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
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
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.