He is Here in Our Midst

So here’s an interesting tidbit that I missed from the PrayTell blog. Turns out that the Brazilians use some interesting choices in their missal. Check them out.

O Sehor esteja convosco. Ele está no meio de nós.
(The Lord be with you. He is here in our midst.)

Here’s another greeting he’ll use:
A paz esteja convosco. O amor de Cristo nos uniu.
(Peace be with you. The love of Christ has brought us together.)

The liturgical translations in use in Brazil for several decades are quite interesting in their lively creativity. The formula in the “supper narrative” of the Eucharistic Prayer in Portuguese remains “for you and for all.”

The response at the invitation to Communion is still “…and I shall be healed/saved,” not “…and my soul…”

Love it. I especially like “He is here in our midst.” Which I think is exactly the right note to hit. Basically it says, The Lord be with you and the response is “Don’tcha know it?” (with a nod to our friends in Minnesota).

It seems the Pope likes the use of simple vernacular. It would have been interesting to hear his take on the changes that the United States instituted and even to hear what he thinks of them now after the fact.

My students loved hearing all the different languages at World Youth Day. I don’t have the ear for languages but speak a bit of liturgical Spanish and Italian so the Portuguese is a bit familiar sounding.

Welcome the Stranger

When I first joined St. Paul the Apostle (my old parish in New York City) I didn’t know a soul. I would occasionally go their Campus Ministry mass with my old college roommate who was the Resident Director of the Fordham dorm at Lincoln Center. I worked Sundays and Fordham’s 8PM mass was the last mass in town.

But time went on and work schedules changed. I could now make a 5:15PM mass or even a 10AM mass. So I did. A bunch of young people would attend the 5:15PM and often I’d find a college friend who lived in the city and would have a companion to sit with.

But at the 10AM Mass, I knew nobody. I wandered down the center aisle that first day, looking for an empty seat at the packed mass.

Then I heard a voice, “Excuse me…”

I turned and found a silver haired women in her 50s sitting with a bunch of people. I can’t remember her name, but she was a Godsend.

“If you’re looking for someone to sit with you can sit with us!”

So I did. I met her friends, some of whom are still friends today. I was touched by her hospitality and I have to say, it was one of the things that made me come back to St Paul’s often.

But it was really a test.

Because community beckons us to welcome all strangers, not just those who we might want to sit with.

I came again to the 10AM Mass and by this time, I was brazen enough to sit towards the front of the church. I was alone and I wanted to find some pre-mass quiet to pray. When I finished kneeling and praying, I reclined back and that was when I heard him.

He was loud and he was huge and he had to talk to everyone!



And running through my mind was “Please not next to me, Please not next to me, Please not next to me.”

And just as I thought it, he stopped right at my pew and says, “WELL HOW ABOUT HERE? HOW ARE YA, YOUNG FELLA, I’M JOE! MIGHT I SQUEEZE IN HERE.”

So much for silence. But you know, he was and still is a nice guy. He was a big part of the parish and would do anything for you if you asked him too–or even if you didn’t ask. And yeah, he was a bit eccentric and loud as can be, but that doesn’t mean that I should run him out of my pew.

Henri Nouwen once said, “Community is where the person you love least lives.”

Ain’t that the truth?

So today let’s ask ourselves if we are able to love those who we don’t much feel like loving, those who we’d rather ignore? Can we place them in our hearts and give them just a small amount of our time and our friendship?

The interesting thing about this story is that Joe could have sat anywhere, but instead he chose me. A newbie. He knew I was not a familiar face and he chose it upon himself to greet me with his larger than life personality.

He welcomed me, when I could not welcome him while he searched for a seat. Welcomed twice in one week in the same church and I could not do the same favor for another.

That’s what we call a sin.

So I’m sorry, Joe. Forgive me. And I’m glad we became friends anyway.

We’ve softened the role of ushers to collection gatherers and even those who are greeters at the door we give “jobs” to like handing out worship aides. But can each one of us simply find a stranger in our church, someone we don’t know, and introduce ourselves to them and more importantly, invite them to sit with us?

“Welcome the stranger as if they were Christ himself,” the Benedictines tell us. Can we do it? Can we open our church to the hungry, the homeless, the elderly, the dying those who will stretch us beyond our comfort zone and who might make our lives just that much more uncomfortable?

If we can, it gets contagious. Before you know it you’ll be making sure the strangers find a place at the table.

And who knows what happens after that?

Become Like Little Children

Joe Simmons, SJ over at the Jesuit Post is begging parents not to use the cry room.

