The New Missal Translation Is Not (Yet) a Big Deal for Everyone

As reported in Our Sunday Visitor, research by CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, indicates that less that a quarter of English-speaking Catholics are aware that there will be a new translation of the Mass this fall. As might be expected, there are significant differences in awareness based on frequency of Mass attendance, with frequent Mass attenders being more aware.

Still, only 57% of those who attend Mass weekly are aware that there is a new translation coming. Among those who attend only a few times a year, only 9% know that the words of the Mass will be changing.

It occurs to me that:

  1. this can help us who obsess over the new translation to keep things in perspective and to understand why others are not in despair/ecstasy.
  2. we really need to get off the stick in educating, or at least informing, people about the new translation.
  3. it will be impossible to evaluate the general reaction to the new translations until they are actually implemented.
  4. there will be pastoral/liturgical issues for years to come in dealing with people who have drifted from the Church and who are back for a wedding or funeral or something like that. We will need to provide texts for these occasions if we want people to be able to participate.


  1. The education issue is pressing, and I’d like this terrific conversation circle to know about a DVD that Lit Press has released that is a beautiful catechesis on the Mass into which is interwoven clear, simple information on the changes that are coming. Each segment is 3 minutes long, and it’s perfect for choir rehearsals, committee meetings, running in the gathering space, or even for after communion if you are set up to do that. Please take a look, and help us get the word out.
    There’s a segment online…

  2. From my memory of my years in parish life, I suspect that professionals forget how deeply inattentive the vast majority of the “assembly” is to all the words spoken in church.

    1. Some professionals know this fact very well. I still maintain my original position for which I have been pilloried here many times – even once implemented, many if not most of the people out in the pews will not even notice anything different except for those few places where they have the responses memorized. The Gloria and the Creed will be the places where people will notice the changes if at all, and even then the perception will be that the Gloria and the Creed have changed. Anyone who really thinks there will be some kind of theological objection on a large scale to the prefaces, collects, Eucharistic Prayers and other words said by the priest will likely see a continuation of the statistics reflected in this poll. If taken NEXT June, there will probably still be more than 40% of folks unaware that they have been hearing a new translation for the last 6 months.

  3. Very good points. My bishop has given our parish permission to begin implementing the sung parts of the laity beginning the first weekend in September. We’ve been catechizing about this and in the most positive way for the past three years, so we’re ready catechetically.
    It won’t be the words so much that will be the hardest for our congregation but new melodies to sung parts, but we are a singing parish. Apart from why are things changing, I’ve had nothing but positive remarks about the translation and our catechetical endeavors for the past three years. Attitude amongst those of us who are leaders in all this makes a big difference. Negativity feeds negativity as does positivity feeding positivity.

    1. And what of, for starters, mistranslations, ignoring of the rules laid down in the ratio translationis and Liturgiam Authenticam, and the impostition of Latin syntax onto English grammar – what do THEY feed?

  4. Thank you very much for this measured and reasoned forecast, Fritz. For my part through all of the bombast here and elsewhere in the blog realm, I’ve tried to keep the perspective of “hand on the rudder” and what is there to be DONE. And for all the understandable dismissal of the wisdom of “musicians” who “dabble” at liturgy, it ought to be pointed out that many of us have been “on it” for a long time in the only realm we have domain: musica practica. There really isn’t much time to fret over what we cannot otherwise influence. Regarding #2, I have consistently over decades exhorted our clergy homilists to grandparent in more “lex orandi, lex credendi” in practical and mystical terms as often as presented an opportunity, as opposed to regurgitated exegesis or riffing on modern fables or riddles… Pretty much to no avail, sadly. And this has been the case at my place, though there have been the random announcements from the presidential chair and in the bulletin. Homiletics, homiletics, homiletics!
    Again, thanks and amen.

  5. I would just like to add that providing texts to people is not a crutch or thing to be avoided. I hope we have progressed from the assumption that it is necessarily bad for the PIPs to read from things while they are responding from the pews; by now, one hopes, we can appreciate that different people have different learning and perception and engagement styles, and many people are most engaged when they can refer to a text visually (both in listening and in speaking). It’s time to move beyond the dated assumptions of the recent past, which reflected poor understanding of human cognitive (even if they were informed by a noble desire for the PIPs to own their participation, as it were).

