Priests prepare for new Mass prayers

| November 21, 2011 | 2 Comments

Priests around the archdiocese have been poring over liturgical scripts and rehearsing speaking parts in anticipation of the Nov. 27 debut of the new Roman Missal, which will usher in the most significant changes to the Mass in more than 40 years.

While people in the pews will need to relearn some familiar prayers, it’s priests who will be most affected by the new Mass translation, which more closely matches the language of the Latin missal.

“Pretty much every single prayer [the priest says] is being modified in some way, whether it’s being lengthened a little bit or some adjectives are being added,” Father John Paul Erickson, director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship, told The Catholic Spirit.

Along with the wording changes come changes to the priest’s chants, he said. “We priests get used to singing the prayers in a particular way, and with different wordings, that will necessitate different tones to use. So that will also take some getting used to.”

Then there are the changes to special Masses, such as weddings and during Holy Week, he added.


To help priests prepare for the changes, and to help them prepare their parishioners, the archdiocese has conducted conferences and workshops, mailed instructional DVDs to parishes, published a series of articles in The Catholic Spirit, suggested resources for parish bulletins, and posted information on the Office of Worship website.

At least one pastor, Franciscan Father Eugene Michel of Sacred Heart in St. Paul, has invited parishioners to attend a rehearsal Mass — minus the consecration of bread and wine — allowing him to identify any trouble spots before “going live.”

The practice also gives him an opportunity to pause and explain some of the wording changes to parishioners.

“If a priest stumbles through the Eucharistic Prayer that first Sunday, . . . people will say, ‘He wants us to be prepared, but he wasn’t,’” Father Eugene said. “So it’s imperative that the priest is prepared. It’s not difficult; it’s a matter of finding the time [to practice] and not trying to rush through the words.”

Internalizing the changes

While there have been revisions to just about all of the prayers, the rubrics, something like “stage directions” in theater terms, have not changed, Father Eugene said.

“If you made a video of the Mass now and the Mass after Advent, and it had no sound, it would look the same,” he noted.

Father Kevin Finnegan, pastor of Divine Mercy in Faribault, St. Patrick in Shields­ville and St. Michael in Kenyon, said he’s been practicing the new Mass prayers in his free time and incorporating them into his daily morning prayer.

He said he wants to “internalize” the new words so that when he says them during Mass, rather than just reading from a book, he’s “expressing a prayer, a desire.”

While most U.S. priests will use the new missal for the first time this Sunday, Father Finnegan concelebrated the revised Mass with an Australian priest at the 2011 World Youth Day in Spain.

In Australia, the new translation has been in use since June.

“Even though I?said to everybody: ‘Now, when the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” we will all say, “And with your spirit,”’ even I messed up,” Father Finne­gan said with a chuckle.

It will understandably take some time for Catholics to retrain their tongues, the priest said.

But with time, he added, the new words will become familiar once again.

After the Mass in Spain, Father Finnegan reflected on the experience. Despite the minor slip-up, he said, “it worked, and it was beautiful.”

Time of grace

Worship director Father Erickson said he sees this time of transition as a “grace-filled moment,” which he likened to moving into a new home.

“When we move, it’s a wonderful chance to really take stock of what we own and what we want to dispose of . . . and what we want to showcase more clearly in our new home,” he said. “Times of transition are naturally times in which we can purify and elevate and begin again.”

For example, Father Erickson encourages priests to incorporate more chanting in their celebrations of the Mass.

“The ideal of the church, the absolute ideal, is that the Mass would be sung from start to finish, a beautiful song of praise,” he said.

His best piece of advice to priests in the few days before the curtain rises: “Practice, practice, practice.”

“With the many pastoral duties we have, the idea of sitting down with the text and reviewing it and practicing it can seem absurd [and] a lot of work.” And yet, he said, “it’s worth it — not only because the Mass is the source and summit of our Christian way of life, but also because if we don’t [practice], we’re going to stumble and we’re going to bumble through the prayers on Sunday, and that helps no one to pray the Mass.”

Father Erickson asks Catholics to be patient with priests during the transition.

“It will require some effort really to make sure that our lips don’t go back to the old way,” he said.

How will priest’s prayers at Mass change?

Here’s a sample:

Second Eucharistic Prayer

Before: “. . . Before he was given up to death, a death he freely accepted, he took bread and gave you thanks. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you. . . .”

After: “. . . At the time he was betrayed and entered willingly into his Passion, he took bread and, giving thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take this, all of you, and eat of it: for this is my Body which will be given up for you. . . .”

Preparation of the Gifts

Before: “. . . Lord God, we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite hearts. . . .”

After: “. . . With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God. . . .”

(after the Our Father)

Before: “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

After: “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Cleansing of the Vessels

Before: “Lord, may I receive these gifts in purity of heart. May they bring me healing and strength, now and for ever.”

After: “What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.”

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Category: New Roman Missal