Asked to describe their current attitude toward the new Mass translations, 58 percent said they disliked them, 17 percent said they don’t like them but have come to accept them; 9 percent said they enjoyed the new translations; 4 percent were unsure at first but have grown accustomed to them. The remaining 12 percent had mixed reactions.
Asked if there were an option to return to the old translation, 76 percent said they would, 16 percent disagreed and 8 percent were unsure. Eighty-four percent of the priests said they still “slip up” with words during Mass and 75 percent disagreed with the notion that the new translations have “had a positive effect on my own prayerfulness during Mass.”
Priests also elaborated on a few matters related to the new missal. Asked what they feel has been one positive effect of the new translations, an Ohio priest responded, “A richer, more authentic presentation of the church’s prayer tradition.” A New Jersey priest said, “I prepare for Mass a little more carefully.” “A deeper awareness of the beauty of the liturgy,” said a New Mexico priest.
On the opposite spectrum, asked what has been the most difficult part, a South Dakota priest said, “Trying to make sense of some of the long phrases and new words that are not part of everyday vocabulary.” Said a Tennessee priest, “Handling the disappointment of the people and realizing their complaints are well-founded.”
The laity also shared their thoughts to several questions. Seventy-four percent of 1,208 respondents said they still slip up during Mass and accidentally use the old responses. Sixty-six percent said they intentionally continue to respond at Mass using the old translations and 70 percent said they disagreed that the new translations have had a positive effect on their participation and/or prayerfulness during Mass.
The survey by U.S. Catholic is not the definitive response to the new translation of prayers. Indeed, other surveys may elicit a much different reaction. However, it is one indicator that church leaders need to thoughtfully review and not to dismiss as sensational.
In preparing Catholics for the changes last year, the U.S. bishops offered words of hope: “There is grace with the new missal for all Catholics as we allow the Holy Spirit to deepen, nurture and celebrate our faith through the renewal of our worship and the celebration of the sacred liturgy.”
Our human nature does not take kindly to change, especially in something as personal as the words we use to worship God or offer God thanks. Even after one year, it seems that more grace is needed to accept and understand these changes. On a positive note, our bishops and those who helped with the missal revisions should see the U.S. Catholic survey responses as a positive sign that Catholics have a passion for the liturgy and the prayers.