Fr. Richard Hilgartner, Executive Director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), shares some of the changes behind the new translation of the Roman Missal. He particularly talks about the challenges and opportunities about sharing these changes in the context of youth ministry. Video is taken from the 2010 Life Teen Liturgy and Music Conference.
Transcript of the talk is below.
I’d like to speak about some of the particular challenges and I think the particular opportunities that we face. Especially as you in particular work with young people in preparing them for what will really be for this generation the first substantial and significant changes in Roman Catholic Worship.
Certainly in the lifetime of our young people the implementation of the changes in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal in 2003 were relatively insignificant. Some teenagers might remember when they were children the change from ‘This is the Word of the Lord’ to ‘The Word of the Lord’. And most of them probably never noticed that. That is probably the most landmark change.
Young people who are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion might remember ok, we went to the altar at this time, now we’re go at this time before I could purify the chalice, now I can’t do the dishes. And so some people might remember some of those little things and experienced those little things. But this is going to rock the world of a whole generation of the Church, and I am part of that generation.
I was ordained in 1995 and I was alive when the changes of the Second Vatican Council were implemented. I was a babe in arms. I made my first communion at a home Mass where I helped bake the bread and I shudder to think about what might have been in that and whether or not it was valid. We had the folk group there from the parish in the living room singing all the great Joe Wise songs of 1975.
But I was steeped and formed in the way Liturgy in the way we celebrate today. The Sacramentary: the Red Book, that sits on the altar, that sits in the altar servers hand. That’s the only thing I have known and so this is going to be a challenge for me.
When I first went to work at the Bishops conference the first time one of the draft text was put in front of me, my jaw dropped. I thought, “What have I gotten myself into in agreeing to come work here and be part of this.”
And I must say that the more time I have spent with the text, the more time I have spent with what is going to be the language of our Liturgy, the more I am looking forward to what we’re going to see next year. And I think to me that says that the biggest obstacle is just getting over the idea that something is changing. So let’s talk a little about that today and then we will have time to do the Q & A and talk about particular text.
Why is Liturgy important?
Just to bring us back, obviously this is important to us because the first text of the Second Vatican Counsel was the Constitutional on the Sacred Liturgy. And it reminds us that the Liturgy is the “Source and the Summit” of the Christian life. It should scare us that we’re going to make some changes, that we’re going to tweek with and mess with our worship. And it says something about the success of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Counsel that we get so defensive, because it is going to affect full conscience and active liturgical participation.
It says that we’re doing something right that people who know the text, the words, the prayers so well are nervous about changing them. Because it says that we own them. That the faithful own them. You know you can go up to a Catholic and say, ‘The Lord be with you’ and they say (Audience responds) ‘And also with you.’ Except now we’re going to say, (Audience responds) ‘And with your Spirit.’ See you already know what’s going on and the room didn’t just collapse because we changed the words. So, the Liturgy is a core for us so we’ve got to take it seriously.
Is Liturgy important to Teens?
A couple of things, and I am not an expert on youth ministry, that’s not my background, my background is Liturgy. I could talk about Liturgy until the cows come home. I’ve done youth ministry. I’ve been involved with young people. I love work with young people. So this is all my stuff, I’ve not mind all kinds of official text. I am not an expert in adolescent catechesis. But here’s some things that I think will help us.
One is that young people are open to new ideas. It’s sometimes frustrating how open to new ideas young people are. You know, who want the newest song that the just heard yesterday on the radio, at worship. They’re responsive to trends, sometimes too much. They’re flexible, generally, until you try to pull them away from something that they don’t want to be flexible about. But they are not often set in their ways because they have been formed by a culture that is always updating, adapting and replacing.
Ask young people about their cell phones. I bet that most young people don’t make it through a two year contract on their cell phone. I would imagine because they’ve got to have the newest addition. I know priests who are that way. Who had an iPhone 3GS and then the minute the iPhone 4 came out they were there. And then three days later, banging their heads against the wall, wanting the 3GS back. I mean, I’ve got my iPhone, I’ve got my iPad and the whole nine yards, but they’re used to 3.1 and 4.0 and 4.0 new update, whatever.
It’s always new, it’s always changing and they are used to that. And for them change is just not a frightening concept. This should help us in preparing to introduce this with the Liturgy.
