Feedback on the new Mass: Our readers check in
As the first Sunday of Advent rolled around last November—and with it the revised English translations of the Mass—we asked U.S. Catholic readers and website visitors to do some in-the-congregation reporting about how it all turned out. What follows is a selection of their responses.
Let’s keep the conversation going! Is everyone settling to a new Sunday “normal”—or is Mass still sometimes a bumpy ride? Watch later this year for a reader survey on the new translations.
The new translation of the Roman Missal has landed with a mighty thud. Everyone is now able to see and hear what a stilted, clumsy, ludicrous thing it truly is. Slavish translation of tired 16th-century Latin has trumped the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, tradition, and scripture itself. Key guidelines of Liturgiam Authenticam (which was supposed to have regulated the new translation) have been ignored.
But we'll get used to it, they say. Yes—in the same sense that people "get used" to chronic illness. Pathetic.
Rev. R. G. Tamminga
Pastor, St. Francis de Sales Church
As a 71-year-old Catholic very involved in catechesis, I will never understand the need for this. Old familiar words make us feel comfort and give a sense of being at home. I will always say "we" believe because the strength of my faith depends on the support, love, and challenge of my community.
If this much effort and money were spent on our beautiful teachings about social justice we could make real changes. This is about control and power and, the disconnect between the leadership and the people. So sad.
My wife and I decided Advent was a great opportunity to become reacquainted with our parish and have been attending Mass the past few weeks prior to the official beginning of the new English translation of the Roman Missal.
You requested a report from the pews, and we actually saw families enjoy the challenge of remembering the proper responses. I must admit the new responses kept us and those around us on our toes because it would otherwise be too easy to respond from memory (which we did on occasion), even with cards in hand containing the new translation. Parishioners in our vicinity appeared to be having fun trying to respond accordingly.
Terry and Gina Hester
As a priest I have been praying the former words of the Mass for over 36 years. I realized it wasn’t the best translation, but it worked. I am not opposed to change, but this is regression.
Comparing the 1973 Missal to the 1998 translation and the new third Roman Missal there is a world of difference. I do not understand what happened to the 1998 translation. It is probably gathering cobwebs somewhere at the Vatican. I’m not sure what planet the people were on that translated the third Roman Missal, but I wonder if they were on earth.
I am sure they were well-intentioned and holy people, but this just does not sit well with me. However, I will be faithful to it and do my best despite my frustration with the translation and the process that brought it about.
Msgr. Richard Siefer
I’m pretty unhappy over the changes in the creed; this past Sunday I got to hear the most convoluted and Orwellian twist of the “we” of the creed I could imagine. I actually went to church early to pray that I could just sit and let it go—just let be what I cannot change.
If the priest wants to get all “majestic” and “Roman” (words I’ve heard used to describe the changes), so be it; for the most part I find their “more proper and closer to the original Latin” merely humorous at best and pretentious at worst.
But the creed held special meaning for me. “We are the body of Christ. We are the people of God. We are the community of disciples gathered around the Eucharistic table. We are the church. We believe . . . ”
I’m quite disappointed at that change—“I believe”—no matter what the historical significance may be. But to hear the “we” of the creed twisted into some kind of weak-kneed lack of genuine personal commitment to Catholic sensibility was just too much.
I sat through one of the worst explanations I could have imagined. Don’t know if what I heard is the new party line but it could not fit more perfectly into a “brave new church” understanding and interpretation of the Vatican II heritage that I received from many solid sources. I was angry all Sunday, and now just more saddened than ever.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Our parish has done a very good job of educating parishioners about the changes. We started last spring with adult faith formation classes. Every week we had an article in our church bulletin. A special review was done with all the liturgical ministries. Two two-hour sessions were held for any parishioner.
We had sessions for the CCD parents. We started singing the new music for the Gloria and Holy, Holy, Holy in September. We have new pew cards to help everyone.
Finally, the deacons are spending about five minutes before each Mass to go over and explain a specific part of the Mass.
I believe that the most difficult change is for the priests who have to become familiar with the new style of collects and the changes in the Eucharistic prayers.
Deacon Peter Cistaro
Saint Peter the Apostle Parish
Sunday's liturgy with the introduction of the new Roman missal went very well. We had pew cards specially made that had print that was too small, but we also have a larger-print reference sheets under the clear vinyl covers of our missals indicating the page numbers. My pastor did a training session in church on November 16th. About 50 or 60 people were there. Father had commented on how beautiful the changes are—he's right!
I had also attended several trainings by Msgr. James P. Moroney (Exec. Sec. of the Vox Clara Committee) and Msgr. Robert Johnson, diocesan director of our office for divine worship. Both did a tremendous job with their presentations. I learned something new every time! Their knowledge, insight and expertise were very evident.
