Catholic News Service photo
Guides to the new Roman Missal line a table.
Catholic News Service photo
Guides to the new Roman Missal line a table.
Familiar prayers and responses said in Catholic churches around the English-speaking world will change this month, on the first Sunday in Advent, Nov. 27.

Priests will follow newly translated instructions. Prayers used throughout the Mass and some responses of the congregation will change. Sacred chants and music used in worship will also be updated.

The full texts of the English translation last year received approval from the Vatican.
The Roman Missal is the official manual for the Catholic Mass; it is a “common treasure,” says Msgr. Anthony Sherman, of the U.S. bishops’ Office of Divine Worship. “It is the book that provides us with prayer text. It serves as a point of unity that keeps us all together, presenting the prayers that are used around the world, in many languages, during universal feasts or holy days.”

Latin is the core text of the Roman Missal, evolving from oral tradition to written words. During the 15th century, in the era of the first printing press, the earliest book called Missale Romanum appeared. After the Council of Trent in 1570, Pope Pius V issued the edition that set the premier standard of uniformity used by celebrants of the Catholic faith.

Eight former popes issued new editions between the 1604 and 2002, and each maintained a consistent style of worship for prayer in the Roman rite. Over time, additional Masses, prayers and revised rubrics (instructions) used to celebrate the Mass were added.

The need for vernacular translations of the Roman Missal arose after the Second Vatican Council, and the present English translation of the Mass, which dates back to the 1970s, follows the Vatican’s guidelines of that time, which favored translations that were easy to understand in the vernacular.

When Pope John Paul issued the Third Edition of the Roman Missal in 2002, a new English translation was required. Since the new English translation is guided by the 2001 Vatican document Liturgiam Authenticam, it presents a more literal translation of Latin wording and sentence structure than is used in the current translation.

“The current translations are centered more on the community than the divine,” says Father Paul Turner, a parish pastor in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri. “They were somewhat inattentive to inclusive language, and lacked some theological depth and musicality. The first translations condensed some of the content of the prayers. The new translation improves that.”

Parish musicians are one key element to making the changeover work well.

“I don’t think it will be that difficult” for the people to adjust to the new musical settings, said Father Jerry Strange, a former music teacher who is associate pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Hendersonville, Tenn. “Most of the changes are on the priest.”

Priests are another important constituency in making a smooth transition to the new missal.

The Diocese of Orlando, Fla., used its clergy convocation in August to prepare priests in the use of the new Roman Missal.