When I’m at Mass, talking adults drive me nuts. But not kids. As they squirm and roam the space with their clear eyes and mouths agape, I smile. As Meg Hunter-Kilmer writes here, we need your wailing kids at church not despite the distractions they bring, but exactly because they are distractions from what otherwise can be – let’s admit – a sometimes selfish time. We need them to pull us out of ourselves, or at least I do. And although we usually don’t say welcome or thank you, we should.

My pastor, Fr. Jack Ledwon has a great take on all of this. He often says that little kids have a hard time sitting there for about an hour and can get really overstimulated as well. So there’s no need for a parent to torture their child. If they need to go take a walk, then take them for a walk. Use the bathroom, sure it’s right in the sacristy. There’s even a rocking chair for moms who want to rock their baby to calmness.

Babies don’t distract me at mass. Like Fr. Simmons, SJ, I always love seeing them at mass. What does distract me and annoy me are children who should know better. My sense is that this applies to every child over the age of 8 or so. You can sit there for about an hour without having a meltdown in you’re in 2nd grade, but things happen and I suppose each child is different and no matter what, we should welcome them. Perhaps talking to an older child privately about their behavior could be warranted, but we should also ask ourselves why we can’t engage children with a liturgy that is meant for all of us–not just a select few?

But my favorite story about this–or should say my least favorite comes from one of my old University Professors, Dr. Kieran Scott who reported that he attended a parish once where a young mother brought her 4 little boys to mass. They were quite a handful and not a one of them were over the age of 6.

You could only imagine: one pokes the other, so the other punches back, etc.

She’s there with a baby in her arms praying that he won’t wake up and trying to keep the three other ones in line. The parishioners all sympathized with her, save one: The Pastor.

In the middle of his homily he screamed: “YOU!”

The woman looked up and pointed at herself.

“YES, YOU. With those three little brats and another one on the way to be a brat! You are a horrendous mother! I have worked very hard on this homily and nobody is paying attention because YOU can’t control these children.”

The woman’s eyes turned downcast.

The pastor continued: “Now take those kids and get out and only come back to this mass when you can teach them how to behave!”

The woman started to leave with her eyes down and head lowered. She started to cry. I imagine the kids were elated….but then one thing happened that amazed my professor.

Everyone else started to leave too.

It seems Fr. Jerk was saying anything worth listening to anyway and his actions motivated the best in the parish.

One parishioner put his arm around mom and said “C’mon honey, we’ll find your family another church where they’ll actually be glad you are bringing your kids to church.”

And thus, we pastoral workers need to understand not just the need of parents, but the needs of children. Might we want to get them moving to a children’s liturgy of the word, so they can understand the word better? Might we want to be good preachers so that everyone understands our stories of salvation and the examples we use?

Might we want to learn children’s names and be more open to the vocation they have right now, not down the road?

How might we become like little children, who don’t discriminate, who share, who remain open to new experiences and who are all to eager to learn?

And might we be more open to the stranger in our midst and be a church truly open to welcome all.

Even if their kids are noisy.

Thou Art Dust….

My friend Karla mentioned to me today that she found this line that the minister can choose when distributing ashes to be “a bummer””

“Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”

She preferred the alternate line: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” Or “Repent and believe in the gospel.”

My friend Patrick Giles, now deceased, always preferred the old-school way. And frankly, so do I. That said, I’m not OPPOSED to the new way. I just like the sentiment of the old formula.

Lent is a time that’s about remembering or awakening to the fact that God is in our lives. It’s so much more about God and what God wants and does for us than about us–as my pastor Fr. Jack Ledwon said in his homily today.

I think I need the reminder that I’ll be dead soon enough and therefore, I need to live more joyfully rather than with dread, more hope than regret, and more faith rather than fear.

God has so much more in store for me–or does he? I may be dead in a week–a morbid thought, to be sure and one that would give any of us the willies. But still, it is a fact that we are mortal, limited beings. We don’t have forever and so the time to appreciate the present moment is now.

I think people need to hear that sometimes. My medical students, who all impress me, are around death often–but do they realize that death can and will come for them just as easily when the time is there’s to be called home? And so today I put those ash marks on them and used those words.

I often look in someone’s eyes, someone who is living with abandon and who smiles coming forth for ashes usually hears the “Repent” line from me. I figure they already know that their time is limited and they’re not wasting it—but they might live a bit too easily–a bit too recklessly.

They might need to hear another message.

