We have begun to be say some new (but actually old) words at Mass starting this Advent. As regards the new translation of the Roman Missal, I have two very important jobs.
1: the job of teaching my family about the changes
2: the job of teaching and supporting the changes within the faithful flock of my parish, especially the teens in my Confirmation program.
The first poses some interesting hurdles because my children are small and don’t know the Mass intimately to begin with and because change in general is hard for the littlest ones among us. The second poses some interesting hurdles for reasons very similar to the first. Change is not always easy.
In our diocese we are not only undergoing the changes in the Roman Missal, but some additional changes to aid in general uniformity of the celebration. The most striking change for many of us in our diocese is our Bishop’s instruction to cease holding hands during the Our Father. While there are many varied practices and explanations, with some being more or less convincing, the reality is that we have been asked to do so by our bishop and out of obedience we will comply. But how do you explain to a two-and-a-half-year-old that we aren’t holding hands during Church anymore?
I don’t. I expect that over time my children will learn this new way by example, but I also expect that there will still be a few mornings where John Ross reaches for my hand. Though I may not reach for his hand out of obedience and in hopes of setting an example, should he reach for mine a warm grasp will be awaiting him. I will not turn a hospitable, unifying gesture away. As he grows, he will see. He will learn and so will I. It hasn’t been easy the past few weeks keeping my hands folded in front of me. I have felt slightly disconnected, slightly out of place. However, I will say that I have already found myself focusing a bit more on the words I’m saying. I can appreciate the sense of the priest’s arms offering our collective prayers although I do wonder how he feels about all that.
But really, in the big picture, what does this omission of gesture change? Nothing. It changes what my prayer looks like, but it doesn’t change my prayer. God is still the same in Heaven and I (heaven help me!) am still the same here on earth. Our relationship is not changed.
My grandmother was a director of religious education prior to and following Vatican II. She and my grandfather recall the week the Masses changed. All of the sudden the guitars started playing, they could understand the Mass, the priest was facing them, and eating meat on Fridays wouldn’t send you to hell. In one of my younger years, I asked them about their experience and received drastically different responses. My grandfather, though in agreement with the progressions, snarled and crabbed about a flawed, earthly church run by mere men who decided to shake the foundation of the faithful.
My grandmother sat back and said gently, but firmly, “Did any of those things make any difference in my relationship with God? No.”
That very short theology of the Eucharist and the central nature of our relationship with Father, Son and Spirit has forever changed my approach to the Church. We act in obedience, but keep our relationship with Christ and our stewardship for Christ central. The externals like Mass and Catholic prayer and devotion are important and can be helpful, but they are not the center of our Church. Christ is. “I am.”
When it comes to my secondary vocation amidst the greater Catholic community, many of the same principles apply. We will be learning a new Mass translation and there are no if, ands, or buts about it. This has not happened in such a significant way since Vatican II and there are many young people today, including myself, who do not even remember the last translation.
There are many reasons for the new translation, many of them having to do with dated translation techniques and conformity with original scripture and Masses celebrated in other languages around the world. Quite frankly, some of the phrases just didn’t match up at all and the English translation was the one “not like the others”. There are going to be some things that don’t feel right on our tongue right away. At least this time, the changes are all still in the same language.
This is an exciting and anxious time for many Catholics. Here are some talking points for adults who are preparing to learn the new translation:
- We are not “going back to Latin”.
- We are restoring some of the original wording of the Mass that was changed when it was translated to English by a particular translation method.
- This is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the ritual of the Catholic Mass.
If you are looking for a good read on the Mass in general that incorporates discussion about the new translation, consider “A Biblical Walk Through the Mass” by Dr. Edward Sri. If you are looking for something to help teach your children consider, “What’s Changing in the Mass for…” kids and teens by Maureen A. Kelly at Liturgical Training Publications (LTP).
We take a new step on our journey of faith this December. This is not a month-long learning process that will begin and end quickly. This is an invitation to learn. This is an opportunity to grow in our faith and understand more about why and how our Mass is said. This does not change our relationship with God, but can be a chance to grow our relationship with Christ in the Eucharist.
Is it going to feel comfortable right away?
No, maybe not.
Does it frustrate us because we don’t understand?
Are we going to let it separate us from God, Christ or our community?
Remember, whatever your response to these changes, you are a witness to your family as well as your community. This should be a time of learning and community building, not a time of frustration and division.
Amberly Boerschinger is wife to Kevin, mother to John Ross and Clara, writer to many, and faith formation coordinator to Resurrection Parish in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Who knows where you’ll find her in person, but online you’re sure to find her most recent adventures at Woman at the Inkwell.