The requirement of translating Mass prayers, an effort to be faithful to the original Latin text, was announced in 2001 by the Vatican in an instruction called “Liturgiam Authenticam.”
For most Catholics in northeastern Wisconsin, reciting unfamiliar words in familiar prayers at Mass turned out to be uneventful. Preparation for the new word changes helped make the transition smoother, said many Catholics interviewed after weekend Masses.
At St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Bishop David Ricken celebrated the 9 a.m. Mass. In his homily, he asked parishioners to turn and wish each other a happy Advent by shaking with their left hands.
“That is the way the liturgy is going to feel for a while,” he said. “Like we are doing something we are not used to. We have to retrain ourselves to be comfortable with it. So eventually it becomes rote.”
Bishop Ricken explained that what was taking place across the diocese was not a new Mass, just a new translation that replaces the 1973 English edition of the Roman Missal. He said Catholics will be deeply enriched by the new translation and should welcome it.
At end of Mass, Bishop Ricken congratulated the congregation on a good job in their inaugural week under the new translation. The transition was made easier with the use of pew cards placed in racks in front of each pew.
Mass in De Pere
Before the opening procession of Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in De Pere, Norbertine Fr. Tim Shillcox, pastor, offered a final reminder to parishioners about changes.
“We worked hard to prepare for this day and we have some good resources,” Fr. Shillcox told parishioners at the 10:15 a.m. Mass, the last of three weekend Masses celebrated at the De Pere church. He told the assembly that pew cards, purchased by an anonymous donor, were available to help them with the prayer revisions.
The only “big glitch” in the two earlier Masses, he said, came during the “Invitation to Communion” prayer, where people recited the previous “Lord I am not worthy to receive you,” instead of the new words, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”
“The main thing about this is that, despite any changes, textual or otherwise, we’re here from the bottom of our hearts and souls to give praise and thanks to God for all we have received and to grow closer to Jesus,” added Fr. Shillcox.
The parish choir’s sung response to the first word change, “And with your spirit,” eliminated any confusion. Throughout the Mass, parishioners followed pew cards to help navigate through the changes.
Changes receive media attention
In his homily, Fr. Shillcox said he was amazed at the amount of attention the Mass changes have received by the media.
“In blogs, in the newspapers, on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else, people have been talking about the changes,” he said. “Of course, there are people all over the board on it.”
He recalled a radio interview a day earlier where a music minister from the Archdiocese of Chicago praised the changes. “On the other side of it, I suspect there are people venting a little bit about their disappointment.”
Fr. Shillcox said the best insight he heard about the changes came from his parish’s director of liturgical music, Carol Wilda.
“Carol made an excellent point, that the new translation, whether we like it or not, is immaterial,” he said. “The Mass has (changed) more than a few times in 2,000 years, but the new missal requires us … to pay a little more attention, be a little more focused.”
Catholics have to be “willing to be retrained, in a certain sense, in things that had become somewhat automatic,” he added.
The parish chose to recite the Apostles Creed rather than the revised Nicene Creed. In an interview after Mass, Fr. Shillcox said the Nicene Creed and the Confiteor (Penitential Act, Form A) will be introduced during Lent.
“It was as simple as we could get it today and then we’ll add the pieces that we don’t have to have today as they come up in the church year,” he said. “I think it will be OK. There hasn’t been an open rebellion.”
Another change, although not part of the Roman Missal revision, is no longer raising hands — known as the orans position — during the Our Father. Fr. Shillcox said it was difficult because in the past, “I encouraged people to pray the Our Father when it was allowed in the orans position, (imitating) the crucified Christ surrendering whatever comes.”
Catholics from across the diocese offered their reactions to the prayer changes.
“I think it’s very spiritual,” said Joan Pierre of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. “I think it’s more alive. The music is upbeat. I love it. I really do.”
“I also think it’s very spiritual and it has been easy to follow,” said Lynn Danen of Our Lady of Lourdes. “I think it’s great that they have pew cards to help us out because we’re so in touch to saying what we’re used to saying and this will help us out.”
Dan Ritter, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes, said he was not overwhelmed by the changes. “I’m kind of underwhelmed,” he said. “I don’t see that big of a difference. I learned an entirely different Nicene Creed 70 or 75 years ago so I’ve always been kind of stumbling around, ever since I was a kid because the new one I never did get it. Now it’s back again to being different again.”
Wilda, the music director at Our Lady of Lourdes, said that when she heard about the upcoming revisions at Mass, “I was pretty concerned … and I think my knee-jerk reaction was negative.”
After studying the changes, she said, “I’ve become pretty excited about it. When we have to follow a prayer card, you have to think, you have to pray with your eyes and your ears and your mouth. You have to refocus on what these words really are about. So I think that’s a great opportunity for us.”
Neenah parishioners respond
“The cue cards were very helpful,” said Charles Rohr of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Neenah. “They let us know what our new parts were going to be, as opposed to trying to do them by memory or by looking through a book.”
Rohr said all the changes were in bold type.
“The changes were right there and easy to follow. We could see what our changes were and also some of Fr. Mike’s (Ingold) changes,” Rohr said.
During the reading of the Nicene Creed the assembly resembled a choir with nearly everyone standing and reading, heads down, from the cue sheets.
Rohr said one of the most challenging parts was avoiding the temptation to reply to the opening greeting of “The Lord be with you” with the old response of “And also with you.”
A mixture of new and old responses was audible during the exchange.
The exchange occurs four other times during the Mass: at the reading of the Gospel, at the beginning of the eucharistic prayer, during the sign of peace and at the conclusion of Mass.
That was confusing, Rohr said.
“Were we supposed to say it at those points or were we not?” Rohr said.
