New Missal in India

I'm spending my sabbatical in New Delhi, where my wife is working on a Fulbright project. While here, I've been attending mass at St. AlphonsaChurch, in Vasant Kunj, a neighborhood on the southern edge of New Delhi, very close to the airport. It's a large, beautiful new church, named after India's first Indian-origin saint, St. Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, who was canonized in 2008.Appropriately enough, given the church's name, the Catholic church here feels genuinely Indian, although it lacks some of the more Hindu sensibilities I noticed when I visited Goa many years ago, where Catholic culture seems even more fully integrated into the landscape.Since English is one of the principal languages in India, the Delhi Archdiocese is also dealing with the new missal. They rolled it out on the Epiphany, which also happened to be the weekend I arrived in India. The archdiocese had printed out very nice cards to go in the pews, similar to the ones we had used back in Trumansburg, to help people learn the new responses.The confusion the first week was palpable, and a little worse than at home perhaps because English is typically a second language here and because the priest did not offer much by way of explanation for the changes.

(I wasn't here in the weeks leading up to the implementation of the missal, so maybe the parish had prepared people for the change.) As at home, I observed that people here have an easier time with the changes to the longer prayers than to the short replies, most likely because participation in the latter is less conscious. By the second week, more people had adopted "And with your spirit," though a significant minority were still saying "And also with you."Interestingly, conformance to the new missal seems to have declined significantly during the last two weeks. Even the priest has slipped back into some of the old locutions (e.g, "Lord I am not worthy to receive you..."), and "And also with you" has re-emerged as the majority response. He's also stopped reminding people about the changes. Most people have stopped looking at the cards, some of which have begun to disappear from the pews. (I wonder whether people at home are noticing a similar pattern of relapse.) I suspect that getting people to unlearn the old translation is going to be a longer project in this country.

Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.

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