Hope in Renewal: Implementing the Roman Missal

March 15, 2011

The Office of Worship hosted nine workshops in February and early March to provide vision and formation for parishes planning for the implementation of the third edition of the Roman Missal. 

These workshops were attended by 800 leaders representing more than 120 parishes and schools. The sessions began with two simple questions: What have you heard about the changes in the Roman Missal? How do you feel about the changes? 

Participants’ responses ranged from anxious, scared and concerned to excited and hopeful that the translation would offer an opportunity to deepen their spirituality and learn more about the Eucharist. Some viewed the implementation as an opportunity to deepen their appreciation of the Mass. Others had heard that the changes might be overwhelming for priests.

Several questions were addressed regarding the implementation: Why are we changing? What was the process that took place? What are the major differences between the language we use now and the new translation? Previous columns in the Texas Catholic Herald, available at www.archgh.org/Texas-Catholic-Herald/Columnists/, have addressed these questions at length. In brief: The Church is changing because a new Latin edition of the Roman Missal includes newly named saints and additional prayers. Liturgiam Authenticam, a new translation instruction from Rome, changed the manner in which translations are made and guided the translation of this edition of the Roman Missal. This process involved 11 English speaking bishops’ conferences and the wisdom of hundreds of bishops. The language of the new translation preserves the theology and poetic imagery of the Latin, as well as the allusions to Scripture and the Church Fathers. 

Local participants in the recent Roman Missal workshops said the translation process is “well thought-out” and required “a lot of effort.” The language is “more formal, not casual;” “poetic;” and “noble language to raise people up,” allowing the faithful the opportunity to hear and pray the Mass “with new ears.” 

All English-speaking countries will use this translation, giving a sense of the universal nature of the Church. Workshop participants said the change was not as great an adjustment as the Church had in the 1970s; the parts of the Mass will remain the same, but some of the words are different. While words are changing, these “words can change hearts.” Workshop participants saw the change as an opportunity for everyone to renew and deepen their love for the Eucharist, to grow in personal holiness and to be able to celebrate the liturgy more meaningfully.

The participants could be called realists, as they recognized change brings challenge and loss of their comfort zone: that familiarity they currently have at Mass. Those at the workshops said they feared and lamented they may lose some parishioners who might resist change. The parish teams affirmed their desire to ensure that everyone, especially the youth and those Catholics who do not attend Mass regularly, would be knowledgeable and comfortable with the changes. Other workshop participants inquired about the costs parishes would incur when they purchase new music settings, participation aids and Roman Missals.

The parish teams began with energy and enthusiasm to formulate goals and opportunities to prepare the faithful at their parishes and schools for the changes all will experience. Participants look at the upcoming years as a time when all can learn more about the Mass, be inspired by the new prayers and be drawn more deeply into the richness of the sacrament. This can indeed be a time of hope in renewal. †

Sandy Higgins is Associate Director of the Office of Worship.