Will the new missal really make the mass more reverent?

Probably not, according to Fr. Dwight Longenecker — and he makes some good points:

Mass isn’t reverent simply because you start using lofty language that ‘sounds religious’. True reverence is the fruit of a condition of heart. Reverence in worship is a by product of a certain type of Catholic mindset. It is not the automatic product of a particular form of words.

This is why I am not that optimistic about the new translation making Catholic worship more reverent. To understand the irreverence in much Catholic worship we have to probe much deeper than the form of words we use for worship. Catholic worship is too often irreverent because Catholics (priests and people) have stopped really believing the Catholic faith.

You’ll want to read the rest.


  1. Based only on the question in your title, I answer “no.” Because reverence comes from the heart. I think reverence can be fostered, but not, necessarily by the words of the Mass.

    From reading your excerpt from Fr. L. I would have to agree, even though it’s shocking, that belief is vanishing and many people go through the motions in a half-hearted way.

  2. Fr. Deacon Daniel says:

    I agree that a better translation is not the “silver bullet” some may want it to be. But it is reflective of a positive momentum towards a return to more traditional modalities of worship. It is a well needed correction to a very poor translation. But the virtue of reverence is not simply a matter of language, but of actions. Once we start to demonstrate reverence for God and for “Holy Things” as a Holy People in the liturgy, this will strengthen the faith of the faithful. It is often easier to act ourselves into new ways of thinking than to think ourselves into new ways of acting. If we want to restore the faith – then clergy, serve in a way that is in keeping with the faith!

  3. It is true that the new translation is certainly not a panacea…however, it might encourage us to think more about the words that we are praying.
    From what I have seen, the scriptural sources are more evident in the new missal, rendering the reasons for the changes and the words themselves more relevant.
    Priests and catechists need to take advantage of this teachable moment! Hopefully there will be a peaceful transition which bears fruit.

  4. “Catholic worship is too often irreverent because Catholics (priests and people) have stopped really believing the Catholic faith.” I find this statement more than a little presumptuous. Is he inside their heads, that he knows what the state of their faith is? I think if people don’t believe, they are unlikely to even bother showing up.
    Sure, we need to work on reverence. And time will tell whether the new translation will help. But charity towards one another is basic; a judgemental attitude such as shown in that quote (from a priest, yet) is unlikely to inspire reverence of heart.

  5. I remember when the English mass was instituted and I heard the same words, that it would vitalize the Mass and increase reverence. Didn’t happen. But I do not believe that the English Mass made the difference. I can also remember the 15 minute Latin Mass, complete with distribution of communion, so I don’t believe going back will help a lot either.

    Risking Melody’s condemnation for judgment, I do believe that many have left their faith lapse among both lay people and priests, and therein lies the real problem. It also seems to me that the Church leaders have become obsessed with rules, regulations, and ethics rather than demonstrating a Christian lifestyle as servants of Christ.


    Mike L

  6. “It also seems to me that the Church leaders have become obsessed with rules, regulations, and ethics rather than demonstrating a Christian lifestyle as servants of Christ.”
    Mike, you’ll get no argument from me over that.

  7. Mr Flapatap says:

    I am not so sure about reverence but it is certainly a step in the right direction. I spent the first 21 years of my life in a Spanish-speaking territory (Puerto Rico) and I remember being able to (sort of) place the Latin and Spanish together. When I moved to the Mainland and started attending Mass in English I began to wonder about the differences in meaning. The new translation reads, in meaning, like the original Latin.

  8. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Melody, sadly Fr. L. is right. Many of my fellow youth don’t care about the Mass or their faith for that matter, even the ones that do go to weekly Mass because of their parents or family tradition.

    The words may be a truer translation, but the Mass itself with the new words alone won’t change hearts. Also, proper catechesis must be done in all parishes, otherwise once again we’ll have a stink from people who hate the Mass changing, and the people who love their “Spirit of Vatican II” garbage will leave the Church thinking Benedict is turning back time with this translation.

    Quite simply you want a quick fix solution? Go back to the Tridentine Latin Mass. Already more in the States are popping up and apparently youth and young families are coming back to it.

  9. pagansister says:

    One of the teachers I taught with during my 10 years in a RCC school attended a church that did the Mass only in Latin. The church school we taught in had Mass in English. I have no idea what the new missal is or what it might do for “reverence”, but I would think that words don’t demand “reverence” in any church.

  10. Fr. Deacon Daniel says:

    “It also seems to me that the Church leaders have become obsessed with rules, regulations, and ethics rather than demonstrating a Christian lifestyle as servants of Christ.”

    “Mike, you’ll get no argument from me over that.”

