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    A View from the Pew

    Eight months in: thoughts on the new Roman Missal 

    July marks the one year anniversary of A View from the Pew blog. Where did the year go?!

    Eight months into the Roman Missal changes, here are a few thoughts of interest (or not) to what I’ve seen so far in my View from the Pew sojourn.

    1. On the whole, priests must carefully pay attention the missal when they preside. Where many presbyters could once pray by heart the collects and prefaces as they committed the prayers to memory, most presiders' eyes no longer close but remain pinned to the missal. The length and somewhat verbose language of the new prayers cause more than a few presiders to adjust spectacles and use a book stand at the altar. One priest actually threw in the towel in the middle of Mass and told his people, “I give up; I just can't do this," and told his altar server to go into the sacristy and bring him "the old Missal." 

    Blogger Jerry Galipeau (Gotta Sing Gotta Pray) gave a perfect example of just how confusing the missal's language can be for both presiders and assemblies. Jerry posted this week's Collect on the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

    O God, who show the light of your truth

    to those who go astray,

    so that they may return to the right path,

    give all who for the faith they profess

    are accounted Christians

    the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the

    name of Christ

    and to strive after all that does it honor.

    Though our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son

    who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

    one God, forever and ever.

    I reflected on the prayer this week and still missed the Collect's prayer this morning. Am I the only one who finds this Collect rambling and confusing? I can't imagine having to lead the prayer as a presider. How would you phrase and deliver it so that the language makes sense to a worshipping assembly?  I find this a bit troubling. If you want to follow up on this particular piece of the conversation, check out Jerry's blog on New Translation Thursday each week at

    2. Members of the assembly who worship regularly seem comfortable with the new responses of the Mass. Early in, folks slipped up and chortled in the 'revert back' moments. However, people smiled kindly to one another when the mistakes occurred while the errant responders doubled their efforts to 'get it right the next time around' (a direct quote from a person in a pew one Sunday morning).

    3. The sung Gloria still appears only on feasts and particular celebrations in most churches that I visit. I still need the pew card to recite the prayer. I do not appear to be alone. However, some really bright bulbs continue to commit the prayer to memory and recite it with ease but those folks don't seem to be in the majority. Many people still read the text. I wonder how much real prayer goes on as we learn the new text or ponder the phrases. Who can say; only God can read hearts. Did we pray more when we by rote recited the Gloria or does the new text create more attention and evoke better prayer? And does the hymn more robustly resound when spoken or does the prayer 'sing' when we marry text to tune?  Thoughts?

    4. The new Missal attempted to persuade and encourage more presbyteral singing and encouraged chanted collects, prefaces and invitations. That theology hasn't changed; the musical liturgy has always taken pride of place over the spoken liturgy in the rubrics. Pastoral decision as to how much to sing and what to sing according to the hierarchy of music existed after Vatican II and still does today. Maybe that happens in some places. But from what I've observed, the priests and deacons who sang and chanted those prayers in the past continue to sing and chant. Those who did not sing and chant prior to the new Missal did not do a sudden about face. They continue to read the prayers, including the Creed. I still cannot pray through without a pew card or think when I get to the last paragraph, "Thank God. I know this by heart."

    5. Weddings and funerals presented pastoral challenges in the past with regard to worship and assembly responses. Unless worship aids provided the prayers of the assembly and some directives on postures, most celebrations saw a small group of Catholics who worshipped regularly in their own parishes and responded. The rest of the assembly 'attended' and remained mute, perhaps mumbling their way through the Lord's Prayer and attempting a halfhearted 'Amen.' With the new language changes, those worship regularly respond "And with your spirit," while others simultaneously respond "And also with you." The people who 'get it right' quietly smile while the errant responders do one of two things: they look at each other with a giant question mark on their face that clearly speaks, "When did the prayers changes?" or they put their heads down in embarrassment. The silence that ensues can even feel a bit smug from worshippers who know the responses because of their regular worship. Ouch.

    When the presider continues with a collect after that kind of event, I suspect that ears become deaf to the actual prayer being sung or spoken to them. "It is right and just," presents another one of those awkward moments. Has anyone experienced those moments or am I just sensitive to liturgical 'stings?' When that occurs, I wonder if those people who realize that they've missed something because of their absence will return them to more faithful attendance on the Lord's Day. Or will they simply give up and never come back until a crisis or particular celebration occurs in their lives?

    6.  Sung Mass parts still present a conundrum. Do you use a revised Mass or did you begin anew with something fresh? I still cannot get a 'read' on this; there seems to be no common denominator with regard to what pastoral musicians choose. I've heard the revised Mass of Creation, the revised Cheponis Gloria, the revised Mass of Glory and the revised Community Mass. Other than those staples, not one new musical setting stands out as the all-time winner. Thoughts?

    7.  Nursing homes that have the good fortune to see a priest on Sunday morning face special challenges. Think about it. Here is the generation who prayed silently as they watched the presider's back when he faced the wall and prayed in Latin. Except for one cycle of readings that repeated every year, sacred scripture remained vaulted and sealed. Religious devotions were considered the norm in every good Catholic life. And then everything changed. Altars turned and priests faced the people. Dialogue prayer in the vernacular became the norm. Music and prayer postures changed. Lay people served in ministries that were once reserved for the ordained. And now, these faithful people have become old.

    For some, the new language changes present particular obstacles. Many live with failing memory and loss of hearing and vision. Others can no longer speak. For many of the elderly, the new Missal language will simply add to their confusion. They will continue to respond "And also with you and "It is right to give him thanks and praise," until the day they die. Will God hear their prayer any less because they don't get the words right?

    At the end of the day, all we can do is continue to try and be faithful servants. I know that I lose so much of the prayers because I get stuck on one phrase in the new missal prayers. Sometimes I become preoccupied with the assembly's prayer that I forget to add my own voice and prayer to that of my sisters and brothers. All I can do is go back to square one and try again next time. Will I succeed? Who can say. But consistent effort pays off in the reward of labor. And liturgy is work, the work of the people at prayer as a worshipping community. Patience, persistence and practice will lead us to God, who hears every prayer -- even when it contains a "Wow, I really messed that up."

    Just some thoughts eight months in. Stay the course and have a wonderful week ahead.