The Roman Missal Changes

BCI thought we would take a break from controversy on our usual topics to touch on something less controversial, such as how people are doing with implementing and learning the new Roman Missal.

Now that the changes have been rolled out, how is it going in your parish?

In recent weeks, the BCI team, along with people who follow BCI, have been observing how parishes in Boston and elsewhere in New England are doing with the changes.  As would be expected, some parishes are doing well (ie. After the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” most people in the pews respond, “And with your spirit.”)  Elsewhere, the people in the pews seem to be struggling (ie. the response is a garbled combination of the old “And also with you” along with the new, “And with your spirit.”)

Old habits die hard. We know this will take a long time for everyone to get as familiar with the new translation as we all were with the old.  BCI and our readers regress from time to time.  Still, we tried to see if there were any best practices or trends to be shared.

At the parishes where the faithful in the pews are doing well and the changes sound like they have good traction, BCI learned that the priests have regularly reminded people during Masses since the beginning of Advent to be mindful of the changes and to use the cards in the pews. They say the words to the Confiteor every Sunday. In addition, when the priests were asked in casual conversation how it was going with the new Roman Missal, they were generally positive on the changes. In contrast, in the parishes where the people in the pews are not doing so well with mastering the changes, there were no verbal reminders, or few reminders in at least the past month. And by coincidence, where the people are not doing well with the changes, at those same parishes there is also some sense that the priest has not been enthusiastic about the changes himself.  Several readers report that their pastors had been somewhat begrudging in their style of communicating the changes and appeared displeased or unenthusiastic about them.

Beyond that, we digress for a moment to mention one case we know of where priests are already making changes to the new words.  This blog post from Concord pastor, Fr. Austin Fleming, about some passages in the new book he was finding difficult to use, opened a small Pandora’s box in the comments.  Fr. Fleming wrote about new text included in the Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for the Dead which he found difficult and thus changed slightly. Then he said:

“That I consciously made a change in the text leads me to wonder what changes other priests are making and where that will lead us.”

This prompted one reader to respond, “I would hope that priests do have the ‘freedom; to change wording particularly in the example you just showed us in your funeral liturgy,” and then other priests who had issues with the new translations further piled on the discussion.

BCI does not see where the Vox Clara Committee (which advises the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments on English translations) or the International Commission on English in the Liturgy were intending a “Have it your way” approach to the new translations; however, perhaps we missed something.  (But we digress…)

Anyway, BCI has 3 small suggestions for priests that we hope might make it easier for faithful Catholics in the pews to master the new translations:

  1. Continue the reminders: If the priest offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass finds people are still struggling to master the changes, perhaps he might give a short reminder at selected times during the Mass (ie. before the greeting, Confiteor, recited Gloria, Preface Dialogue, spoken Sanctus, or Mystery of Faith) that the people be attentive or mindful to the new words from the cards in the pew.
  2. A little extra catechesis never hurts.  For example, most people may still not realize that the old “and also with you” translation from Latin  et cum spiritu tuo was an error.  That translation was inaccurate and misled people into believing that when the priest said, “The Lord be with you,” the people were basically saying in response, “same to you, Father.”  As described here, the expression et cum spiritu tuo (accurately translated: “and with your spirit”) is an acknowledgment by the congregation of the grace and presence of Christ who is present and operative in the spirit or soul of the  celebrant.  Christ’s Spirit is present in the priest  in a unique way in virtue of his ordination. What the dialogue means is:
    The Lord be with you.
     We do in fact acknowledge the grace, presence and Spirit of Christ in your spirit.
    It can be found in the New Testament letters of St. Paul: “The Lord be with your spirit” (2 Tm 4:22) and “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Phil 4:23).
    This piece, “And with Your Spirit,” republished by Our Sunday Visitor gives even more commentary, including this quote from St. John Chrysostom, who held that the congregation’s response, “And with your spirit,” is an implicit profession of faith in the power of the sacrament of holy orders:

    “If the Holy Spirit were not in this your common father and teacher, you would not, just now, when he ascended this holy chair and wished you all peace, have cried out with one accord, ‘And with your spirit.’

