Going to Mass is about more than just making it in the door for Communion. My day-to-day life has changed significantly in the last few months, so I have found myself approaching Mass attendance in a whole new way. It used to be part of work. My biggest concern was getting to attend a whole Mass as an ordinary parishioner rather than “working” it by greeting before and after, popping in to make an announcement, or moonlighting in the choir. (Can you moonlight as part of your actual job?) Now that I have to make more effort to get to Mass, I’ve started to improve my pre-Mass procedure, too.
Jul 23 2013
I love learning. That sounds so cheesy, but I really do! My favorite learning experiences are always connected to finding out earth-shattering new information about something I thought I already knew well. I used to think that car turn signals were activated by the car (not the driver; in-car navigation systems seemed unremarkable at first!), and I used to know that the “Holy, Holy, Holy” at Mass came from Scripture, but not how. Thanks to a long-term book loan from a friend and the Catholic 20-Somethings summer book club, I have now read The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, by Scott Hahn, and I have learned so much.
You may remember my review of Rome Sweet Home, also by Scott Hahn, from the beginning of the year. Hahn is a former Presbyterian who reasoned his way to Catholicism based on his understanding of covenant theology and his deep knowledge of Scripture. I expected more of the same in this book, and I was proven correct. In The Lamb’s Supper, Hahn tackles the Book of Revelation (which is singular—no “S”) and reveals that the fullest understanding of the book must be united with our understanding of the Mass.
Feb 23 2012
Work has been epic lately. Among other things, I was on retreat with my students last weekend. That’s the first time I’ve attended Mass outside of a regular church since the Revised Roman Missal went into effect, since we use a big multi-purpose room on retreat. It wasn’t until Mass was about to begin that I realized we were a tad unprepared.
I’m at about 95% for remembering to use the new responses, possibly thanks to Hey Girl Catholic Ryan Gosling here:
However, I can only do the Gloria if I sing it, and so far I only know the setting we’re using at work (the Black Mountain Liturgy). We tried to recite it for the solemn form of the procession for the Feast of the Presentation, and it was like a teeny train wreck to start Mass. I can’t quite swing the new Nicene Creed yet, either. Most people can’t do those yet, though, even if they go to daily Mass, as I do.
So when we had Sunday Mass, we all stumbled through the Gloria to start things off. The music staff had decided not to use the Black Mountain Liturgy, which was probably a good idea, since it’s piano-driven, and we only had two guitars for musical accompaniment. The problem is that, even if you know the new words, learning a new Mass setting takes time. They chose Matt Maher’s Mass of Communion (download mp3s and sing-along sheets for free!), which I love, but even I didn’t know it well enough to sing along properly. The spirit was willing, but the lips were weak.
We had a similar stumble-fest during the Creed. Our priest was on top of it, but he had the missal to read from. In hindsight, we should have put the words on the PowerPoint slides we’d been using for praise and worship all weekend long. By the next retreat, we should be better at the words, but there’s no guarantee.
Now that Lent has started, there’s no more Gloria to worry about. We’ll have to start relearning at Easter. A more pressing issue that I was pondering was that, even though we’re not using the Mass of Communion, even if we wanted to, it lacks a Lenten Gospel Acclamation. Since we won’t be using the Alleluia, we have to use substitute words. I did some Googling and found only one person talking about that Mass, so I asked him what he would do for Lent, and he created a whole YouTube video to answer me!
Oh, Lent. You inspire us in so many ways.
Dec 24 2011
I hear time and time again how the new translation of the Mass “seems awkward to me,” “doesn’t make sense to the people in the pews [commentators assume, because every person thinks alike],” or “is too much like Latin, which people don’t speak.” This egocentrism is astounding. Yes, the Mass is the Church’s highest form of prayer, so it should be accessible to most ordinary people. That does not mean that something that seems uncomfortable to you should be changed to suit your demands.
Learning is not always easy. I remember that fateful day in my seventh-grade pre-algebra class when I found out my teachers had been lying to me all along: you could subtract 3 from 2. Welcome to negative numbers. I maintain that there is a difference between “you’ll learn that (how to subtract 3 from 2) when you’re older” and “you can’t do that.” It took some time to wrap my head around an entirely new way to see numbers, but I managed to do it. Even though I never liked math, I was always fairly good at it because I learned how to do what I was taught. When something didn’t make sense, I knew it was just part of my learning process and that I should keep working at it until it felt comfortable.
Learning the new Mass translation is going to be like learning to do math with negative numbers. Most Catholics don’t remember the process of learning the old responses, but it was just that: a process. They spent a few weeks stumbling through unfamiliar words and phrases until they got it right. I did just that when I went back to church in college. Many more Catholics are familiar with learning new musical settings of the Mass. (Although everyone seems to know the (old) Mass of Creation, no one was born knowing it.) This will take time. The language has been widely available on the Internet for a year for any “person in the pew” to practice. The new prayers of the priest are also available: online for those who like to prep at home and in a free multi-platform app for people who use their smartphones in church.
One of my pet peeves in criticism about the new translation is the ubiquitous focus on certain aspects to the complete omission of others. For example, everyone seems to be up in arms about the phrase “consubstantial with the Father” replacing “one in being with the Father.” What does “consubstantial” mean? There are two ways to look at it. One is arguably more “person in the pew”-friendly: it means “one in being with” because that’s what it replaced. The other is the way I first looked at it. I like language and have two English degrees, so I readily concede that most people don’t approach words the way I do. However, I have taught many a high school student to break down unfamiliar words. “Con-” means “with,” as in “chili con carne” or “connect.” “Substantial” means “of the same substance,” the same basic stuff. Therefore, “consubstantial” means “made of the same stuff.” In essence, “consubstantial” is a more precise word because the Son is “made of the same stuff” as the Father in the same way that I am made of the same “stuff” as my dad. We just share an affinity for Star Trek and a temper trigger instead of sharing the power to forgive sin. “Consubstantial” is a huge issue, but “apostolic” still isn’t? I’m not buying it. It’s just a weak backlash against having to do something new. People don’t like change, so they’re going to complain until it becomes second nature and they wonder why we were content with what was adequate for so long when we could have had the best.
Individual words aside, it seems as though almost no one has noticed or minded that the memorial acclamation “Christ has died” was eliminated from the new translation. Perhaps they didn’t know where it came from, but they don’t seem to mind where it’s gone. That seems like it ought to be a less comfortable shift than single words here or there.
For what it’s worth, I find that some people are clearly stunned by the change (which is their own fault; the news has been heavy on this for months), but most are rolling with it. Having to pay attention is not a bad thing. I was floored when, listening closely as I have for the last month, I realized that the collect from the Fourth Sunday of Advent is the same as the concluding prayer of the Angelus. How did that get mistranslated for so long? That’s the best connection to me, a person in the pews, that I’ve had between my personal devotions and the Mass in a long time.
Learning takes time. Sometimes it is difficult. Without change and learning, we might as well be dead. This awkwardness, too, shall pass.