    1. Probably about the same level as people who ventured into parishes where responses were “inclusivized” unilaterally at the local level, as it were (having been in those communities when that happened, I can say that no one considered how inhospitable it was – that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t now, but we should be aware that the issue has to be considered in what might be called a falsifiable way – that is, it should be considered in a way that can work as much against as for our desiderata).

      1. No, inclusive language draws people in (“includes” them, get it?), while it is exclusive language that drives them away.

      2. Sandi, that might be a great rhetorical point, but it is a false tautology.

        Some language which tries to be inclusive is technically exclusive, such as “Happy are we who are called to this supper” in place of “Happy are those who are called to his supper.” The over-emphasis on the local congregation and the local eucharistic celebration detract from the intent of the actual phrase, which looks beyond bounds of space and time.

      3. Sandi

        Inclusive usage draws some people in, but dis-orients or repels others. Believe me: as an active proponent of inclusive usage, I heard plenty of negative reactions to it (from both women and men), even in fairly progressive communities.

      1. No, it’s an observation that change has a cost in itself, so that there is a tradeoff between that and the benefits resulting from the change. Change should only occur when the resulting benefits outweigh the negatives.

  6. I’m not arguing that we should forever retain the 1973 language, only recognize what it might mean in terms of those who participate on the margins. What can we can do to for this group, such that some of them may return?

    1. Maybe, ultimately, the same thing that was done for the group that became (or felt) marginalized when Latin was dropped for the vernacular: allow for the retention of the older text.

      I’m not particularly thrilled with that option (although I wish we were getting a better quality replacement, better than ’98, better than ’10, in the same vein as ’08) but it may be the most charitable option, the one most aligned with the care of souls.

  7. A woman that I am teamed with to lector occasionally is in her late sixties, maybe early seventies. Last weekend before Mass I asked her if she had thought much about the coming changes. She shrugged her shoulders and admitted that she had only recently read through them, but wasn’t concerned one way or the other, noting that she had ‘survived’ a number of changes to the liturgy in her lifetime. As far as she was concerned, the Mass was the same now as when she was a child and would be the same in the future.

    That might seem odd to those who 1) instituted the changes in the first place, and 2) those who have fretted over the changes since they have been instituted, but I think it fairly reflects the feelings of a number of Catholics. Words are not the core of their faith, and simply matter less to them. No doubt there are those who will be surprised, at their annual Christmas visit, to find a different response from “and also with you”, but I doubt it keeps them away the next Christmas because they won’t be coming this Christmas just so they can say “and also with you”.

    If someone has a limited view of the importance of language in liturgy they will also likely have less reason to be aware of the changes. And not worrying about language doesn’t necessarily make you less faithful in my opinion.

    1. I imagine those who attend only on Christmas would be more dismayed if the Mass didn’t have the expected Christmas carols, Nativity scenes, and decorations than by the change in words. People who don’t attend Mass on a regular basis likely don’t expect to sing any of the Mass parts (after all, they wouldn’t be familiar with many of the settings regardless of text).

      1. In the south there is a grand tradition of Protestants attending Midnight Mass at Christmas. I suspect this came from a time when most Baptist and Methodist Churches had no religious services at Christmas. This has changed in the last 25 years and many of these churches now have candlelight services Christmas Eve, but nothing Christmas day. However, a goodly number of these Protestant families still have a grand and long time tradition of attending Catholic Mass at midnight and continue to do so. In fact in our parish, our midnight Mass is almost half not Catholic. For the most part, they do not respond to the spoken or sung parts of the Mass, but will certainly sing Christmas Carols they know. They sit when others kneel as this is what is etiquette in the south when Protestants attend Mass (please kneel or sit according to your religious tradition.)
        There is no chaos at our Midnight Mass.
        With that said though, how many musicians go hysterical when they have to implement new music at Mass which the congregation does not know, may not like and will resist? Not many, they plow ahead knowing that with time, the congregation will learn it, grow accustom to it and be compliant. The biggest transition for most singing parishes will be the new music that goes with the new words–that will be the hard part.