    Thus you cry out to him, not only when he ascends his throne and when he speaks to you and prays for you, but also when he stands at this holy altar to offer the sacrifice. He does not touch that which lies on the altar before wishing you the grace of our Lord, and before you have replied to him, ‘And with your spirit.’

    By this cry, you are reminded that he who stands at the altar does nothing, and that the gifts that repose there are not the merits of a man; but that the grace of the Holy Spirit is present and, descending on all, accomplishes this mysterious sacrifice. We indeed see a man, but it is God who acts through him. Nothing human takes place at this holy altar.”

    …our Catholic priests speak and act with the power of the Holy Spirit. They do so when they repeat that five-time epiclesis, “The Lord be with you.” Indeed, only a man who has been ordained may pronounce those words in the liturgy. A layman leading a prayer service may not.

  3. Practice makes perfect: Repetition has a powerful impact on learning. Athletes use repetition to perfect their skills, musicians use it to learn music and students of foreign languages use repetition to learn a new language.  Yet ironically, few parishes are using any form of practice or repetition to get the people to break old habits and learn the new words more quickly.  In the same way that leaders of song will take a few minutes to review new music or Mass parts with the congregation before Mass, if people are struggling with the Roman Missal changes, it may be worthwhile for priests to take a few minutes before Mass to speak through the new words together with the people  (ie. recite the new Gloria together with the people, or simply get the people saying together some of the responses aloud).This may sound a little simplistic, but when the people are struggling to master “and with your spirit” as a response, imagine the priest taking 1 minute before Mass to do a short practice repetition 3-5 times: Priest says “The Lord be with you,” and the people respond “and with your spirit.”  Do this 3-5 times before Mass over a couple of Sundays and the people will have it nailed!  A similar approach might be tried for the Gloria or Sanctus.  In the absence of this, we may find many people still stumbling through the translations a year or more from now.

These are just a few observations and thoughts from BCI on the Roman Missal changes.  How is it going in your parish?

30 Responses to The Roman Missal Changes

  1. Mark Frances says:

    When we had the Latin Mass, there was no problem with anyone making up their own translations. There were few who had enough of a Latin background to make any changes. Priests did not even question the Latin. Even if they changed it, the people would not understand.

  2. Stephen says:

    Hey BCI,
    Instead of Catholic Priests we now have Presiders & Mass celebrants? Are you baiting the more traditional crowd or are these
    terms of the new Catholic lexicon?
    I’m not quite sure what Presiders and Mass celebrants do, but i do know that only validly ordained Priests can offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass. The more adept and reverent can even offer it freely – and extraordinarily – in Latin.

    The …for many VS …for all. Is a great correction that many have waited 40 years for.

    • Stephen, Thanks for your comment and feedback. The use of the words “presider” and “celebrant” in this post was not meant to “bait” the more traditional crowd, nor was usage of those words in the post intended to promote “the new Catholic lexicon.” It was simply an attempt to clarify that the priest celebrating each individual Mass (namely, the presider at each specific Mass) would be the one to remind people attending *that Mass* of the new translation where appropriate. In view of your feedback, in order to eliminate any potential confusion, the wording in the post has been adjusted.

  3. Stephen says:

    Thanks back at ya. Is it just me? When did Priests stop ‘offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass’ and start ‘celebrating the liturgy’?

    I mean I am totally pro-celebration, I like birthday’s, the Bruins and a tax refund – but can’t we give The Transcendent Omniscient God truly present in the form of bread made present on the alter for the salvation of many…one hour/week of reverence?

    Can’t we bang a drum, hold hands, give high fives and chit chat in tongues after Mass? Put the coffee on, maybe we can learn to square dance and have a ho-down.
    Just don’t do it during Mass OK?

    For any of you curious about The Latin Mass and have not attended it. THIS is the Reason. Dress nice and bring a change of clothes so we can party after. Reward your children handsomely for their quite reverence. Don’t segregate them with the mini church march off with the church lady (when did THAT goofy innovation start?) …

    • Anna says:

      I’m not sure, but I think it might be just you. It seems like your posts are giving meaning to words that are not there to convey the old wives tale that priests in the Novus Ordo are not Transubstantiating.

