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Missal Guidance System

Bishops, Pastors, Laity Ready Themselves for New Mass


| Posted 5/19/10 at 12:59 PM

CNS photo/Archbishop Terrence Prendergast

Ready or not — and Church officials are urging the former — the new English translation of the Mass is on its way to parishes across the country.

The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship approved the new translation of the Roman Missal March 25. Now, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will decide when to authorize its use, a debut many believe will come in Advent 2011.

That means Catholics who haven’t been to Church in a while may be in for a shock that Christmas when Mass is celebrated with different words, including substantial changes to the introductory rites, the creeds and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

For every-Sunday Catholics, however, the bishops’ conference is hoping the changes are second nature by then.

“A full-scale implementation of catechesis for the new missal should be taking place in the parishes,” said Msgr. Anthony Sherman, director of the bishops’ Secretariat for Divine Worship. “What we’d like to have happen is by the time the missal comes people say, ‘Oh, yeah, you told us about this’ so it won’t be as traumatic as, say, after the Second Vatican Council,” when the Latin Mass was replaced by what many now admit was a hastily translated English version.

Such preparation already is taking place in various forms — workshops, brochures, DVDs etc. — and for various audiences — priests, musicians and the laity.

But Msgr. Sherman and others desire a preparation that goes beyond a rote memorization of words.

“It’s something much larger than that,” said Father Geoff Drew, pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe parish in West Chester, Ohio, and a member of an Archdiocese of Cincinnati committee that will oversee implementation of the new missal there. “Our hope is that it’s not just going to be teaching people new words. We have a wonderful opportunity here to have some very good and much-needed catechesis on the liturgy — what we do and why we do it.”

Priestly Preparation

For priests, the preparation already has begun in earnest with workshops sponsored by the bishops’ conference and the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions. The workshops began in April and continue into November in 21 states.

Presenters examine the historical/theological context of the new missal, review the new translations and examine the priest’s role in proclaiming and singing the texts. Speakers also discuss the impact of change on priests and the laity and suggest strategies for missal implementation. Attendees can ask questions and are shown available resources.

Father Drew attended the first workshop, which was held in Cincinnati.

“It’s very, very beneficial,” he said. “If anybody had any apprehensions, I think those apprehensions have been lessened greatly. The priests are going to have to learn many, many, many more texts … than anyone else. If we’re truly going to pray these texts, and not just read them as we pray the text on behalf of the assembly, it’s going to take a lot of time and effort on the priest’s part.”

Father Jeff Kemper, pastor of St. John the Baptist in Harrison, Ohio, said the workshop also included a presentation not just on the changes, but on change itself — “on the nature of change and how people respond to changes and what we can expect with that,” Father Kemper said. “That was helpful. A lot of young priests said, ‘We had [a workshop] in our seminary,’ but the older priests would not have. It really is helpful to realize how people will respond, how to deal with those responses.”

Priests who can’t attend a bishops-sponsored workshop have plenty of other resources available to help them adjust to the changes. The Midwest Theological Forum, for instance, in April launched a DVD, “A New Translation for a New Roman Missal.”

A nonprofit organization based in Woodridge, Ill., the Midwest Theological Forum publishes materials and organizes courses for bishops, priests and laity. Work on the DVD, nearly two hours long and filmed partly in Rome, began six months ago and is composed of three parts: an overview of the changes by Msgr. James Moroney, executive secretary of the Vox Clara committee, which advises the Holy See on the English translation, interviews with Vox Clara committee members, and a reading of the four Eucharistic prayers.

The Midwest Theological Forum “went right to the horse’s mouth,” said Midwest’s vice president, Father James Socias, with comments from Vox Clara committee members such as the chairman, Cardinal George Pell of Australia. The committee represents more than 11 countries that will implement the new missal in English.

With their help, the DVD also goes deeper than a presentation of new words.

“We wanted to give something that people are not talking about too much: the theological essence of the Mass,” Father Socias said. “We … gave them the opportunity to explain that the Mass is an action of God … to emphasize what the Mass is.”

The DVD, available at, launched with 1,000 copies. A second run of 5,000 copies will include versions with subtitles. Father Socias said free copies will be distributed in countries unable to afford its $20 cost, and a version will be available for download on the Internet.

Laity Learning
While priests have more for which to prepare, it might take the laity longer to learn the new missal, Father Drew said. “Because they’re not assembling that much to go over things, there’s only a small window of time with the people to catechize them.”

But there’s plenty with which to catechize.

For months, the U.S. bishops’ conference has offered multiple resources: answers to a list of frequently asked questions, sample texts, copy for parish websites and bulletins, electronic slides and liturgy guides.

The FDLC, meanwhile, at offers a workshop kit for priests and numerous resources for parishes and individuals, including study papers, workshop manuals, kits and, soon, audio CDs.

Liturgy Training Publications ( has published a set of brochures and a study booklet for adult-formation sessions. The Notre Dame Center for Liturgy offers Web-based catechesis, including videos and transcripts.

Formation also is occurring at the local level. The Davenport Diocese in Iowa, for instance, has assembled articles published in its diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Messenger, into one document. Oregon Catholic Press is offering five new and four revised Mass settings.

Later this year, a two-DVD resource produced by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) will be available for purchase through the U.S. bishops’ conference. The DVDs, “Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ,” will feature video, text, graphics and music and is designed for priests and parishioners. It was filmed in churches and cathedrals in eight countries and includes commentary from translators, academics, liturgical consultants and practitioners.

Workshops also are being utilized. In March, for example, noted scholar Father Peter Stravinskas conducted a three-part series at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Valhalla, N.Y., discussing the parts of the Mass and demonstrating their scriptural basis. The new missal also will be the focus of workshops by the Catholic Media Convention in June, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians in July, the National Conference of Catholic Youth Ministry in December and the Southwest Liturgical Conference in February.

Ready or Not

Father Drew refers to it all as a “smorgasbord” of resources.

“There are just a lot of groups that are collaborating with each other and cooperating with each other to have a variety of resources available,” Father Drew said.
Technology has been key.

“What a huge difference: the number of resources and high-quality resources available,” Father Kemper said. “No diocese will be able to say at the end of this, ‘Well the bishops did not help us negotiate this.’ I think the bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship has really done an excellent job in preparing people for this.”

That’s different from when the Mass first transitioned from Latin to English. Father Kemper, who wrote a dissertation on the principles and procedures used when implementing the initial and substantial changes to English in the 1970s, says the Archdiocese of Cincinnati offered workshops then to help cope with the “massive shift.”

And yet, “I think we’ve done more for this relatively minor translation … than was probably done on the whole Mass itself in the 1970s,” Father Kemper said.

One thing remains the same though.

“The Lord said he would be with us always, and that’s a promise,” Father Drew said. “The Lord is going to be with us through this transition. It’s up to us to trust in his promise and the movement of the Spirit, [so] that as we go through this transition, we’re going to look back on it in 10, 15, 20, 40 years and say, ‘Wow, we really did that well.’”

Anthony Flott writes from Papillion, Nebraska.