    So…are we really faced here with an either/or dichotomy? Could it not rather be both/and?

    Speaking personally, when I serve as a deacon I strive to bring love for God and the Church into my ministry, which includes the liturgy. Am I therefore “obsessing” about rules and regs when I am faithful to my training and to the guidance of the Church as to the nature of my service? Is it not also possible that love lived as servants of Christ is expressed through a loving obedience to His Church?

    I would think that being faithful to what the Church teaches and asks of us – especially as clergy – and striving to live a life according to the ethical demands of the Gospel (praxis) is an honorable thing in keeping with an authentically Christian lifestyle.

    And if the Church seems to be speaking more to this point, perhaps it is because it is a point that has been largely ignored or simply forgotten for the past 40 years.

  11. I agree with Fr. L and the comments above: it will not automatically make the Mass more reverent, and I do agree to a point that it is because people have stopped believing in the Catholic faith (although they may not know it!).

    I have become aware that the children’s catechtical material used in my province’s Catholic schools is lacking. Gr 5 students learn about Advent through clowning (more time is devoted to creating the clown character than the bizzare connection to Advent—maybe that is the beginning of the infamous Clown Masses). A friend’s deacon father found it troubling that a class full of confirmation candidates in high school had little to no concept of sin and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. His own class, grade 3s (at a public school that provides Catholic ed through a historical anomally and that is not required to use the school curriculum) have no problem with concepts such as transubstantiation.

    What I beleive the new translation will do, like a poster stated above, the words carry meaning and will be a cause for people to look again at what they beleive, where the words come from (Scripture). This may lead to a conversion of the heart, but as St Paul wrote (paraphrasing), people were not converted by means of human intellect, but by the Grace of God.

    We are still waiting for our Canadian specifics in the new missal.

  12. I agree with Melody, and I tend to find statements like those from Young Canadien RC Male to be, no offense, a product of the normal human need to hold ourselves out as better than others. It’s a shame that so many are so content with thinking being a Christian really means making determinations on whether or not others are Christians as opposed to setting an example and helping others grow.

  13. Deacon Norb says:

    What everyday “mono-lingual” folks are now beginning to understand is that translation from one language to another is not as easy as conventional wisdom suggests.

    I have always been of the opinion that to be an authentic translator/interpreter one needs not only to be “bi-lingual” but also “bi-cultural.”

    If you do not have that sense of how that culture shapes the words and nuances of their spoken word, you can get into a lot of trouble. Ask anyone who tries to speak high-school French in Quebec or on the continent knows of what I mean.

    The English we have used in the Roman Catholic Mass for the past 40 or so years here in the US is an “American” English and full of American nuances. That translation, while comfortable to many of us (myself included), was not the same as was used in other English Speaking cultures.

    That, suspect, is the real message here. Not only is there a required text we use when we have a Mass in Latin (whether Novus Ordo or Extraordinary Form) now we have a “required/universal” English we will be using. That’s what the purpose of the ICEL was in the first place.

  14. Deacon Norb says:

    Forgot this — by the way:

    ICEL is an abbreviation for the International Commission for English in the Liturgy. It is a Vatican committee which has representatives from all over the English speaking world. Their main task that they gave themselves was to get a consistent and universal English text of the Mass that would be agreed upon by everyone.

    The fact that their final product is a strange text using strange words and strange nuances doesn’t surprise me at all.

    The critical question that Deacon Greg asked is still pertinent:

    How will this improve our understanding of the sacredness of the liturgical moment!

  15. Deacon Augustine says:

    The new translation may not be a cure-all, but it is a step in the right direction. The way we pray does affect the way we believe – “Lex orandi, lex credendi.” If we address God in an off-hand, overly familiar way as if He was the “Buddy Jesus” from the movie “Dogma”, then that will inevitably influence the way we think of Him. The same principle applies to the way in which we speak to each other – language affects attitude.

    Personally, I find some of the language used in the Divine Office to be more problematic than the translation of the Mass. I cringe every time I have to pray the response “Give us your Spirit.” to the petitions. If any of my children asked me for something in that way, they would either be ignored or get a lecture on good manners. If we wouldn’t talk to our neighbour like insolent, bad-mannered gits, how can we talk to God that way?

  16. Deacon Norb – I am an Irish immigrant – have lived here for 8 years. One of the biggest helps to me in my homesick-ness initially was the familiarity of Mass. I completely understand your point, that words carry different meanings in certain vernaculars – that has caused many a puzzled look on my face, or those of my American friends – but there are very few, tiny, differences between the US English Mass and that with which I grew up with. Of course, that’s just one example.