      There are many problems among the people who congregate around the Latin Rite that inhibit it’s growth. It is a polar opposite of the Voice of the Faithful crowd who perceive themselves to be the arbiter of doctrine which the Pope is subverting.

      Everything and anything is subject to scrutiny or taken out of contexts to mischaracterize other pewsitters faithful to the Pope as detached from the underground of the ‘real church’.

      People with children need it like they need a hole in the head. Better to find a parish who is 100% in communion with the Pope with little flaws than to subject their children to these conspiracies against him.


      • Stephen says:

        Certainly food for thought.
        Sacrilege is not an old wives tale. In can happen in English, Latin or Swahili etc. The rubrics of the Mass are important, as the faithful we have specific rights that protect us against liturgical abuse. Something as simple as glassware being used as a chalice is an offense. (in English or Latin) Some may feel it is scrupulous and silly and old fashioned to care. They are wrong.

        Pope Benedict has directed the Bishops to have the Extraordinary Form of the Mass available to all who request it. The comparison between the voice of the faithful crowd and those who appreciate what the Pope is encouraging in laughable. – How about we put down the tambourines and get with the program people?

        Who suggested that any Catholic should attend a parish who is NOT 100% in communion with the Pope?


    • Stephen, BCI regrets that our language here is not to your satisfaction. We are accustomed to criticism, but this is the first time our words have been parsed and analyzed in such a manner where we are being criticized for not being sufficiently traditional for a reader.

      Since you brought up the Latin Mass while criticizing our vernacular and sound like you are a member of the Latin Mass community, BCI feels compelled to comment that the main Latin Mass community in the Boston Archdiocese in Newton, MA has established an unfortunate reputation for spitting out solid Catholics. BCI has heard about splitting of hairs regarding interpretation of rules, and how certain community members have a tendency to treat anyone who attends the Novus Ordo Mass so disfavorably that if someone even lets slip that they sometimes attend the Novus Ordo Mass, they are made to feel like “bad Catholics” and ostracized. Several readers have reported this and BCI is aware of a number of people who felt literally pushed out of the parish. Though many here at BCI enjoy the Latin Mass, with all due respect to the members of the Latin Mass community, in the opinion of BCI this sort of treatment of other Catholics is not appropriate.

      As a reminder, the main topic of this blog post was to ask how the new translation of the Roman Missal is going in your local parish. BCI would ask that readers stay focused on that topic in their comments.

      • Stephen says:

        What’s with the piling on? Your language is not to my satisfaction?
        I commented on “presider” and “celebrant” you seemed to get my minor point on the matter, then this!

        How does one become a member of ‘the Latin community’ as if it is some sub-group of the Catholic Church? There seems to be a false dichotomy here in Boston. In many dioceses there is a Latin Mass in many locations and times on any given Sunday. Apparently around here the lone parish that officially offers The Latin Mass is spitting out solid Catholics, and folks are being pushed out.

      • Stephen,
        Perhaps we are misunderstanding each other.

        BCI wishes that a Latin Mass was offered in more locations and times on any given Sunday in the Boston Archdiocese, so we apparently are in 100% agreement there!

        We did get your point about “presider” and “celebrant.” Then you went further questioning our language that the priest was “celebrating the Mass” vs “offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” To BCI, the parsing of each word we wrote seemed to miss the big picture of a post whose main topic was about getting the new translations more well implemented and adopted. That prompted our response. It struck us that there are parallels between the parsing of our words and what has happened to solid Catholics who previously attended the Latin Mass in Newton and were parishioners at that parish.

      • jwsr says:

        Apologies first for beginning off-topic, but felt that the BCI response needed a reply. I cannot respond to the BCI complaint about a single Parish in Newton that offers the “Latin Mass” and their treatment of people who attend both forms, as I have no information. I CAN say that whatever happens in a single Parish is NOT the norm at all the OTHER Parishes that offer the Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

        In Peabody, Methuen, Bellingham, Somerville (formerly in Middleborough) and at the Cathedral, the two forms and sets of congregants share resources (physical, and servers, choir members, music, expertise), go to either Mass (obviously with some preferences), and have a harmonious and mutually beneficial existence. Nobody has been shunned, to my knowledge, nor would that be allowed by any of the Pastors. Again, apologies for being off-topic, I am sure BCI is aware of this, and just neglected to clarify.

