New words for worship

Parish members use temporary missals as
Parish members use temporary missals as 'cheat sheets' until they learn the new translation of Mass.
— image credit: JJ Swanson

Catholics in Bremerton experienced a whole new language of worship at Mass on Sunday. Along with changes to familiar and cyclical hymns, the liturgy, or words that are said at Mass, have also undergone significant revisions.

"The Lord be with you," said Rev. Derek Lappe to his parish at the first advent Sunday Mass.

"And also with-" started a few members of the congregation, their habit to reply with the familiar phrase "and also with you." But they quickly correct themselves with the new liturgy, "And with your spirit."

The Vatican approved all changes in April 2010, and churches were granted the power to incorporate some of the new phrases as early as September of this year. Our Lady Star of the Sea parish in Bremerton began replacing the most familiar sacred phrases five weeks ago to help churchgoers transition for the big change.

"That one is the hardest because it's on your tongue," said Anna Vasquez who has been a member of this parish for 18 years.

Vasquez and the members of the parish have taken the changes in stride. Some have even eagerly anticipated this change, believing that the language brings a more poetic and spiritual tone to Mass.

Lappe compared the new translation and old words in terms of formality.

"When you address the people, in all public speaking, it's a much more casual tone, with jokes and stories, because people function that way. However, in prayer, it should be elevated, like a formal letter to the President or the king. It's a different audience, so different words," said Lappe.

The new English liturgy is much closer now to the Spanish translations of the original Latin texts than they were before, according to parish member Daniel Bauer, who studied for six years in Spain.

Bauer explained that in countries like Spain and France, the Latin Mass was translated nearly word for word, but the original English translations favored, less clunky version the first time around. Bauer felt a lot that was lost is finally being put back.

"The new Mass is just lovely," he said.

"Beautifully overwhelming," said Carolyn Blanset, a parish member.

"I wanted this so badly, so I learned the words fast," said Margaret Dixon, another parish member.

The Bremerton church has done what it can to ease any apprehensions to the change by offering classes wherein parish members can practice the new words.

Pamphlets explaining the journey to this change are also available in the fellowship halls.

"We didn't want anyone to be in cold water today. Everybody should have known," said Lappe.

The new liturgy required a number of administrative preparations as well. Temporary sheets of paper with the new words were printed and filed in pews so that the congregation could follow along. The church has also ordered all new hymnal books.

To help with costs, Lappe reminded his congregation that individuals can donate $20 for a hymnal if they choose.

"Thank you for your patience as we go through this change," said Lappe to all his congregants.

The Lappe's homily was all about the theme of learning to listen again.

"Mass has become so familiar, for some it is in danger of becoming a mindless ritual," he said. Though new words might be jarring to those who find comfort in ritual, the change is a "rich opportunity" for Catholics to listen again through the beauty of new words, he said.

Lappe likes to give the example of the little girl who fussed at Mass because she was bored. She kept bothering her mother, asking what was taking the Father so long. Her mother said, "he's changing the wine into Jesus' blood." To which the girl sighed, "Oh, he's always doing that."  It's an illustration of how even the most sacred can be jaded by the repetitiveness of ritual, he said.

"Today is a new era in the English-speaking church," Lappe said. "Not all change is good, but this one is."



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