Many of you have probably heard that a ‘New Roman Missal’ is coming out and that we have to learn a bunch of new Mass parts. You’re probably asking yourself a couple of questions: ‘What in the world does that mean?’, ‘What’s a Roman Missal and why are we getting a new one?, and ‘Who cares?’
When I first heard that the New Roman Missal is being initiated at the beginning of Advent this year (November 27, 2011), I asked all of the questions above. It was pretty necessary because someone told me that it meant my role as singer was going to be affected.
Let’s face the facts. I’m a leader. I’m ‘supposed’ to know and care about these things. But what about you? What does this mean for you? To help you all out just a bit, in these next couple of weeks leading up to the debut of the New Roman Missal, I’m going to look at a couple of prayers in our Mass, one at a time, and offer some reflection on the changes.
With that said, let’s back track a bit. What is the New Roman Missal? Short version, the Missal we have now are the collection of prayers, responses, and special prayers for feast days that we use in the Mass (among a lot of other awesome things). Originally, the words of the Missal were written in Latin. In basic terms, this New Roman Missal is an updated version of the prayers and responses we use in the Mass . The structure of the Mass (the readings, the homily, the Eucharist) is NOT changing.
Here’s a little history for you: For more than 40 years, the Mass has had the same structure and words that we follow and recite today. This recent change was brought about by Blessed John Paul II. In the Jubilee year (2000), Blessed JPII announced that we would have an updated set of prayers and words for the Mass, what we know as the Missal. He called for this change because he realized that the English translation of the original Latin text was not as accurate as it could be. To recapture some of the meaning that got lost in the translation, the pope asked the bishops to get crackin’ on an update translation. After more than 10 years and with the hard work of thousands of bishops and clergy members, we finally have our new translation! Aside from the translation, we will also get some new feast day prayers for the new saints that have been canonized since the last missal!
Ok, if you’ve stuck with me so far, good job! So what does this mean for us? Why does it matter if some words or changed or some commas are moved around? Let me give you an example of a phrase that could have a completely different meaning if one thing is missing:
As you can see, the first implies that your dear old granny is on the menu. The second is an invitation for grandma to join in being part of Dream Team. The latter is a much better option.
The way words are written down and spoken can have a profound effect on the meaning. Blessed JPII understood this. This new Roman Missal seeks to give our prayers an accurate portrayal of the words God has given us to use through the Scriptures and the words used by the faithful that have gone before us. The Mass is one big prayer to God. Wouldn’t you want to use the most accurate and best words in your prayer to God Himself?
There are a lot more technical aspects to this missal (dynamic vs. formal equivalent in translation, new Mass prayers for new saints canonized since the last missal, etc.) that I won’t try to bombard you with at the moment (my Catholic nerd side is trying to resist as much as possible). However, in this time before we get to greet the New Roman Missal with open and obedient arms, take some time to look at what is changing and begin to pray these changes before they arrive! That way, when November 27 rolls around, you’ll be a pro!