        As to the implementation of the new translations, I agree with the Cardinal; it has not been even a slight crisis, in spite of dire warnings from liturgists. Mostly the implementation that I have seen has been good, introduced with some preparation, and adoption by the faithful has been good. It isn’t perfect, nor should anyone have expected it to be.

        Having said that, I would offer a caveat to the original BCI post. Yes, Catechesis is good, repetition is good, but people are people, and those who were not intimately engaged in the whole process probably need to digest the changes of Advent. As long as the transition went well (if it did not, action is needed), it is probably a good idea to let people get used to the new translation. They are probably aware and trying, but not responding PEFECTLY. A little charity at this point will go a long way. Re-catechising a month after introducing (unless requested) changes seems like nagging, if people are sincerely open to them. It would be a very good idea to maybe have a refreshers in Lent, to prepare for Easter, when a new wave of occasional Mass-goers will need a prepared Congregation around them.

      • Thank you for your comment and insights. BCI did not mean to imply that an issue at one specific parish where the Latin Mass is offered was applicable at other parishes where the Latin Mass is offered. We apologize for any confusion or offense.

  4. Lazarus' Table says:

    I’m finding that many –not all, yet— of my initial difficulties/reservations are being resolved. I read the Mass texts beforehand to familiarize myself with them and also to add my own ‘reader’s marks’ into the text (something I cringe at doing in a $79 hand missal) to note pauses, emphasis, etc– my way of interpreting the text. That way.if the presider doesn’t do much by way of helping to convey meaning by the way he proclaims/ or says aloud the texts, I can still get somewhat of a handle of them. The revised translation actually becomes pretty good. There are some choices of words that make me wonder what the translators may have been drinking (or smoking hee hee) but all in all, the “shoe is beginning to fit”.
    I am still saddened by the glee some express at the change of “for all” to “for many”. It’s almost as if they are glad not all may “make it”, and they know just who those unfortunates are. (And it’s not them…)

    • Stephen says:

      You are sad, that I am happy that the most glaring and obvious error in the English translation has been corrected after 40 years?
      (incidentally the Spanish translation never had this error)
      Lazarus could you tell me this: Certainly it is God at the final judgement but – If everybody makes it – then what exactly is the point?

      • JH says:

        Actually, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, at least one Spanish translation used “por todos”, which translates as “for all.”

        You can find the discussion at the end of the page here:

        It says:

        “The 2006 circular letter was addressed not only to the United States or to the English-speaking world, but to all Conferences of Bishops and all language groups. For example, in Spanish, what had been translated as por todos will now be translated as por muchos. That change will be implemented when the Spanish translation of the Roman Missal is approved and published for the dioceses of the United States of America.”

        Regarding the responses to the new translation, I’ve found that it varies dramatically by parish. Some (where the choir director loudly says the new responses) have most of the people who respond responding correctly. (However, there seem some people who aren’t responding at all.) Another parish I have gone to probably has more people saying the old responses than the new, but it mostly comes out as a quiet mumble.

  5. Anni says:

    I attend daily Mass at three different parishes (because of Mass schedules) and at two of these parishes there seems to be a significant number of people who will not use the new responses. At both parishes the cards are in the pews and the priests lead the congregation, but people continue to say “And also with you” and “…Lord God of power and might” and “It is right to give him thanks and praise” along with other old responses. They almost seem to want to drown out those of us who use the new responses. In both parishes, these are not “elderly” people who might have an excuse, but people who are in their 60s or 70s, like me. I cannot understand this reaction because these are daily Mass goers who are clearly faithful Catholics. These people also would have grown up with the Latin Mass and would have made the transition to the vernacular in young adulthood.

    I cannot understand the reasons behind their reactions to the new translation. I admit that I was not really happy about it at first, but I put a lot of time and effort into studying the new responses along with many background documents. As someone who studied both Greek and Latin (albeit many, many years ago) I can appreciate “consubstantial”. I have prayed that I can develop a deeper understanding of the changes in the Mass.