    On the issue of respect and reverence, I agree that these will only come from individuals – not from the words they are prescribed to use during the liturgy.

    In my parish, people grumble and huff if they have to move from the end of a pew to give a fellow parishioner a seat – I can’t imagine what they’re going to be like when they have to get used to new responses etc – and these are not the oft maligned younger generation either – these are the elderly members of my parish. Where is the sense of community? The sense of common respect, and the focus on why we come to the Church at all?

    That said, many of my contemporaries are lacking in true faith and true commitment to Catholicism – just on Sunday at a function for our parochial school where my daughter attends I mentioned to another parent that I had signed up and been accepted to becoming a lector at Mass. Her response was “sucker”.

    I’m not saying any of these things to set myself up as being ‘better’ than anyone – these are just my personal observations and experiences. As someone who has experienced a rich deepening of her faith in recent years, it just makes me sad …

    I guess we can all pray for a continued blossoming of our own faith, and for that of others.

  17. naturgesetz says:

    As I commented over on Fr. L’s blog, I think it is unfortunate that he asked this basically irrelevant question. The new translation is coming, and questioning its value can do no good but only serve to stir up dissension.

  18. Young Canadian RC Male says:


    Wow that’s a sad picture of your parish. Then again, I’m not that suprised of the elder generation being like that. All these forces combined on our society starting in the 60′s and have been ramapnt even now: Liberalism, moral relativism, secularism, and feminism.

    As for that person at your parochial school, pardon my language, screw her! Just becuase she does not want to care about the Mass more than her needed weekly obligation doesn’t mean she should poo-poo others. Now, if she meant “sucker” as in you are going to become part of the hypocritical, self-centered, liberal, “elite club” in the parish of the priest and ministers, then perhaps you should talk to her. Commenters on various conservative or traditional blogs have mentioned that their parish clergy and ministers do act like that, ruining the whole point of Christ’s Church. That atmosphere has even caused some to retreat to TLM parishes or worse, the canonically illegal SSPX. It might be a warning to you.

    However, if she’s just being a suck, then you should be proud for desiring to undertake such a ministry in the Church. Laypeople didn’t get this opportunity till Vatican II so consider it a priviledge. Remember: You are reading the Word of God, not just some text. So take time each week you are assigned to learn what the history or time period of each book was like (OT or NT), what the message is that the authors were trying to convey in each reading, prepare a few times at home (with a country appropriate missal e.g. Living with Christ) or in the sacristy with the lectionary, and ask the Holy Spirit each time you lector to come to you, inflame Its gifts in you so that like Christ and the Apostles, you too will proclaim and give God and Christ their dues.

  19. Young Canadian RC Male – ehm – didn’t intend to spark such a strong reaction from my post. The other parent’s reaction seemed to me to be one of ‘too bad for you that you got roped into doing this’, you know what I mean?

    I don’t view it this way at all, and it just made me sad to hear her describe it this way.

    I have spent the last 2 years studying scripture to a degree that I never have before and I have benefit greatly from that process. In all the time I’ve lived here, our parish and the pastor have always encouraged parishioners to participate and contribute to parish life while I get what you’re saying about some seeing participants in the various ministries in a parish as being elitist – I truly don’t think that is the case in my parish – people involved in the various liturgical ministries, and wider parish ministries seem very humble ordinary people to me and have always been very welcoming of others as far as I can tell.

    Until now, I haven’t felt confident in where I was in my own faith, in my own relationship with Christ – I felt I had to do a bit of work on me first before I felt comfortable undertaking any of the ministries in the parish. While I will always be a work in progress, I felt moved to accept the most recent invitation at a Ministry Fair in our parish to open my heart and mind to the possibility of becoming involved. I am looking forward to this and pray that with the grace of God I will do a good job.

  20. Just to add – sorry for the terrible typos/grammar! I freelance a little for our local paper – you’d think I’d do a better job of editing before clicking ‘submit!’

  21. Fiergenholt says:


    Did you really say?

    “Then again, I’m not that suprised of the elder generation being like that. All these forces combined on our society starting in the 60’s and have been ramapnt even now: Liberalism, moral relativism, secularism, and feminism”

    Stereotypical opinions of what it was like to be either a “War-Baby” or a “Boomer” — thus someone living their early adult lives lives during the immediate post-Vatican eras — by someone who is clearly the grand-child of that generation is simply “trash talking.”

  22. Young Canadian RC Male says:


    Good to hear! And no need for apologies on the typos. Sometimes the commboxes of blogs/chat functions can’t keep up with fast typing.

