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Column: Revisions will hopefully encourage greater reverence


by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

This past week, I was with the priests of the archdiocese for our annual workshop/convocation at Conception Abbey in Missouri.

Last year’s workshop was devoted to the new English translation to the revised Roman Missal — the book that contains all of the prayers for the Eucharist. The workshop was to better inform our priests as to the rationale for the new English translation, to acquaint them with the changes, and to encourage them to take advantage of this moment in catechizing their parishioners — not just about the changes, but about the beauty and the meaning of the Eucharist.

As part of that catechesis, I have asked every parish to include monthly bulletin inserts produced by Liturgical Training Publications of Chicago that provide information about the changes, the reasons for the new English translation, and the meaning of the different parts of the Mass.

Michael Podrebarac, the consultant of our archdiocesan liturgy office, has given workshops all over the archdiocese on the revised Roman Missal and the new English translation. Consistent with the recommendation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I have given permission to parishes to begin now introducing the new texts and musical settings for the parts of the Mass that can be sung by the congregation. The complete new English translation will be used in all of our parishes on the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27.

The reason for the new English translation of the Roman Missal is to provide a more accurate translation from the original Latin text. Translations by their nature will always be imperfect. But, with something as important as the words for the Eucharist, it is necessary that we strive to make our English as true as possible to the original.

One of the changes that will be most noticeable, because of its frequency in the Mass, is the response of the congregation to the celebrant’s greeting: “The Lord be with you.” The people will respond: “And with your Spirit.” This is clearly a more accurate translation. It corresponds with the response in other vernacular languages like Spanish, French and Italian. However, it also has profound theological meaning.

In this response, the congregation is actually reminding the celebrant of his ordination when the Holy Spirit was poured upon him to serve the church as an ordained minister. The congregation is not simply, in a perfunctory manner, returning the celebrant’s greeting, but actually exhorting the priest to summon the Spirit given to him in a special and unique way at his ordination to proclaim God’s word and to minister the Blessed Sacrament to the people of God.

The revision of the Roman Missal and the new English translation actually affords us a golden opportunity to think more carefully about what we do and say at Mass. Often in the call to worship at the beginning of Mass, I will invite people to ponder the miracle in which we are participating.

Each Eucharist truly is a miracle of enormous proportions, making the events of Good Friday and Easter morning present to us. How can we not be excited about God speaking to us through the proclamation of the word of God? How can we not be overcome with awe and a sense of complete unworthiness while receiving holy Communion — conscious that Jesus is making himself present to us again through the sacrament of his body and blood?

Among the fruits that I hope will come from our reflection upon the beauty and importance of the Eucharist, prompted by the implementation of the new translation, is a greater participation and a greater reverence. By participation, I am not simply speaking about singing with more enthusiasm or praying the vocal prayers of the Mass with more fervor. Primarily, I am speaking about an interior participation that is more aware and in awe of the miracle of grace in which we are caught up.

I also hope that we will see more reverence in our churches. Our churches need to regain, in the time leading up to Mass, a reverential silence. Most of our churches have ample gathering spaces where parishioners can meet and greet each other. However, once we enter the church proper, where Jesus is uniquely present in the Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle, there should be a reverential silence, allowing people the opportunity for personal prayer. Our churches before Mass should not be places of casual conversation with fellow parishioners.

Similarly, I hope that we can foster a deeper appreciation for the precious opportunity given to us after receiving the Lord in the Eucharist. The time immediately after Communion should be a time of thanksgiving for God’s many blessings, as well as a time when we entrust our personal cares and intentions to his merciful love.

Sometimes, I hear adults or youth say that they are “bored” at Mass. Often this means they did not find the homily interesting or they did not care for the music. What it really means is that we have failed to catechize them well about the Eucharist. If one really understood what transpires at each and every Eucharist, then it would be impossible to be bored.

At World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, I attended the catechesis given by Jason and Crystalina Evert. They gave youth a powerful testimony about the beauty and importance of the virtue of chastity. In Jason’s presentation, he talked about when he began regularly to participate in daily Mass. He quipped: “Daily Mass, you know, that is where people go who have nothing better to do — which is all of us!”

This is the truth I hope that everyone in the archdiocese knows or discovers in the coming weeks: There is absolutely nothing more important that we can do than encounter Jesus in the Eucharist.

Finally, Michael Scherschligt, the founder of Holy Family School of Faith, gives a free lecture on the first Wednesday of each month at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park. This year, these Wednesday lectures will provide a further reflection on the topic of my Leaven column from the preceding Friday. I encourage everyone in the archdiocese to attend Michael’s talk this coming Wed., Oct. 5, which will be devoted to a reflection on the Eucharist.

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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