Missal Musings

A friend in a diocesan office who has a good sense of the landscape muses about how the implementation will go. It won’t be possible for everyone to adopt the whole thing at one time. (The decree of promulgation might well provide a vacatio legis, an interim period.) Parishes will continue to sing well-known settings of things like the Gloria and Sanctus for a while, perhaps for years. Priests who now tinker around with the official text (sometimes well done, sometimes not so much) probably won’t stop it now that they have a text they really don’t like. Because the new text is sometimes a bit complicated in its twisting syntax, it won’t be difficult to make a real hash of it on the fly. Some priests have already stated they simply won’t use the new missal. A friend at a major publishing house tells me this is one more reason why they’ll continue to sell products with the current text. The number of recusants probably won’t be that great – maybe some bishops will count on them being older guys close to retirement . Will some parishioners select where to worship based on which text is used? My friend says, “We’ll be just like the Episcopalians with Rite I and Rite II, so get ready for it.” Should we get ready for a real mess? Any ideas for how to calm the waters? What are you expecting?


  1. My overly-liberal (even for me) previous parish formed a committee last year to discuss how they would “handle” the new texts. I asked what the Director of Music what their thoughts were. It was something like, “In a few places the new translations are better. We’ll use those. The rest, well…”

    Given the propensity for parishes to do whatever they want, I can’t imagine how we will have anything close to 100% conformity to the new texts… ever.

    If you have even the slightest distaste for the new texts, there are too many excuses not to do them: the cost of new books and music, the difficulty of getting the congregation to change, those C&E Catholics who won’t know what’s happening, not alienating the youth, we really are moved by this setting of the Gloria…

    We are barreling headlong into a time when liturgical practice is even more fractured and parish-specific than it already is. The Episcopalians hand out a script every Sunday. We’ll probably have to start…

  2. Father Taft in his liturgy courses at ND said something like “liturgy is ritual, that means doing the same thing over and over again, so people have a right not to be surprised or confused.” That accords somewhat with the psychological evidence that people prefer a slight to moderate level of novelty and complexity. This is particularly well documented for music.
    There are already a lot of changes going on in parish liturgy: new pastors, pastoral associates, music directors, etc. So I would recommend managing the total change (not just the new missal) to maintain a steady slight level of novelty over a long period of time (years not months). I would spend a lot a time with small groups in the parish (not just the liturgy folks) learning as much as possible about their experiences with liturgy and trying to figure out how changes impact them rather than spending a lot of time educating them.

  3. The new Sacramentary reminds me of another great innovation, New Coke. Below is a quote from a report by Michael Ross of MSNBC on the resulting fiasco.

    “Sam Craig, professor of marketing and international business at the Stern School of Business at New York University, pointed to what he and other industry observers have long considered a fatal mistake on Coca-Cola’s part. “They didn’t ask the critical question of Coke users: Do you want a new Coke?” ”

    New Coke lasted 79 days before getting pulled off shelves. The corporate back-pedalling and face-saving damaged the brand further and cost the company hundreds of millions.

    Transitioning from Latin to English was a wrenching experience for many in the pews, but there had also been decades of liturgical reform preceding the change and a sizeable number of the faithful who wanted the changes. The new sacramenarty does not answer a perceived need and arrives without a significant and enthusiastic set of supporters. One thing it does not have is somebody willing to pull it after 79 days.

  4. Fortunately, the old recusants who have been used to improvising for a long time will be with us for only another twenty five or thirty years.

    Unfortunately, “conscience” has been deemed to be the predominant factor in determining personal behavior these past 40 years when the Faith has not been taught to Catholics.

    Liturgists and Music Directors (remember the liturgist/terrorist riddle?) will have no problem using their conscience to disobey mandates from Rome or their Bishop.

  5. I conducted a survey of Roman parishes here in Liverpool, UK, as part of the research for a Masters a couple of years ago. I discovered that many parishes were not even using the present texts, preferring the rather grim versified versions of the assembly’s parts published in quite a few hymnals in the 70s and 80s (and, I’m sad to say, in some more recent publications too). And in one of my workshops for parish musicians in the diocese, someone (a good and dedicated someone) asked why it was necessary to use official translations anyway. If these people haven’t yet adopted the present texts, how can we persuade them to switch to the newest version? I think Adam is correct when he prophesies that liturgical practice could become “even more fractured and parish-specific than it already is”.