    I have also attended Masses at which the priest has taken liberties with the prayers, both before and after The First Sunday of Advent, Year B. One priest continues to “ad lib” during the Consecration. I mentioned it to him a number of years ago and he took significant offense that a mere laywoman would question “His Royal Arrogance”.

    • Liam says:

      Because Boston-area Catholics have long been known in other parts of the the USA for not caring so much about the finer points of liturgics; rather, it’s a place where liturgical minimalism long dominated our worship culture.

  6. we are still struggling a little with both versions – we have a combined response, mostly on the side of the new langugae….no one seems to mind here in So Cal.

  7. Alice Slattery says:

    In our parish,St.Bridget’s in Framingham, before the implementation of the change took place, the pastor, Msgr. Francis Strahan, offered at least 6 evenings of opportunities for parishioners to learn about the changes and the reasons for them, that we could choose from. Many parishioners took advantage of these sessions. Now, with the help of the cards with the changes for everyone at Mass, there have been hardly any problems.
    The children from St,Bridget’s school who come to Mass in the weekday mornings have been very well prepared by their teachers as well. We have been very fortunate!

    • Alice,

      Thank you for your comment. It is nice to see an example of a parish where implementation is going well. Kudos to Msgr Strahan and the parishioners of St. Bridget’s in Framingham!

  8. John says:

    If we are giving kudos, our pastor, Father David Michael, went to great lenghts, first in the Sunday bulletin explaining the whats and whys of the new translations (this was over a number of weeks) We also had pamphlets to take home and there are prayer cards in the pews every Sunday. In addition, reference is made to the new translations by page number at Sunday Mass so it becomes a continued learning experience. It could not have been done any better.

  9. B. says:

    At St. Mary Star of the Sea in Beverly, the pastor for a while was reminding people about the new responses at the beginning of Mass, and also during Mass before each response, saying, “Be mindful of the new words.” Subtle and not intrusive during Mass, but very effective.

  10. Jack O'Malley says:

    I have seldom read a blog where there is more schoolmarmish berating of commenters by the blogger than BCI.

    But come on, Jack O’Malley, stay focused on the topic, which in this case is the latest “change” to the novus ordure mass.

    OK, fair enough. Why not And with thy spirit. I mean, if you can say Blessèd is the Fruit of thy womb , and Hallowed be Thy Name, why would not the pew puppies understand thy spirit? Well, in point of fact, most of them who are not absolute cretins would, but the ICEL dolts like to look down their noses at the allegedly linguistically challenged laity.

    If you want a good English translation of the mass, use the BCP or whatever version of it has been vouchsafed to the Ordinariate. Is “vouchsafe” an approved word in the new ICEL text? How about “deign”? “implore”? “it is meet and just”? “unto”?

    Wait a minute, Jack O’Malley, you are off topic. This was supposed to be about how your parish is adapting to the the new translation.

    Oh, right. Well, old Mrs. O’Shaughnessy in the pew in front of me is not up to it yet. And she goes to daily mass. She stumbled and slurred the words. I don’t know whether that is because she has a problem with the novel sublime ineffable poetic diction or whether it’s the aftereffects of the tumblers of Paddy’s from the previous night. I’m sure she said “And witch ya spiritsh.”

    Hold it right there, O’Malley. “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

    Or in the new sublime translation don’t judge nobody so you don’t getcha sef judged back. But I’m not judging. I tapped her on her shoulder and told her her dentures were loose. She just belched.

    In any event, she was more full of the Holy Ghost than I was. BTW, “ghost” is still a good word. “Spirit” is new-agey and even a bit queer. Maybe that’s the point. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. The Holy Ghost always seemed like an inspiration until they painted His wings with rainbow colors and started calling Him “The Spirit”.

    Alright O’Malley, knock it off. That was off topic. Hold out your hand and take your punishment.

    OK, Sister. But the Atellan farce proceedeth apace.

    • Jack,
      Thanks for your comment. But who did we berate?

      We thanked Stephen for his first comment, clarified our intention in response, and made a change in the post to address his concern.

      We thanked Alice for her comment. Several other people since then have posted interesting, noteworthy comments about how their parishes are doing with the new translation–which was the question we asked twice in the post.