On the other hand, young people don’t see the Church as something that changes frequently because they don’t see it changing frequently. Liturgy does not seem to, on the one hand, in many circles, seem to adapt or respond to the signs of the times. I think Life Teen and other efforts at engaging young people and the culture of the life young people in the Liturgy and trying to make the Liturgy speak to that culture is an example of trying to do that. But the Church in a global sense might not seem really able to do that.
The images we see of the Church at a universal level, images of Pope Benedict celebrating Mass in Hyde Park in England yesterday. You know not exactly speaking to the today, the adapting to the signs of the times but holding to this Tradition. We have to have both, but young people don’t necessarily readily see that.
They don’t sometimes see that Liturgy is relevant or speak to their particular lives. Again, Life Teen and example of how it IS working and how it does work and does strive to do those things. These are some of the challenges that we might face.
Many young people, the ones that we need to reach out to the most, the ones who aren’t there, would be the ones who might see the Liturgy as irrelevant or boring or far into their own life experience. Of course you’re here, we’re all here because we strive to create an environment where young people feel welcome and at home in the Liturgy. We strive to celebrate vibrant worship that engages them, draws them into the mysteries being celebrated, allows those mysteries to permeate and interact with their lives and it enables their culture to shape how that Liturgy is celebrated. I think this is really the aim and goal of all liturgies and all worship and not just for Life Teen or Youth Masses, or School Masses or Campus Ministry settings.
How do we being to implement the New Roman Missal?
First use of the new Roman Missal as you are probably aware of by now is slated for the first Sunday in Advent in 2011. That’s not Liturgical year 2011, which starts in a couple of months, but a year from now really, Liturgical year 2012. So mark your calendars for Sunday, November 27, 2011.
The Bishops of the United States have asked for a whole 12 month plan and period of catechesis and conversation about the Liturgy through the new text of the Mass. The hope of the Bishops of the United States is, and really the Bishops of the English speaking world, is that all people will be ready to pray with new words and not just be ready for new words, but more mindful that we celebrate the same Christ, the same mystery of faith, the same Eucharist. We encounter the same Lord, but with a new appreciation for and a deeper understanding of what is that we do when we celebrate the Mass. The Bishops hope that catechesis isn’t just about, ‘ok, and now we’re going to say ‘And with your Spirit. Ok everybody say that all together’ but it is really going to be about something deeper, because we have an unprecedented opportunity that doesn’t come around often to have a really big, widespread conversation about the Liturgy. To really bring everybody in the parish to the same place and the same page.
As we prepare for the implementation of the Missal, there are undoubtedly questions. There have already been lots of questions, as Tom said earlier there will be a time of uneasiness for some people, I would say especially for priests. Not to frighten the priests in the room. But, because change doesn’t come easy for most of us. And for us priests, old habits die hard. I know most of the Sacramentary by heart. Not just I am a Liturgist but because I have been a priest for 15 years. Those of you have been at this longer than I have probably know more of it than I do by heart. Unfamiliar text will be uncomfortable because their unfamiliar. We could say the same thing would have happened in 1970.
The catechetical process I think necessarily begins with answering the most basic question. It’s what everybody wants to ask right upfront. When we do workshops with priests around the country right now we do an exercise where we have the ‘craft and elevator speech’, or a ‘meet and greet speech.’ I call it the ‘parking lot’ or the ‘front door’ speech for after Mass. Thirty seconds when some angry parishioner comes up and says, ‘Father why are we doing this, I don’t think we ought to be doing this’ so we’ve had some priests come up with some incredibly creative responses. Some very culturally instilled.
When I was at the workshop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin a couple of months ago, people likened it to the move of Bret Farve from the Packers. They said, you know initially everybody hated it when Bret Farve retired but a year later after he had gone off played with the Jets and then another year later when he went back and played with the Vikings, people in Green Bay, the Packers are playing really well and they said you know what we got over and we are at a better place for that. And that was their analogy to get people calmed down about the missal. And it really worked. They people were able to find a cultural expression that spoke to this.
So there are two real short answers to the question why. One is that, because we’re part of a church that is bigger than any one language group or any one culture, we exist on a universal plain, the Catholic Church through the world. Well, the Catholic Church issued a new version of the book in 2002 and actually, addendum to the story, they issued another update. This is the Roman Missal third edition in 2002. In 2008 the Vatican issued a reprint. So I call it Roman Missal 3.1. Corrected a few mistakes, added yet a few more saints who had been added in the ensuing years. So, we’re basically working on Roman Missal 3.1. People understand that kind of language. You know we’re on Windows what now? And Vista, XP. And some people are still using 95. But with the Roman Missal it kinda helps when we’re all on literally the same page. It works better when everybody is in the same place.
