Sunday, August 22, 2010

Roman Missal: First Steps in Implementation

Now it begins: the great task of implementing the final version of the revised Roman Missal. With the final approval of the text comes the responsibility of receiving it and making its use a reality in parishes around the English-speaking world.  Lots of issues are out there, to be sure, but one thing that most of the commentators on the blogosphere and in the news releases have in common is that this is an opportunity for enrichment of the average Catholic's understanding of the Mass.  If the goal is to navigate this change as painlessly as possible, we need to strategize now. It will be crucial to step out of comfortable parish "silos" and to work together as a team.

As I have already said in this space, this is not just a job for the priest, liturgists and musicians, but also for the catechists - and an opportunity for partnership. Let's not let this teachable moment pass by succumbing to a bad attitude.  We owe the ordinary people in our pews - those who have not spent months worrying, speculating and reacting to every wind of rumor - our best shot at making this thing work. It will certainly not be painless - change is never easy. There will be questions, hurt feelings and as with all things in the Church these days, resistance from those who see the hierarchy as hopelessly out of touch with the people.  There will be difficulties in comprehension of the new, more grammatically complex texts.

What should be happening right now, I suggest, is that every parish should hand their catechists and liturgical ministers a good pamphlet or workbook to begin to study (there are certainly a number of good choices out there). Catechist gatherings through the 2010-11 school year should include sessions on the missal led by someone qualified to answer their questions.  If catechists and those who serve at Mass understand the changes, they can not only teach others about them, but can serve as people "seeded" throughout the community who can participate intelligently and with some authority, in discussions with other adults in the parish. It's a simple step, but if we build up a core of people in the community with a solid understanding of what is happening and why, this will not feel like it is Father and the music director asking people to change.


  1. I agree this is a catechetical opportunity as well as a liturgical issue. This is a great opportunity to explain the deeper workings of the Mass to people that may never have learned it. It's definitely incumbent on all parish staffs to never let happen again what happened the last time the Mass was changed. I've heard the stories of having a Latin Mass one day and the new english Mass the next...without any explanation or attempts to explain it. Catechists will be at the forefront of this as well and will need to be well versed in explaining these changes to their students.

  2. I agree that this is an excellent teachable moment -- but I think the starting point is not the Missal itself, but a "refresher" on liturgical theology.

    In our diocese we are "kicking off" our implementation with our Diocesan Adult Enrichment Conference in November, the theme of which is the liturgical practice of the Church. Our DRE meetings this year will focus first on liturgical catechesis in general, then the Missal. My hope is that this will lay the ground work for fruitful catechesis of the average parishioner next year.

  3. Marc, you are right about not wanting history to repeat itself. In our diocese, because nothing was done catechetically, and the pastors and liturgical people were not really equipped to deal with it by themselves, the 2004 posture changes were largely ignored. I don't plan to let that happen this time.

    Jonathan - sounds like a great plan. We had a liturgical catechesis on the Mass gathering for parish staffs last spring, but that was probably not enough. We are bringing in "Mystical Body, Mystical Voice" from Mundelein to train leadership next spring - and I am hoping that general liturgical catechesis is a part of that. (I will find out the content of the day at the Sept. 17 diocesan demo day for MBMV.

    Because we are currently doing a Year of the Eucharist, we are engaging across the diocese in catechesis about the Mass. I hope that parishes are using this opportunity well - we certainly have supplied materials and guidance.

  4. In addition, we are in the planning process for a gathering next August, with Gerry Galipeau and Bob Piercy (health permitting, of course) for DRE's and Adult Faith Formation leaders to prepare them to work with catechists and other adults for the implementation... the "ground level" stuff. Bob is tentatively working on a set of lesson plans for kids at 2 age levels, to be published by LTP. This is the only material I am aware of to help kids negotiate the changes. (As I noted in an earlier post here, at least one focus session with teens uncovered the interesting fact that they were more upset when they first heard the new texts than were the adults.)