I myself like the new "higher-level" language that is now used. It speaks more to the eternal transcendence and imminence of God. I had already been previously "prepared" for the changes, being able to participate in Mass in French where they already had the formal translation.
I love it! Being present for this change in our Mass is wonderful! I wasn't around during the changes from Vatican II, so I am excited for this change in our Catholic history. There will be some transition but we all had to learn the Mass in the first place at some point in our lives, let's shift our view and embrace it as a pleasure not a problem.
I am disappointed in the music used at my local parish but found another parish's music to be more inspiring for me. We have enough dead music. Is this not to be a celebration?
The text changes were of no exceptional plus or minus in my opinion, but I find it appalling that with the financial difficulties of the world we live in that such changes require new printings of the Mass that we will need to purchased. I feel it is very irresponsible for our leadership to make these changes when parishes are pleading for monies to keep the doors open and desperately in need of making buildings handicapped assessable with the aging population wanting to attend and not able to enter the church or bathroom facilities.
The breath of life needed in our pews will not come with the new texts in my opinion. Many other changes are needed to assist the people living in today's world. Ask the church workers who are working the streets. Let's take a look at the domination's who are picking our people out of our pews.
My wife and I attended Mass in Ocean City, Maryland for the first Sunday of Advent. The congregation is largely retired. The pastor presided at the Mass and had a difficult time. He had obviously worked very hard, but frequently went to the wrong part. Afterward he said that the Sacramentary contained music, and was very difficult to follow. The congregation tried, but used "and also with you" most of the time.
The creed was the most difficult part, but it provided a little comic relief—“incarnate,” “consubstantial.” “Oblation” was pronounced obligation.
This church had a very difficult time, and the general sentiment was the new translation was a loser.
Personally, I like some phrasing. The use of inclusive language referring to the Holy Spirit was good, although the creed still used the inappropriate "for us men" rather than the more inclusive, and correct, "for us."
The translation was not the work of native English speakers. The process, and rationale behind the new missal, left much to be desired.
When all is said and done, we will adjust, but it should not have been necessary.
I find that most people are trying to follow the new changes. There are always the select few that are reluctant to change. I believe the changes were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and I am studying the theology behind the changes to better understand the <ass. I think there should have been a more uniformed effort at the parish level to educate parishioners during the first Advent Mass to explain the changes verse by verse as the priest on EWTN did this Sunday.
I feel that though our pastor had prepared us, many in the congregation were confused and continued using the old responses or said nothing at all.
I personally felt as though I had to concentrate on reading the missalette to give the proper responses. It was a focus on reading and detracted from the prayer aspect of the liturgy.
I believe that the new translation reflects a power play on the part of those responsible for it in the hierarchy and that they will have to answer before God for it.
Lucy from Toledo
In my parish, folks bumbled along, with neither apparent outrage or acceptance. The priest, a 19-year veteran, was quite anxious and kept over-explaining things.
For my part, hearing "Pray brethren" sent me into a tizzy of shock and pain, since I'm used to "Pray brothers and sisters." I have to find out if the literal translation of “Orate fratres” is required, or if the priest has options, as he used to. If I am a woman of integrity, I cannot remain in a church that willfully does not invite me and the other women, more than 50 percent of the congregation, to pray. I spent much time praying for the Catholic hierarchy, and using the Serenity Prayer before going to sleep Saturday night.
I refuse to answer, "And with your spirit" unless the priest says, "The Lord be with your spirit" to us. This small rebellion helps me feel better. Generally, I'm very angry about the way the clumsy translation has been foisted upon us, with all the smarmy explanations. Tragically, most of my fellow parishioners are unaware of the process and problem, and seem to not care.
I am a lifelong 70-year-old Catholic. I have been a church organist for 58 of those years. So I have been to a lot of masses in Latin and English.
I think the changes are ludicrous. I see it as an attempt by the hierarchy to regain the control they feel they have lost since Vatican II—perhaps another step closer to returning to the Latin Mass.
One change that I especially detest is changing “cup” to “chalice.” Jesus called it a “cup.” I know of nowhere in the Bible where Jesus refers to a “chalice” of his blood. That change is not biblically based. Also by using the word “chalice,” we lose the connection to the cups of Passover.
Another change I totally disagree with is substituting “many” for “all” in the eucharistic prayer. I truly believe that Jesus died for all, not many.
The powers that be argue that we need a translation closer to the original Latin. Why? Did Jesus speak Latin? No, but his oppressors, the Romans did.
I think that the church leaders have bigger problems on their hands than the language of the Mass—both inside the church and in the world. When are they going to work on those problems? You have my permission to use my name if you print any of my remarks.