But most of us, can’t imagine our own death, the end of our mortality. And obviously we don’t know when death’s call will come for us–and hopefully it won’t come soon. But it is not all that far off from us–our time is limited. Even 100 years in the bigger scheme of life is not all that much time. George Washington would be nearly 300 years old today and he lived to be less than a third of that time.

What will we do with our time? More importantly, what will God do for us? Where will God call us and how will we respond to that call?

If we consider that one day we will all be dust, we just might awaken to a world that is embued with the glory of God, a world with much to offer each one of us.

This lent, may you not only awaken yourself to God’s love in our limited lives, but also might make the lives of another who has lost hope all that more joyful–awakening them to the fact that God has not forgotten them–but rather calls them to live with great joy because they are loved.

And he calls us to do the same. After all, like a newborn baby, we should enjoy being loved while we still can…

Because soon enough, we’ll be gone, forgotten.

Like dust…in the wind.

New Translations: Got It Down Yet?

So I went 5 for 5 with the “And with your spirit” line this week. At our student mass, I thought they did a great job as well as I heard very little mistakes. At other masses with larger crowds obviously it’s still a bit more challenging.

People are even saying that it’s even getting silly in stages when people mess up, and that distracts from the mass. The opposite purpose that the new translations intend.

A good treatise on this is at Papal Bull today.

I have no problems with this more faithful translation. Indeed I prefer the King James Bible to recent translations that attempt to help readers by translating the meaning rather than the actual text. The new translation, by sticking close to the original Scripture, often has a poetry missing from the dynamic equivalent we were used to.

My favorite example of how modern translations miss the genius of the original occurs throughout the book of 2Kings. After each evil king God punishes his people and kills, “every one who pisseth against the wall.” Modern translations go for something like, “all the men.” So we give up color for blandness. No wonder we can’t recognize the genius of the Scriptures when they are reduced to pablum.

But Rome has taken this faithfulness too far. “Consubstantial” and “oblation” may be found in an English dictionary. But when was the last time you used these words outside church or a theology class? In no way does “consubtantial” have the poetry and grace of “one in being.” It’s just not English.

My point exactly. Here’s what I can’t understand at all:

Why would we want to translate the exact word from the Latin as opposed to the exact meaning? Do we not want people to understand our theology and be confused? Do we want to keep people in the dark? Or is it that we want people to dive into the liturgy and actually study it a bit more so that they do understand? While perhaps well intentioned, it also seems a bit inhospitable. If you came to my house I don’t think I’d be talking in code with others who are “in the know?”

So what went on in your parish? How are you doing with the translations after 2 weeks? Where do you think we’ll be after Christmas? All is good for the fodder here–both positive and negative alike.

Lead us Not Into Community, But Deliver Us From Hand-Holding

Bishop of Covington, Roger J. Foys issued some directives on the proper postures at mass. Here’s a doozy.

Special note should also be made concerning the gesture for the Our Father. Only the priest is given the instruction to “extend” his hands. Neither the deacon nor the lay faithful are instructed to do this. No gesture is prescribed for the lay faithful in the Roman Missal; nor the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore the extending or holding of hands by the faithful should not be performed.

Here we go…

My first thought is that this is silly. Who does it hurt if some people wish to hold hands during the Our Father (or at any other time for that matter)? For the record, my wife and I hold hands throughout mass for the most part. We are praying together as a married couple and uniting not only our marriage but our prayers to God. I give her hand a little squeeze when at the prayer of the faithful we pause for our own personal needs because I want her to know that I’m praying for her at that moment. A Bishop would have to pry her hand out of my cold dead one before I stop doing that. Has it helped our marriage? You bet. Does it makes us want to pray together more often? Bingo. Is it a sign of our married love for others? Some people tell us it is and others admittedly, think we’re a bit much.

That said, I also think that nobody should be compelled to hold hands either. I know I see medical students holding hands at mass during the Our Father and other students who don’t do it. No harm, no foul. Look at the picture I selected, some are holding hands and others are extending theirs.

Simply put, we’re all different. Some folks have a more private spirituality and others are more communal. Some would say that corporate prayer should maintain some uniformity–where we all do the same thing. I can see the point, but only to a point. Should we all pray for the exact same thing each week? Sure. But again, only to a point.

To repeat a strain from yesterday, isn’t there more that Bishops and all of us for that matter should be worried about? If we’re going to alienate a group of people how about the atheists? How about companies that embezzle? How about war mongers?

I’d also like to see how the Bishop in question plans to enforce this. Perhaps a mild electric shock is given every time someone touches someone else in Covington?

