WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Fr. Roger Keeler celebrates Mass using the new English Missal Nov. 26 at St. Michael-Resurrection Church in Edmonton.
Advent has begun, and with it the new liturgical year. But this first Sunday of Advent brought challenges for both ordained and lay Catholics as they got a feel for the new translation of the Roman Missal.
At St. Michael-Resurrection Church, Father Roger Keeler offered the blessing, "Lord be with you" during the Saturday evening, Nov. 26 Mass.
Having used the same response for 40 years, many parishioners replied, "And also with you." Others replied for the first time using the new response, "And with your spirit."
"I think the new translation is very much like the old one, from way back when I was first at church, pre-Vatican II, except it's not in Latin," said Mary Griffith, from St. Michael-Resurrection Parish.
Churches in Edmonton and English-speaking countries worldwide began using the new Mass translation on the first Sunday of Advent. The Missal is a more literal translation of the Latin Missal than the translation that has been in use since 1973.
The new Missal resulted from changes in liturgy that started with the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which introduced the use of local languages to the Mass, instead of Latin only.
Griffith said the biggest difficulties will be unlearning familiar language, getting accustomed to the new language of the Missal and remembering when to kneel.
Adjusting to the new translation might be harder for the older parishioners who have been doing things the same way their whole lives and now must modify their words, she said.
"They've been doing the other responses for so long that it's just second nature. The responses we know off by heart and they're automatic," said Griffith.
This is another move in the renewal of liturgy. At St. Michael-Resurrection and other parishes, these changes have been "under the radar" and in liturgical planning conversations for three years.
Keeler said during Mass that parishioners have been preparing for these changes for at least six weeks. Yet they faltered a bit over the words in the Mass as they followed along in revised prayer booklets to assist them. Some did not know when to kneel.
Over time, through trial and error, they will learn the different words to the prayers. At Sunday morning Mass the next day, the improvements were already noticeable, said Keeler.
What he likes most about the new translation is the richness of the God language, and the God imagery is beautiful.
"The previous language was very simple, whereas this language is richer, more complex and almost poetic," he said.
"So it requires a greater care in the praying of that language. Therein lies the challenge for all of us presiders is learning how to pray that language - not simply reading what is there."
It's not a question of saying Mass but of praying the prayers, he emphasized.
"There's a big distinction to be made. It's easy enough to say the words, but what kind of meaning is going to be conveyed in a saying versus what is conveyed in praying them? It's going to be a new learning for all of us," he said.
Ken Bracke, also with St. Michael-Resurrection Parish, was an altar boy in the pre-Vatican II days when Mass was "said" in Latin. He highlighted another important aim of the changes, that of universality and greater unity among all English-speaking Catholics.
"It doesn't matter where in the world you go, you know that you'll be able to participate fully in the Mass. You won't be sitting there in the pews wondering what's going on next," said Bracke.
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Fr. Michael Schumacher celebrates Mass Nov. 27 at St. Theresa Church.
With the Second Vatican Council, learning new responses took a long time, but it was not insurmountable. It took time to adjust then, and it will take time to adjust again.
"As far as wordings of Mass prayers go, the Church is always going to change," said Bracke.
"The Church will always move and change its traditions. It is just part of the ongoing evolution, the journey that the Church is on. We're seeking to find ways to make people feel more accommodated and welcome."
For Richard Rajotte, from St. Theresa's Parish, it's a welcome return to pre-Vatican II days.
"It makes us more aware. It's actually going back to what I learned in the Latin Mass because there are some similarities now to what that was," said Rajotte.
Parishioners will no longer be able to go through the motions or sit in the pews passively, reciting responses by memory because the rituals they have known since childhood are different now, he said.
"It makes us pay more attention, instead of just being by rote, and it's going to take awhile to relearn. It's just a matter of time," said Rajotte.
Yvon Levesque, also from St. Theresa's Parish, said he enjoys the new translation, and feels that it will bring people closer to the Lord. He went to a teaching Mass on Nov. 23, and found it interesting to learn the new prayer responses, including the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed.
While the consensus was that the older parishioners would have a harder time familiarizing themselves with the changes, Levesque said it will take time for the younger ones too.
"Maybe for the younger people, it will take a little time to understand, but with time I think they will come to understand and it will deepen their faith," said Levesque.
His parish's associate pastor, Father Michael Schumacher, is in full agreement.
"It's a good opportunity to hear the Mass with new words and not take it for granted. It will hopefully deepen our sense of the mystery that we celebrate," said Schumacher.
Who is most affected by these changes, the priest or the parishioner?
"I think for us as priests, at least we have an understanding of where it's coming from," said Schumacher.
"The changes affect us more. We know some of the background, so we have to be able to bring that to the people of God because for them it might not make a lot of sense at times."
Schumacher was ordained in March 2010, making him one of the newest priests in the archdiocese. In that sense, he said that it might be easier for him than for older priests who have praying Mass the same way for 40 years.
"It depends how each priest approaches it. Some priests have been really looking forward to the changes," said Schumacher.
"For every priest, it means extra work, extra practice, and a change in going from what's comfortable to what is at times quite uncomfortable in the way we pray Mass."