The implementation of the New Roman Missal in two weeks --- specifically, learning and memorizing new texts, prayers and responses --- may cause some concern among American Catholics.But in fact, they should be more focused on the way they are living their faith, said noted liturgical historian and theologian Jesuit Father John Baldovin during his recent lecture, “Blessings and Curses of the New Roman Missal,” at Loyola Marymount University.“The bottom line of liturgy,” he said, “is how it helps us become better Christians. Are we living faith, hope and love better? That’s the real question.”“People are not going to Church because Mass is too long or too boring,” he asserted. “It is because they are not feeling cared for by us, by their pastors, and they’re not finding the center of their lives in their Christian faith. And that’s the real challenge. I am hopeful the new translation will help people in this regard.”The Boston College professor of historical and liturgical theology walked the audience through the last half-century of the Roman Missal including the formation of a federation of National Episcopal Conferences to provide English speakers with a unified translation.That led to the creation in 1963 of the International Commission of the English in the Liturgy (ICEL) which oversaw liturgical text translation. In 1970 the reformed missal was promulgated by Pope Paul VI; the English edition was published in the United States in 1973.Not everyone was pleased with that translation, Father Baldovin said, noting that a liturgical text “must faithfully communicate to a given people, in their own language, that which the church, by means of a given text, originally intended to communicate to another people at another time.”One reason for the new missal (effective in the U.S. the first weekend of Advent, Nov. 26-27) is to provide a translation to English of the liturgical text “as literally or as closely as possible from the Latin,” explained the priest, who worked with the ICEL from 1994 to 2002.He noted English has been used as a base text by some for translating into other languages (such as Tagalog or Zulu), because not many people today are versed in Latin. “Given the fact that Latin is a very different kind of language from English, that’s not easy to do,” he said.The original (1973) Missal was “done quickly and was done well, but not well enough,” Father Baldovin said. “It lacked certain elegance.”Nor will this newest version likely be the last translation of the Missal into English, he added.“The nature of our world today is change and of course for religion and religious people, it’s change and continuity at the same time,” he said. “We’re not in the 16th century anymore where one translation could last for 400 years like the King James Bible.”Priests as well as assemblies, Father Baldovin admitted, will be challenged by using the new Missal. “Change is always challenging,” he reflected, “which is not necessarily bad. Everybody will have to do some work.”He said in many ways the new translation will force people to pay more attention to what the liturgy is truly about: “God pouring himself for us in Christ and the way we respond to it.”“There is your mystery on the altar; be what you receive,” he said, citing St. Augustine. “That’s what the liturgy is about: becoming the Christ we receive. It’s got everything to do with real life. It’s got everything to do with the way we live our lives. What we do in church is a kind of microcosm of the way we live our lives.“Liturgy is a part of social justice, of our moral lives. It’s about our response to what God has given to us --- our grateful response. In the heart of liturgy is gratitude; Eucharist means thanksgiving. So in what we do, we need to come with grateful hearts.”A living faith, added Father Baldovin, is more important than the words. Thus, if one has God, the new missal should not generate worry.“But we should do our best,” he said, and he urged preachers to ensure that their preaching is “making sense of the Gospel for our lives; applying the Gospel to our real lives today, right here and now.”

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