Our office at the USCCB went to Office 2007 about a year or two ago and it kills me when I have to keep resending attachments because people can’t open Word 07 documents. It really helps when we’re all on the same page. And this is one of those things. So, there’s a new Latin text, all kinds of new things. I’ll share with you in a minute what’s in that.
The bigger question for us in the English speaking world is why are the existing things changing? And it is because we have guidelines and principles and the process for translation has been nuanced since 1970. I would hope it’s been nuanced since 1970. That we could take everything we’ve learned over the past 40 years of celebrating the Liturgy in our local language and say, ‘we’ve learned some things by doing it. And let’s go back and do it having incorporated the things that we’ve learned.’ That’s the part that’s the harder question to answer.
What’s new in the New Roman Missal?
So we’ve got a lot of new things that are in the new edition Missal. I’m just going to fast forward through this. And these are things that only a liturgist could get excited about.
New prefaces to the Eucharist Prayer. And today we celebrate the feast of the Korean Martyrs, there’s actually a second preface for martyrs in the new missal. So we don’t always have to go to the same one. There’s just a second one. It’s nice. Some additional prayers over the people for each day of Lent. This actually goes way back to the early Roman Sacramentaries of the first millennium. They were taken out in 1970. They’ve been put back in. More solemn blessings, more formulas for celebrating vigil Masses on major feast days such as Epiphany and Ascension and an extended vigil for Pentecost. We talk about praying for the gift of the Spirit. The new edition of the Missal will contain a Pentecost Vigil that looks not unlike the Easter Vigil, with an extended vigil service where you could have a gathering through the whole evening with scripture readings and reflection time and psalms. Like the extended Liturgy of the Word at the Easter Vigil.
New Votive Masses, for celebrating Mass on particular devotional occasions, including a number of new formulas for celebrating the Blessed Virgin Mary. Masses for various needs and intentions, some new Mass formulas for that including for the United States the ‘Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life’ that will be prescribed for use on January 22nd the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, but it will also be usable on other occasions for celebrating with gatherings on Pro-Life occasions.
And that’s a U.S. particular text that’s new in the new edition. There’s another Liturgist geek kind of thing, special inserts for Eucharistic Prayers 2 and 3 for all the ritual Masses. It kind of completes that package that was incomplete in the old, in our current text. Masses for new saints probably makes the bulk of the new text. And some just updates in some of the rubrics and procedures in the general, not in the general instruction because we already got that text, but in some of the rubrics. Nothing’s going to change but really just bringing the text up to date to catch up to what we’re already doing so that the text reflects our actual practices.
So that’s the question about why do we have it? Part one is, we have a new Latin book and here is the things we’re going to get from that. Then a few minor editorial changes, some tweeking and some corrections of some earlier mistakes.
Language and Translation: The Big Changes
The bigger question for us has to do with translation, has to do with Liturgical language. One of the handouts I gave you is a chart called preparing a translation. And it short hands the evolution and it’s dangerous to short hand it in this way. The left hand column there gives quotes from the text that was the guiding principles and process in translation in 1969, that guided the English text that we’ve had in use since 1970. It was a French working text called ‘Comme le prevoit’. And then in the right hand column is the 2001 text, Liturgiam Authenticam.
It looks like we took this radical 180 degree shift and that’s not the case. These were principles that evolved over the course of 30 years. By the mid 1980’s there was already great criticism of the 1970 translation, saying that it was somehow at times a little bit too board in it’s translation, that it wasn’t accurate, that it glossed over a lot of metaphor, a lot of imagery, certainly a lot of Biblical language and language that’s part of our heritage. And there was by the mid 1980’s a call to refresh and redo the translation. It’s really just taken us 25 years to get to that point, with a lot of fits and starts along the way.
At the heart of that is paragraph 25, which I think is one of the things I give you in that quote, and it calls for Liturgical language, the preparations of Liturgical translations that are at the same time easily understandable, it preserves the original text’s dignity, it’s marked by beauty and doctrinal precision, all at the same time. That’s probably why it has taken 25 years to produce this because there was an attempt to retranslate the 1970 text in the late 1980’s and through the 1990’s for those of you who followed back then it was the ICEL sacramentary, that the U.S. Bishops worked with the International Commission of English for the Liturgy for about 10 years. And then by the time it got submitted to the Holy See, the Holy See had announced that the 2000 edition, the Third Edition was on it’s way, so that got tabled and in many ways that work got integrated into the current project. That was not all lost.