  8. Charles has a very good point. That people come to Church to pray despite the words that are available to them is much more widespread than many ivory tower people would want to admit. People come to pray during the Mass perhaps the way they did before the changes of Vatican 2, and they will continue to use their own prayers, ignoring was is being said at the altar. In a very important sense the Liturgical Movement was a complete failure, that in challenging people to “actively” participate according to its definition it ended up alienating people away from the liturgy and therefore the Church.

    1. “People come to pray during the Mass perhaps the way they did before the changes of Vatican 2, and they will continue to use their own prayers, ignoring was is being said at the altar.” V.W.

      Why bother coming together if it’s your own prayers you want to say? And why bother coming while Mass is being celebrated if you intend to ignore what is being ‘said at the altar?’

      No vision for the future there.

  9. It would be interesting for CARA to do a survey among the clergy along the same lines; perhaps asking their deteremination, preparedness, etc. for the implementation.

    Another note: I have seen no publisher (USA) issuing a “Eucharistic Prayers for Concelebration” with all the texts and rubrics for the all EP included in Roman Missal 2011.

  10. While there is no doubt that many will accept the changes without so much as a murmur, others will also quietly disappear and make their attendance even less regular and others will be frustrated and annoyed but see that they have no option but to yet again tolerate their treatment by the church.

    As my diocese begins to publish news of the changes in parish bulletins the feedback I am hearing most consists of:

    1. Frustration at the lack of consultation with the people over these changes.
    2. Anger at the patronising and condescending way the changes are being justified with weak and unsubstantiated reasoning.

    1. Consider the possibility of selection bias… those who will complain are the ones who feel like they have something to gain by voicing their opinions… those who have no strong opinion one way or another (most folks?) and those who are “for” the changes will likely say nothing… they have no need to….

    2. I suspect that in five years time the answer to ‘The Lord be with you!’ in Ireland will still be ‘And also with you.’

      30 years ago in the second round of translation, ‘We lift them up to the Lord.’ replaced ‘We have raised them up to the Lord.’ The latter is still widely used.

    3. Liturgical issues for years to come: Another example is that for a period in France everyone used to say “Par lui avec lui et en lui…” together with the priest. For more than 20 years the new rule has been that the priest says it alone, but now, still, in most parishes, there are a few voices from the congregation that continue to join the priest.

  11. Recently I heard a well-known liturgical/catechetical speaker who says the research shows that people are attracted to a parish liturgy because of three things: the quality of the homily, the quality of the music (hymnody) and the quality of the hopsitality. The three Hs — homily, hospitality and hymnody. I like that.

  12. Michelle (#13) – IMHO, we can’t do anything to help those people who left over what ever issue they left over. And as many counselors have discovered, the “issue” is very rarely the real underlying issue. The only thing we can do is pray for the Holy Spirit to work in a meaningful way in their lives.

  13. I don’t completely agree with Fritz this time:

    1. Communications 101 reminds us that much of communication is subliminal. Thus, even though many are not and will not be aware of changes, that does not mean that they will not have their effect. The use of monstrously ugly language for worship will distort the faith of the assembly, even though the content is technically “more correct.”
    2. Agreed. We have been doing that for months here (informing/educating). People come back and tell me, “At St. X, they have heard nothing about this!”
    3. Partially agreed. The new transliteration will speak for itself and the reaction of the assembly will not be contingent on the opinions of the professionals. But the pastors should have known much better what would be best for their people, and should not have put careerism ahead of pastoring.
    4. I don’t agree that even more money should be wasted creating worship aids (and waste) to accommodate to those who have already left. If they are gone, a worship aid will not bring them back. And if they left because worship was uninspiring, the less they know the ugliness of these words the better chance we will have that they might return some day.

  14. One problem I’m seeing around the bend is the dearth of American new translation hand-missals for sale. I have not found an American publisher who has planned a Sunday or even daily hand missal for the laity. I recognize that many liturgists do not like hand-missals because they supposedly impede congregational attention to the spoken lections. Still, some people are more oriented to reading than listening. I find that missalettes are poorly designed and hard to use. Also, a hand-missal permits people to study the Mass at home before hearing it.

