Mass Changes – Most Parishioners Cope with Change While Others Struggle with New Words

A guide to the new wording in the Mass is pictured in a pew. The new English translation of the Roman Missal was used for the first time in churches across the nation on the first Sunday of Advent. Most churchgoers took the changes in stride and with good humor as they stammered through the new wording.

With the opening of the Advent season, English-speaking Catholics in the diocese and around the world experienced the arrival of the revised translation of the Roman Missal.  The updated translation, announced by Pope John Paul II during the Jubilee Year 2000, is a more literal rendition of the original Latin text.

Local Catholics were largely receptive to the changes, though there was also some understandable reluctance.

At St. Gregory the Great Church, part of St. Matthew parish, Crown Heights, Massgoers received step-by-step guidance with the new wording from cream-colored pew cards, produced by Magnificat. While many parishioners visibly held the cards and did their best to follow along, some left the cards sitting in the pews.

Following the 5 p.m. Vigil Mass, head usher Clairmont Sampson said he thinks the new translation is “wonderful.  It’s going back to the old Latin, the way I remember.”

But it’s been about 40 years and he doesn’t necessarily recall all of the words so the pew cards, he said, came in handy and will help parishioners “adjust easily.”

Marlene Saunders, parish trustee, was equally open to the changes.  She feels the language is more personal and invites people into “more of a relationship” with God.

Although she knew the updated translation was coming, Saunders was grateful to have the pew card in her hand during Mass. “It’s simple to understand,” she said, adding that it kept her from making any mistakes.

Change is more challenging for some and the transition will naturally take time.

“I didn’t like it. I didn’t understand it,” said Vera McArthur, an older parishioner. She had some trouble following the pew card but feels that she’ll learn with practice. “I have to hear it two or three more times to get used to it,” she said.

In the weeks leading up to the new wording, Father Andrew Struzzieri, pastor, explained the changes in parish bulletin inserts, which are posted on a bulletin board inside church.

“They have been preparing us for this,” said Christopher Abdullah, 17, but he does feel it will take a while before the language feels natural. Still, he’s excited about the new wording, which he feels is “more direct.”

At St. Edmund’s Church, Sheepshead Bay, the congregation was led by an optimistic Father Anthony Dell’Anno at their first Mass using the new translation.

Before the Mass, Father Dell’Anno said he was going to think of the Latin version of the Mass to help him with this new translation.

Deacon Ron Rizzuto, who chose to sit in on the Mass at the back of the church to gauge how the congregation would receive the changes, said the new translation should be familiar to the older people of the parish who remember Latin Masses.

He said this along with the people’s willingness to accept the changes contributed to a successful first attempt at the new translation.

Parishioner Teresa Rizzo said the new translation does not drastically affect her experience of the Eucharistic celebration.

“It doesn’t phase me because I come to church for God,” she said.

Parishioner Domenic Minsrux said the changes are relatively easy to adapt to.

“It’s going to be a bit tricky because we have been doing it for so many years but we’re able to do it,” he said.

Ten-year-old parishioner Andrew Chin, said his first attempt at following the new translation was a bit confusing.

“I’m used to the old way,” he said, but “I think I’ll get used to it.”

His 15-year-old brother, Greg Chin, who served at the altar, said he understands why the new translation came about based on his study of Latin at Regis H.S., Manhattan. However, he does not like some of the aspects of the translation.  For example, he said now that the Creed starts with “I believe,” it takes away from the unified voice of the Church.

He said the priests worked with him and the other altar servers to help them with the transition.  However, he said it will still take some time for him to get used to the new translation.

Around the diocese, parishioners displayed a willingness to deal with the changes.

“While change is always daunting, it was handled extremely well to make all the parishioners comfortable,” said Peter D’Agostino, who attended St. Thomas Apostle Church, Woodhaven.  “It was well explained and in the context of restoring past language from Latin and taking us into the future.  I found the new liturgy spiritually uplifting.”

