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Final Missal Preparations  
Sandra Dooley  
   

I don't spend much time watching TV, but when I do, one of my favorite shows is Wheel of Fortune. Contestants spin the wheel and ask for a letter, and each letter gets them closer to figuring out the words of a phrase. As each round begins, Pat Sajak announces the category, and one of the frequent categories is "What Are You Doing?" Contestants usually start out by asking for an "N," a "G," or an "I," knowing that in that particular category there is always an action word ending in "ing."

Well, here we are just a few months away from the official implementation date of the new translation of The Roman Missal. As we come into these last weeks of preparation, my question to you is: "What Are You Doing?" Or perhaps, I should ask, "What Have You Done—or Not?!" Are you and other leaders in your parish taking action to be sure that the implementation of the new texts of The Roman Missal will be well received by parishioners?

In my parish, we have been observing a Year of the Eucharist. Our observation began on the First Sunday of Advent last November and will continue until the end of November this year, coinciding with our preparation for the new translation. Most Sundays of this year, just before the opening song, a liturgical minister gives a two- to three-minute catechesis on some aspect of the Mass. These commentaries, together with accompanying short articles in the bulletin, have walked parishioners through the entire Mass, explaining why we do what we do, as well as the origins and/or significance of the various rituals, actions, and words that are essential parts of our weekly liturgies. Within the context of these brief commentaries, we have also been preparing the parishioners for the changes that will take place on November 27 of this year. These commentaries actually were an outgrowth of a parish survey that was done almost two years ago in which many parishioners stated that they would like to learn more about the Mass, so, for us, it became an opportune time to do some catechesis and formation about celebrating the Eucharist while also preparing people for the coming changes.

But what if you haven't yet begun preparing your assembly for these changes? At this point, the question, "What are you doing?" is very important and needs serious consideration! Now that we are within weeks of the date of implementation, the assembly should be aware of the coming changes and given the opportunity to react and respond to those changes before they take place. This can be done in regularly scheduled parish meetings, special sessions and workshops, evening adult education meetings, or even in gatherings after weekend Masses. For sure, and at the very least, the issue needs to be addressed at weekend Masses, whether during the homily, the announcements at the end of Mass, or when (almost) everyone is assembled just before the Mass begins.

Time and again, my experience with different groups has shown that people are more open and amenable to changes when they understand why the changes are being made. Particularly in the case of our community prayer—prayers that we have been voicing together for more than 40 years—people need to understand just why this is being done. In short, the current changes are part of the organic growth and development of the liturgy of the Church. The document Comme lé Prévoit, which governed the translation of liturgical texts into different languages from 1969 until 2001, says in its very first paragraph: "Above all, after sufficient experiment and passage of time, all translations will need review." The same document goes on to say in paragraph 2: "When a common language is spoken in several different countries, international commissions should be appointed by the conferences of bishops who speak the same language to make one text for all." In 2001, as part of the ongoing process of reviewing and editing the translations we use in the liturgy, a new document was published, Liturgium Authenticam, which revised the guidelines for translating liturgical texts. The International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) has been working on revising the translation of the Latin text of the Missale Romanum (The Roman Missal) into English, and conferences of Bishops in all English-speaking countries have been reviewing, critiquing, and working with ICEL to fine-tune those translations. You can find more details about this lengthy, tedious, and often contentious process on the USCCB web site and Liturgy Training Publications Web site, www.RevisedRomanMissal.org.

Of course, everyone is not going to be happy about this. That's one reason why people need to be prepared in some way and given time to adjust to the changes that will take place in the prayers they have known and prayed for most or all of their lives.

So who will be leading this preparation of the assembly? Throughout 2010, the USCCB and the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) conducted workshops for priests and diocesan personnel across the country. Many dioceses then offered workshops for their liturgical and musical leaders, with the intention of those leaders taking the information and experiences back to their parishes and schools to begin to prepare the people of the parishes. If you were not able to participate in any of these events, which, in addition to excellent presentations, made available extensive resources for use in the implementation process, you can access these resources through the Web sites mentioned above. There are also good resources available through the FDLC Web site, www.fdlc.org.

A parish staff or implementation team can determine what resources will work best in a particular parish and how and when they are to be used. Sooner, rather than later, is the rule to follow. It will not serve your parishioners well if they only hear about the changes in November (or September if the musicians of your parish choose to begin teaching new Mass settings then) and are expected to embrace them without question or resistance almost immediately after learning of them. Many people will need time to adjust not only to the changes, but to the idea of making those changes. You will be shortchanging people and, possibly, disturbing their sense of reverence and devotion if you expect them to welcome the changes without any formation or preparation. You also will be sabotaging your efforts at implementing the new translation if you do not give people some time to get used to the idea before the changes are thrust upon them as a mandate from the institutional Church.

