After more than 15 months of preparation, education and training, every Catholic worship site across the country and around the Province will implement the “third typical edition” of the English-language Roman Missal this Sunday.
As Nov. 27 approaches, the new Missal — which favors a more literal translation of the Latin texts over dynamic equivalency — has become an increasingly hot topic of debate.
In his Nov. 3 column for The Evangelist, Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard wrote, “At times, this (new translation) results in good and faithful rendering of the original meaning. At other times, it produces a rather awkward text in English that is difficult to proclaim and hard to understand.”
Despite this potentially awkward phrasing of the new missal, “it’s not the end of the world!” stressed James Sabak, OFM, chair of the American Franciscan Liturgical Commission and member of the North American Academy of Liturgy and Societas Liturgica. The commission is in charge of translating the liturgical texts of Franciscan saints to be in line with the new translation.
Seeking Newness in our Celebration
“Like anything that has become so familiar and so comfortable in our lives, we can often take for granted what should be most important to us,” he said. “In the life of a believer, the Eucharistic liturgy must always hold the most important place. With this truth in our minds and hearts, we are constantly asked to seek newness in our celebration of the liturgy, so it becomes ever new in our lives and moves us to greater acts that give glory to God.”
Jim noted: “This is the work the third edition of the Roman Missal ultimately calls us to engage in — to encounter once again and in a new way the wonder of that one privileged and particular event that has the power to edify us week by week, and day by day, in faith, hope and love — the Mass.”
Many articles point out that the changes will be most challenging for presiders who will be proclaiming new lengthy translations of prayers they once knew by heart. “But it is language that asks those who preside to take care with all that they are called to do in the Mass,” said Jim, who directed workshops around the Province on understanding the translations.
“Presiders are asked to prepare every prayer in the way they would a homily, with careful reflection on and preparation of the texts; texts that in themselves, with such preparation, can speak more profoundly of the mystery of God in our lives than the texts we had been using.”
Feeling at Ease With Mass Changes
In a column for the Huffington Post, author Mary DeTurris Poust offered four spiritual tips to help Mass-goers feel more at ease with the changes. Poust recommends getting to know the Scripture references behind the changes, learning “some new moves,” not being afraid to use pew cards or to take a prep class, and allowing the changes to be an opportunity for renewal.
Several monthly subscription-based resources are available that contain the order of Mass with the new translations, according to the Nov. 20 bulletin of St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City. They include Give Us This Dayfrom Liturgical Press, Magnificat, The Word Among Us and Living with Christ.
“In the end,” Jim said, “all words fail when one comes face-to-face with the glorious mystery of God’s love for creation, but that never can mean we do not try to use the best and most profound metaphors, images, thoughts and reflections on that love in our texts of praise.
“As we begin to use the texts of the revised liturgy in our prayer, we will be asked to reflect on what our language says in the context of the Mass — a context quite different from a political caucus, an institutional conference, a self-help seminar, or even a gathering of good friends,” Jim added. “It is a context that reminds us of who we are called to be as believers in an often unbelieving world: revelation, incarnation, good news.”
— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
Editor’s note: The photo accompanying this article is of Zachary Elliot, OFM, at St. Bonaventure’s University Chapel. A photo of Jim Sabak is included in the rear.