Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Roman Missal: If Not Now, When? Moving Forward with Change

Have had a busy few days, but as the dust settles following last week's approval by the Vatican of the revised Roman Missal, I have heard a variety of reactions.  These have ranged from a sincere "Hey, I don't like change" from my young adult son, to those who have said they either don't think some of the priests will do it, or that they don't have much hope that this will be the much-vaunted catechetical moment that enriches the average Catholic's understanding and participation in the Mass. All I can say is, not if I can help it!

For those out there advocating a "Why don't we just wait?" attitude, and for those who have resigned themselves to a mediocre process of implementation for whatever reason, I challenge them to find a better moment to take a chance.  This could be a moment when we have an opportunity to affect the Church postively.  Instead of wringing our hands in dismay, or nay-saying about something beyond our ability to change, why not put the energy into affecting what we do have influence over - which is quite simply how well we personally respond to this task?

Being a change-agent is part of the normal job description of those in ecclesial ministry. Wherever the Church is called to move forward on something, diocesan and parish ministers are put in the position of helping average Catholics grow and learn to accept change, which is indeed a huge challenge.

A few years back, in my diocese, a large number of us went through the two-day training for Generations of Faith. People were then sent back to their parishes to change the paradigm of catechesis of children and youth from the drop-off model to an intergenerational model. During the training, John Roberto, then of GOF, explained that what was needed was skills for being a change-agent. What happened in many parishes with the GOF process, is that today their program incorporates some elements of intergenerational catechesis, or in some cases, catechesis is fully intergenerational. It was certainly not easy to make that change. I remember receiving phone calls in my diocesean office from disbelieving parents, inquiring whether this was OK, or protesting about the change.

What is different here is that we are not talking about an "option" but a requirement. About one-third of our parishes embraced intergenerational catechesis in some form. These are the parishes where they felt called and able to do this. All of our parishes are now being called to move to the new Mass translation. It is not an option, although without a doubt some pastors will treat it that way.

We need to embrace the opportunity to catechize about the Mass that the Missal presents by planning great strategies for catechesis and implementation.  Instead of moping about the vagiaries of  the process and the inconsistencies of translation principles,  we now need to find ways to move on and to move ahead with the task of preparing the people for this change - and of convincing them that it IS a good thing. That means we must now put aside our personal feelings about the translation and we must work hard ourselves to find what is positive here so we can communicate that positivity to others.  I have chosen to do that.  Sister Kathleen Hughes, in her address to the National Association of Pastoral Musicians in July said she was choosing not to be "crabby" about the new Missal. I believe that's the right attitude.
Personally, my next step is to dig out my Generations of Faith training binder and take a look - and to research change-agency skills so I can help our parish leaders. (More about that in future posts.)  We have been handed a mission, and an opportunity, catechetical folks. Let's not waste it.  We don't want to look back in 5 years and say that only some parishes made the change and that (as some people are predicting) we have effectively split into two worshiping traditions - Roman Missal II and Roman Missal III parishes. Even if that were to happen in spite of our best efforts, personally, I don't want to look back and say I wish I had tried harder to prevent it. I'd reather be able to say that I did the best I could to help implement the new translation.

Gonna go off and dust off my change-agent badge.


  1. We don't like change... unless we're the ones who instigate it. (And even then, we often don't follow through with it.)

    I've centered my catechetical efforts around Luke 10:27, which I think lines up with the four pillars of the Catechism: mind=Creed, soul=Sacraments, strength=Life in Christ, heart=Prayer. By getting people to understand what they're saying (and what they believe), we can see how the liturgy's rites reflect our faith ("lex orandi, lex credendi"). Then we can discover what the liturgy challenges us to do, how it calls us to conversion and a Christian life. And then we can rest with Christ in our hearts, through prayer.

    It's a tall order...

  2. 'Mil gracias to both of you for your encouraging words. Count my husband and me on board, big time. Our instructions on the changes coming and Roman Missal III, have been happening since last October; and, they continue. We're in the Fort Wayne/South Bend Diocese, and we're empowered by the Holy Spirit -- people of God.
    Again, thank you, muchisimas. Greg and Pat