Don’t be too concerned if you and your children stumble over the words of the Mass beginning Nov. 26-27, the first weekend of Advent. Your presider may stumble a little, too.
“You need to be patient with your priests,” Father John Paul Erickson said during an Oct. 27 workshop, “Teaching Children and Youth about the Revised Translation of the Roman Missal,” at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings for about 60 religious education directors.
“Archbishop [John] Nienstedt reminded me that Nov. 27 will come and go and people will continue to learn,” said Father Erickson, director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship.
He and Lori Dahlhoff, executive director of the National Catholic Educational Association’s Department of Religious Education, presented information and provided tips to help young people understand the Liturgy (see accompanying box).
One blessing that comes from the changes contained in the new Roman Missal is that “everybody gets to feel like a little child for a while in learning this,” said Dahlhoff, who previously worked for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
“Even [for] the smallest among us — whether that’s the newest to the church or in age — there is always a time that we don’t know, so we’re learning this and everybody is more aware of that,” she said.
Time is big challenge
The greatest challenge to learning the new prayers is lack of time, Father Erickson said.
- First, Catholics need to take the time to learn why the changes are taking place.
- Second, they need to understand the meaning of the words and the meaning of the Mass itself.
- Third, people need to study, listen and sacrifice a night for formation on a Wednesday or a Thursday.
“That is asking a lot of people these days,” he said. “I think the reward will be . . . a renewed awareness and a renewed interest, hopefully, in the power and the meaning of the Mass. . . . This is really a chance for young people, as [it is for] adults, to strive to know the Mass better and know its importance in their lives.”
A game of “telephone tag” during the workshop helped clarify why the Catholic Church is updating the language used in the Mass. The first Sacramentary or collection of prayers is attributed to Pope Leo the Great in mid-400, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website. The first Roman Missal to be used throughout the Latin Church came out after the Council of Trent in 1570.
One sentence from that earlier text was passed along at the workshop through eight individuals, each one representing an update to the missal by various popes. The final sentence about mystagogy was quite different from the original sentence.
“The church is saying, ‘Here is the original sentence,’” Dahlhoff said. A couple of other illustrations that were suggested to use with children included a see-saw or a rope-tugging activity. Those visual examples can help children understand that we are expected to “partner” with Christ in the Liturgy, along with the priest, each other and the world.
In Advent, when the priest says: “The Lord be with you,” the faithful will respond, “And with your Spirit.”
That blessing and response are repeated four times during the Mass: at the gathering to acknowledge Christ in the priest and the people; at the Gospel before we listen to Christ in the Word; at the Eucharist when Christ is present in the Body and Blood; and at the end of Mass when we are called to bring Christ into the world, she explained.
As people learn and understand the new language in the Mass, Dahlhoff said she expects there will be a “different sense of welcome and patience with one another.”
This Advent is a good time to invite people in or back to the Catholic Church because everyone will be learning together, she said.
But Advent will not be the end of the teaching, Father Erickson said.
“Quite honestly, I see our support [from the Office of Worship, which is comprised of Father Erickson and his assistant] growing after Advent,” he said. “Once the implementation does take place and we are done talking about it and we have to do it, we’ll know what has been prepared well and what areas are still deficient; so we can step up to the plate and really help those parishes and schools with those deficiencies.”
Many teaching resources are available from the archdiocese, The Catholic Spirit, the USCCB, Catholic publishers and other dioceses. There are even YouTube videos for teens from LifeTeen.
Tips for parents
Lori Dahlhoff, executive director of the religious education department of the National Catholic Educational Association, offered the following tips and comments for helping children learn and understand the new language in the Mass.
1) Be open to their questions. Listen to what they are asking, and if you don’t know the answer, ask a parish catechist or visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
2) Ask them questions. As you walk out of church, ask them what they think about a new word or gesture used at Mass.
3) Pray it with them. The main way to teach prayer is to pray and to trust that the Spirit will work through everyone to come to a greater understanding.
“Teaching one another through our questions and our sharing of our experiences will be more effective than any class,” Dahlhoff said.
Category: New Roman Missal