The new becomes familiar in liturgy

June 12, 2012

HOUSTON – "The Lord be with you."

"And also with … And with your spirit."

This unsure response (or similar variations of it) by the people in the pews to the priest's traditional liturgical greeting have been somewhat commonplace since the recent translation of the Roman Missal was implemented in December 2011.

It can be argued that the congregation's first words to start the Mass serve as a relatively accurate gauge of how far parishes have come during this time of change.

Fortunately, the people have demonstrated more confidence in their phrasing with each passing month.

With the exception of the natural learning pains and expected hiccups of these recent alterations, the transition to the third edition of the Roman Missal has "gone smoothly" in the parishes of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, according to David Wood, the Office of Worship director.

"Most of the feedback has been positive to neutral, which indicates to me that the parishes did a good job of preparing the people," Wood said. "Of course, familiar phrases and patterns are hard to completely replace. On occasion, people fall back into the old phrases, which is to be expected when they are praying the Mass. That is the nature of ritual — familiar and repeatable. By and large, the new words and phrases are becoming familiar."

As stated in one of Wood's columns previously published in the Texas Catholic Herald, the goal of this translation "remains the same as the revision of the Liturgy following Vatican II, which is the full, conscious, active participation of the faithful in the Liturgy … The Liturgy is a living expression of God's love and the Church's faith."

The Office of Worship staff, with assistance from members of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission and clergy, facilitated multiple sessions in the deaneries prior to the implementation last year.

"Clearly many of the priests were anticipating the additional preparation the new translation would require," Wood said. "There were some concerns expressed over the more elevated style of English employed by the new translation. However, many if not most of our priests celebrate the Mass in Spanish as well as English and were therefore familiar with the variances in the translation. The Spanish language is much closer to Latin and therefore the translation is easier. I think many priests appreciate that the English and the Spanish are much closer in communicating the tradition and theology expressed in the original Latin."

Fortunately, Wood said there have not been any unanticipated hurdles with the transition on the Archdiocesan level.

"Perhaps the greatest challenge comes in preparing Archdiocesan liturgies, as there is a great variety of Mass settings being used in the parishes," he said. 
As the "translation transition" continues, the Office of Worship must welcome the sight of the still-abundant "pew cards" in churches showing a bit of wear and tear from overuse.

"I think they are already used a bit less," Wood said of the pew cards, which outline the updates to the priest and people parts of the Mass. "I suspect over the summer and into the fall, the cards will be required less and less."

To read Wood's past columns that review all of the revisions involved in the Roman Missal translation, visit on the Archdiocesan website.