One major change, no longer holding hands and raising them during the Our Father, had about 90 to 95 percent of the assembly at St. Margaret Mary abiding by the new rule of keeping one’s hands folded or to the side.
Rohr said his pastor, Fr. Ingold, did a good job of preparing the congregation for the changes by devoting a short time during every Mass to discuss specific changes.
Angela Oehler, who attended Mass at St. Margaret Mary with her three young children, appreciated the pew cards.
“It’s just helpful to have that as a tool to help you through the Mass,” she said, adding that change is a constant. “It’s just something different and we have to get used to it.”
According to Fr. Ingold, the changes introduced a new tempo or rhythm to the Mass, with some people caught off guard because the responses and reciting of passages over the years became ingrained in them.
“The change is nice to kind of sharpen our sense of what we are doing when we celebrate (the Mass),” said Fr. Ingold. “We need to take it (Mass) off autopilot now and be more attentive. For me and for the folks that’s a good thing.”
Fr. Ingold noted that he spent a lot of time preparing parish members for the changes, including discussions during Mass, parish bulletin inserts and a video series on the changes.
“It was a very high priority of mine to help them understand the why,” he said. “In understanding why we are doing it, it only helps to make them more receptive.”
As for the many additional changes facing priests, Fr. Ingold said constant study is a watchword for him.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the past month or so with the missal, but there is a lot of learning left to do,” Fr. Ingold said. “As we go through the whole cycle, every day there are new prayers to learn and to pray with and over.”
There are additional workshops scheduled for priests as Lent approaches, said Fr. Ingold. “It will be an ongoing thing as far as getting comfortable with the new missal and becoming familiar with it.”
Reaction in Appleton
At Sacred Heart Parish in Appleton, Fr. Don Zuleger, pastor, had parishioners repeat the opening greeting because many people recited the old one. Pew cards were available to help guide parishioners.
“I really felt lost today because if I didn’t have the card in my hand right away. I said what I wasn’t supposed to say,” said Marie Thiel. “It seems like the old days because we always used to say ‘With your spirit.’ It’s change and I’ll have to get used to it, that’s all.”
“I usually follow the priest and kind of watch him,” said Tony Gerhardt. “Instead I had to do this (follow the card from the pew). I kind of lost a little of the interaction with the priest, but I’ll get used to it. I usually do it by heart and I like to watch the priest. It seemed quieter in church.”
Fr. Zuleger said the revised prayers were a challenge for priests.
“We really had to concentrate. It was like saying your first Mass all over again,” he said. “The structure is the same but the prayers are quite different. I look forward to the time when we become used to the prayers so we can actually pray them rather than say them.”
He noted that parishioners seemed a bit confused at times, but tried hard to do things right.
“We had a double-clutcher at the beginning,” he said. “Prayers have become like a matter of rote. When that happens, are you really praying? So now again we have to concentrate even more.”
At the beginning of Mass, Fr. Jim Lucas, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Appleton, offered a few words of advice to parishioners. “OK, now it’s time to ‘be watchful.’ Pay attention,” he said. “The firm foundation on which my priesthood has stood for 11 years doesn’t feel as firm today … but Christ remains the same.”
Kiki Harke and Bill Harke, members of St. Thomas More Parish, had differing views of the word changes.
“It’s kind of convoluted,” said Kiki. “It’s difficult to understand. … There’s difficult language. I wonder how kids are going to react, to be able to react, how the sentence structure is.”
“It wasn’t bad,” said Bill. “Obviously I had my share of screw-ups. It’s just another change. When you’re this old, you’ve seen enough changes. It’s probably good to have a little change again, to start fresh.”
He believes Catholics will have the changes memorized by next Easter.
“It’ll be fun around Christmas, when the church is full of all the people who haven’t been here since last Christmas,” he said. “It’ll be like, ‘Did I go to the right church?'”
Mary Tesch said reading up on the changes helped her make the transition. The parish purchased copies of “Understanding the Revised Mass Texts, Second Edition,” a booklet by Paul Turner, for families to take home. “It’s more meaningful,” said Tesch.
Mary Grace, who said she “loved Vatican II,” said she was skeptical about the changes. “Some of the new responses I really liked. Others I’m not so sure about.”
Before Mass, Fr. Lucas spoke about a few challenges from the priest’s perspective.
“In those engaging moments of the liturgy, I’m going to have my head down, engaging the book more than the people,” he said. “It’ll take a little while for my head to rise up again.”
A pastoral challenge
He said making sense of some of the word changes will be hard for people.
“For example, ‘consubstantial’ has very rich theological meaning which, after five years of seminary training, I have maybe some clue about it,” said Fr. Lucas. “But the average person doesn’t have that theological training, so the challenge is ‘How do you present that concept simply but truthfully?’ That’s the pastoral challenge, but we’re working at it.”
The most common reaction, he said, “is a feeling of going back even before Vatican Council II, that sense that we are going back to Trent.”
“I don’t think that is the issue. It’s just a question of reverence, and there’s just tensions built in that we try and manage as a church,” he said. “People respond because they have ownership of the liturgy and they respond like it’s a personally important matter. People respond with conviction about changes, both positive and negative.”
Fr. Dick Klingeisen, parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi in Manitowoc, said parishioners at the three Masses he celebrated at the Marshall site seemed to adapt to the changes.
“From my perspective, it went quite well for the first weekend,” he said. “Occasionally, you’d hear someone say, ‘And also with you,’ but that’s to be expected on the first weekend.”
He said he heard no complaints. “One person just wondered, however, why the response isn’t, ‘And also with your spirit,” said Fr. Klingeisen. “Overall, it was quite exciting seeing people willing to meet the challenge.”