  6. This reminds me of the wry remark made at a conference by Denis McManus. This was during all the hullabaloo over the then-impending GIRM 2000. “Based on my extensive travels, I can reassure all those fearful of the change to the new GIRM that the 1975 GIRM has not yet been implemented.”

  7. I must admit, this has never been my experience with any of the parishes I have attended, served in, or worked, and they are many. With the existing texts, priest just used the EPs they preferred. The most adaptations our parishes ever expereinces was some parishes using the texts of the 1998 Sacramentary because they had been chose to pilot it while it was waiting approval. When RS was implemented, the Bishop announced at the priest assembly that all parishes were expected to implement it, they did. If there were any concerns they could discuss the bishop, which many of them did. It was usually about the implementation deadline. Finally we just got a new Lectionary, not a whole lot different than the old one. It was promulgated and parishes started using it. I will be interested in seeing what happens with the new Missal.

  8. In other words, “wah wah I don’t get my way so I’m just going to my room, slamming my door, and doing what I want anyway.” The sheer arrogance, clericalism, and disobedience of the priests who say they will refuse to celebrate the liturgy of the Church is amazing. One wonders whether they have any understanding of the priesthood (or even read anything in the Vatican II documents that has to do with the priesthood and the episcopacy).

    1. Fr. Costigan,
      Paul opposed Peter to his face. St. Catherine scolded the Avignon pope. I’m not advocating not using the approved translation. I am questioning your attitude on post after post that seemingly everything would be well if only everyone obeyed authority. It starts to sound like “Teacher says! Teacher says”

      1. There is an attitude out there where priests decide to just do whatever they want because that is what they want. I don’t think Saint Paul had his conversation with Saint Peter because he just had an objection to authority. The same with Saint Catherine. Oftem, those who tend to be free and loose with the liturgy are free and loose with theology and morality as well. Some of the priests who decide on their own that they know better than the Church would reject anything that came from the Church. There is a big difference between coming to a source like this and debating on one hand and going into the parish and depriving the people based on one’s own view. You can I can debate the merits of this all day here, but what we should not and cannot do is debate the merits of it from the ambo on Sunday and tell the people how the big bad men in Rome are at it again. conts

      2. That is my biggest problem with things like that petition. How can you possibly implement it into a parish that knows you have been speaking out publicly against it for so long?

      3. Fr Costigan,

        Your relative experience about looseness across the board just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. I think we can say that people who don’t care about liturgy can tend to do as they please. Just as people who care little for morals or theology.

        As for the petition, we’ve covered that before here and in other places on the net. It’s simply a matter of personal integrity. Leaders who have it will be persuasive. Those who don’t, those who prefer autocratic rule will likely get more resistance.

        I suspect that strong liturgical parishes, either progressive or traditional-leaning, will implement well, simply because we can and because we are committed to good liturgy.

        Parishes with pragmatic non-liturgical priests will not. Signing this or that petition has nothing to do with it. Unless, of course, reform2 folks are planning to comb through the signatories and try to discredit some of us.

    2. ««In other words, “wah wah I don’t get my way so I’m just going to my room, slamming my door, and doing what I want anyway.” The sheer arrogance, clericalism…»»

      To me, this sounds more like those on Vox Clara & CDW who are forcing this on Catholics when there is no need for a completely new translation (maybe a few tweakings, but really…) and there is no call for an obfuscation of the English language in order to make it “sacred”…since when are ungrammatical, run-on sentences a prerequisite for sacredness?? A well-felt “Ahhhhhh” or even an anguished scream can be the best prayer…

      The English in the new translation needs to be re-translated into the English that people among the various English-speaking countries actually use & understand.

      Imposition (when ICEL was doing just fine) is not the way the Church needs to work…but, of course, the Church has never quite approved of democracy in any form, either.

  9. I don’t necessarily like the new translation, but we’re going to fully implement it at the direction of our Ordinary with enthusiasm. While I understand some peoples’ perspectives, I really don’t understand how a priest or parish employee could openly defy this kind of directive.

  10. I’m with Brian (and others) on this.

    I think the new translation is unneeded, the text stilted, and the process dictatorial. The only thing worse than everyone using the new translation would be…
    Not everyone using it.

    1. I’m with Adam.

      More, what is needed is Roman Missal IV, with a Lectionary-harmonized set of prayers, and the inclusion of original material composed in the vernaculars from around the world, discerned as beneficial for the universal Church.

