Say prayer for confused Catholics on 1st Sunday of Advent

The Vatican has launched its annual Advent website as the world’s 1.5 billion Western Christians enter a brand new liturgical year with the popular season that leads to Christmas. (Eastern Christians began their traditional Nativity Fast earlier, as we reported November 15.) Want to know more about what the Vatican is offering? Click on the image at right to visit the Vatican site, where a range of Advent resources will be posted throughout the season. American Catholics are likely to need an inspirational boost, this year, because parishes across the U.S. are introducing a new English translation of the Mass.


The new English translation of the Mass debuted this weekend and news reporting nationwide is—well, mixed overall. CNN reports these changes “spur confusion in the pews.” Other news media are reporting both thumbs up and thumbs down responses on the first weekend of the new Mass. But, some reports are absolutely glowing. The New York Daily News, which typically looks for controversy, reported an up-beat story on the new Mass, instead, headlined: “Many of city’s Catholics praise first service using new prayer translations.” Those praising the changes in news stories nationwide explain that they are enjoying a fresh appreciation of the language in the Mass. “For the first time in years, I’m thinking about each word,” said a parishioner in Philadelphia.

Want more in-depth coverage of the change in Mass wording? Veteran religion newswriter Bill Tammeus filed an overview story on his website, including links to read more about the Mass update.


The biggest change within the Mass involves a short exchange of words widely used across Christian churches, including many Protestant denominations. Clergy say: “Peace be with you.” The people usually say: “And also with you.” In fact, this exchange is so common that it forms the punch-line of an oft-told joke in which a pastor is trying to adjust his equipment and mutters, “There’s something wrong with this microphone.” To which the people reply: “And also with you.” As of Advent 2011, Catholics now are responding with “And also with your spirit.” That’s better theology, the scholars behind this new rendition of the Mass are arguing—but, of course, it spoils the old joke.

The most potentially confusing change within the Mass involves wording in the heart of the Mass, concering Jesus’ blood. In introducing the new Mass, even the bishops’ official website points out: “Of all the changes in the translation of the Roman Missal, the translation of pro multis as ‘for many’ may require the most significant explanation and sensitive pastoral catechesis.” The old version refers to the blood of Christ “shed for you and for all, so that sins may be forgiven.” The new version: “will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Among the many other changes in the Mass:

A prayer, old version: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.”
New version:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.”

From the Nicene Creed, old version: Starts “We believe” and repeats that form. Jesus is “one in being with the Father.”  God is “Maker … of all that is seen and unseen.”
New version:
Starts “I believe” and repeats that form. Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.” God makes “all things visible and invisible.”

Old version: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
New version: This is one of the most noticeable changes. The well-known acclamation, above, had been used for decades by American Catholics, who could boom out those three short lines in a lively way. However, that particular phrasing was not in the Latin original of the Mass. The new Mass translation closely renders the Latin text, so the familiar acclamation is replaced with this affirmation: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come again.”

Old version: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
New version:
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Old version: “I confess … that I have sinned through my own fault.
New version:
Ends with “that I have greatly sinned.”

CARE TO READ MORE ABOUT THE NEW CATHOLIC MASS? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website has the entire text and educational materials that are free to download. Or, simply click on the red Roman Missal logo above.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity

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