The Aftermass

Now that wasn't so bad, was it?Or was it?The choir processed in with the pastor and our fine troupe of altar servers. The congregation was a bit sparse, which I attribute to Thanksgiving weekend and not the new translation. We did pretty well by Bach and "Wake, O wake, and sleep no longer."We often go right to the Kyrie. which this morning solved the problem of the new Confiteor text with the breast-beating, repetition and "my most grievous fault." (Being someone known to say "Sorry, sorry, sorry," I've always been for the repetition and a little breast-beating doesn't hurt, but I know when I'm in the minority.)We've already been chanting the new Gloria text for a few Sundays at our parish but, for some reason, skipped the Gloria this morning. That solved that problem.Our cantor is excellent, so with the help of the choir the congregation seemed together at the Kyrie, the responsorial psalm, and the Alleluia.I'm a terribly difficult person to preach to but today's homily was genuinely helpful.We usually use the Apostles Creed rather than the Nicene, so that took care of that.The pastor usually chants the Eucharistic Prayer, so that "for many" and "precious chalice" slipped by without causing any uprising.

There was slight stumbling

over the Suscipiat, and at least a few aggressive references heard in my vicinity to "God's" name, and a little more stumbling later over "enter under my roof."As for the proper prayers of the day, I've always believed that for most congregants these simply mean assenting with their Amen to some pious, high-minded sentiments of which the precise content doesn't matter much. That seemed all the more true this morning: Dah da, dah da, dah da, dah da, dah DA. Through Christ our Lord. AMEN.There was a good deal more stumbling over "and with your spirit" -- about a 50-50 split, I'd say. After the post-communion prayer, we welcome any newcomers in the congregation, and when the pastor resumed "The Lord be with you," the response was particularly ragged. So he laughingly tried it again and again, and we rose to a rousing, "And with your spirit!"Frankly I wish he would do that more often. A majority of the congregation mouths most responses, if at all, with scarcely enough vigor to be heard by the person in back or front of them. This raises doubts in my mind whether forty years after Vatican II the basic idea of active participation in a communal worship has been successfully communicated. I was hoping that the introduction of the new translation might be an occasion to undertake the catechesis which had not been done in the 1970s.Mass concluded with the reliably lively "O come, Divine Messiah." We'll survive the new translation. That is now the bar we've set: Could've been worse.

Peter Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal and religion writer for the New York Times, is a University Professor Emeritus at Fordham University and author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.

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