I get that some people don’t want to hold hands during the Our Father. Some are germ phobic. Some don’t want to notice how clammy, cold or warm another’s hands are during the prayer because it distracts them. But some also have a prayer life enriched by it.

We should encourage freedom in prayer. If that means praying with one’s hands extended, or holding the hand of someone else who is willing then there’s no harm done. If that means we close our eyes and keep our hands at our sides, then again, no harm is done.

It’s not like someone decided to breakdance to “One Bread, One Body.”

With all due, respect…get over it, Bishop. You can’t force people to pray in the way YOU’D prefer them to.

And if I’m ever in Covington, I hope you come and say hi. You’ll find me at mass holding my wife’s hand.

Have We Become the Pharisees?

I took a random straw poll of friends asking them what are the priorities of the Catholic Church? I asked them what their Bishop has asked them to concentrate on? Almost none of them even knew the Bishop’s name. One didn’t even know the diocese they lived in. I asked about their local parish which whom they were more familiar and they equated those priorities mostly with the sacramental preparation of children, some said a Catholic school linked to the parish, marriage was mentioned by some and a handful said that they were looking at how to get younger people involved at mass.

This week we’ve talked a lot about the new liturgical translations. And while our experience of worship together is not unimportant, I wonder why we don’t look outward more as Catholics? We spend a whole lot of time looking inward at ourselves and at the experience we provide inside the church. I would argue that we probably spend 75% of our time looking inward and maybe 25% of our time looking outward at best.

If we want our pews filled that needs to turn around. We need to spend more time outside those four walls of the church. We need to be more active in neighborhoods and with city planners and mayors and councilmen (even if they are pro-choice) talking about how we can lend a hand to fight urban blight, poverty, the lack of health care and how we might provide better education.

We need to be with the poor and hungry and reach out to those in need. We need to see priests and nuns and lay ministers and parishioners with firefighters on the scene as they choke back tears from the child they found burned to death. We need to send our parishioners to the soup kitchens and shelters and to make sure that they are safer and providing for the basic needs of humanity. We need to support the mentally ill who often are pariahs in our culture.

We have to ask parishioners to take in a foster child or support a woman who wants to turn to abortion out of desperation. We’ll be an easy alternative that folks just might be eager to find because we’re out there–visible.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta did just that. She reportedly spent at least 3 hours in prayer per day (an hour for mass and 2 hours of personal prayer per day. If she got eight hours of sleep per night that still left her with 13 hours in her day where she looked outward to the slums. Prayer wasn’t unimportant to her, nor the mass. She needed those things to be able to do the work that she was called to do.

I think she brought a lot of people to the Catholic faith because of that.

And it was a pretty simple solution, it was right there under her nose all along. And it was hard. Doing the right thing usually is.

Jesus also pointed out to the Pharisees that they were way too self concerned in Matthew 23:

“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’.”

He goes on to say that we instead need to be servants to be great.

Indeed. And that service needs to inspire others for God’s kingdom to reign.

Where are our Mother Teresa’s today? Why are those stories not being told? Every time the church is in the media it’s almost always about something insular. Mass changes, child abuse, embezzlement, school and parish closings.

Where is the good news? Perhaps we’re not providing enough of that. Couldn’t we all do just a bit more as parish communities?

Perhaps we have found the Pharisees again. And perhaps it is us. I know I can do much more than I’ve been doing.

Granted, that when we are inside of our churches we need to take more care of how we execute the “performance” of liturgy for lack of a better word. How are we inspiring others with ritual and song and preaching?

But that’s only 25% of our time. What do we do with the other 75%?

It seems to me that a “movement” is at hand. That priorities have to be made to look outward as a Catholic community. We won’t all be Teresa of Calcutta–and that’s good, she’s already been here.

But we can be great. We can challenge ourselves to stretch far beyond where we think the limits of the human heart can go. We need to give the media something ELSE to cover–something that they can’t ignore because it’s just too inspiring to let go by.

Perhaps that’s what we start praying for? Perhaps that’s what the new Roman Missal awakens us to. That it is “our fault, our fault, our most grievous fault” that we all too easily look inward and only even do that superficially. Mass should provide us with the same strength that it provided Blessed Teresa with–and I pray that it does for us.

But I also pray that our work outside of mass can provide the same kind of inspiration for ourselves and others and that we do it boldly proclaiming our Catholicism. We’ve spent a lot of time and money on making our temple a holy place. Maybe it’s now time to actually place our resources elsewhere for awhile.

