Church ministers will play crucial role in implementing new translation

Posted November 16, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Now that the U.S. bishops and the Vatican have approved new English translations of the Roman Missal, the book of prayers used at Mass, experts say the next step is educating church ministers – from lectors to musicians – so they can serve better at liturgies.

Father Richard Hilgartner, associate director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship, said the new adaptations of the missal will offer lay people an opportunity to explore the great spiritual richness that can be found in these prayers.

“Just as priests who preside will have to prepare their proclamation of the prayers since the style is different from what is now prayed,” he said, “the laity will experience some immediate changes in the responses they say at Mass.”

For example, when the celebrant says, “The Lord be with you,” the current response is, “And also with you.” The new response will be, “And with your spirit.”

Since church ministers serve at liturgies, said Father Hilgartner, they will be responsible in part for guiding the people in the pews to understand and adapt to these changes. To prepare for this, he said, lay ministers should “reflect on the new translation for their own spiritual growth and development.”

He suggested that church ministers refer to the new texts during meetings at their churches and even open meetings by reciting some of the prayers from the new translation to become more comfortable with them and “gain access to the richness they contain.” Doing so during special liturgical seasons, like Advent and Lent, he added, may further smooth the transition.

To prepare for the changes, the USCCB provides a new web page usccb.org/romanmissal.

The Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions is planning workshops that can be given at churches, and materials are being published that can aid in adjusting to the liturgical changes.

Not all parish ministers will be affected by the changes. The translation of Scripture readings used at Mass will remain the same, so lectors will be unaffected; so will extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.

Church musicians, however, are another story. The changes to the Roman Missal will affect their ministry “pretty profoundly,” said Michael McMahon, president of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians and a church music director.

Father Hilgartner explained, “Musicians will be challenged to lead the people in sung text that corresponds to the new translation. Composers have readjusted previous musical settings. New compositions are also being prepared that will broaden the treasury of music for the people.”

McMahon said people can expect “new settings of many of the Mass texts that people have come to know and sing pretty confidently — the ‘Gloria,’ the ‘Sanctus.’ A lot of musical settings are being retooled.”

While he doesn’t expect the entire musical repertoire of most churches to change, he said, one significant difference is that the new missal translation will “open up singing parts of the Mass we’re not used to.”

For example, he calls it a “priority in the new translation” to sing the dialogue at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer. He notes that singing more parts of the Mass “puts us at the same tempo,” adding to the common experience of Mass-goers. McMahon sees the changes as a benefit since any part of the Mass given greater attention can result in greater understanding of the Mass by the people.

“People always need to be taken back to the basics of liturgical formation,” he said, and the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s “called for full, active participation in the liturgy.”

McMahon cautioned that, despite the fact that change is coming, “we don’t want to make too much or too little of it. We’re not changing the Mass; we’re changing the translation.”

Blain is a freelance writer and managing editor of The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, NY. 

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