Embracing Change in the Church [Added 1-2012]

In 2010, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops published many bulletin inserts for parishes to use to introduce the New Roman Missal to parishioners.  One of these was entitled Embracing Change in the Church.  To read the USCCB version click here.

One of our team wrote a response as follows…

Our Response 

We begin with some Wisdom from Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22):

“Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

Why does the Church change the liturgy?

     “Beware of the sources quoted.”  I learned that from one of my theology professors.  In this case, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal is certainly secondary to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the first Vatican II document.  In this latter we find: “The sacred Council has set out to impart an ever-increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more closely to the needs of our age those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call mankind into the Church’s fold.  Accordingly it sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy.”  [See The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, (SC) Introduction, #1].  So, in an effort to better connect the entire Tradition to the needs of the day and to be ecumenical (“all who believe in Christ”), several principles must be taken into account.  These include:

  • “All the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people…have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism.” (SC, #14)
  • “There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them, and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.” (SC, #23)
  • “The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity.  They should be short, clear, and free from useless repetitions.  They should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.”  (SC, #34)
  • “Even in the liturgy the Church does not wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not involve the faith or the good of the whole community.” (SC, # 37)
  • “Provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved, provision shall be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions and peoples….” (SC, #38)

Who decides that the Liturgy should change?  First of all, it was the Second Vatican Council, a gathering of the Pope and all the bishops, together, that called for change.  (See Introduction of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, as noted above.)  In this Constitution, the Pope and bishops were to share authority, together.  “It is for the Holy See to reform and to approve liturgical books for general use,” according to SC #21.  At the same time, “It is for the bishop to regulate the liturgy in his own diocese, in accordance with the norms and the spirit of the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy” (my emphasis), the decrees of the Holy See and of the competent territorial authority,” which envisioned bishops’ conferences in local areas, working together (SC,#22).

What exactly is changing?  A great deal, both in terms of process and product.

  • This entire process was dictated and controlled by the Vatican, from changing the rules of translation (Liturgiam Authenticam) to overseeing the process to enforcing the approval by English speaking bishops’ conferences.
  • The method of translation from dynamic equivalence, in which the receptor language (English) has primary consideration to formal equivalence, in which Latin is primary; this latter insists upon a nearly word for word and phrase for phrase translation from the Latin, regardless of whether or not it can be understood in English.
  • While it is said that the new translation “more closely reflects the original Latin texts,” that is not true; some Latin texts were recently changed before translation to reflect the views of theVatican.
  • The music must change in all the responses and proclamations that are normally sung because some of the words have been changed; some of our beloved Eucharistic prayers (i.e. Marty Haugen’s Mass of Creation) will be changed.

Will the changes be noticeable?

In a word, Yes!

  • Some of the well known responses will change (i.e. “and with your spirit,” rather than “and also with you”).
  • Some words in proclamations like the Gloria and the Nicene Creed will change.  In the latter, Jesus will become “consubstantial with the Father” rather than “one in being with the Father”.  A hard word to understand?  Yes, indeed.  And the exclusive “for us men and our salvation” is back!
  • Most of the priest’s prayers will be different… many lengthy, with descriptive phrases that follow the Latin sentence structure but may not make much sense in English.
  • And the music will be noticeably different!  The “Gloria” will change, to accommodate the new words; so will the “Holy, Holy” and the sung Eucharistic prayers.

How can I prepare for the change?

  • Pray, alone and with others, that the work of the Spirit will be done.
  • Read and study, for better understanding; check out the web site www.misguidedmissal.com, which has much good information.

What difference will these changes make in my parish?

     This is hard to say.  Some questions we raise are these:

  • Will the joy and the Spirit be nearly lost?
  • Will a number of people feel left out and discouraged?
  • Will the liturgy become divisive, rather than unifying?
  • Can this liturgy ever become the best we have to offer our abundantly merciful God… rather than a faulty translation to which we must adjust?
  • Will those priests who are approaching this new liturgy with a heavy heart- and we know a number of them- ever be able to pray once again with zest and peace?

 Where can I turn for help in understanding these changes?

  • Listen to your hearts.
  • Read, study, and talk to your pastors and liturgical experts.

What if I don’t like the new translation?

  • Trust your intuition.
  • Become educated about the process and product of this translation, as well as the 1998 translation.  See www.misguidedmissal.com, as noted above.
  • Pray that the work of the Holy Spirit will be done.
  • If, at this point, you feel the need to take action, consider these possibilities: (1) sign the petition on the web site named above, (2) take the survey found on the web site www.whatifwejustsaidwait.org, (3) write your concerns to U.S. Catholic magazine in 400 words or less (onlineeditor@uscatholic.org), and (4) ask your pastor to follow another pastor’s action plan- he is putting response cards in the pews and inviting his congregation to tell him exactly what they don’t like and why.  Then he intends to write to his bishop with this information.
  • Write to your bishop directly.  Come early January, the team at www.misguidedmissal.com will have some sample letters and an action plan for anyone who wants to participate.
  • Keep on praying that the work of the Holy Spirit will be done.

What can I do to make the process of change a good one for my parish?

  • It is our profound hope that the People of God will take these changes seriously, will question them, pray with them, and then- if so moved- will stand up and speak out with courage and respect for the liturgy they believe in and the Church they believe in.
  • It is our profound hope that the values of the Gospel and of the Second Vatican Council- such as servant leadership, collegial leadership, praise of God that reflects our very best energy and preparation, the “full, conscious, and active participation” of the assembly- will ultimately have their way, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit.