The new Catholic Mass translation: A bit like Y2K?

Catholics who attended Mass yesterday were introduced to a new translation of the liturgy that was in the works for many years.

My colleague Robert Marchant wrote about the much-anticipated changes:


“Some of the changes will alter the most familiar call-and-responses of the service. The greeting “The Lord be with you / And also with you” will be changed to: “And with your spirit.”

New words with a distinctly Latin flavor, such as “oblation” and “consubstantial,” will harken back to the old Latin Mass that was phased out in favor of services in the local vernacular language. Some new body language — striking one’s chest when asking for forgiveness — will also be added. Changes in the melody and the phrasing of the parts of the Mass that are sung — the Holy, Holy, Holy, etc — are also in store.”


Monsignor Edward Weber, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in West Nyack and Rockland’s Catholic vicar, described the change for priests: “I’ve been doing this for 35 years. As a priest, I’ve really had to study. You can’t go out there cold, or you’ll get lost. This Sunday will be the big test.”

At, the prominent Catholic writer Peter Steinfels started off his post — “The Aftermass” — with “Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? Or was it?”

He also wrote:


“There was a good deal more stumbling over “and with your spirit” — about a 50-50 split, I’d say. After the post-communion prayer, we welcome any newcomers in the congregation, and when the pastor resumed “The Lord be with you,” the response was particularly ragged. So he laughingly tried it again and again, and we rose to a rousing, “And with your spirit!”

Frankly I wish he would do that more often. A majority of the congregation mouths most responses, if at all, with scarcely enough vigor to be heard by the person in back or front of them. This raises doubts in my mind whether forty years after Vatican II the basic idea of active participation in a communal worship has been successfully communicated. I was hoping that the introduction of the new translation might be an occasion to undertake the catechesis which had not been done in the 1970s.”


There are many interesting comments below Steinfels’ post.

One reader wrote: “My own pastor (after four masses with a total of 1500+ people) says he didn’t get one single comment, positive or negative, about any of the changes. Not at all sure what that means, and neither was he.”

Several people agreed with this observation from a reader: “To me the most jarring and wrong-headed change was the repeated use of “chalice” rather than cup – “the chalice of salvation”? This fussiness about Jesus using a chalice is particularly silly since in the assembly’s proclamation of the mystery of faith right after the consecration, it’s still a “cup.” ”

The well-known theologian Joseph Komonchak offered this: “In our tiny parish, no big deal. One woman remarked: “What is all the fuss about?” It was a little bit like Y2K–nothing disastrous happened.”