Due to the fact that we have a pastor who has his flock at heart--even though I sense he does not agree with the recent changes which have given us the Roman Missal--our liturgy went quite well. There were some minor glitches (even the pastor screwed up one or the other of those Pauline-like sentences in his letters and have to take a breath to get through), but all in all I would give an 8 out of 10 to the outcome.
I, for one, have followed the genesis of what I see as a manipulative move on the part of Rome from the "dissolution" of ICEL to the institution of Vox Clara to make sure the "folks" (clergy and lay) remember who is boss. However the Catholic church is my "home" so I will attempt to make the best of this "bullying!"
On my way out of church after Mass this past Sunday, a prominent layperson, a lawyer, stopped me and asked if he could vent a bit about what he had just experienced--the new liturgy. He was irate—to say the least. He was offended that the laity had nothing to say about the final outcome of the new texts and more pointedly failed to appreciate how "consubstantial," "I believe," and "for many" are going to bring him closer to the church and nourish the expression of his faith.
It was all I could do to help calm him down. When I told him that I agreed with his "objections" he felt better, and we ended the conversation with me telling him the only common sense thing I could think of at the time: Pal, we're going to have to make the most of what you and I see as a bad situation.
Aidan A. Licari
Our parish has been learning many of the new words for a few months by singing the parts. We were provided with a laminated sheet that had the parts on both sides. This past Sunday we were additionally provided with a folded four-page guide to follow throughout the liturgy.
Of course, most of us messed up right away "and also with you" when it should be "and with your spirit." The priest laughed and said we will try it again and we all laughed.
I think since our parish has been preparing us by explaining why changes needed to be made, we are very accepting of the changes. People who attend Mass infrequently seem to be the ones complaining. In time we will be comfortable with the changes and not need the "cheat sheets."
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Our parish was superbly prepared. Our pastor, associate, deacon presented a series of homilies starting last January. They discussed the history, relevance and theological meanings of prayers and responses. There were short essays in our Sunday bulletin as well. Last Saturday, our associate pastor reminded the faithful a changed prayer was coming up, so parishioner's responses were correct and louder than previously.
I glanced around and everyone I saw had a printed pamphlet in hand to follow along. At parish council last night, we heard "several horror" stories of parishes who did limited or no education of their parishioners. I think our ministers deserve kudos for their devotion to the Mass and its changes.
St. Edward Catholic Church
Little Rock, Ark.
All in all, things went well this past weekend, just the expected choruses of "And also with your spirit" that was probably common across the U.S.!
St. Egbert Catholic Church
Thank you for inviting opinions about the new Roman Missal. Some of the changes are so minor as to not be of concern (though I would rather ask the Lord to be with the entire presider and not just his spirit). But the changes made to the prayer before communion, “O Lord, I am not worthy,” seem to me so dreadful that I decided to analyze why.
I realized that the version we’ve become familiar with has that richly connotative word “receive.” We receive gifts, we receive guests at a reception, we receive diplomas and bachelor degrees and awards. Sometimes we receive bad news, but the word primarily evokes positive emotions—when we receive, we draw something good toward ourselves, and at communion time, we humbly invite the greatest Good to heal and nourish us.
The old version also has a regular and beautiful rhythm, almost all iambic: “O Lord, I am not wor-thy to re-ceive you, but on-ly say the word and I shall be healed.” In other words, when we recite the prayer it is close to poetry. (The last four words deviate from iambic in that they all seem equally stressed, a very common way to end a poem—with a strong declaration.)
Then I compared the new version. How alien it sounds to ask the Lord to “come under my roof.” This is not at all an expression we would use to receive guests (at least not in this country) and thus it has no pleasing connotations nor emotional impact. Second, there is the lingering memory for many of us of having the communion wafer stuck on the “roof” of our mouth just when we were trying to be the most meditative. It’s hardly an image we want in our minds at communion time. Lastly, it is simply not poetic. The new phrase just does not flow (“O Lord, I am not wor-thy that you should come under my roof”), and the harsh consonants—the hard “c,” the “r” and the “f”— further block the flow.
Thus, this beautiful prayer that readies us to receive the body and blood of our Lord has been robbed of its poetry and depth of meaning. Didn’t anyone tell the bishops that spiritually uplifting liturgical prayers need emotional, poetic, evocative language?
Santa Barbara, Calif.
It's not the church making these changes— the Catholics in the pews are "the church." It's the "hierarchy" insisting on these misguided changes. Yes, our church needs to transform, but I believe it needs to go forward rather than backward.
