Suburban Catholics prepare for Mass changes

  • New wording is in boldface in a new translation of "The Roman Missal," which Catholics will begin using Nov. 27.

    New wording is in boldface in a new translation of "The Roman Missal," which Catholics will begin using Nov. 27.

  • A new translation of "The Roman Missal" will change some prayers and chants said during Mass.

    A new translation of "The Roman Missal" will change some prayers and chants said during Mass.

Posted10/30/2011 8:00 AM

Even for Catholic Church leaders, the new words will take some getting used to.

During a session in which church members were practicing the changes, Robert Frazier, who is co-director of liturgy and music at St. Raphael Catholic Church in Naperville, found himself stumbling a few times.


"It was hard," he says of remembering to say the new words. "There were times when half of us would say the old ones."

Catholic churches in the suburbs and elsewhere are getting ready to implement the new English translation of "The Roman Missal," the collection of prayers, chants and instructions for Mass, which goes into effect on Nov. 27, the First Sunday of Advent.

The changes include new responses by the congregation in about a dozen sections of the Mass, and more extensive changes in words used by the celebrant.

In preparation, churches are buying new hymn books and worship aids, in addition to "The Roman Missal, Third Edition," and launching educational sessions during or after Mass to inform members.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II announced the third edition of "The Roman Missal," and it was first published in Latin in 2002. With tighter guidelines imposed for a stricter adherence to the original Latin text, the book has since undergone a decade-long translation process.

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"They are significant changes," says Jerry Galipeau, associate publisher at World Library Publications in Franklin Park, one of seven publishers in the United States printing "The Roman Missal, Third Edition." "Mass itself is not changing; it's the translation of the words that are."

One example: When the priest says, "The Lord be with you," instead of answering, "And also with you," the new response -- and more precise Latin translation -- is: "And with your spirit."

The Gloria may contain the most changes, with people now saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will," rather than "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth," among other differences.

"It will sound different for the most part," said Todd Williamson, director of the Office for Divine Worship of the Archdiocese of Chicago. "Everyone will have to have something in their hands for a while."


Church leaders say they expect some confusion and questions in the first few months but are viewing this as an opportunity for members to gain a deeper appreciation of their words during Mass. The last such changes occurred about four decades ago.

"One of the dangers of rituals is that it becomes routine," said Williamson. "This is an opportunity for people to really be consciously aware of the words we say when we pray."

Response to the upcoming changes has varied. "Some people think it's a wonderful direction," says Galipeau, who has traveled the country during the past few years in preparation for the changes. "Others are resistant and angry, and a large group of Catholics are ambivalent."

More than 22,000 electronic signatures were collected on a web petition asking Catholic leaders to reconsider the new translation.

For those who have had reservations, Williamson said church leaders are trying to help them distinguish between communal and their own personal prayers. "This is a communal prayer, and in using these words, we unite ourselves to each other," he said.

At St. Anne Parish in Barrington, Rory Cooney, the director of liturgy and music, has been writing updates in the church bulletin and discussing the changes with members. "I don't think it'll be a huge deal for our congregation," he says. "I feel this will be harder on the priest, to get the rhythms of the new speech patterns down."

Frazier, at St. Raphael in Naperville, has been holding two-minute teaching sessions at the end of Mass to help his members learn the changes.

Because people are so used to saying certain things by heart, it'll take a few weeks or months for people to get used to, leaders say.

"In time, the new responses will become as familiar as the former ones," Frazier says.

Cooney agrees. "It'll be a little chaotic for a few weeks," he says. "After a while, it'll be like, 'Oh, we used to say something else?'"

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