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New Missal, Week 1

December 2, 2011
After several weeks of writing about the changes brought about by the new translation of the English version of the Roman Missal, the much anticipated roll-out day finally arrived. Truth be told, I was quite excited to see how it would all unfold. I even found myself walking just a little bit faster to get to Mass.
At my parish in downtown Toronto the transition seemed to go rather smoothly. Of course the presiding priest and his concelebrants took their time, made long pauses before beginning to pray revised sections and, yes, even held up the pew cards at the appropriate moment to indicate to the congregation, "You'll need the cards now". Aside from that, the friends I conferred with after mass were extolling the beauty of this translation, the poetry, and the faithfulness to the original Latin. It should be noted that these friends are theology students and have been discussing the nuances of the new translation for several weeks, if not months.
Across the country in Vancouver, my mother had been following the news of the translation and was also eagerly anticipating its roll out. She called me after Mass somewhat disappointed, saying, "I don't see what the big deal is. It's what we used to say in Latin and it's the same as what we say in Spanish." Yes, my mother remembers mass before Vatican II, and in the post-Vatican II era she has attended Mass celebrated in Spanish and English. For her, the English Mass was always a little bit "lost in translation." She was, however, thrilled with the new music settings. "It's slow and more solemn again. It's beautiful and peaceful," she said.
Her reaction was a little atypical. The West Coast has a tradition of more contemporary, less solemn liturgical music that reflects its younger population and more laid back lifestyle. One friend who serves as a music director in a Vancouver parish wasn't as thrilled with the new music as my mother was. Granted his tastes run more to the contemporary and uplifting than most, but his concern was that the new music wasn't written as music. Instead, the words of the mass parts were taken as is and set to music without any changes to the wording or pacing for musicality. As a result, he said, when the new parts are set to music, it doesn't have the same congregation-friendly pace and timing as the previous settings. Sharing my mother's sentiments, he had no problems with the translation in and of itself, telling me, "I grew up going to Italian Mass and this is what we were always saying in Italian."
Reports from other parts of the Catholic world seemed generally positive. Catholic News Service interviewed a priest in Delaware who said, "I felt like a new altar server again." Around the blogosphere, some reported feeling that this first Sunday mass with the new words and the pew cards felt a little bit more awkward than prayerful.
Of course, the switch over didn't come without glitches. At one friend's Toronto parish, the response "and with your spirit" wasn't exactly unified. Instead a gamut of replies were heard: the old "and also with you", the new "and with your spirit", and the just plain confused "and with your body". Another friend reported that one of the acolytes serving in her parish loudly responded "and also with you", much to his embarrassment. In Vancouver my mother reported that most people followed the cards, but many parishioners whose first language is Italian or Spanish were replying quietly in their native language since the responses are exactly the same -- no reading required.
It will take a while to get used to the new wording and pacing, but the key seems to be slowing down and thinking about what one is saying. That, after all, was the whole point of the new translation.
The common theme among the people I heard from was that the new rhythm of the responses feels slightly awkward, but because one now has to pay attention to what one is saying, the beauty of the words is more evident.
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Credit: CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec

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