I have a recurring nightmare. I dream I’m at Mass for the Umpteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, and the assembly is “Amening” in reply to the Opening Prayer. As the presider closes the book, he bends to whisper something to the six-year-old server. The cherub disappears into the sacristy as the lector mounts the ambo. Shortly after “A reading from the prophet Isaiah,” the kid reappears holding a brass candle lighter with so much wick aflame the smoke detector is in danger of sirening.
He jabs the flame upward at the altar candle closest to him, which is about three feet taller than he is. It takes half a dozen attempts to ignite. Then he walks to the other side of the altar to light the second candle. He finally completes the task, as the assembly sings “The Lord is my light and my salvation” in response to the reading. The server extinguishes his torch, and his parents deem it unnecessary to finish punching 911 into the cell phone.
Only it’s not a dream. Well, not all of it anyway. I’m sure it’s happened to you. Sometime after Mass starts, you notice something that should have been turned on, put away, set out, marked up, or moved over. Even if you mostly get it right, almost every parish I’ve worshiped in is rushing to set up right up to the minute Mass begins.
My difficulty with such scurrying is it misses the point of the gathering. The goal is not to get Father to the altar. The goal is to welcome the stranger. If we are distracted by the details, we’re in danger of missing the Christ among us. So here’s a quick checklist of tasks to be completed before Mass begins. Ideally, these should be done before the first worshiper walks through the door, which is usually 20-30 minutes before the scheduled Mass time.
Turn on and test all microphones
Set out the communion ware
Mark and set out the lectionary, sacramentary, and intercessions book
Turn on all lights
Light all candles
Move the cross (and candles) to the church entrance for the procession
Prepare incense if necessary
Presider is vested and greeting people as they gather
Musicians’ rehearsal is completed
Almost all of these tasks can be delegated to parishioners. Sure, some of the preparation will fall through the cracks once in a while, but investing the community with responsibility for preparing for Mass increases their participation in the liturgy and in the parish.
How do you prepare for Sunday? Any additional tips to share?
This article originally appeared in Today’s Parish, September 2008.
The following article is updated from its first publication in the November 2009 edition of the Diocese of San Jose newspaper, The Valley Catholic.
The short answer is yes…but not for some time.
Since 2000, the English-speaking bishops of the world have been preparing a new translation of the Mass. This is because Pope John Paul II revised the Mass that year, adding some new texts, modifying some instructions, and changing some of the prayers.
Overall, however, the Pope did not make many significant changes to the Mass. So why then are the words changing? Like most documents of the Church, this revised Mass—the third version since Vatican II—was written in Latin. The following year, in a document called Liturgiam Authenticam, the Church issued new guidelines on translating prayer texts from Latin into other languages. This document called for a new way of translating, which emphasized retaining the style, structure, and words of the original Latin, a translation principle called “formal equivalency.” Previously, the Church used the principle of “dynamic equivalency,” which emphasized translating the meaning of the original text rather than its specific words. Because of Liturgiam Authenticam, every language group had to develop new translations of the Mass.
The English translation process is nearing its end, and the latest estimate for when the United States might begin using this new translation is December of 2011.
New words, closer connections
The revised English texts will reflect the style of the Latin texts. Some elements of this style include:
more noble tone
and rhythmic highlighting of significant words.
We’ll also hear a heightened way of speaking that includes more biblical references. For example, instead of saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” the new translation will be, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” This more closely connects to Luke 7:6-7.
The new translation will be used in all English-speaking countries, showing the unity of the Church throughout the world. It will also unite English speakers more closely to those who pray in other languages, since all translations will correspond to the Latin. For example, the new response to “The Lord be with you” will be, “And with your spirit.” In Spanish, we say, “Y con tu espíritu.”
