Changes to Catholic mass

Nov 2, 2011

  The Catholic Church will be rolling out some changes to its prayer books, or missals, at the end of this month.  The church wants to strengthen the text Catholics will hear at mass by retranslating some words and phrases from Latin.

  This is the first implementation of changes to the prayer books since the 1970's.  WBFO's Sharon Osorio spoke with a priest and a parishioner about the revisions.

  “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  And with your spirit.”

  If you're a Catholic, this portion of mass should sound very familiar - to a point.  You just heard two of the changes parishioners will soon be hearing at mass.  The Catholic Church is introducing a revised version of its missal, or prayer book, set to hit the pews November 27.  The church has re-translated some of the text from Latin to English to replace what's considered a watered-down translation that's used today.  So it's now "communion of the holy spirit" instead of "fellowship of the holy spirit."  And more noticeably, the response, "And also with you," no longer makes the cut.  Catholics will now need to reply, "And with your spirit." 

  Father Czeslaw Krysa of the Diocese of Buffalo is in charge of implementing the changes locally.

  “Saying ‘and with your spirit’ goes back to a biblical response, a biblical greeting that we have in a number of places in the Old Testament, first of all,” says Krysa.  “Secondly, it's the oldest Eucharistic greeting in Christianity.  The other thing is, saying ‘spirit’ highlights the fact that the peace being that’s being exchanged is being exchanged so that the holy spirit ministers through the priest.  It's not like peace be with you, Joe, or peace be with you, Stan.”

  Father Czeslaw says he's has been speaking with Catholics, from clergy to parishioners, about the revisions .  

  “One of my favorites is the one at the communion time where the priest instead of saying, ‘This is the lamb of god who takes away the sins of the world,’ he uses the word, ‘behold the lamb of god who takes away the sins of the world.’  The word ‘behold’ is the original scriptural text. See, this is one of the main features of this translation, it goes back to the way we would hear this in scripture.  These are the words right off the lips of St. John the Baptist pointing out Jesus.  ‘Behold’ basically says, ‘Look, wow!’” 

  And the diocese hopes its parishioners behold the changes.    Parishes like Saint Mary's in Swormville have been preparing for the changes by practicing them during mass.

  “It was very helpful and it eases us into the change,” says Caroline Cercone from Clarence, a parishioner at Saint Mary's.

  “A few weeks ago when we came to mass, Father began mass with the usual greeting, and then he explained that we would start practicing the new changes, and each week we would practice one change,” says Cercone.

  St. Mary's -- and now many more churches -- have laminated cards in their pews, like cheat sheets of sorts, that point out the changes the parishioners will need to know.

  “The actual words that are changed are in bold; so not the entire portion is changed, so you'll know what's familiar and what's changed and what to pay attention to when you do have to recite the changes.” says Cercone. 

  The new version of the missal continues to refer to men and women as "man," leaning on the Latin translation of the word.  But God will now be more gender-neutral.

  “If you go back to the ancient text, the word ‘father’ for God, which is one of the titles we give God, the Father -- not the only one -- is used 5 percent of the time in the ancient text, while 90-95 percent of the time, it's ‘Almighty,’ ‘Eternal,’ ‘Ever-loving God,” says Krysa.  “Now most of our texts are going to be translated like the originals, which is more inclusive.”

  And now churchgoers will have to wrap their mouths around the new addition of the word “consubstantial” during mass. 

  The Catholic church is doing what it can to promote awareness and explanations of the changes, something Father Czeslaw says did not happen the last time changes were made in the 1970's.

  Still, change is change.  Some priests won't like it.  Some parishioners won't like it.  But Cercone is embracing the revisions.

  “It's more true to what's meant to be said in our understanding,” says Cercone.  “Even if it was a translation of a famous novel, wouldn't you want the best translation to understand what the author meant?”

  The changes continue until the very end of the mass, during the dismissal.  It's an optional end added by the current pope and not from ancient tradition.

  "’Go and announce the gospel of the Lord. Thanks be to God,’ where we used to say, ‘The mass has ended.  Go in peace.’”