The biggest and most unacceptable change is the priest now saying during Mass that Christ died for "many" rather than for "all." The hierarchy is now becoming even more exclusive. They're giving themselves permission to discriminate and decide who the "many" are. That is not my faith. We are all God's children, and Christ died for all of us. "Love one another" did not include any exceptions.
All the pronouns are masculine— again, exclusion. According to the hierarchy, as a woman, I don't matter, I don't exist. I refuse to accept that. I am an important part of the church and I will be acknowledged.
The hierarchy wants us to go back to feeling sinful and unworthy. I lived that way through my childhood and early adulthood. No thanks to the hierarchy, but I learned a long time ago that God wants me and everyone else to feel joyful and hopeful. He loves all of us and wants us to be happy. I am the "body of Christ" and I am worthy. My faith makes me worthy.
The language is awkward and stilted. I prefer to talk with God in plain English. Vatican II had the right idea—I need and want to be more involved in the Mass, in the prayers, using loving and conversational language to connect with God. It's much more personal. My faith is personal.
Change is good and needed. There can be new growth, new possibilities, and new discoveries. Progress means going forward, not backward to the old ways. Haven't we learned anything in the last 2,000 years?
Jesus was/is all-inclusive and we need to focus on that and go forward with it.
The hierarchy blew a wonderful opportunity to reach out to everyone, to include, to build up, to bring closer together, to bring closer to God, to love. I am so very disappointed in them, but not surprised.
Welcome to the new Latin translation verses of the Catholic Mass. In keeping the faith the translation speaks the historic language of the original Roman Catholic Church.
Translation of the Mass is beyond definition of the biblical lessons to illuminate the stories behind the words. Perhaps the congregation will appreciate what the scriptures have to say if it is said in the historic language of their Church. Times change and we with them.
Through him the community of the faithful members of the church together shall be joined by the word of God beyond the language of the day. He shall be heard in the translation. Yet, alas, at a lost to understand, indifferent to the words, may translate to a loss of the faithful when Church members are most needed.
In my humble opinion, the motive of the new Mass translation will awaken the people. The proof moreover: the Bible is the literature of the Mass— the Word of God.
Perhaps the new verses will offer a new spiritual path at a time that so urgently needs one. Changing the course will test us if we’re paying attention. Church members are talking. We will be awaken to spread the good word. Faith isn’t just for Sunday, after all. Sometimes change is good.
Susan and Robert Davniero
Our music director is also the parish liturgist, and she's done an excellent job of preparing the parish for the recent changes. Each week for quite a while the cover of the bulletin had the old/new changes listed. About a month beforehand, she started teaching the congregation to sing new versions of the Mass parts so we would become familiar with them. For the last three weeks all the changes were put on a sheet of paper left in the pews as well as the three exits in the church.
She also copied all the responses and pasted them in the back of the hymnals and announced to all that they could be found there. She even had us all open the books prior to Mass.
At each Mass since the first Sunday of Advent, she uses the microphone and "leads" us in the prayers, refrains, etc. It really helps to keep us attentive to the changes. I'm sure it will take us all some time to get everything down pat, but she's certainly given us a good start. Now if only our priests would let us know which eucharistic prayer they've chosen for the Mass!
The two changes I definitely don't like are: 1.) the use of the word consubstantial from the profession of faith. “One in being” was more meaningful and user friendly. Second, the phrase “under my roof” prior to communion— people unfamiliar with scripture haven't got a clue what this is all about and it sounds awkward.
I read over the new missal when it first was made public and was dismayed that this pope is wasting so much of the church’s resources and time taking such a step backwards. I fear his agenda is to recreate a Church prior to Vatican II. Pope Benedict is not a successor to Pope John Paul II as far as I’m concerned.
Because of the missal changes, coupled with the way the diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire has been mismanaged under the leadership of former Cardinal Law lackey Bishop John McCormack, I have become a Christmas and Easter Catholic. I can’t bring myself to attend Mass except for those times, and I refuse to contribute financially.
Thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion. May the spirit of Advent and Christmas be found in our hearts, if not in our pews.
Anticlimatic! That's my one word summary for the “new translation.” Our parish has put forth significant effort on the change management for this. We've been hearing about it since last Advent. We've heard about it at Mass, had special meetings to learn more about it, and have been practicing portions of it at Mass.
All this preparation had me thinking the changes would be extraordinary; something akin to going from Latin to an English version of the Mass. But, the changes can be consolidated to one laminated card. The priest who celebrated the Mass we attended was very honest with the congregation: ”It's new for all of us and it'll take some getting used to. We're all going to make mistakes." Perfect! It was okay to mess up, and we did!
Sure, it's uncomfortable to change and that's what a lot of folks are grumbling about. And for a while, I expect to be distracted by the changes. Eventually this will become our new "normal" and we'll find other things to grumble about.