By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published December 22, 2011
On the first Sunday of Advent, the Catholic Church officially implemented the new Roman Missal, with new English translations of various parts of the Mass. Some parishes took advantage of the permitted introduction during the fall of some of the new sung responses to introduce the wording changes gradually to their congregations, while others dove in wholly during Advent.
Local Catholics have been reacting to the new translations, some embracing the changes, some trying to adapt, and others a little confused. Many parishes used pew pamphlets with word changes highlighted so parishioners could follow along as the new translation was implemented.
“It went very well. We started four weeks in advance just using the ‘And with your spirit,’” said Sharon Loiselle, director of faith formation at St. John Vianney Church in Lithia Springs, citing one of the most noticeable changes in the people’s prayers at Mass. Formerly when the priest prayed “The Lord be with you,” the response was “And also with you,” but now it is “And with your spirit.”
“Our priest did a great job” implementing the new translation, Loiselle said, encouraging parishioners to follow the pamphlets until they felt comfortable.
While some parishioners continue to wonder exactly why the changes were made, most have taken it in stride, she said. She likes the new prayers in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
“I think the words in the Eucharistic prayers are beautiful and (have) so much more meaning.”
“Personally, I believe that the new translations are vastly superior to what preceded them,” wrote Father Llane Briese, parochial vicar at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, by email. “One of their greatest advantages is that chant is included for virtually all parts of the Mass, allowing for more options for progressive solemnity at Masses. As an admitted geek when it comes to classical languages, in the past I would often compare the former translations with corresponding Latin texts and couldn’t help but feel that our English worship was somewhat impoverished by the often loose translation … of parts of the texts.”
“The translation does have some weaknesses,” he continued. “I have especially noticed cases where in their zeal to be literal, the translators seemed to have failed to take note of English’s lack of gender in its nouns and pronouns, thus leading to unclear pronoun references. … Our liturgical prayers are a masterpiece of Latin prose and poetry. To translate them into English effectively without losing meaning is impossible. (It) is like trying to translate Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter into Spanish or Italian; some meaning and artistic beauty will get lost.”
Mary Our Queen Church in Norcross began introducing the sung responses of the new translation in September, leading to a rather easy transition in Advent, said Father David Dye, administrator.
“It has gone very smoothly, and we have had a good sense of humor and lots of patience,” he wrote. “We introduced the changes involving music settings in September, so we had some advance experience which helped. We still do not have it perfect, but every week the percentage of correct responses increases!”
Replacing once familiar words of the Mass has impacted the priests, not just the congregations.
“I have to adjust, and that is not easy or something I would probably choose,” commented Father Dye. “On the other hand I like the theological implications of the changes.”
The transition to the new Roman Missal was also gradually introduced at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Alpharetta preparing for the Advent full implementation.
“The transition … went very smoothly at St. Thomas Aquinas,” said Kathy Kuczka, liturgist at the parish.
“I think this is due to the fact that we had prepared the community for months in advance,” she said. “For several weeks leading up to the first Sunday of Advent, we implemented the responses of the people bit by bit, accompanied by catechesis. It’s been an interesting experiment overall and a testimony to the power of ritual, in the sense that even while we may not be conscious of it, ritual shapes and forms our muscle memory.”
Father Greg Goolsby, pastor, said he too has been learning to adapt to the new translation.
“I find the language of the priest difficult for several reasons. The sentences are far too long, which makes inflection and emphasis of certain critical words difficult, because they get lost in way too much excessive verbiage,” Father Goolsby wrote by email. “I do like the references to God’s mercy.”
He said the gradual introduction of the new translation was a very positive approach.
“We began introducing the changes in the music about six weeks before the full implementation. We still experience some ‘muscle reflex’ responses (especially from the clergy), but our assembly has made the transition with remarkable ease,” Father Goolsby wrote. “Our measured approach to introducing the changes greatly reduced the shock of transition.”
“My feeling has been a sense of great inspiration and a joy at the return of the more precise phrases,” said Clare O’Malley, director of religious education at St. Matthew Church in Tyrone.
“As DRE, this has been a great ‘teaching moment’ for old and young alike,” she said. “I have found that my middle school students in particular are more engaged in the liturgy. We have spent time going through all the prayers and illuminating their origin and their deeper meaning, which has enhanced their own participation in the Mass. The new translation has had an impact on our Advent reflections and the sense of anticipation this Christmas. I think it’s beautiful, and the timing is wonderful.”