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Catholics to find changes in mass beginning 11/27

Catholics across Central New York  are learning a new translation of the Roman Missal, the basis for mass.  It's a change that goes into effect the first week of advent, which is the last week in November this year.    

Catholics have been saying the same prayers and responses in mass since Richard Nixon was president, a lifetime for many.  So it's a big deal. Thomas Andino, a campus minister at Le Moyne College has been leading workshops focusing on the change.

"Almost everything, with the exception of the word Amen didn't change, the word Alleluia didn't change,” said Andino. “And the Lord's Prayer and the Lamb of God were left totally alone."

The biggest question he gets is why is the church doing this now?

"Right after Vatican Two, our current prayers were translated based on a principal called Dynamic Equivalence,” said Andino. “When you translate a language, you see what it says in this language, and you translate it and allow it to fit into the language you are translating.  The new rule for translating is called Formal Equivalence.  It's almost a word for word translation,” he said.

Father Joe Scardella is teaching this new translation to parishes across the Syracuse Diocese trying to get everyone up to speed.

"We did workshops for priests, deacons, liturgical ministers, musicians, catholic school teachers, our catechetical people, religious education programs," said Scardella.

In many cases just a word is changing and Scardella says that can change the entire meaning of a prayer.

"We've changed the word ‘cup’ in the consecration of the precious blood to ‘chalice’,” said Scardella. “So what's the big deal?  Is chalice more formal? It is, but it has a different connotation.  If you look up in the dictionary, the meaning of the word chalice, the exact meaning is a cup that is shared.  It's just not a normal cup.  The word chalice is more indicative of what the Eucharist is.  It's something that we share," he said.

Andino notes that some of the changes will more accurately follow scripture, while one change was penned by Pope Benedict.  And that's what the priest says at the end of mass.

"So often we hear the mass is ended, when I was little we'd hear ‘thanks be to God’,” said Andino. “I felt like ‘thanks be to God, it's over’. And now, Pope Benedict penned the new dismissals.  My favorite is ‘go and announce the gospel of the lord’,” he said.

What's going  be the toughest thing for parishes to learn?  Scardella says "And with your spirit, because being the creatures of habit we are, as soon as the priest says ‘the lord be with you.’  You're gonna say the same thing back you've always said, ‘and also with you’," he said.

Now while the parishioners are learning new responses and some new changes in prayers it's going to be a bigger challenge to priests, who've been saying these masses for four decades, like Father Tom Ryan, pastor of Immaculate Conception in Fayetteville.

"We've been just kind of slowly going through it looking at it from something as simple as opening and closing prayers of mass to particularly the Eucharistic prayers,” said Ryan.

He adds the translation is a bit of a challenge.

"I'm not sure it's the best grammar in the world,” said Ryan. “Some of it in the opening prayers seem to have some run on sentences.  I'm not sure the grammar is the greatest," he said.

Church leaders hope for one thing this leads to a deeper understanding of what is being said at mass.

"This is going to cause us to ponder some of those words and what they mean again which will hopefully cause us to participate more,” said Andino.

One thing is for sure, Scardella says it'll be a surprise for some at Christmas services.

"People that don't come to mass regularly are going to walk in and say ‘what's going on?’, said Scardella. “Because everything is changed.  It's really going to be a mixed bag for Chirstmas.  I jokingly say I'm going to put a note on the door that says, ‘Mass has changed since you were here last’” he said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.