“You get used to it”

That’s how one Washington, DC Catholic reacted to the new translation of the Missal here:

Prayers learned and memorized in school, such as the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, the Penitential Act, the Gloria, are now different enough to cause the congregation to stumble, hesitate and stutter, as some parishioners did through the 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday at St. Augustine Catholic Church in the District. It was a scene repeated in Catholic churches around the English-speaking world, as churchgoers tried to get in step with the long-planned change, just in time for the first Sunday of Advent.

“I was grateful for the paper!” said Sandra Glover, a St. Augustine parishioner, turning to the photocopied pew card that served as a cheat sheet. Parishioners received a laminated version of the new language, along with several booklets explaining the liturgy changes, when Mass ended.

“Back in the ’60s we did this, when we went from the Latin Mass,” said her friend Karen Shaw. “You get used to it. It’s really not that profound a change.”…

…The Rev. Patrick Smith — the pastor of St. Augustine, which a group of emancipated black Catholics founded in 1858 — advised congregation members Sunday to use the opportunity to deepen their faith by thinking about what the language really means.

In the back rows, a mother bent over the pew card with her elementary-school-aged daughter and son, pointing out the new language. The children passed the card back and forth, studying the boldfaced changes. They were more enthusiastic about singing.

On the church steps after the service, several departing parishioners said the changes didn’t particularly bother or excite them. Glover said she wasn’t worried about the faithful adapting.

“I don’t think it’s going to be an issue,” she said. “But I’m going to have to look up one of those words, what was it?”

“Consubstantial,” Shaw answered.

At my parish, the new translation went off without a hitch, and for one good reason: Fr. Frank Passenant.  He’s one of two parochial vicars in our parish.  Last summer, he had the foresight to  invest in a couple thousand pew cards, to help people through the Mass.  Earlier this month, he led a series of “dry Masses” across a couple of Sundays, to walk people through the liturgy.  And today, he was at every Mass, standing by the Leader of Song with a pew card, alerting people to upcoming changes and leading them through the responses.  Everything went smoothly, and there was no confusion or befuddlement. Meeting people after the Masses, I didn’t hear anyone mention the new translation, positively or negatively, and I didn’t ask anyone what they thought.  The topic never came up.  Fr. Passenant said he didn’t hear anything, either.  (Frank, it should be noted, never lacks for an opinion about anything, and has never spent a moment without an unexpressed thought.  He wasn’t shy about offering some unsolicited criticism of my homily between Masses. “I wouldn’t have mentioned the old Mass,” he said.  “I know, that’s your personal take.  I just wouldn’t even have have brought it up.  It’s done.  But that’s me.  I just plow the field without looking back.” Good point.)

All in all, it could have been just another Sunday.  And after all the hand-wringing of the last few months, isn’t that a wonder?



  1. “You get used to it.” That’s what I am afraid of! My priest and I are in agreement that the BEST thing about the change is the notion that we have a new opportunity to actually THINK about the things we (and the parishioners) say at Mass. Yes, it felt just a little jerky…but it was exciting!

  2. We had the pew cards too. As for how they worked, to my ears it sounded like about 1/3 said the new lines, 1/3 the old, and 1/3 the personal idiosyncratic renditions they said before (e.g., substituting “God’s Church” for now, “His Holy Church”).

    We also said the Apostle’s Creed instead of the Nicene.

  3. Even with advanced preparation it was a little awkward. Looking forward to daily Mass. Lex orandi Lex credendi !!!!

  4. I feel for the priests! They have a lot more changes to get used to than we do. Ours is the much easier part. I attended two masses this weekend and both went well – I’d say about 50/50 in terms of who said the new prayers and who said the old – that was better than I expected :)

  5. Well, it wasn’t without a hitch at my parish, but it wasn’t a disaster. It was awkward at times and you could hear people fumble with “And with your spirit.” I know I did at least once. Our priest was also very hesitant. He read carefully from his book, which was untypically upright on a bookstand. We’ll get used to it. I think the translation is mostly an improvement. The only place I really don’t like is the Confiteor. The repetition sounds ugly in English. But I think the new Gloria (which we didn’t sing for Advent) is fabulous.

  6. Deacon Mike says:

    We also had cards in the pews and had preached about it for several weeks. However, today’s liturgy was undeniably awkward and people were all over the place when it came to responding. I’m sure people will get used to it; people can get used to anything.
    It’s not the fact that we have new wording that I struggle with….it’s just that it’s such poor and stilted English in so many places. To be honest, I simply have a very difficult time understanding how this will help people grow closer to our Lord during the Eucharist. If I felt that it would ultimately deepen people’s faith or somehow help them in their worship, I would feel better about it. Right now, that’s almost certainly not the case…people are so concerned about responding “correctly” that there’s little room for anything else. Perhaps over time it will bring us where it’s felt we need to be. I imagine there were similar concerns 50 years ago when we went from Latin to the vernacular.

  7. The priest at the church we went to (we were away for the weekend) spoke the words so beautifully and clearly…not stilted at all! In fact I thought that it sounded poetic.

