The language used in the Roman Catholic Mass since Latin was abandoned 40 years ago is undergoing a change, and it promises to be startling even for some of those who support the new wording.
When the priest says, "The Lord be with you," the response will shift from "And also with you" to "And with your spirit." In the statement of faith in the Nicene Creed, parishioners will exchange saying that Jesus is "one in being with the Father" with Jesus is "consubstantial with the Father."
Catholic leaders say the rewording -- among dozens of changes to the main Roman Catholic prayer book slated to go into effect Nov. 27 at the start of Advent -- is intended to provide a better translation of the Latin than was originally done four decades ago. But even they acknowledge it will not be an easy transition, though in the end they believe Catholics will embrace and celebrate it.
"Obviously it's dealing with changing something that is dear to people's hearts," said the Rev. Richard Hilgartner, who is overseeing the introduction of the new Roman Missal for the Washington D.C.-based U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the main organization representing the hierarchy of the U.S. Catholic Church. "Even at first glance, people's reaction is immediately, 'Why are we doing this?' . . . the more people learn about it, the more they appreciate it and understand it."
The Rev. Bill Brisotti, pastor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Roman Catholic Church in Wyandanch, disagreed.
"I'm not happy with the way it's been done. It leaves a lot to be desired," he said. "You wind up with a convoluted way of speaking in English."
But the Rev. Christopher Nowak, pastor of St. John of God Church in Central Islip, said church leaders were simply aiming for a more literal translation from the Latin. "There's a beauty in it. It's just going to take some getting used to," he said.
Hilgartner said the Roman Missal has undergone several revisions and editions since the English language version was first used in the early 1970s after Vatican II permitted Mass to be celebrated in local languages rather than Latin. The requirements for translations were looser then, he said, and ended up with some less than optimal phrasings.
Ed Thompson Sr., a longtime Catholic parishioner from Farmingdale, said he thought the new wording is an attempt by the Vatican and Church hierarchy to underscore the primacy of the priest at the Mass at the expense of the laity.
Hilgartner said that was not the intention, though he was "shocked" when he first read the new wording because "it was so drastically different from what I was used to."
"It's going to be a bit more formal," he added. "There's a sense the language of prayer ought to be something distinct and unique."