Ct@Prayer: Catholic Missal Undergoes Controversial Change

April 8, 2011
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I’m not Catholic, but have attended Mass often enough to know the basic responses in the Roman Missal.

The priest says, “The Lord be with you.”

We say, “And also with you.”

The priest says, “Lord, we have sinned against you: Lord, have mercy.”

We respond, “Lord, have mercy.”

I know the Gloria, the Nicene Creed, the Apostle’s Creed and the other ancient prayers that make the Catholic liturgy so beautiful.

This fall though, the language in those sacred phrases will be changing as the church introduces the Third Edition Roman Missal.

Some people are grumbling. Change is hard. Catholics have been reciting these prayers since 1969. That was when the Roman Missal (the liturgical book used for the celebration of Mass) was translated from Latin to English. At the time the church called for a loose translation of the texts, meaning an exact word-for-word interpretation wasn’t needed.

Pope John Paul II, though, felt that wasn’t thorough enough and in 2000 called for a third edition that would be truer to the original Latin. All Catholic texts, by the way, are first written in Latin. Before the Second Vatican Council, Mass had been celebrated in Latin for about 100 years, which gave unity to Catholics, according to Catholic author Donna- Marie Cooper O’Boyle, who lives in New Milford.

A Holy See document called Liturgiam Authenticam reads that the new translation must be delivered in, “the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses.”

Cooper O’Boyle said the change would do away with inaccuracies.

“I am thrilled about this change,” she said. “I know that many may not initially understand the reasons for this and may be put off by it or even feel that Catholics are going backwards. But, we are not. We are actually going deeper into our faith. It may take some time and patience for everyone to get the hang of it, but we are all in it together.”

The International Commission on English in the Liturgy has been working diligently on the translation, which will be used for the first time the first Sunday in Advent in November.

Rev. Dr. Paul Turner, pastor of St. Munchin parish in Cameron, MO and a priest of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, is an expert on the Missal and spoke at Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center this week about the changes.

“Some people are worried about what’s coming and what it might mean, and others are very excited that we’ll have new words to say,” he said.

He says the changes aren’t something to be afraid of, as the new wording will only enhance the worship experience. He compared it to changing from the second edition of a textbook to the third.

“The Vatican has changed the rules on how you change from the Latin to the vernacular,” Turner said. “That’s going to make the words sound different, so when you go to worship on Sunday the words everybody knows and feels secure about, they aren’t going to know, they aren’t going to feel secure and that’s what’s become so difficult.”

For example, when the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” you now respond, “And with your spirit.” Until now the Sanctus has begun with, “Holy, holy, holy Lord,

God of power and might.” Now it will begin with, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.”

Turner says with a participation aid, parishioners will pick up the changes in no time.

The changes, he adds, will make the worship experience more powerful. The prayers, he says, are richer and will inspire churchgoers to think a little bit harder about the words and what they mean.

“Some of these prayers are 1,500 years old and when they do a little more research on the times and meanings of the words, it can have an impact on how we translate them today…that’s the nature of language and scholarship,” Turner said. “The scholars want to do something very positive for the church. They want to honor what our ancestors handed out to us and pass it onto a new generation.”

Tracy Simmons

Although the new Missal is a big deal in the Catholic Church, and perhaps the biggest story since the Second Vatican Council, Turner says people will be surprised by how much will remain the same.

“The way your church looks, the way your priests vest, the hymns that you sing, the actions that you do, the processions that you witness, all of that stays the same. This is primarily about the words,” he said.

The Archdiocese of Hartford will be hosting a workshop on June 3 at St. Thomas Seminary for those wanting to know more about the new missal. For more information on the workshop click here.

To preview specific changes to Missal, click here.

Tracy Simmons is editor of Creedible.com, which is an online magazine that covers religion news in Connecticut. Her column on CtWatchdog, CT@Prayer, covers the consumer aspect of religion in Connecticut, reporting on the good deeds being done at different houses of worship, where they are falling down, and she will be looking into complaints from members of congregations. Please contact her at tsimmons@creedible.com if you have story ideas

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3 Responses to Ct@Prayer: Catholic Missal Undergoes Controversial Change

  1. M M D'COTA on April 8, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (Shakespeare)

    We will be praying the same — just rephrasing a few lines.
    It’s not the words that make a prayer;
    it’s what is in your heart when you pray that matters.

    Much ado about nothing.

  2. Bill on April 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    It would make more sense to say the prayers in Latin so all Catholics would be praying the same prayer. There aren’t that many and we could easily learn them and what they mean.

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