A final vote and recognition
Over the last five years, the United States bishops have been deliberating and voting on sections of the translation. In 2006, they approved the first section, called the Order of Mass, which contains the texts that never change Sunday to Sunday. They sent that section to the Vatican, which gave its approval, called recognitio, in 2008. The next sections the bishops would discuss included the prayers for each Sunday, feast day, saint, and season. In November 2009, the United States bishops voted and approved the last of these prayers and sent it, along with the other ten sections they have already approved, to the Vatican. Now the Vatican will decide whether or not to give the entire translation its recognitio. Once it does, the US bishops will call for a year of preparation before we have permission and are required to use the new English translation at Mass. Go online to the US bishops’ Roman Missal Web site to see the texts of the Order of Mass and for other excellent resources. Remember these texts are for study only and are not to be used at Mass yet.
An opportunity to renew our practice
Let us remember that the Mass is not made up of words alone. The “language” of the Mass includes silence, gestures, music, art, and stillness. It involves proclaiming the Gospel not only in words but also in the way we treat one another, before, during, and after Mass. This is an opportunity for us to renew every aspect of the Mass and to reflect on how we live out its meaning in our daily lives. In preparation for these translation changes, pay closer attention to the words we use at Mass now. Reflect on them throughout the week. What do they mean for you? How do you live them out in your daily interactions with others?
How is your parish or community preparing for these new words to the Mass? Share your thoughts by clicking the “comments” link at the top right of this article.
For the last 40 years, countries around the world have been celebrating Earth Day each April 22. This year, the Catholic Church has made a more intentional commitment to advocating care for the Earth. Pope Benedict XVI has been particularly vocal in calling for Catholics to responsible stewardship of the Earth and its resources:
In nature the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God’s creative activity…The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility toward the poor, toward future generations, and toward humanity as a whole. (Caritatis in Veritate)
So has the Church become a bunch of "tree-huggers"? Isn’t all this Earth Day stuff a bit too new-agey? Here are three reasons why I think loving and caring for the Earth is a very Catholic discipline and duty:
1. Care for the Earth is care for the Eucharist
God is the Creator "who made heaven and earth" (Psalm 121). The first thing God did was create the world and everything around us. God, in a sense, was the first tree-hugger, for he called all he had made very good. The Earth and all the creatures upon it, under it, and over it are God’s gifts to us. Our response to all God’s gifts is always "thank you"–efharisto–Eucharist.
In the Eucharist, we take the gifts God has given us–grain, grapes, sunlight, fields, knowledge, patience, wisdom, skill–and with the work of our hands make them into bread and wine for the hungry and help and nourishment for the poor. And through the work of the Spirit, these earthly things are transformed into holy gifts for holy people. Love for the Eucharist, then, must be rooted in care for the natural, earthly things we bring to the Eucharistic table. Love for the Body and Blood of Christ must be made authentic by care for everything God has given to us.
2. Care for the Earth is an act of gracious hospitality
God didn’t just make "stuff" so we could have stuff. God made the Earth into a home where human beings and all creatures could thrive. This is essentially an act of gracious hospitality. God made not only room for us; God made a home. So too in our homes. We don’t just surround ourselves with generic, disposable products, thrown away when they are no longer useful. We savor and cherish the things that have meaning for us, the things that are authentic and beautiful. And we honor them even when they have exhausted their practical value–candles burn down; real flowers die–for it is their sacrifice that is grace-filled. We don’t simply get supplies or commodities for our houses. We create a hospitable, comfortable, beautiful, clean, safe place where those we love and those we meet can rest, be renewed, and reach their full potential, even when society says they are "used up."
In the home of the Church, we do the same. We prepare places of worship that aren’t generic; they bear the hand-stamp of the artist, the beauty of authenticity, and the sacrifice of the community. We don’t just decorate a church; we bathe it with holy water, we anoint it with Chrism, we light it with the light of Christ and clothe its altar in baptismal white, and then we feed it with the Body and Blood of Christ. Hospitality is not just about greeting people. It’s about making people feel "at home." Care for the earth isn’t just about having resources or making things nice. It’s about helping everyone thrive and be at home on this planet we share.
