’re not sure when that will happen,” Cardinal George said. “It could happen anywhere between February to April of 2011, sooner, a little later.”

After all that, the missal must head to publishers, which are expected to take a year to print it.

“We don’t know how long it will take them to get these books out, but they’re going to be nicely done, and so it will probably take some time,” Cardinal George said. “So we don’t know when we’ll have it in the parishes, but it’s coming, and it’s coming as quickly as I guess we can expect it to come right now.”


Ready or Not

Whenever the new missals finally are opened, Catholics will note the changes that garnered praise in some corners, criticism in others. Among them:

“And with your spirit” rather than “And also with you.”

“Remember your servant N. whom you have called [today] from this world to yourself. Grant that he/she who was united with your Son in a death like his, may also be one with him in his resurrection, when from the earth he will raise up in the flesh those who have died, and transform our lowly body after the pattern of his own glorious body,” rather than “Remember N. In baptism he (she) died with Christ; may he (she) also share his resurrection, when Christ will raise our mortal bodies and make them like his own in glory.”

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” rather than “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.”

As do many of the changes, this one restores the Scriptural reference (see Luke 7:6).

But with the USCCB approval, debate over the choice of words and phrases is moot.

Some Catholics have long been ready for the changes.

“I have been following the translation issues surrounding this problem for several years, and I am quite delighted that some concrete measures are finally being taken,” said Anthony Clark, archivist for the Spokane, Wash., Diocese and an assistant professor of Asian history at Spokane’s Whitworth University.

Clark, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral in Spokane, said earlier this year that he had heard little from the pulpit about changes to the only Mass many Catholics have ever known. “These corrections are little discussed,” said Clark. “I think this is so because so few Catholics appear to be paying attention.”

Tim Maurer agreed. “I haven’t heard about the changes from anyone — not from the pulpit nor other Catholics,” said Maurer, who lives in Connecticut.

But silence on the subject may be attributable not to a pastoral disinclination about implementing the changes but to uncertainty of when they would be implemented.

Father Damian Zuerlein, pastor of St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion, Neb., published notice of the coming changes in his bulletin earlier this year. That was when it was thought the new missal would arrive as early as late 2010.

Even then, parish-level catechesis was on hold.

“We have discussed this on the parish liturgy committee, but have decided it is still too far out to begin anything with formation at the parish level,” Father Zuerlein said, adding that, “doing things now will simply stir the people up and then have them wait.

“I would hope that even more materials for helping the parishioners with the changes would be made available between now and then.”


Preparations

The USCCB is providing that on a website, USCCB.org/romanmissal, which provides background on the changes, answers frequently asked questions and offers complete texts of the missal. All of it is available in Spanish, and the site will expand its offerings as additional information becomes available. Dioceses are linking to the site. Others are taking their own initiative.

The Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., has introduced a two-phase approach, with a website dedicated to the changes. The first phase prepared priests, deacons and religious and lay leaders. That came via presentations by nationally known speakers: Msgr. James Moroney, former executive director of the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship, and Father Paul Turner, a liturgical theologian. (Father Turner also offers resources on his website, PaulTurner.org, including links to various articles he has written on the topic.)

Phase II involves preparation of the laity. “Parishes and institutions will need to be creative in this regard and adapt information to their particular situation,” according to the website.

In the Diocese of Paterson, N.J., Bishop Arthur Serratelli, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, in October conducted a study day for priests and deacons on the new liturgical texts. In the San Francisco Archdiocese, a Q-and-A format about the changes was published in a September issue of Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocese’s weekly newspaper. Answers were provided by Patrick Vallez-Kelly, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Worship.

Musicians also are getting in on the act. The 8,000-member Na--tional Association of Pastoral Mu--sicians is sponsoring a competition for a musical setting of the Mass in its new translation. The winning composer will receive $1,500 at the association’s national convention in Detroit summer 2010.


Accepting Change

How will the new Mass — let alone new music — be greeted by laity?

Clark looks to changes in the Mass after the Second Vatican Council for a clue.

“The laity adjusted to the changes after the council in both positive and negative ways,” he said. “I expect the same now. But correcting mistakes is always preferable to retaining errors; the laity will benefit from a clearer, more theologically Catholic translation of the Mass. We should all investigate the Church’s reasons for correcting the translations before launching into ignorant criticisms.”

Said Maurer, “Change is often difficult for people, so we should be praying for the Church before, during and after the transition. We should also pray that through these changes the body would be more convicted and touched by Our Lord’s presence and truly transformed to live and love like Christ.”

Anthony Flott writes from Papillion, Nebraska.