Posted by: fvbcdm | November 28, 2011

Feast of Saint James of the Marches (28 Nov 2011)

Well, my dear friends, we have managed to survive the first Sunday of Advent and the beginning of the use of the new translation of the prayers used at Mass.  Within the past several weeks, a number of friends of mine have expressed some fear that they would say the wrong thing at Mass yesterday, so I told them:  “Don’t worry; just be quiet if you don’t know what to say when a response is called for.”  But I now realize that that’s easier said than done.  When the celebrant says to the congregation, “The Lord be with you,” it can be difficult NOT to say “And also with you” but to substitute for that the words  “and with your spirit.” Then to get the confiteor and the creed straight, after having said them in a certain way for about forty years.
 
There is an old saying, “Change is odious.”  And the more important the subject matter, the more we resent the change.  I remember hearing that some years ago, when Great Britain changed its system of money, there was almost a revolution. They went from the incredibly complicated system of currency, with all its farthings and pence and tuppence and thruppence and shillings and crowns and pounds and guineas, to the very simple new system in which 100 pence make a pound.  Period.  And the people of Britain HATED it! Of course, within a week or so, the resentment had died down and the monetary life of the British Empire began to flow smoothly again.  Nowadays, if you were to try to explain to a young Englishman the earlier system of currency, he or she would certainly ask, “Why was it so complicated?”  The answer lies in centuries of British history.  And so with us Catholics and the way we celebrate Mass, although the time frame was not as long.  In fact, when I was first ordained in 1963—just 48 years ago—the entire Mass was in Latin.  Why did we read the first reading and the gospel in Latin facing the wall, and then repeat them, facing the congregation, in English?  Again, a matter of history and tradition.

 
But I want to admit to you that yesterday and today, I have had a hard time finding my place in the new missal as well as in the missalettes placed in the pews for the laity.  I snitched one of the missalettes from our parish church for my own use while concelebrating Mass in our house chapel with two or three other priests.  But I’m depending on you to keep that little theft of mine to yourself!  And I wonder whether the value of prayer is diminished by using stolen books with which to pray!

Years ago when the Mass was going from Latin into English, it was done step by step. I remember Father Leo Shea in New Orleans back in those days.  He was a crusty old priest from Memphis, and was not at all pleased with the changes. One morning he approached the altar for Mass, and noticed that there were several books in front of him, some in Latin, some in English.  He harrumphed a couple of times, looked out at the congregation, and said, “You’ve got to be a librarian to say Mass nowadays!” I think that approach is better than the one that makes clergy and laity feel guilty if they don’t especially like the changes right away.

So, my friends, God’s blessing on your Advent and your attempts.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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