Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Roman Missal: If participation is the highest value, we have a lot of work to do!

Hmmm - I just got the new USCCB monthly e-newsletter on the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, (go here to subscribe) and as a result made a visit to their "modestly redesigned" Roman Missal web site.  Under the Parish Resources tab,  two of the three PowerPoints feature a screen with the same four points under "Theological Premises of the Conciliar Reform of the Liturgy." The second point is "Participation of the Faithful is the Goal to be Considered Before all Others."  (Sacrosanctum Consilium, 48)

In the years since Vatican II, apparently the priority of this has been replaced by the need for literal correctness. If paricipation is still truly the highest goal, then why has so much attention been given to the "correctness" of the new translation over it's comprehensibility? Archaic Latinate language, long out of common usage, that will require explanation is not going to support that goal unless we do a LOT of upgrading of the literacy of our American adults... or provide a great deal of catechesis.  This will be a big task... and many parishes may not be up to it.

In a Church where typically, most adults do not attend formation events after their own Confirmation and reading comprension scores have gone down since the era of classical prose, this will mean most catechesis will have to take place at Mass, which will put a lot of burden on the clergy and will necessitate the full cooperation of parish pastoral, catechetical and liturgical leaders. 

Our diocese is mandating training of all leadership - by participation in the"Mystical Body, Mystical Voice" workshop experience from the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein.  Apparently at least 43 other sites are using that resource as well.  The list on the front page of the USCCB Roman Missal web site names over 20 locations for the FDLC workshops on the topic. 

Will this instruction be enough to help foster in the Assembly the kind of active participation the Council called for?  What else will be needed? There are some good resources out there to be used in parishes, but again - will this be enough?  Who will equip the aging tired clergy and parish leaders to deal with the reality of the average parish?  I am still wondering. I think we have our work cut out for us!


  1. What are your sources of information on the rate of Adult Formation? Please cite sources of information when you state facts about the level of literacy or status of adult formation of the "average" American.

    The "changes" in the Roman Missal are about precise language. Words are important. As the poet Emily Dickinson said, "A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day."

  2. To respond to "anonymous": in our suburban reasonably average diocese, our adult faith formation leaders report consistently low turnout for event-based adult faith formation. They also report that it is common for people to "disappear" after Confirmation from all formational opportunities, and even from the practice of coming to Mass beyond Christmas and Easter. As to literacy, I have no stats, but ask ten people on the street what "ineffable" means. I challenge you to find more than one who knows. That word has not been common in our language for at leas 50 years. This will be even more true for the younger generation, who are not reading "classic" literature that uses that kind of language in high school. Even ten years ago when my sons were in high school, what they were reading was all modern literature.

    My point stands that we will need to do a lot of work before this new translation will be a living word for many of our average people. It is asking a lot of parish leadership... and we had better provide them with help.

  3. I agree that much formation needs to happen with this "new" language. However, what many popular liturgist in this country fail to understand is that while we became more "active" after Vatican II we did not become more "participatory". Meaning, we all got involved with "doing" particular things during mass but we have yet to achieve a deep "being present" at Mass. The root of this problem? Incorrect translation of the Latin. Vatican II called for "actual" not "active" participation. The Council Fathers invited us to deeper contemplation not increased activity. "Be still and know that I am God." Yes, the new correct translation will leave English speaking Catholics wondering "What does 'ineffable' mean?" but in so doing they might come to wonder about the One Holy Ineffable Triune God and THEN we'll see some sparks in the interior life of Catholics!

  4. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him attend a seminar on the redesigned Missal.

    Each year in my 6th grade Catechism class we study the Mass directly from the missalette, so my kids will have all the changes explained to them.

    Sometimes having a captive audience works best.

  5. Yes -I agree that is an effective tactic - and our bishop is "mandating" our seminar for all priests and for all parish staff. Of course a few will no doubt not show up, but hopefully most will. I hope that more catechists will consider your method - but they will need help explaining the changes if they, themselves do not know what some of the Latinate words mean. Good catechetical materials are going to be essential.