Peter Steinfels November 29, 2011 - 9:49am
Read Peter Steinfels's dotCommonweal post--along with the comment thread in which Steinfels participates--here.
Related: J. Peter Nixon comments on his experience praying the new Roman Missal.
I went to Mass last Sunday not expecting a lot of problems because I knew everybody would be doing their best. A standing room only crowd in this big church. The choir and congregation were preparing for their Christmas liturgy, which meant the priest sang and the congregation responded. Including the Kyrie. Not bad, really.
The celebrant was an international priest with a heavy accent. This means that the much touted more dignified and reverent Mass did not and could not come across as promised. On top of that, it was a church full of young families with children, and so there was this (to me, at least) wonderful restless whispering movement that defied solemnity. The newly revised latinized prayers were proclaimed in that strong accent and so their possible moral superiority to what they replaced was a lost cause. And the same with the Eucharistic prayer. The priest, a good man doing his best, tried to pronounce as well as he could. As a result the Mass was about five minutes longer than usual.
The music, usually first class, was quite diminishe for unknown reasons. I have learned that a good choir can make even a mediocre Mass proclaimer sound good. I think parishes should make a lot of room in their budget for a choir...even a paid choir.
Anyway, a lot of fuss, a lot of worry, and we had what we used to call in my speaking days, a "mud thud." I.E., like when a stone is thrown into the mud, there were few ripples.
I'm hoisting a chalice to Commonweal! Somehow it helps.
The new Sacramentary is extremely disappointing. Perhaps unnoticed by the laity, but gone are the usual solemn blessings for Sundays of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, etc. There are 'seasonal' blessings in another section but few priests even have discovered them. The Eucharistic prayers, especially III, are difficult and pompous in their wordage. NOne of the these prayers reflect normal human reverent speech. The prefaces are even worse and the proper prayers only leave one with a big Hunh? If the hierarchy wanted to remove the Mass farther from the common folk they couln't have done it better. Not only doesn't it sing, it alienates. I know my kids won't be back and inspired. The translators need to do some serious breast beating, themselves.
Peter Steinfels, co-founder of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture and a former editor of Commonweal, is the author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.
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