      With respect to Stephen’s second comment, we did not berate him at all in this response either. We said we regretted our language was not to his satisfaction and further, made observations that some in the Latin community have criticized and/or alienated others who attended Mass with that community for not being traditional enough. That was merely a factual statement.

      As far as BCI trying to keep commenters on-topic, why exactly would you not want to keep your comments relevant to the topic of the blog post?

      When readers keep their comments relevant to the topic of the blog post, it provides a focused dialogue and encourages other people to participate.

      We will explain further by means of an example. “Jack,” the book club discussion group moderator gets together with 5 other people for the purpose of discussing Book X. Before the discussion of Book X is even halfway done, someone in the group suddenly starts discussing Book Y. What should Jack do? Should Jack let one person drag the group off in the other direction and frustrate the people who came to discuss Book X, such that they may not return again? Or should Jack ask the person who wanted to discuss Book Y to please stick with Book X and hold comments about Book Y for some other forum?

      Lazarus’ Table, Anni, Alice, John, Richard, and B. all managed to keep their comments relevant to the blog post. BCI hopes others follow suit.

    • Jack O'Malley says:

      Well, I must confess (bless me, BCI, for I have sinned ;-)) I was reading a few threads simultaneously, actually, not simultaneously, but they were open in different windows. So I was confounded by the finestral multiplicity and querulously mentioned the “berating” in the wrong thread. Oh well. Off to the pavement of Hell with me and my selfsame skull among the rotten bishops. Bejasus, to be a paltry piece of mosaic next to Bernie Law! A desperate fate for a lukewarm Catholic indeed. Lasciate ogne speranza voi ch’entrate!

      But, as to your larger and very well taken point, what are the two books you had in mind? Very mysterious, that X and Y. My own view is that a post on the part of a blogger ought to be an invitation to conversation and if “book x” suggests that “book y” is a more general, more inductive and perforce more cogent explication of the issue at hand, perhaps that book ought to be preferred for the session’s discourse. Is this not a reasonable proposal?

      But, I concede you have a valid point nonetheless. I don’t find the new translation an order of magnitude preferable to the old. That a few of the ICEL asses have endured a course in elementary ecclesiastical Latin is not a victory either for Truth or for Tradition. Let them read Horace and Ovid for a semester or two then come back to the translation task. Thus, it seems to me that “book y” argues more effectively the salient point at issue.

      As always, despite my recalcitrance and obstinacy, be assured that a sometimes differing perspective does not mean I don’t share your devotion to the restoration of the archdiocese. Keep the Faith and keep up the good work.

      Best, as always,

      Jack O’Malley

      • Boston Catholic Insider says:

        BCI appreciates your message back. Glad we were able to work through this one!

        “Book X” is the Diary of St. Faustina. “Book Y” is Story of a Soul, the Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

        Thank you for the good wishes on our work to restore the archdiocese.

    • Jack O'Malley says:

      Santa merda! My Italianity has conquered my Latinity. “finestral” should be “fenestral”. Sic transit gloria Romae.

  11. Mack says:

    The transition has been pretty good at the parish I attend. The pastor prepared the people for it, used new sung responses, and put very sturdy and serviceable response cards in the pews. Up until two weeks ago there was still a mixture of old and new responses, but last Sunday it was much better. I think people are starting to remember. When the priest reminds people to use the cards, it goes better. In my opinion, those who may still be saying the old responses are not doing so deliberately, as if to make a statement, but just because they’re still getting used to it.

  12. Michael says:

    Fr. Hickey at Holy Family in Rockland is outstanding. He goes through the changes over and over and He really wants the parishioners to understand and comply with the new language. Only way to mess it up with him is if you are absolutely asleep. He is relentless in an educational way. Repetition is the mother of learning.

  13. therese says:

    I hope BCI will soon get into the recent week of meetings held in Braintree with various groups of parish employees who serve as business managers, principals, religious education directors, pastoral assistants, etc. regarding Pastoral Planning. They were a nightmare almost as much of a nightmare as the new payroll company that was imposed on all parishes

  14. […] the proposed plan and process so far?  By means of an example, one reader posted the following comment yesterday: “I hope BCI will soon get into the recent week of meetings held in Braintree with […]

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