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Asking the clergy about Missal changes


How will recent changes in the Catholic Missal affect Christmas Masses?

Christmas Eve Mass plays a central role for the faithful among Long Island's 1.4 million Catholics. And this year, for the first time since the 1960s, it will sound significantly different. That's because on Nov. 27, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops introduced a new translation of the Roman Missal, which covers the prayers for Christmas and all daily worship services.

When the language in the Missal was updated in the 1960s -- a process that took from 1962 to implementation in 1966 -- the English translation of the original Latin was considered less literal than for other languages such as Spanish, German and French. The latest translation for English-speaking Catholics adheres more closely to the original Latin.

One change is right before the congregants receive Holy Communion. Catholics used to say: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." The new phrasing is: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." Our clergy discusses the new translation:

Father Patrick Woods, C.Ss.R., pastor of St. Martin of Tours R.C. parish, Bethpage:

The reason the changes to the Missal were made was to more closely reflect the Latin text. St. Martin of Tours has spent more than seven weeks preparing the congregation for the changes, including giving a class. Churches also have new Mass cards in the pews to help people with the changes. All these changes are especially important as this will be the first Christmas Eve Mass to use the new translation. The midnight service has a special meaning, as it is representation of when the faithful would meet the infant Jesus for the first time.

One change whose old wording likely will be familiar to many is the response to "The Lord be with you" said by the priest. The old reply by the congregation was "And also with you." The new reply is "And with your spirit." We realize that we're more than just body. We're also spirit.

For the Christmas Eve Masses at St. Martin's, we will have Catholics in attendance who may not have been to church since the change, and they will be surprised.

Father Thomas A. Cardone, S.M., Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale:

If you haven't been to Mass lately, you definitely will be surprised by some of the language. So, yes, this year's Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses at all Catholic churches will surprise the non-regular churchgoer in attendance.

At the Christmas Eve service at Kellenberg for students, alumni and their families, we usually get more than 1,000 in attendance. We expect our students -- and most of our alumni -- to be familiar with the new Missal.

The new Missal began to be used in Roman Catholic churches in the United States last month on the first Sunday of Advent. The goal of the Missal was to present a more accurate translation of the prayers and responses in the Mass from Latin to English.

The translations for Spanish, French, German and other countries were considered more accurate.

The Church is trying to give people of God the most accurate understanding of the official Latin Missal, which is the basis for worship throughout the world. The Gospel of Jesus is universal. It unites all Christians as one. The prayers of the Catholic Mass are universal for Catholics, uniting the Catholic community as one.

Brother Gary Cregan, O.S.F., principal, St. Anthony's High School, South Huntington:

We will all -- even priests -- have to be more attentive to the words, instead of being on automatic pilot.

Jesus is the word that became flesh. The words matter. What you pray is what you believe. We want our words to truly reflect our theology.

I'm glad that the Church took 40 years to fine tune the language. We rushed it in 1966 and didn't capture the subtleties and nuances in some words. I think all the English-speaking bishops felt that in 1966, the English translation of the Latin was lacking. You have to remember that the Catholic Church thinks in terms of centuries, so what is 40 years?

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