3. Care for the Earth unites us to our past and our future
Our entire Christian faith is never just about "now." It’s not about immediate gratification or careless disposal of things no longer useful. We remember the past (anamnesis) in such a way that what we remember God doing for our ancestors is what we understand God to be doing for us now. We remember the future, for what God has done is a foretaste (prolepsis) of what is already happening now around Christ’s heavenly throne with all the saints and angels. And we recall all this now through the grace of the Spirit (epiclesis) whenever we gather in Christ’s name to remember, give thanks, and wait in joyful hope for his coming again.
Care for the earth is a work that roots us to our past. When we begin to connect to a place and the things of nature in that place–the trees, the soil, the water, the air–we are remembering and connecting with our ancestors and the people who touched those trees, walked that land, drank that water, and breathed the same air. Through our care for that place, we become part of that lineage–that communion–of people who were part of that land. And in so doing, we understand more who we are today.
Care for the earth is also a statement of hope in and for the future. We plant seeds for trees we will never see to full stature. We remove trash and waste from water that will flow to other shores. We limit what we expend so that our children’s children will have clean air to breathe. In a way, we become like Moses who prepared a people to enter a land of milk and honey promised not to him but to his descendants.
This Earth Day, let all Christians recall God’s first gift to us. Let us give thanks that God has given all of us a home called Earth. Let us remember our roots and work for the future. With Christ’s Easter promise, let us help bring new life to our own places of the world.
I wish to pose a question: is there an inverse relationship between how long one sits in Church, and how much grace one can receive?
I don’t mean the question to be blasphemous, or to claim God doesn’t have the power to restore our souls no matter what the circumstances are, but if someone is sitting in Church longer than they want to be there, is it really doing them any good? And how much of a responsibility do we have to be sensitive to this phenomenon? Or do we as ministers have an obligation to push the importance of Church and fight the ever-decreasing attention span of our members?
One example: when I worked for St. Aloysius before moving to the Reformed Church of Bronxville, we always planned the Easter Vigil so it would be complete in 90 minutes. We generally were very close, but to accomplish it we sacrificed the Old Testament scriptures, only proclaiming the minimum. I remember feeling sad that we were missing half the story, but happy that our church gradually increased attendance each year. Along those same lines, when I attended Easter Vigil at St. Francis Xavier in NewYork this year, it was over 2 hours long with every piece of the liturgy in tact, and the most beautiful Liturgy I think I’ve ever participated in.
This is a real head-scratcher for me. I have sympathy for overworked parish staffs who decide to schedule the Christmas Midnight Mass at an earlier hour. But what’s up at the Vatican that they can’t keep Midnight Mass at midnight?
And for those of you who do move the midnight hour back a bit, what time are you scheduling the Mass? Many places choose 11 p.m., so Mass ends at midnight. Many places, like the Vatican, choose 10 p.m. That seems like an odd choice. If the reason for an earlier time is convenience, why not 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.? Or even 9 p.m., if you’re thinking of attracting the post-dinner crowd? I can’t figure out the reason for a 10 p.m. Mass at all.
What time do you schedule Midnight Mass? And, if it’s not midnight, what is the pastoral background for your choice? Thanks for sharing.
I saw a great statement on the Catholic Catechists Yahoo group that I wanted to share with you. Veteran confirmation catechist, Barb Serbu, from Middletown, Delaware, wrote:
We have turned confirmation from the gift of the Spirit into a trial and gauntlet children have to run in order to “get out” of religious ed. Confirmation is a giftof grace. We don’t earn gifts….
But we have turned confirmation into something it is not. No church document says that confirmation is the “rite of passage” we have made it into. It is a shame we give grace no credit whatsoever.
I was especially interested in Barb’s terrific comment because I was having a discussion with a colleague just before I read it. We were trying to identify at what age most parishes confirm children. If it were up to me, we’d return to the way the apostles did it and confirm whenever we baptize—at whatever age. At the very least, we should get the order of the sacraments straightened out. It’s only been since 1910 (in most places) that confirmation has been celebrated out of order—that is, after first Communion. It belongs between baptism and Eucharist.
Anyway, we never did agree on when parishes are actually confirming. So I thought I’d ask you. At what age do you confirm in your parish?