The beginning of Advent marked the beginning of a new liturgical year for the Church. Not coincidentally, the First Sunday of Advent—Nov. 27—also marked the beginning of our use of revised Mass prayers. With some weeks of use, and with our 2011 calendars becoming our 2012 calendars, it seems like a good time to reflect on our adjustments to the “new.”
I was talking recently with Fr. Eric Schild, president of Cardinal Stritch Catholic High School and Kateri Catholic Academy in Oregon, and pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish in Bono. We were discussing the revised prayers in the Catholic Mass. “You know what it’s like,” he said, “when you look back on something you said, and you realize, ‘I could have said that better.’ That’s what’s happened with the revised Mass prayers.”
I think that’s a good characterization. The guiding principle of the revisions to Mass prayers following the Second Vatican Council was “accessibility;” in other words, the language we used at Mass was not so very different from the language we used everywhere else. The guiding principle in the recent revision to the Sacramentary was just the opposite: “distinctiveness.” Our prayers now—in addition to being better translations from the Latin, and therefore helping English-speaking countries to pray more like the universal Church—are more formal. The language that we use in our prayers at Mass is intentionally different from the language that we use elsewhere.
How are Catholics “in the pews” responding to the revised Mass prayers? From my own conversations with people, there seems to be a range of opinions, from “They’re very spiritual” to “They’re too formal.” The consensus, however, seems to be that the changes are a good thing; they’ll just take some getting used to. How are C atholic priests responding? Again, from my own conversations with priests, some embrace the changes, while others are finding that the revised prayers don’t “roll of the tongue” as easily as the former prayers; as leaders of prayer, they find that frustrating.
My advice for all Catholics: practice, practice, practice—which means to pray, pray, pray. What better way to celebrate Advent, Christmas, and 2012 than to respond to “the new” with open minds, open hearts?