In a letter to the members of Vox Clara, a committee of bishops and priests working with ICEL on the revisions of the translation, Pope Benedict expressed the hope that changing to the new texts of the Mass will serve "as a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world." This will only happen in our parishes if the implementation of the new translation is done carefully, with adequate planning and with a positive attitude.

Various parish groups and ministers need to be involved in the implementation of the new translation for the transition process to go smoothly: priests and deacons, musicians, catechists, and liturgical ministers, to name a few.

For priests: It will be important to spend time with the new prayers before praying and proclaiming them aloud before the gathered assembly. You will seriously hinder the celebration of the liturgy if you are stumbling over new words and phrases or reading them with poor phrasing or trying to rush through the words without thinking about what you are praying.

CDs are available now with recordings of the Eucharistic Prayers. Bishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has recorded Eucharistic Prayers I, II, III, and IV for World Library Publications. Our diocese purchased and provided a copy of that CD for every priest to listen to in these months preceding the implementation of the changes. I have listened to it and found it helpful. The National Pastoral Musicians (NPM) has prepared recordings of the chanted Mass texts found in the Missal. Musical scores and recordings (MP3) can be downloaded from their web site.

J. Michael Joncas sings all of the chants in the Order of Mass in the CD Learning the Chants of the Missal: Part I: The Order of Mass and the propers in Learning the Chants of the Missal: Part II: Presidential Prayers and Texts, both published by Liturgy Training Publications. The CDs can be viewed as companions to The Order of Mass: A Roman Missal Study Edition and Workbook, by Revs. Michael S. Driscoll and J. Michael Joncas, and Essential Presidential Prayers and Texts: A Roman Missal Study Edition and Workbook, by Rev. Daniel Merz and Abbot Marcel Rooney, OSB.

For deacons: There is very little change. Most significant in my mind are the words of the dismissal, which I hope deacons will take to heart and pronounce clearly and with energy. My favorite dismissal formula in the new translation is: "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life!" For me, that certainly makes clear to all of us that we have a mission to fulfill as we leave every celebration of the liturgy. The attitude of deacons, along with that of the priests, will go a long way in helping parishioners adapt to and accept the changes in text.

For musicians: Many musical settings of the Mass have been newly composed and many familiar settings have been revised with the new translation. As of this writing, I have heard of more than 70 musical settings, both new and revised. Diocesan worship and music offices can be helpful in choosing settings that will work well in the parishes of your area. Some dioceses have gathered musicians together to review new and revised settings and have made recommendations to parishes and/or have chosen settings to be used at stational liturgies with the Bishop. If diocesan guidance is not available, go to the web sites of World Library Publications (WLP), Oregon Catholic Press (OCP), GIA, and Liturgical Press to view and listen to samples of the new settings. Another helpful resource can be found on the NPM website. This directory of musical settings includes a variety of publishers and specifics about each setting. It is updated frequently.

At the June meeting of the U.S. Bishops, it was announced that parishes may start using the new Mass settings beginning in September, as long as permission is extended by the local ordinary to do so. This broader timeframe for implementation was welcome news to those who have been researching and planning the implementation in their parishes for much of the past year, or even longer. For those not so well-prepared, perhaps the Bishops' decision has created a sense of urgency—to move more quickly in making decisions about the music. It will be especially helpful to teach the Gloria and use it before the end of the liturgical year so that it is familiar to at least the Sunday regulars when they come for the Masses of Christmas and the Christmas season. Musicians will need to decide if they want to use a Gloria with a refrain or one that is through-composed. Having permission to use the new Gloria beginning in September will make it easier to teach and use a through-composed Gloria. (At the reading session I attended several months ago, GIA had the largest selection of the Gloria with a refrain. The other publishers had more varieties of a through-composed Gloria.)

It is up to parish music directors (perhaps in consultation with their liturgy committees or other musicians) to decide what will work best in each community—a new Mass setting or the revision of one that has been used in the parish for some time. Keep in mind that the Kyrie and the Lamb of God (and, of course, the Great Amen) will not be changing, but the rest of the Ordinary parts of the Mass will change (Gloria, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamations). Allow this information to guide you in setting a timeline for teaching the new music.

