Here follows the first of six pastoral letters to my parish. They were published last summer, but many thought they were a clear explanation and asked for wider circulation.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the first Sunday of Advent this year we will change over to using the new English translation of the Mass. My pastor’s letters over the next few weeks will help to explain the background and the need for these changes. The letters will be available on the website, and eventually I will collect them and provide a printed copy for all parishioners who would like them.
First I should point out that what we are introducing is not a ‘new Mass’. It is simply a new translation of the Mass that was revised after the second Vatican Council. That Mass was first compiled in Latin—the official language of the church—and the bishops of every different language group are responsible for their own translation of the Mass from Latin. The Mass we have been using for the last forty years or so was the first translation from Latin. On Advent Sunday we will start using a new translation of the same Mass.
Secondly, everyone should understand that this is not Fr Longenecker’s idea! The new translation of the Mass has been worked on for many years by an international committee of linguists, historians, liturgical scholars, writers, theologians and bishops. The translation has gone through many revisions with experts being consulted across the whole English speaking world. Finally the new translation was approved by the Vatican and the Holy Father mandated that all English speaking countries should adopt the new translation on Advent Sunday of this year.
People will naturally have some questions: They will wonder why we need a new translation of the Mass in the first place. Wasn’t what he had good enough? Why do we have to go through all the trouble to learn new words? Why can’t we just go on doing what we’ve always done? What’s the point of the new translation? I will try to answer these questions and more over the next few weeks in my pastor’s letters.
First I would like to explain the process by which we will get used to the new translation: This summer my pastor’s letters will help to explain the background and reasons for the new translation of the Mass. In the Fall we will have a series of homilies that remind us of the reasons and help prepare us for the change. This will lead into a couple of Sundays at which we will look at the changes and practice what to say at Mass. As we move through the next liturgical year we will also learn some new musical settings for the Mass. This sounds a bit daunting, but the changes for the congregation are really very few, I’m also committed to making the process as painless as possible, so I’m confident that everyone will adapt quickly.
Finally, I ask you to keep a positive attitude about the changes. I have had a look at the new translation and it really is very good! I hope the changes will give all of us a chance to deepen our understanding of the liturgy of the church and why we worship as we do as Catholics. Please read my letters with care, discuss them with your family and as we move into the changes go forward with confidence and optimism!