    Likewise I myself was in a similar and slightly worse position too. I had started to throw away my faith at univeristy by missing Mass out of laziness and when I came back home I didn’t care and was going to dump my faith when I moved out to spite my mom (that’s really bad.) It took me a year and a half and the opportunity of a new youth ministry at our parish to change that and get me to “revert”. I started to then re-learn or discover new many of the teachings of the Church because of the youth ministry.

    Out of the minsitry was a charity dinner which is our annual big event. I got to read the dinner prayer which also included a reflection from St. Augustine. When I did … I felt a really odd surge go through me. I’m positive it was one of two things or both: My desire to make the prayer meaningful to our attendes and get them to care, and the Holy Spirit. Regardless (plus seeing some of the other youth participate in ministries) I decided to become a lector myself and got awesome training for it. Now I’m loving it and even other parishoners are thanking me for my good oratory skills.


    It isn’t so much trash talking, as that I’ve “woken up”. Read what I wrote to Annie and you can infer that I really didn’t care much of my faith until recently. Yes, the culture of secularism nearly sucked me in and made me blind.

    Another part of that was while doing searches for my faith, I started to come across the blogosphere including sites like Deacon’s Bench, Fr. Z’s WDTPRS, So Con or Bust (Canadian), and even the ultra trad Michael Voris and some of the SSPX stuff. Before I was just an absent minded parishoner who didn’t care he was at Mass and I’m sure many a time I received the Eucharist sacrereligiously.

    Now I’m aware of so much I didn’t know until now. I forgot or didn’t know many of the principles of my faith when I went off to university. I didn’t know what Vatican II was about somewhat and I didn’t know about the radical changes that happened (great architect, poor implementation). I also didn’t know about how Vat-II drove some people to join schismatic ultra-traditional organizations like SSPX. I didn’t know that with the Roman Missal there was opposition to the translations we’re all about to receive. And, like you say about me, I didn’t know about all the social factors that has led to the current state of the Roman Catholic Church’s current state until I started to wake up. Because of those factors influencing “Lex orandi, lex credendi,” that affected the liturgy. And you wonder why B16 is trying to clean up the mess liturgically.

    Look, I’m not perfect and yes my posts are not always prudent, but I have woken up to the state of things. I’m not in “The Matrix” anymore. And my work is never done. I’m always learning and seeing new things as I deepen in faith and in my adventures in the Catholic Blogosphere, including learning new opinions and insights to matters.

    So Fiergenholt, if you will, please, perhaps then you have something different or interesting to share on the matter to either show me the opposite side or correct me if you do. And where did you get your name? German? And I know that there are good elders of the 60′s-70′s generation who did remain faithful to the Church and do practice what the Church preaches. My grandparents did and thankfully raised a mother with enough Catholicism in her to plant those initial seeds that govern my life.

  23. To young Canadian RC Male:

    “Then again, I’m not that suprised of the elder generation being like that. All these forces combined on our society starting in the 60′s and have been ramapnt even now: Liberalism, moral relativism, secularism, and feminism.”

    As a woman, who came of age as a U.S. Catholic in the 60’s, my response to you is: YOU WOULD HAVE HAD TO HAVE BEEN THERE!

    My college major was Chemistry. (A woman said to me: Oh you must think like a man.” I said: “No, I’m logical.”) I tutored some young college women, who wanted to be doctors, so that they could pass the admission test, MCAT. The head of my department tried to dissuade me. She said they would never get in and, besides, she would never go to a woman doctor. By the way, they all were accepted.) I went back to graduate school to study Theology urged on by an Augustinian priest, who told me that he thought there was a serious “brain drain” in the Church and American society. Women’s brainpower was not being recognized and utilized.)

    Most significant for me in that era was Vatican II and, eventually a Mass that I could fully, consciously and actively participate in (without having to hear the words in one language, Latin, and to read in my own language, English, in a Missal). I saw the days of Mass attendees saying a private rosary or reading from a Novena booklet gradually fade away.

    Then, there was the shocking awareness of racism and poverty in the U.S. and throughout the world. Many of my Catholic friends were inspired by the Documents of Vatican Ii, e.g., The Church in the Modern World and John XXII’s encyclical, Pacem in Terris. They were convinced that we had to work together to do something about such injustices. They were involved in exciting, new, and constructive programs. Many participated in government programs, such as Peace Corps, Head Start. (I hitched my wagon to some of them.) To some of us, our Catholic president was an inspiration with words like the following from his Inauguration Speech: “…let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

    Of course, there was a good deal of mean-spiritedness then, as there is today. But the 60’s were times of idealism and hope, which, quite frankly, I do not see today.