For Liturgy directors and committees and implementation teams: Spend time with Father Paul Turner's book, Understanding the Revised Mass Texts, so that you understand the what and why of the changes and will be better equipped to help facilitate a smooth transition to the new words in your parish. Work with the pastor, priests, deacons, and musicians in planning how the new response and other texts will be introduced to the assembly. Create a timeline for the introduction of the new texts to the weekend assemblies and decide what materials will be used: pew cards, new hymnals, projection on a screen, or worship aids of some other type. Remember that whatever you choose will need to be used for several months, until people are generally familiar and comfortable with the new words. And it would be a good idea to plan to keep some type of worship aids available even beyond this initial period as a matter of hospitality for those who are visitors, those who come to church only occasionally, and for those who attend weddings and funerals in the parish.

For Catechists and Catholic School Teachers: Catechists and Catholic School teachers of the parish have (I hope) received information and catechesis on the new translation through the (arch)diocese. This is an important group of people to reach and to help understand what the new translation is about and why it is happening. Catechists will be responsible for informing and forming the children, therefore, it is essential that they be able to present the changes in a positive light and help children to learn the new responses and acclamations of the Mass. The attitudes passed on to these children will stay with them for many years to come, and may very well be passed on to their parents, so catechists as well as everyone else involved in the process of implementation bear an important responsibility. Good resources for catechists and Catholic School teachers (in addition to the title mentioned above) are Maureen Kelly's books: What's New About the Mass (written at a level for children) and What's New About the Mass for Teens. Both have leaders' editions, so that teachers, catechists, and youth group leaders can facilitate discussions of the revised texts with the children.

For Liturgical Ministers: Many parishes have regular gatherings of liturgical ministers, often in the fall. This is an ideal time to inform these ministers about the changes and enlist their help in spreading the word to others in the parish. In our diocese, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are required to attend a morning of reflection every two years in order to renew their mandates from the Bishop. This fall, all those mornings of reflection will focus on the new translation of the Roman Missal—a good way to reach a captive audience! It is hoped that those ministers will in turn help to spread the word to others in the parish about the changes, particularly why they are being made and by what process.

For other parishioners: It may not be necessary to schedule special workshops or information sessions about the new translation. Take advantage of whatever adult group sessions you already have in place in the parish. The Knights of Columbus monthly meeting, the women's group, prayer groups, social justice, youth group, etc. Someone from the parish staff and/or implementation team can visit all these groups in the next several weeks to familiarize them with the coming changes to the words of the Mass. Give people the opportunity to ask questions and absorb the fact that, come November 27, we will be singing, saying, and hearing things differently at our liturgies.

What are some of the significant points that need to be made at any gathering about the new translation?

The Mass itself, the rituals, the mysteries that we celebrate in our liturgies are not changing. It is the words—the English translation of the Latin prayers—that will change.

These changes are taking place in all English-speaking countries of the world, as mandated by the Holy Father. (Some countries have already begun using the new translation. The timeline varies from country to country.)

These changes are part of the ongoing growth and development of the Church. Many changes have taken place in the Mass over the years and many more will take place in the future. The current process of retranslating the prayers of the Mass began many years ago.

This is not the "final" translation of the prayers of the Mass. There will always be the need to periodically review and make changes to these prayers as time goes on.

There will be changes in most of the responses and acclamations of the people at Mass, but much of what we know will remain the same. For the priest celebrants, the changes are much more significant. Virtually every prayer that the priest prays in our name will be expressed differently than it is now.

Among the many resources offered for educating the assembly are bulletin inserts, power point presentations, pew cards, pamphlets, booklets and web articles. All of these means could be well utilized to help people learn about and become familiar with the changes. Visit the Web sites mentioned earlier in this article for good, solid resources that will help in the process.

This is a historic moment in the history of the Church. Our actions (or lack of action) will have a huge impact on how our parishioners receive and accept the changes in the texts of the Mass. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy spells out the goal of these and any changes the Church makes to our liturgical prayer: that our liturgies will be characterized by "that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations called for by the very nature of the liturgy" (14).

As we approach the new liturgical year, and open the pages of The Roman Missal, the question "What Are You Doing?" is very important for all of us in leadership in our parishes. And the question demands an answer that shows our true concern for the people among whom we minister.

Sandra Dooley
is the former director of the Office for Worship for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She writes a regular blog at www.RevisedRomanMissal.org.

 
         
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