What’s the Catechetical process?
So the catechetical process that we’re going to engage in has two real goals. I said one is to prepare people to use the new translation, but really to help the faithful participate more fully, actively and conscientiously in the Mass with a fresh catechesis. We’ve got this unprecedented opportunity and we want to take time to look at that. Some people with the new translation have dismissed the new text with this different style of languages are cane and inaccessible and if challenged that people won’t be able to understand it. Other’s respond to the criticism by pointing at our ability to learn, our ability to adapt and to grow. And people challenge that to dismiss text as incomprehensible is an insult to our intelligence. Some words might be unfamiliar at first, and people can stand up and scream about the use of particular words like consubstantial or ineffable but, we have an opportunity before us to catechize.
So, the Bishops, and this is another quote paragraph 14 of the Sacrosantum Conciliumm the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy, the paragraph that gave us full, conscientious, active and Liturgical participation. Actually the second part of that says that the only that way happens is through catechesis, necessary instruction. And pastors of souls have to do, in all of the pastoral work have to do all that they can to achieve that. So, there are some who say that we shouldn’t have to teach about the Liturgy it should just happen. We know that that doesn’t happen and the Second Vatican Counsel recognized that.
This is from the USCCB document ‘Renewing the Vision,’ three goals of youth ministry, you probably know this better than I, but youth ministry seeks to empower young people to live as disciples, to draw them into responsible participation in the life of the Church, and to foster spiritual growth. It’s an awesome thing. Liturgy in particularly, in particular, the Bishops have said that the ministry of Prayer and Worship is one of those tools for doing that and catechesis is a piece of that. The Liturgy itself provides catechesis but there’s also a need for catechesis in order to do Liturgy well with young people.
Liturgy immerses young people in symbol, stories, and rituals, and catechesis works with that. And there has to be a connection to life experience. And again, this isn’t something that is just about young people in Liturgy, but it’s about all the Church and Liturgy. I went through and reread ‘Renewing the Vision’ the other day in preparing to come here and I was like ‘This isn’t really just about young people, this is about outreach to the whole Church. Youth Ministers just get it and you do it well.’
Observations about Young People
So let me make a few observations about young people and this unprecedented moment we have right now. One, is language is living. Whether we’re talking about English, French, Spanish, Swahili, Latin, Greek, you know, take your pick. Well, some would say Latin is not a living language anymore because nobody speaks it, but the Church tries to hold to that in some regards. But language is ever expanding, ever living, new words are introduced, and young people get that better than any of us. Young people understand that text is a verb not a noun more than the rest of us.
At the USCCB the Committee on Divine Worship just elected a new chairperson last year, Archbishop Greg Aimen from New Orleans and he met with our staff last week as he prepares to take over as chair this coming November and he said, ‘You know I am always accessible. I’ve given you my cell phone, you’ve got my email, you’ve got my home phone and my office phone. The best way to get a hold of me is my cell phone or text me.’ And my boss Monsignor Tony Sherman said, ‘I have no idea what that even is.’ He has an iPhone, and I love my boss greatly and he knows that I would say this, he has an iPhone that is totally wasted on him, because he doesn’t really even know how to answer it or make a call from it. I’ve tried to teach him a number of things and now I’m trying to teach him how to do text messaging so he can get a hold of our chair. But, young people knew this before the rest of us.
You know Google as a word, that’s an official word in an official dictionary now. I don’t even know how to say I want to search for something; I talk about googling even if I’m not going to be on a computer. It’s has become, it’s replaced the word search for me as a synonym. Young people understand all these pop culture phrases. You know, what Homer Simpson taught us. This is in the Oxford Dictionary now. Seinfield has taught us words. And Mark, I’m like you, I don’t have, I can’t make it look sexy and nice, I could just get the ideas up here. I mean, look at what McDonalds has taught us, for better or worse. And what movies have taught us about. And rap. These words, now, you’re not going to find these words in the new Roman Missal.
But do you know what word appears a lot in the new Roman Missal? Awesome. Young people have taught us that word. You know, it’s one of the gifts of the Spirit, wonder and awe. And at times the Bishops were afraid of it, when we were debating, when the Bishops were debating and discussing the drafts, they were afraid of the word ‘awesome’. I mean, it actually, it’s an accurate rendering and accurate translation of the Latin text, but the Bishops were afraid people would misunderstand it because of the way it’s been appropriated in today’s language. The word is in the missal. And there’s a word that young people teach us. Maybe it is a little bit overused. But language changes, it’s living. And young people know how to take new words and appropriate them. And the Liturgy might give us some new words.
