I remember sitting in the common room at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary during my second year in the theology division when a fellow seminarian posted on the board the notice that Pope John Paul II had just approved a new instruction for the implementation of the liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council. That document, which primarily had to do with the way the text of the Missal would be translated into the vernacular, came out in 2001.
Now, after eight and a half years as a priest, I’ll get to experience the fruit of what Pope John Paul II called for when we begin celebrating the Mass with the new translation of the Roman Missal starting on Nov. 27, the First Sunday of Advent 2011.
I’m looking forward to praying the Mass with this new translation. Not being a Latin scholar or someone too familiar with the original Latin text, I really wasn’t aware of what was lacking in the current English translation. It was the Mass I grew up with. I love the Mass and love celebrating Mass as a priest.
The Mass texts have always been great sources for personal meditation and for teaching about the mysteries of the faith. Since my ordination, I’ve regularly celebrated Mass in Spanish. Quite often, I would notice the prayers I prayed at the Mass in English were very different than the prayers I would pray at the same Mass later that day in Spanish.
At times the difference would be striking and made me wonder if these Mass texts were coming from the same source. (I knew they were). Whole phrases and profound theological nuances were missing from the English. The difference was not because Spanish speakers have a more developed or nuanced vocabulary than English speakers.
It became apparent to me that what John Paul II called for was really needed. Shouldn’t we all as Catholics be saying the same thing (and meaning the same thing) when we pray the Mass, no matter the language in which it is celebrated?
The workshops I’ve attended over the last year on the new translation and my own study to help our parishioners prepare for the changes have helped me appreciate even more the beauty and the richness of the Mass — how the prayers of the Mass are rooted in Sacred Scripture and uncover and draw us into the divine mysteries of our salvation in Christ.
Since this past spring, our parish has had two talks on the new English translation of the Roman Missal, and every Sunday since the beginning of August, a priest, deacon or lay member of our liturgy committee has given a brief catechesis at the end of Mass on a particular aspect of the changes. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
The preparation for the new translation has been for our parish a great opportunity to focus on the importance of the Mass and the centrality of the liturgy in our life of faith as Catholics.
I remember, when I was a young altar boy, having to ask somebody what “iniquities” were because I would hear the priest use this word in the prayer he said when I would wash his hands during the Mass. We might all have a few moments like that when we hear the prayers of the new translation.
That’s a good thing if it helps us better understand the meaning of our prayer and what we are really all about when we celebrate the Mass.