On November 17, 2011, the first Sunday of Advent, the new Roman Missal was used at the Holy Mass in Catholic churches in the English world from the U.K., Australia, the Philippines, North America, and to wherever the English liturgy is used. The new missal is sometimes referred to as “a reform of the reform.” I understand that the Vatican wanted the English translation to be linguistically faithful to the original Latin Mass.
First, what was the reform that needed to be changed? Clearly, this is in reference to Vatican Council II which made, among other things, a revision of the liturgy granting permission to celebrate most of the Holy Mass in the vernacular.
The idea was to increase lay understanding and participation. Thus we have Mass in Filipino, Bisaya, Ilocano, Vietnamese, Croatian (if you have been to Medjugorje), French, and especially in English which is the most prevalent.
Vatican II did not abolish Latin Mass altogether, and traditionalists can still hear it if available anywhere…in the Vatican, for example.
It was the Blessed Pope John XXIII who convened the Vatican Council II on October 11, 1962, with the purpose of bringing the Catholic Church closer to the modern world. Unfortunately, the Blessed Pope John XXIII passed away in June 1963, which would have terminated the Council. But, the new Pope Paul VI immediately reconvened the Council with the advice to renew and restore the Church in his opening address. And so the Council continued its reform to completion of its encyclical on December 8, 1965.
Vatican II is a liberalization of the staid and ancient Catholic rites. Traditionalists and ultra-conservatives have never reconciled themselves to the changes. Besides the Holy Mass being celebrated in the vernacular language, present day Catholics can thank Vatican II for having the altar turned around so the priest faces the congregation, for receiving the holy communion standing up and in their hands (instead of kneeling and in their mouths), and for having female presence in the altar area (female altar servers, lectors, and Eucharistic Ministers). So Vatican II is not being changed but only the English translation of the liturgy.
With due respect to our Church and its hierarchy, I’d like to express some reservations. As a cradle Catholic, I would like to voice my uneasiness at rephrasing many of the liturgy and Eucharistic prayers that have become second nature to me. I know virtually all the responses during Holy Mass. I can recite The Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and other prayers in my sleep. Now I have to be careful and say the right words. For example, when the priest says “Peace be with you,” I should reply “And with your spirit” not “And also with you.” For the Mystery of Faith, I am used to saying, “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.” But now I have to learn some other responses. Now I say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof…” instead of “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…” Also, I used to kneel down and pray as soon as I receive the communion. Now I have to remain standing until all have received theirs. Old habits are hard to break.
But if I am having a hard time making the proper responses at Holy Mass, you should see and listen to the Mass celebrant stumble through the Mass. Gratefully, they have the new sacramental book to read with the new Roman Missal. The young clerics seem to enjoy reading the new translation but the older priests with failing eyesight pause a lot and often mumble. I am certain that many of the priests who have memorized the unchangeable parts of the liturgy through constant use will continue to recite what is long ingrained in their brain. The congregation would not know the difference.
After Mass one day, I asked Father Pat Murphy what he thought of the new Missal. With some caution and diplomacy, he said, “There are a few new wordings that we have to learn. But the prayers seem to be more powerful and I like them.” One wording that jumps to my mind is “consubstantial with the Father” in the Nicene Creed which means what? Having the same substance as the Father? Anyway, the Mass now lasts a little longer.
I hope and pray that we learn the new Roman Missal and get used to it. For now, let me wish you a “Happy New Year!” and “Peace be with your spirit.”