Saturday, July 23, 2011

Same Mass-Deeper Meaning

The following is an educational piece that I wrote for our parish newsletter about the upcoming changes to the Roman Missal...

Same Mass-Deeper Meaning
The Roman Missal Third Edition

When the new church year begins this coming Advent the Universal Church will notice some significant changes to the words we pray at Mass. The revision of the Roman Missal from which all of the Mass prayers are taken has been a long time in coming as is true of all changes occurring within the church. In fact, the revised Missal was first announced during the jubilee year of 2000 by Pope John Paul II and the work of translation from Latin to modern languages began in 2002. Based upon information from the Roman Missal Formational Materials provided by the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2010, this third edition of the Roman Missal “contains prayers for the celebration of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass.” This new edition of the Roman Missal is not the first time that the Missal has gone through adaptations; in fact, it has been adjusted numerous times through the centuries to meet the particular needs of the Church at differing times in history.

In the very earliest years of Church history, there weren’t any books of prayer to follow, but collections of prayers were gradually brought together and assembled into a singular format called a sacramentary. Yet, even these books of prayer were not complete and differed according to their use; that is, whether they were meant for a monastery or were used at a local church.

According to the 2010 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “the first true liturgical books which would be called “missals” were found in monasteries beginning around the 12th or 13th centuries. A missale contained not only prayers but the biblical readings, the chants, and the rubrics for the celebration of Mass.” Then, in 1570 at the Council of Trent, Pope Pius V called for a uniform Missale Romanum that was required to be used throughout the Latin Church.

The current translation of the Missal was a process which involved several groups including the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) whose work required final approval by the Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican. “The purpose for the new translation was to bring the Universal Mass to more closely align with the traditional Latin translation while restoring biblical and poetic images. The long-term goal of the new translation is to foster a deeper awareness and appreciation of the mysteries being celebrated at the Mass. The axiom lex orandi, lex credendi—“what we pray is what we believe”—suggests that there is a direct relationship between the content of our prayers and the substance of our faith.” (USCCB website)

While most of the words of prayer that will change during the Mass involve the prayers of the celebrating priest, the faithful participants at Mass will notice some obvious changes in their prayers as well, including changes to the liturgical music that is used. For example, in the Introductory Rites when the priest says “The Lord be with you,” the response of the people will change from “And also with you,” to “And with your spirit.”

At the time when the changes in wording will take place, the USCCB will distribute cards to all churches to assist the congregation with the revised responses. It is hoped that these cards will only be needed for a short time as the new translation will become second nature to those who attend Mass each Sunday.

Change can be challenging, it’s true, but it can also be rejuvenating, calling us all to participate more fully in the Mass, to truly take the words we pray to heart, and to use this time to embrace the Catholic faith and the liturgy that we all love. When we fully participate in the Mass by embracing the changes to the Roman Missal, we will be uniting our hearts to the heart of Christ who, as we all know, underwent painfully dramatic change for our benefit. What a beautiful opportunity we have to show our gratitude for God’s love by gracefully accepting these changes to the liturgy and doing our best to make the Mass an act of love each and every time we attend and celebrate the greatest prayer of the Church, the Holy Mass.

To learn more about the Roman Missal Third Edition and to see the specific changes that will occur, please visit the USCCB’s website at:


  1. Anne, this was a beautiful article. I am looking forward to the changes! We say "and with your spirit" several times during the Divine Liturgy authored by St. John Chrysostom for the Byzantine rite. I am looking for an increase in the reverence in the words, and like that there will be more biblical and poetic images.

  2. Wonderful article Anne! I'm working on similar articles for my parish. I truly hope and pray for a spiritual renewal as a result of these changes.