  11. Much of the Catholic blogosphere today is taking note of the sermon preached yesterday by Bp. Slattery of Tulsa at the Pontifical Mass at the National Shrine. He spoke movingly on obedience and humility, both of which would seem applicable in our approach to implementing, indeed, embracing, the new translation.

  12. There didn’t seem to be a problem completely changing from the Latin to English, so why should it be a problem changing completely from one English version to another? To quote a famous ad slogan… “Just Do It”.

    That said, I don’t see the Sanctus being an issue… the new text is simpler than the old. The Gloria…that might take a while, but only if people drag their feet.

    Has anybody considered another possible consequence here? You could end up having “Old Translation” parishes and “New Translation” parishes… and I can only begin to suppose which one would be more attentive to liturgical praxis and those little details like “beauty” and “reverence”… a situation in which one group remains in the status quo, and the other moves forward with reform. What might be the effect of that “competition” in a world where people can choose to attend the parish they wish to?

  13. (cont’d)

    Would the “New Translation” parishes, now having the freedom and the desire to define themselves as distinct from “Old Translation” parishes be more likely to make use of other elements of reform…ad orientem, chant, greater use of Latin? There would, after all, now be an alternative for those who would ordinarily balk at such things, and it would be possible to say to them “If you find this unsuitable, you can always go to St. Williams down the street…they’re an Old Translation parish”.

    Has anyone considered this as apossible outcome if things are not implemented evenly?

  14. I had an email from one of our priests this morning who basically said, we need to stop all this fuss about catechesis. He outlined his plan of implementaiton as follows: 1. Have Mass on the first day of implementation 2. Tell people during the Mass each change and that they’re not enough to worry about 3. Continue having Mass 4. The end

    I am curious if his method will work!

    1. That approach seems awkward, as if it’s trying to squeeze everything into the Mass, which is not some sort of kitchen sink for all things Catholic. (cf. Sac. Conc. 9)

      It doesn’t seem appropriate to me to continually interrupt the Mass with comments about what we’re saying or doing differently from before (although I understand the GIRM permits the role of a commentator at certain points during the Mass).

      (Or maybe I’ve misunderstood your outline…)

      1. No misunderstanding, that’s what he plans to do. We certainly aren’t promoting that method.

    2. While I don’t think this should be standard at every Mass after the implementation, I do think the best way to catechize some people might be to explain what’s going on as it happens. People learn differently so maybe this would be helpful to some. Not everyone will visit the USCCB web site or read the materials provided at parishes or attend special catechetical events.

      The question then becomes one of reaching people where they are and teaching them.

      1. I would happily advocate a “teaching Mass” where the priest guides the congregation through the Mass and gives explanations and answers questions, without actually confecting the Eucharist.

  15. I think that we are slowly moving toward divisions something akin to what the Episcopalians have today, and I am not sure that it is totally bad Even the Holy Father, speaks of two forms of one rite. And within that structure, as respects an OF parish, do we not already have a type of “High” and “Low” church? I hope the new translation is implemented evenly, but I do think that low church parishes, will stay low, and high will stay high, sand you and I can go to whichever brings us closer to God.

    1. This movement towards “High”, “Broad”, and “Low” is reality today in many dioceses. I agree with you Earle that this should not be necessarily viewed as an unhealthy development. Yet an amalgam of parishes of different persuasions requires a flexible bishop and equally flexible congregations.

      My diocese contains everything from very minimalist, guitar-strumming parishes to nosebleed high parishes that often celebrate the the EF and the OF ad orientem, both with generous helpings of polyphony and chant. Our good “broad church” bishop visits a wide variety of his parishes. He is well liked across the board. Cooperation is key: the high parishes wheel out a table altar for him instead of forcing the ad orientem issue. He says the Mass entirely in English, but lets the choir sing the ordinary in Latin.

      Perhaps not all parishes will accept the new missal. Those who do might do well at times to accommodate their brethren just as my bishop tends all his flock.

  16. Here is one of my biggest concerns. Fr. X decides for whatever reason he will not implement what is required of him (and I will assign him the best and most genuine of motives). Life goes on at the parish for several years. Because most of the parishioners rarely attend another parish, they really don’t have much idea of the new translation. Everything seems great. 3 years pass and Fr. X is transferred (or retires). In comes Fr. Y. Fr Y is completely taken off guard that this parish has not implemented the translation and now he was to begin the process that should have began 4 or 5 years prior. The parishioners, who really weren’t told much about the new translation because Fr. X didn’t plan to use it, are now caught equally off guard. contd

    1. This is a huge reason for a pastor to remember: it’s never about him and his preferences, because he will be gone when the flock remains. All leaders have to make decisions based on the fundamental understanding that leaders come and go, the people remain. Pastors and priests are ephemeral; the flock as such is not.

