Having come of age in the years after Vatican II, I never knew the Catholic Mass in Latin. In fact, the only version I know is the one that's been celebrated for the past 40 years. So I didn't take too kindly to the idea that the words and responses of the Mass would be changing, and I'd have to look at a written guide to get me through the prayers that have rolled off my tongue since childhood.
The impending changes to the English translation of the universal Roman Missal have sparked controversy among Catholics, to be sure. Some wonder why we need a new translation when the old one seemed to be working just fine. They see the new language--which brings the English more closely in line with the original Latin--as a return to a harsher time, a past that no longer fits our modern way of thinking. Others see the changes as a long time coming, a correction of a translation that was always slightly "off." Whatever side of the fence you're on, the changes are less than one month away. It's time to adapt and move forward. The new translation of the Roman Missal will go into effect on the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, which is the beginning of the Church year for Catholics.
So what will these changes mean for you? They will probably feel somewhat strange at first, and no doubt there will be some things that may never feel right. I'm not going to try to convince anyone that referring to Jesus as "consubstantial with the Father" in the Nicene Creed where we once had the almost-lilting "one in being with the Father" is ever going to feel normal, let alone be an improvement. But, if we approach the changes with an open mind and, more importantly, an open heart, we just might find our connection to the Mass reinvigorated for the first time in years, something Catholics in this country could sorely use.
Here are four basic guidelines for making the new Mass your own:
- Get to know the Scriptural references behind some of the changes. When I first heard that the short prayer said before Communion was changing, I balked. Where we once had the straightforward, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed," we will now say: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." First reaction: What roof? Whose roof? Why are we discussing a roof? Once I got past that initial annoyance and remembered my Scripture lessons, I had that aha moment. Remember the scene from the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke, the one where the Roman centurion comes to Jesus seeking healing for his servant? Jesus offers to go to the soldier's home, but the centurion responds: "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant shall be healed." See what I mean? Aha! At that moment, as we are preparing to receive Jesus in Communion, we can ask ourselves, do we have the faith of the Roman soldier? Do we truly believe that Jesus just has to say the word and we are healed? Many of the changes have similar Scriptural connections that provide a better understanding, if not a clear-cut explanation. Who says Catholics don't focus enough on the Bible?