Perhaps if we do, then just because of that work, our pews just might be a bit more filled because they will know that we are Christians by our love?

What are Catholics known for today? Our challenge is to provide a much better answer to that.

When Was the Last Time We Had to Learn the Mass?

I’m in 4th grade and my mom and dad asked the Deacon in our church how old one needed to be to become an altar boy.

“4th grade or 10 years old” Deacon Al replied.

I beamed. I was in.

One of the first things that we had to do was to “borrow” a missalette from the church and to learn all the mass parts. We were expected to respond especially at the “quieter” weekday masses which we were also required to be a server at once or twice a week at either the 6:45 AM, 8:00AM, or in the summer, 9:00AM masses.

I can remember taking the little book home and memorizing the words. I even started to try to memorize the priest’s parts as time went on. (I was apparently an overachiever).

And I think that was a good practice for me. After all, as Deacon Greg Kandra reminds us, the ENTIRE mass is for us. All of us. While the priest says certain words throughout the mass, we are not passive recipients. We are supposed to be praying along with him. One liturgist I know once said to me that this is why it bothered him so much when priests would change the words in the Eucharistic Prayer. “When you do that, you break my prayer. I want to tell the priest that the prayer isn’t his alone, rather it belongs to all the people of God.”

The truth is that it didn’t take long (now I was also a young kid with a mind like a steel trap back then. These days I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night or the name of the woman whose been sitting next to me in meetings for months).

This past Sunday I used my iPhone to follow the words of the Eucharistic Prayer that was used at mass. The so-called Elevated language that is used at times I find silly, but for the most part I didn’t find it all that different from the old prayer–perhaps just a reordering of words or a different word choice. My initial thought is that this wasn’t really worth all the hullaballoo that we’ve made over it.

As an example, not from the Eucharistic Prayer this time, but a colleague told me that a student asked their Bishop what the word “consubstantial” even means. And without blinking an eye the Bishop said “one in being with.”

That’s what we used to say. Really? This is what we spent time doing? Putting $3 words where there once was four words that people understood? I’m not sure that was worth the effort.

In the Eucharistic Prayers, the word chalice was added to replace cup. While the priest is actually holding a chalice, most historians and theologians think otherwise and believe he was holding a common drinking vessel. The inflated language is far from needed here.

The mysteries of faith are another example. I can live without the simple “Christ has died” refrain. But look closely at this one and ask yourself what’s wrong with the new translated refrain:

The old way: Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of the world.

The New Missal: Save us, Savior of the World, for by your cross and resurrection you have set us free.

The latter sounds like a plea—perhaps even as if the one who says it doesn’t by that the resurrection has saved us. If Jesus has already done the saving then why are we asking him to do it again? The old way seemed to get this point on target. The new way seems like it’s bad theology.

Here’s the one that I still don’t get:

To our departed brothers and sisters
and to all who were pleasing to you
at their passing from this life,
give kind admittance to your kingdom.
There we hope to enjoy for ever the fullness of your glory
through Christ our Lord,
through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.

I call that paragraph “The Divine Ticket Taker” –one who gives us kind admittance. I hope it’s a lot deeper than that.

I prefer Eucharistic Prayer II’s words:

Remember also our brothers and sisters
who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection,
and all who have died in your mercy:
welcome them into the light of your face.
Have mercy on us all, we pray,
that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
with the blessed Apostles,
and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages, we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life,
and may praise and glorify you
He joins his hands.
through your Son, Jesus Christ.

While earlier in the prayer the calling down of the Holy Spirit is invoked and makes reference to the experience being like the “dewfall”–a bit literal for my tastes, but one I can live with. I hope I hear EPII or even EP IV most often.

I’m getting a bit nostalgic for the times when I was a young altar server, when the intricacies of the mass were new to me. I’m not in the same place now. These seems more annoying than anything else–perhaps it will work and perhaps not. Only time will tell.

But for better or for worse, we’d do well to read the entire new translation and figure out what we most resonate with and what other questions they might bring up for us.

Have the New Translations Brought Us Closer to God?

So I’ve now been to three masses with the new translation being used. I haven’t posted much before now because I wanted to have the experience myself and honestly, because I was hopeful that this just might be something interesting and perhaps more prayerful for the faithful.

However, I’ve heard much vitriol and anger from people across the United States regarding the New Roman Missal–and it comes from both ends of the spectrum. One end argues that it’s fantastic and that they love the words being closer to the original Latin. Others saying that it’s not helpful to them, that the words are a series of long run on sentences and so beyond our everyday vernacular that they’ve removed them from any kind of helpful prayer experience.

