CLAYTON, New York — English-speaking Roman Catholics who have regularly attended Mass for years found themselves in an unfamiliar position Sunday, needing printed cards or sheets of paper to follow along with a ritual many have known since childhood.
The Mass itself – the central ritual of the Catholic faith – hasn’t changed, but the English translation has, in the largest shakeup to the everyday faith of believers since the upheavals that followed the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
A years-long process of revision and negotiation led to an updated version of the Roman Missal, the text of prayers and instructions for celebrating Mass, which originally was written in Latin. The new translation was rolled out across the English-speaking Catholic world on Sunday after months of preparation.
Mickey Mattox, a professor at Milwaukee’s Marquette University, said he was happy with the idea that the bishops wanted the translations as accurate as possible.
Adapting to the changes “was a lot less difficult than I thought it might be,” said Mattox, 55, adding, “even though probably all of us are going to end up holding our worship folders for a few weeks until we memorize all the new language.”
Meanwhile, the Rev. George Witt, pastor of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Park Avenue, started the 11 a.m. Mass by noting Sunday was not only the first day of Advent, but also the first day to use the new Missal. He directed parishioners to a pamphlet inserted into the back of the now-outdated hymnal that spelled out the new wording.
A notable number of worshippers stumbled after the priest said, “Peace be with you.” The new response is “And with your spirit” instead of “And also with you.” But many others confidently gave the right response.
Most of the changes are actually to prayers recited by the priest, but some of the changes for prayers spoken or sung by the congregation revise familiar words that for some people are spoken almost automatically after years of churchgoing.
Along with the new response and unfamiliar words, the affirmation “We believe” has been replaced with “I believe” in the Nicene Creed. Some of the language seems more formal or poetic: the word “cup” has become “chalice.”
“It’s more British in some ways,” said Monsignor Michael Clay, pastor of St. Ann. “But this is the first time that every English-speaking country in the world will be using the same translation of the Mass.”
Clay likes the new translation, finding it closer to the Latin text that is still the church’s official language. But some priests and parishioners have been less enthusiastic, criticizing the new version as too ponderous or distant, and in some cases circulating petitions asking for a delay in introducing the new missal.
In 2001, the Vatican office that oversees worship issued a directive requiring translation of the English missal that would be closer to the Latin rather than to more familiar vernacular speech. Numerous revisions and bishops’ meetings eventually produced agreement on the translation being used Sunday. Parishes and dioceses around the country have spent months trying to prepare Catholics for the change.
Mfrances is a staff writer for CatholicFavors.com that deals high quality Catholic related jewelry including affordable gold rosary bracelets, silver rosary bracelets, and Catholic gifts of the Holy Spirit.