    I am sympathetic to your concerns when you say “If I felt that it would ultimately deepen people’s faith or somehow help them in their worship, I would feel better about it”.
    Honestly, after today I think it is indeed possible that it can help people in their worship.
    I pray that you will feel better about it soon!

  8. I agree; the new translation is disappointingly graceless and awkward in many places.

  9. so — what was your parish prep like over the past 10 months?

  10. If the priest takes the time to actually practice (omg – what a concept) there wouldnt be such stumbling.

  11. DEACON ? mike. Where was the catechsis in your parish over the past year ?

  12. This is a typical example of – it dependes on what you put into it — bring yourself to the Lord. Try reading about what active participation is and learn to practice it. Read about the Biblical references of what the prayers are saying and why they are used at Mass. Man, if anyone walks into to celebrate the Liturguy without being prepared with all the information on the internest about the new translation — SHAME ON THEM. “Get used to it ” ? — I hope not.

  13. The Mass I attended was celebrated by a priest in his 80s who remains in active ministry and who intends to die ministering to others. He seemed to be struggling–physically and with the changes. Our Church has steps leading up to the altar and he looked kind of unsteady yesterday. He skipped over a few parts of the Mass (I know there was no Gloria since it was Advent), and used the older words for the institution narrative–but all in all it went okay. With a smile he asked us to be patient with him, but I think he felt a bit stressed out. We’ll figure it out.

  14. Deacon Mike says:

    We spoke about it in our homilies, we met about it after mass, we put information about it in our bulletin. (We didn’t do “dry runs”….what would that have said for the Mass we were suppose to be celebrating on those days?) It still seemed to catch people by surprise….of course, those of us who “do this for a living” may forget that the people in the pews thave other things going on in their lives that may have made it difficult for them to focus on this.
    If one of the goals of the new translation is to bring to people the beauty and truth found in the original Latin, you’d think they’d be struck more by the beauty and the truth. If we have to inform them that it’s beautiful and they don’t recognize this on their own, one might legitmately question how beautiful it actually might be.

  15. I will never get used to the Protestant Mass. I could have stayed an Episcopalian. TLM is The Holy Roman Catholic Mass. The REAL question is asked in this simple but true post:

  16. ron chandonia says:

    Thanks for these very thoughtful comments. The liturgy at my parish is truly a work of art, but it is art with a contemporary flair. For that reason, I was concerned that moving to the new translation might not be easy for us. Yesterday our pastor did a magnificent job “reading with expression” from the new missal, and I think I now understand better why some supporters of the changes are praising the translators for bringing back imagery lost in the more simplified texts we had been using. However, I fear that the very stilted syntax of this missal will always be a burden we have to bear and a hindrance to widespread appreciation of whatever hidden beauties the translators were trying to unlock for us. And I cannot help but conclude that this really did not have to be the case.

  17. naturgesetz says:

    I was at two Sunday Masses and daily Mass this morning — three different priests. Despite all the preparation, two of them seemed generally unaware that there have been changes to what they say when greeting the people and introducing the penitential act and when preparing the gifts.


  18. Being a new Catholic, and having attended Mass for a year, I have to say I LOVED the new translation. Despite the inevitable getting used to, which is a non issue, I really am excited about it. Loved it.

  19. Since the spring, occasionally going over the changes before Mass.

  20. In a few years, everyone will be saying: “Oh, it really wasn’t as bad as some made it out to be.”

    I observed in my parish, many more people were using the yearly missals than normal. Some were using translation cards.

    Many seemed to be following along and using the new translation. (BTW, for those of us in the pews, it is a difference of what 100 to 200 words?) The celebrant seemed to struggle at times but not something that was a show stopper. Some of us (including myself) made some errors, many of us tried hard to use the new wording. It seemed to me that many of us did very well up to Communion and then after that, we seemed to fall into the old ways.

    Personally, I believe that this is a good thing. I welcome it and encourage everyone to do their best to learn and use the new wording.

  21. Also, at this morning’s Mass, people got so distracted by the dialogue before the preface that nobody stood up for it (but most knelt after the Holy, Holy, Holy). Of course, it didn’t help that the priest forgot the “Brethren, pray.”

  22. I was at two Masses in our parish this weekend – neither priest stumbled at all. However, being that one of the two is an 80 year old retiree who helps us out from time to time – I recognize that this is a big change for someone at that stage having said Mass the same way for the best of 50 years. He did extremely well – these are holy, reverent men and they are handling this change very respectfully. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel for them having much more to get used to than the laity. :-)

  23. Deacon Garth says:

    In UK we’ve been using parts of the new Missal since September and, in my parish at least, we still make mistakes. Final prayer this weekend was a little convoluted, it didn’t really make sense. Early days yet, it may become part of us in time.

  24. …or question their awareness.
    The people in the pews can/ought to put their “other things” down for an hour to consider the beauty on their own.

  25. The new translation causes everyone (including me) to pay attention to the words we pray. This is a huge blessing.


  1. [...] and to think again about what we’re saying and not be on auto-pilot.Deacon Greg reported an experience similar to my own. No big whoop. Max says it’s not so bad, and Mark says, things went pretty well at his place, [...]

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