    I could go on and on. Perhaps the fact that I am reading the biography of Sargent Shriver by Scott Stossel is why your comments have hit a nerve and what is moving me reminisce about the era.

    But, as I said at the beginning of this response to your comment: YOU WOULD HAVE HAD TO HAVE BEEN THERE!

  24. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    HMS, your points are definitely valid. You are right to say that to fully understand the situation I should have been there. I won’t be able 100% to understand the era in its entirety. I’ll only be able to understand as much of the era as what I can read and see in media including the internet and by what I must deal with in my own generation from whatever happened in yours. Again, I can get much of a picture, but never the whole picture.

    From what I can glean from the post you truly had to experience quite the adversity to succeed where you are today. And you eserved everything you strived for. Am I saying that feminism in principle is wrong? The basic tenets are not. Should a woman, who works just as hard as a man be denied the same opportunities? No.

    However, all it takes is often a few strong extreme ideas or people in a movement to make it astray. This is not just in feminism but is also evident in politics, and in the Church as well. Sadly, the overall consensus I have been able to gleam from various blogs on all spectrums is that Vat II did open some doors, but because it was the more left-wing or non-traditional elements that took hold of the practical part of its early implementation, things went amok. Many of the good works, like the ones you mention, were darkly overshadowed by changes in the liturgy and even our clergy. And many of these ideaologies snuck their way into the thinking of the clergy, down to the laity. That’s why we as the new parental generation need to work with others like yourself who didn’t get caught up and give this world the hope that is so absent.

    On a bright spot, I have learned something, thanks to you. I did not know that Pacem in Terris and Gaudium et Spes produced the programs you mention. Also you have mentioned a new author and person to investigate. What I responded to the end of my reply to Fiergenholt also applies to you as well. Feel free to say something further.

  25. Dear Young Canadian RC Male,

    To be fair, I really didn’t experience much adversity. I was young and feisty and had a lot of people who encouraged me. Any conflicts I may have had were in my own mind and heart (e.g., role of a lay woman in the church). I had a wonderful and traditional Catholic education – grade school through college – and yet I was not prepared for Vatican II. I had a lot of catch-up to do and, when I did, I embraced the changes wholeheartedly and still do.

  26. Fiergenholt says:


    I have not traveled to Canada much but I do recall somewhere along the line that Canadians are very abrasive — and can get very upset — when “Yanks” presume to know everything there is to know about Canada . . . or when “Yanks” presume to speak for Canadians.

    NOW, consider that last sentence above a reflection on why I said what I did earlier. Your comment was “trash-talking” — you were making value judgments based on stereotypical caricature and you had no real knowledge nor wisdom behind your words.

    Anyone who has not lived through the “Sixties” has no right to make value judgments about those of us who have.

    Anyone who did not live — as a Roman Catholic — through the incredibly vibrant and life-giving “Faithful Revolution” of Vatican II has no right to judge those of us who did.

    Anyone who did not study Theology in a Roman Catholic University during Vatican II has no right to judge those of us who did.

    Anyone who has not taught Roman Catholic Church History of the 1960′s to large and small audiences has no right to judge those of us who have.

    I can appreciate you want insights into that era, but it serves no useful purpose to insult some very credible unique “primary” sources.

  27. Deacon Norb says:

    OK folks — time to chill.

    Besides, even the Good Lord is suggesting that. Outside temp this morning in my section of the world is -11 F. Coldest day of the winter so far.

    To our Canadian friend, here are my favorite primary sources:

    –Anglican Bishop John Moorman’s book “Vatican Observed.” Bishop Moorman was one of the ecumenical observers.

    –Xavier Rhynne’s writings on the Council. His one volume compendium is pretty solid “Vatican II” but don’t ignore his four volume set “Letters from Vatican City,” “The Second Session,” “The Third Session,” and “The Fourth Session.” [BTW: Xavier Rhynne is a pseudonym; his real name was Fr. Francis Xavier Murphy and he was a “peritus” at the Council — just like Fr. Joseph Ratzinger.

    You might also want to chase down two videos: One is a series of six entitled “The Faithful Revolution” and the other is an interview with Sister of Loretto (KY) Mother Mary Luke Tobin. Mother Mary Luke was one of the women observers allowed by Paul VI to sessions 2-4.

    There are lots of secondary sources but one of the most recent ones was written by Melissa Wilde and it is a sociological study of the forces behind the council’s everyday workings. I don’t have the title at my fingertips. She contends that the Council Fathers were not divided into two camps (progressive vs traditional) but actually four.

    And, yes, both HMS and I are experienced church history faculty. I am not sure about Fiergenholt’s background here.

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