I hope that this Fourth Week of Advent finds you in good spirits as we mark the final days before the celebration of the Festival of the Incarnation.
I know that there are newcomers to this blog, particularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays; days when the focus is on the new translation of the Roman Missal. Welcome, and I hope you find some enlightenment here. I urge you to leave a comment, remembering that "we are all in this together."
One comment before we move into our discussion for the day. Those of us who have ever worked in parishes always get a chuckle out of the many phone calls coming into the parish office. We invariably receive the question: "What time is Midnight Mass?" I have been in parishes where "Midnight Mass" has been celebrated at 10:00 P.M., 10:30 P.M., 11:00 P.M., and, of course, Midnight. My parish, St. James, ceased the celebration of midnight Mass a few years ago, due to the small crowds and the fact that the church is not in the safest neighborhood in the city. I am sure that some of you have heard that Pope Benedict XVI will not be celebrating Midnight Mass at midnight this year. Midnight Mass at St. Peter's in Vatican City will be celebrated at 10:00 P.M. this year, due to concerns about the pope's energy level, especially considering his age and the fact that his schedule is very full at this time of year. One wonders if there is someone working the Vatican phones, who is answering the age-old question: "What time is Midnight Mass?" Or, perhaps more appropriately, "A che ora viene messa di mezzanotte?"
A considerable amount of debate has been swirling around about the timeline of the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal. I have heard lots of things floating around out there and I have a call in to the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship to try and get a pulse on all of this. Here are several possible scenarios, among many others:
1. The recognitio (official approval of the text from the Vatican) is received in April 2010. A "must use" date of the new texts is established for some time in April of 2011.
2. The recognitio (official approval of the text from the Vatican) is received in April 2010. A "can use" date of the new texts is established for some time in April of 2011, with a "must use" date established for a later time, perhaps the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011.
3. The recognitio (official approval of the text from the Vatican) is received in April 2010. A "must use" date of the new texts is established as the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011.
4. The recognitio is not received in April of 2010 at all, and the English-speaking Catholic world simply waits and waits. Remember that there are other liturgical texts that have been languishing in Rome, waiting for a recognitio for a number of years. The Tiber runs slowly most often! If this is the case, then we obviously cannot guess at implementation dates.
You can just imagine the kind of angst that publishers of worship resources for the Church are experiencing with all of this. We here at WLP have been working on new and revised musical settings of the new texts for the parts of the Mass for a number of years. Remember that we publish our worship resources six to eight months in advance. If, for instance, scenario number 1 is the case, we will have two annual worship resources that will have already been published and will be in peoples' hands, for a year in which the translation will change mid stream. In this case, we will need to provide an additional resource with the new texts and new musical settings of the Mass for these loyal customers.
I'll be honest with you. I am hoping that, whenever the recognitio is received, there will be at least one year for publishers to produce the actual Roman Missal. I am also hoping that the implementation of the new texts for parish use occurs on the First Sunday of Advent following the actual publication of the Roman Missal. It just makes so much sense to me, as publisher, and as a parishioner, to implement the changes on the First Sunday of Advent. Parishes can spend those Sundays in Ordinary Time leading up to Advent teaching whatever musical setting(s) that is/are chosen. (I know that you will fall in love with both the official chant settings in English in the Roman Missal, as well as at least one of WLP's new settings or revised settings of our current Masses. Our composers and editors have worked so hard on creating these settings for the singing and praying Church. I am so proud of their work and look forward to the day when these new settings will become a part of my—and your— "Catholic DNA.")
As publishers, we will be obliged to place the official chant settings in English as the first option in the actual Order of Mass section in our worship resources. We are happy to do this. My personal hope is that, in a few years' time, every single English-speaking Catholic in the world will have learned these chant settings in English, so that we all share at least one setting in common.
Those of you who have followed this blog know that I see this time of preparation for and implementation of the new English translation of the Missale Romanum as a real watershed moment for the Church. There will be negativity about all of this—and I have to admit that I share some of that negativity. There will be those whose hearts will be exultant—and I have to admit that I share some of that, too. Wherever you land, try to see this as an opportunity to help people grow in the knowledge of and experience of the Mass. Pope John Paul II is quoted as saying this—and I have never been able to find a reliable source document for this: "If so many millions of Catholics around the world are receiving the Lord in the Eucharist each week, why has so little changed in the world?" This sentiment is what is at the core of our liturgical experience. I live in expectant hope that, when we have moved through all of this, Catholics will live their experience of the liturgy more fully; will see the exit doors of their church buildings as "service entrances" to world longing for the kind of transformation that can only come through being Christ for the life of the world.
Thanks for listening.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.