      This is yet another reason why, if a pastor thinks he is acting on the flock’s behalf in this regard, he should actually submit his decision to the consensus of his community at large. If he really is progressive, that is. Doing it unilaterally merely replicates what he resents.

  17. They resent the new priest coming in and making them change to something that they assume is his personal preference and not the teaching of the Church. It doesn’t go well for the parishioners or Fr Y, all because Fr X did not do what he was supposed to do. It isn’t a good situation for anyone. To add to the problem, if Fr. X did not implement the new translation there is a chance he never followed many liturgical guidelines, leaving Fr Y to get rid of the glass and ceramic, tell deacon Z he has to stop his weekday “communion services” and Sister W she can’t give any more homilies at Sunday Mass. The new priest then takes the fall for what is the fault of Fr X not properly celebrating and catechizing on the liturgy.

  18. ?!?

    Fr C, this happens all the time.

    A good friend of mine, a fine organist, was once fired before the Saturday confessions by the new pastor.

    You diocesan priests should attend more to cleaning up your own act.

    1. The simple answer is for everyone to be on the same page. And, in this case, the new translation is the “same page” once promulgated.

      And what specifically do you mean by, “your own act”?

  19. Only that in some dioceses, some pastors tend to leave messes for their brother priests to clean up. Not just liturgy, but finances, unmet promises, engaged couples, and the like.

    You do realize that “your” in comment #24 is plural, and refers to “you diocesan priests.” It’s only natural that outgoing pastors will pass the buck on matters that don’t interest them or that bother them. Or that they just don’t want to deal with. It happens every time there’s a change in command. Usually it’s minor stuff.

    On the other hand, firing a long-time music director before even hearing the first confession in a new parish (or the entrance song at the Saturday night Mass): that’s just plain cold. And probably immoral.

  20. There’s another (sneaky, revolutionary- for those so inclined) reason why parish leadership should be obedient in these matters.

    In liberal/progressive parishes that like to “fix” the liturgy and the theology of the Church, there is this weird vibe that the local leadership is “covering for” the hierarchy (like nice mom and abusive dad).

    The result of which is that many lay people don’t know what’s actually going on, what is demanded and commanded, what is taught as dogma. This placates and disempowers people who might otherwise rise up in revolt (or just leave) if they had a more accurate vision of Catholicism.

    Those in leadership who wish the Church to change do not help by simply making the changes on the fly at their local parish. Doing so makes them complicit with those in authority they dislike, because they become purveyors of ancient Rome’s “Bread and Circuses.”

    Sometimes ridiculously faithful obedience is the most revolutionary tact.

    1. Bingo.

      It’s also an opportunity for solidarity with people who don’t have the privilege of such choice.

    2. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the “sneakiness” of this approach, but you are saying that priests who “wish the Church to change” (presumably her direction regarding liturgy, among other things) should show the souls under their care exactly what it is the Church prescribes liturgically so that those lay faithful will, in a manner of speaking, know what they’re up against? That is, they’ll know exactly what to revolt against?

      I might be missing your point entirely, in which case I apologize and would like to understand better what you’re talking about.

      1. Basically you have it.

        I’m suggesting that if a priest really does have a problem with the Church’s liturgical rules (or theological teachings), simply “covering for Rome” is the wrong tact.

        Inasmuch as each individual as the right to accept or reject the teachings of any religion, representatives of that religion have the responsibility to make sure that those they minister to have a complete understanding of those teachings.

        The “sneakiness” is only that most people would not assume that an effective way to change an institution would be through unwavering fidelity to its rules. I suggest that, with regard to the Liturgy, this would be the only way.

        I’m not suggesting that I’m in favor of revolting. I’m only suggesting how one might go about inciting the faithful to riot, if one wanted to do so.

      2. In my albeit limited experience talking with average Catholics about the new translations, I have seen mild confusion, mild disappointment, and even some mild hopefulness. I don’t think average parishioners are going to take up torches and pitchforks.

      3. I don’t think average parishioners are going to take up torches and pitchforks.

        Probably true.

        Either way, whether you want revolution or submission- I think the logical outcome is “do the text.”

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