New Roman Missal: New Words, Deeper Meaning

November 21, 2011

On November 27, 2011, the first Sunday of Advent, Roman Catholics in the United States will begin praying the Mass using a new English translation of the Roman Missal. This new edition was created using a method that demands an exact translation of every word in the original Latin text. While many of the prayers that have become so familiar to Catholics will change, the Mass itself will remain the same. The months leading up to the implementation have been a time of catechesis, not only about the changes that are scheduled to take place, but also about the liturgy.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, has noted that learning about the revised Roman Missal offers people the opportunity to deepen their understanding of and devotion to the Mass. “As we begin the use of the new missal, we can also undertake a personal renewal in our minds and hearts of what the Mass is and what it means to each of us individually and personally. The Mass is the heart of the Church.”

The words of the liturgy matter because they express the faith of the people. The words and actions of the liturgy do not belong to the priest celebrating the Mass, but to the whole Church. A more accurate translation will help everyone to pray as the one body of Christ. The new translation will provide a prime opportunity for fuller catechesis on the Mass, and a more visible unity among Roman Rite Catholics.

Rev. Mark Knestout, the director of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Worship, has been hosting workshops to prepare parishes for the changes. “The renewal of the Church’s liturgy is not simply about changing rites or words, but it’s about changing hearts,” said Fr. Knestout. “The liturgy is the center of the Church’s life, and doing it well is part of our responsibility in carrying out Christ’s saving mission. The Church is aware that every now and then we have to refresh the way we say things, so we have a deeper and greater appreciation for the heritage that is the Church and the Eucharist,” he said.

Sometimes, he said, people can memorize prayers and recite them routinely, without thinking of what they’re saying. “These new words will help to remind all of us of the awesome reality that God becomes man, with us and for us, and gives his very self so we may know this,” said Fr. Knestout.

Below are some of the frequently asked questions regarding the third edition of the Roman Missal:

What is the Roman Missal? All of the prayers we use during our liturgy come from the Roman Missal (known as the Missale Romanum). A missal is the book which contains not only the prayers we use, but the rubrics, or directions for the priest, readings and chants. It is ‘Roman’ because it comes from the Church in Rome and is used by what are called Roman Rite Catholics around the world. This book is issued by the Vatican in Latin and translated into the vernacular, or the language of the people.

What is changing? Right away, you will notice changes to the people’s responses during the liturgy. The most notable change will come in the beginning of Mass, and continue throughout, when the priest (or deacon) says, “The Lord be with you.” Our response will now be, “And with your spirit.” There will also be changes, some very slight, in the other prayers we say, such as the Gloria, the Creed, and our acclamations.

Why are the prayers changing? In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II promulgated a third edition of the Missale Romanum and, from this Latin text, the new English version has been issued. In the second edition, translations were done using the principles of ‘dynamic equivalence.’ This method emphasized the overall meaning of the original text rather than a word-for-word translation. The translation for the third edition of the Roman Missal was completed according to the principles of ‘formal equivalence.’ This method demanded an exact translation of every word in the original Latin text. Our Mass is the same. There are new words, but many will find that they provide a deeper meaning to our celebration.

What else is new? There are additional votive Masses and Masses for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and additional Masses for various occasions. There will be Masses for the many new saints canonized during the time of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. There will be additional prefaces, new prayers and blessings, and emendations to the rubrics.

For more information about the new Roman Missal as well as videos of workshops explaining the changes, please click here.

For the latest article from the Catholic Standard about the new Roman Missal, please click here.

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 600,000 Catholics living in Washington, DC and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

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Brie Hall
Office of Communications
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