One of my favorite ones that has been in a lot of debate is ineffable. I love that word and there is no synonym for it. Some people would say unspeakable, but that sounds like unspeakable violence. And last year when the Bishops were debating that word, Bishop Serateli got up, the chair of the committee, got up and said ineffable is not unspeakable. People can learn the word. I think it’s an awesome word, because it has to do with the fact that we can’t articulate the wonder of God. And it means what it tries to communicate, that there aren’t words to describe it and there is no other word in English to translate that. But people can learn it.
At one of the elevator speeches in Denver, a guy got up and said this really nice thing about the new Liturgy and learning our Tradition and then stepped aside and said, ‘And the ability to use the word ineffable at a cocktail party…..Priceless’.
The register of Liturgical language is going to be a challenge but I think that young people understand the various genres or registers of the English language. Twitter, you speak in a certain way for economy of words. Texting you speak with an economy of words without punctuation because you’ve only got so many keys to be able to use. Young people sometimes error on the side of letting Twitter and text and email filter into how they write everything. But, we’ve got different registers of language. The way you speak in one setting is not the way you speak in another. And that’s a way that we’re going to be able to talk about the new Liturgical text is there’s a particular register, a particular style in which we speak to one another and the way we dialogue and speak with the Lord as the Lord speaks to our hearts.
Some vocabulary will be unfamiliar, but it will invite catechesis. When people hear words they’ll say, ‘well what was that word and what does that mean?’ So, when we get to words like consubstantial it’s an opportunity to say, ‘well, what does that mean?’ Well, consubstantial refers to this unique relationship between the Persons of the Trinity, the Father and the Son. We don’t use that word in everyday conversation because that relationship doesn’t exist in everyday existence. It’s something that speaks only of the nature of the relationship between God the Father and His coeternal Son. And so we can have specific language to describe that specific thing.
The last element of this really has to do with language that helps us articulate and understand how we stand before God. Language that is self deprecatory, language that is humble and contrite. Phrases like, “Humbly we ask You, We beg You, Grant us we pray that we might” because we don’t dare just say God give us this, but Lord, humbly we ask You, we beseech You. Not everyday conversation, but we don’t have to stand, maybe it would be good if we stood humbly before each other and treated each other with that kind of deference and respect. The new Liturgy, the new language of the Liturgy will really help us with that.
The Challenges Moving Forward
In the dismissal, let me conclude with this and then we’ll take a break, new text in the Rite of Dismissal that were penned by Pope Benedict himself after the Senate of Bishops in 2005 on the Eucharist that I think will really help us articulate some of the challenges that we’ll have. You know, go forth, the Mass is ended, we’re done here, but it’s not just that. It’s that we’re going to be sent on mission. Go announce the Gospel of the Lord. Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life. Go in peace. The short hand version of it, that will really help us make the connections. What we recognize this old axiom about the Liturgy, what we pray, articulates what we believe, that really says something about how we live.
One of the criticisms people will have is that the timing couldn’t be worse, that the Church has more important issues to face. We do have a lot of issues to face. Speaking for justice, defending life, protecting young people, all the other issues that the Church faces in the world, but, it’s the Liturgy that shapes us and strengthens us to face all those things. The Liturgy, the source and the summit, is what empowers us, provides the context and sends us forth to face all those things. Young people get the mission language. They have a real hunger for something that’s relevant, for something, a passion to do good and to be of service and the Liturgy is really what is going to shape us to do that.
This opportunity I think we have before is an opportunity for renewal. Young people in particular are well equipped to use their faith and live it actively because they get those things. In many ways, I think young people will be a key in helping the rest of the Church in the United States, in the English speaking world, in this time. Because young people get change, they’re flexible, malleable, they can adapt in a way that others of us who are more ready to just kind of dig our heels in and say, ‘no I’m just not doing that’, are able to do.
You have an opportunity to be really effective catalysts in helping this time of transition because you can help young people model this for the rest of us. So allow young people to be part of the assembly that they can witness in this regard. Let them teach others that this is not something to be afraid of but it’s something that has a benefit and has a real opportunity for the ongoing renewal of the life of the Church.
As we work to celebrate the presence of Christ, celebrate our faith more faithfully, more fully, more conscientiously, and more actively, that it be a time to deepen and really nurture the faith that we profess and that we live. Amen? Amen!