“The changes in the Mass liturgy will give a deeper understanding of the original Latin translation,” said Ron Rice, a member of St. Bernadette’s, Dyker Heights. “It will take some time for the congregation to become accustomed to the changes.  Msgr. (Thomas) Caserta and Father (Joseph) Gancilla prepared us for the revision, and it will deepen our understanding of our faith.”

“I was well prepared by the pastor.  The changes were no problem for me. There was no change in the essence of the Eucharist,” explained John De Riso, of St. Helen, Howard Beach.

“I warmly embrace the new changes to the liturgy which I agree helps to enhance, strengthen and better understand the Mass,” commented Ted General of St. Patrick’s, Bay Ridge.

“I was opposed to the changes when I first heard about them, but now having experienced them on Sunday and Monday with the congregation, I am impressed with the solemn beauty of the new wording, musical setting, and hymns. The changes have caused me to look at the Mass anew,” added Jack Goldstein, who attends Incarnation Church, Queens Village.

“I like the changes.  The new translation is more dignified than the old and more accurate.  For example, in the Nicene Creed, ‘seen and unseen’ is not a correct translation of the Latin.  ‘Visible and invisible’ is correct,” pointed out Peter Curran, a member of  Resurrection-Ascension parish, Rego Park.
Still others expressed some dismay.

“I read the new prayers before Mass.  Then, I put them down.  Our original prayers made more sense,” said Larry Wilkes, of Blessed Sacrament, Jackson Heights. “Being one way for 50 years makes change difficult, especially if it isn’t better.  But I’m sure the Lord is okay with our prayers either way.”

One thing that everyone could agree on is that change takes time.

“I think they will take some getting used to…I still kept saying ‘and also with you’, for instance…” said James Jagiello, who attends Our Lady of Mercy, Forest Hills.[hr] Contributing to this story were Marie Elena Giossi, Ed Wilkinson, and Antonina Zielinska.

One thought on “Mass Changes – Most Parishioners Cope with Change While Others Struggle with New Words

  1. Interesting that no real concern was expressed regarding the introduction of the “New Mass” in 1970 as there was a sizeable percentage of Catholics at that time who were quite upset/shaken in their faith by the introduction of that missal and prohibition of the Tradional Roman Rite Mass.

    Has there been yet another political windchange in Rome in the opposite direction of the wind that was blowing on the death of Pius XII in 1958?

    In fact, Benedict XVI in his autobiography “Milestones” states:

    “I was dismayed by the prohibition of the old missal, since nothing of the sort had ever happened in the entire history of the liturgy.”

    “The impression was even given that what was happening was quite normal.”

    “The previous missal had been created by Pius V in 1570 in connection with the Council of Trent; and so it was quite normal that, after four hundred years and a new council, a new pope would present us with a new missal.”

    “But the historical truth of the matter is different.”

    “Pius V had simply ordered a reworking of the Missale Romanum then being used, which is the normal thing as history develops over the course of centuries.”

    “Many of his successors had likewise reworked this missal again, but without ever setting one missal against another. It was a continual process of growth and purification in which continuity was never destroyed.”

    “There is no such thing as a ‘Missal of Pius V’, created by Pius V himself.”

    “There is only the reworking done by Pius V as one phase in a long history of growth. The new feature that came to the fore after the Council of Trent was of a different nature.”

    Indeed, the New Mass promulgated in 1970 was written by a committee with the assistance of 6 Protestant observers who in fact took part in the writing of 1970 New Mass.

    This New Missal was withdrawn under protest for correction because the definition of the Mass in paragraph 7 of the Introduction to that Missal as the “memorial of the Lord’s supper” was deemed doctrinally deficient. The definition of the Mass was corrected to allign it witht the Catholic doctgrine of the Mass as the continuation of the Sacrifice of Calvary.

    Not a positive beginning.

    Interesting photo of the committe that wrote the New Mass proumulgated in 1970: