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Holy Changes!

Today is the last Sunday in the Roman Catholic church calendar, the celebration of Christ the King. Advent begins next Sunday, but that’s not the big news. Next Sunday also begins the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

The new translation is part of an effort to make the Mass parts correspond more closely to the original Latin. At Mass today, they handed out cards with the new Mass parts, the changes in bold. Seeing the new words I was struck by how they were closer to the Spanish translation. I was also struck by a kind of panic. I had to learn these parts over again? Here was a new Gloria. A new Nicene Creed. A new Holy, Holy, Holy!

This is the biggest change in the Mass since the Second Vatican Council, and seeing as how I wasn’t around in 1965, this is the biggest change in the Mass for me personally since we stopped holding hands during the “Our Father”. A student at a Catholic school for essentially all of my education, I had to attend Mass many times with my classmates, and  I still remember the anticipation of having to hold hands with a boy, for better or worse.  When we were told we wouldn’t be holding hands anymore, just holding our own hands out before us, palms up, I can’t say I wasn’t at least a little disappointed. I got used to it, but it’s never been quite the same.

Perhaps this points to me being a huge Mass nerd (as well as someone very focused on words), but when the priest reminded us at the end of Mass that this would be the last time we’d be saying “Thanks be to God,” I couldn’t help but feel a pang. These are the words I’ve sung in choir. The words I’d whisper under my breath in foreign countries and at the Polish Mass in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn when I missed the English service. These are the words I’ve recited too many times to imagine counting.  And now they’re changing.

Change can be a good thing, of course, and seeing the new translation does cause you to reflect anew on the meaning of what we say at Mass, week after week, year after year.

I just hope that when I say I slipped the now “old” Missal into my jacket and smuggled it out of the church, I will be humored as just another nostalgic Catholic girl trying to hold on to a part of her history. 


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