As usual the truth is somewhere in the middle.

In general, people are resistant to change and therefore many folks will not like this for that reason alone. Those aren’t the people that I’d like to focus on. There are certain liturgy geeks who will jump for joy at these new translations who can’t imagine why this took so long to begin with. I’m not going to address that group either.

Then there are people who don’t mind the new translations. They’re not hooting and hollering about it, but one of my friends reported that she thought it was nice and she was glad to pay closer attention to the words she says at mass. This will be addressed.

Lastly there are the people who just could care less about the whole thing. They can’t believe that we’re spending money and time and effort in this project at all. They ask good questions about this and bring a fresh perspective to the inner church culture wars. They’ll come to mass and basically go with the flow–occasionally stumbling and perhaps even preferring some of the old translated words to the new–and they might even quietly or not so quietly say the old words anyway. We’ll especially talk about that.

The latter two groups are people who I believe consist of the majority of people going through this experience. And my question to them is whether or not this has brought them closer to God? Has this also drifted us apart as one body in Christ? I think to the latter, we can clearly see that the answer is yes.

Does this mean that we’ve been praying “wrong” for the last 40 years? A good question that someone raised recently. Does this mean that our prayer necessarily has to move beyond the language we use in our everyday life? Another good question from a young adult.

One Latin Scholar weighed in on the proceedings in today’s New York Times.

The Rev. Anthony Ruff, a scholar of Latin and Gregorian chant at St. John’s University and seminary in Collegeville, Minn., worked on parts of the latest translation with the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, but he left after he became “increasingly critical of the clunky text and the top-down secretive process” with which it was being created, he said.

“The syntax is too Latinate — it’s not good English that will help people pray,” he said in an interview. “Rome got its way in forcing this on us, but it is a Pyrrhic victory because it is not bringing the whole church together around a high quality product.”

This is not bringing us together—which is driving us further into individualism–the exact opposite of what this is trying to achieve, I fear.

Here’s a legitimate question: How many lay people were consulted about this change? Did they ask a number or groups of “regular” people if this would be helpful to their prayer–and more importantly help them pray as a community better? Or was this just an “order is order” decision–meaning that the prayers should be closer to the original Latin and therefore that is what the committee decided was going to take place. It seems like the decision was the one made.

I’ve been to three masses that have used the new translations thus far: Here’s my take on the three experience quickly:

1) At Christ the King Seminary: The pastoral team made a very concerted effort to lead the community in prayer. Granted it was a small group of people and mostly people who would know about the changes well in advance and maybe even were preparing themselves for them. They had several worship aids and a lay leader would hold up which one to use. They were patient with the process and led us well. I like that the priest chanted “The Lord Be With You” which made it easier to remind myself that the response was new “And with your spirit”. The rest of the mass was pretty seamless. I nearly forgot the “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof” line–but made a valiant recovery.

2) 11:30AM at St Joseph University Parish: A packed house. The pastor came out and led the community in knowing where the worship aids were (embedded on either side of the hymnal’s inside cover. The liturgy of the word on the left and the liturgy of the Eucharist on the right). I actually used my iPhone because I wanted to read along during the Eucharistic prayer. It was a mostly awkward experience. A good deal of people didn’t bother to pick up their worship aid, preferring to either not respond at all or to simply utter the old words. My wife and I would even slip up, if we didn’t pay close attention or have a reflex reaction to the call “The Lord be with You.” In general, it was fine and didn’t distract me too much.

3) 8PM student mass at St Joseph University Church: A low-key vibe in the evening for students primarily but many others come. People paid closer attention in general but, it was still awkward at best. I know I said “And also with you” twice.

So the question begs us to ask if this is bringing us closer to God? I’m not seeing that reported thus far by the majority. Perhaps time will tell, but also we should note that it’s not exactly like mass attendance skyrocketed more than any other first Sunday of advent.

My opinion throughout this process has been a simple response: “Yeah, because that’s the answer.” I doubt that the new translations will be the reason that people suddenly start returning to the pews on Sunday. I think there are lots of things we should concentrate on instead. (like feeding people in poverty as Catholic community–for instance and then sharing a prayer experience together around that).

We’ve got a long way to go as a Catholic community of faith. Perhaps looking more deeply at which experiences are bringing people closer to understanding and relating to the God who loves us is where we need to head next.

And we lay people and clergy don’t need a committee to start doing things like that.