    Catholic Truth Society in England is offering both Sunday and daily hand-missals for the new translation. (disclaimer: not an employee.) The editions look sturdy. The prices are steep, especially with S&H. Also, the CTS missals will have the British regional feasts, slight rubrical adaptations, and will be written in British English. None of this bothers me, but some Americans might struggle with the slight differences in the written language etc.

    So, why aren’t American publishers stepping up to the plate with an inexpensive Sunday hand-missals prepared according to US norms and in American English? All I see are misallette inserts and cheap pamphlets for sale. I’m pretty disappointed about this.

    1. I used a St. Andrew’s Bible Missal as a young man to follow along with the priest since everything was in Latin. As a priest, I only go to the Missal when it calls for me to do so. During the rest of the Mass I sing and pray along with the people. I listen attentively to the lessons. I spend periods of time in silent reflection. Why, pray tell, would we want to encourage people who are already participating fully, actively, and consciously with a hand missal. To have something from which to read the lessons before and or after Mass is a great idea. To provide texts for the hearing challenged or for those who learn better by reading than hearing also makes sense. But to have everyone “following along” from a hand missal seems like more than overkill not to mention a huge distraction. Would you want them to have the missal so they can check to make sure the priest is “reading the black” and “following the red”?

      Have you been a practicing Catholic all your life? Just curious.

      1. I’ve been a practicing Catholic since I was 48 hours (or less) old. Emergency baptism at the Catholic hospital by a chaplain; a religious sister as godparent. I received all the exorcisms and anointings when I was strong enough to be taken to church. My parents were (and are) devout. I was raised in a Catholic home.

        I’m not out to trip up priests who DIY the propers or eucharistic prayer or disregard rubrics. Same goes for priests who say EF Low Mass in 20 minutes including Communion. I don’t tell anyone if these events happen. I simply never return to a church which permits these incidences to occur.

        To doubt anything about a person simply because her or she uses a hand missal at Mass is strange, to say the least. I’ve realized that my time here has been about at welcome as a Jesuit taking up an apartment lease in Port-Royal.

  15. The Daughters of St. Paul (Pauline Books and Media) advertise a new Sunday hand Missal at $26.95 and a Weekday Missal at $45.95. Availability not yet provided. I suspect that there will be at least one or two other publishers, coming soon after the 1 October release of the Altar Missal in the US.

  16. Though I did provide the information on the coming availability of new (2008/2010) hand missals, I am in total agreement with Jack Feehily. Total.

  17. Is not having a hand missal to “follow along” during the Mass a basic principle of liturgy and an objective of the reform supported by Vatican II?

    If the priest does have trouble praying the preces clearly (regardless of the, ahem, quality of the prayers themselves) must the comprehension of the congregation suffer because of it?

    Shouldn’t the congregation be aware of the quiet prayers of the priest (such as the pre- and post-Gospel prayers, the prayers said during the preparation of the gifts, and the pre- and post-Communion prayers?

    With so many Eucharistic Prayers (I-IV, Reconciliation I-II, Various Needs I-IV, Children I-III), it can be difficult to follow the prayer as it is being prayed, especially those EPs that are less commonly used. Instead of coming back to the prayer after Mass (or before Mass), isn’t it praiseworthy that the members of the congregation wish to know what the priest is praying so that their “amen” can be said with confidence?

    Personally, I sometimes find it hard to be “actually” praying when I am simply listening to the priest pray aloud: I get caught up listening to the prayer and find that I am listening and not praying as well. I find it easier to pray as I listen if I have the words myself to read silently.

  18. I’m very deaf so I never hear what the priest is saying, and I”m sure the merely hard of hearing also have problems. Going to Mass now is like watching a shadow-show. It would be most helpful if there were a way to let the congregation know which of the alternate prayers are being said. Some Protestant churches used to post the numbers of the hymns to be sung near their sanctuary. Maybe there could be something similar for the prayers at Mass.

  19. Hand missals with the new Mass translation will be published in December, 2011, by the Daughters of Saint Paul (both Sunday and Daily missals) and Catholic Book Publishing Co. Both have info on their websites.

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