Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The New Missal: Some Personal Thoughts

At last night’s philosophy discussion group, after I had blown the whistle on myself as the only practicing Catholic in the bunch, our hostess asked me what I thought of the new missal. I could not tell whether she was being a good hostess or perhaps was a lapsed Catholic following the action from the sidelines, with more or less longing. I decided to answer her straight.

It’s a non-event, I said, at least for us parishioners. Most of the changes in the liturgy are for the clergy. I added—with humor that was somewhere between self-disparaging and disarming—that I am the “worst kind of Catholic, a recent convert, so I actually really care about this stuff.” She didn’t pursue it.

This morning at Mass, I was brought up against the new missal on a couple of occasions. I am pretty sure that the last Catholics to get the message about the new missal will be, ironically, the daily communicants, like me (though I’ve been missing a lot recently) and especially Frank and Henry. Daily Mass-goers have the liturgy so ingrained, and some of us get so into it, that we can’t be bothered referring to laminated cards and whatnot. We’ve been going with the flow for too long.

Obviously, our pastor, Father B, is not going to let us flow for too long. This morning, before reading the Gospel and after saying, “The Lord be with you,” he listened as we (almost all) belted out, “And also with you!” His next words were not from the liturgy. They were, “And—with—your—spirit.”

Then, as he began the communion rite, he injected another advisory comment: “Reading from the cards . . . ” I felt sufficiently chastened to receive communion in good, clean conscience.

I was particularly struck by the rich new language of the missal during the communion rite and by how carefully and conscientiously our pastor followed the text, even turning back to glance at it and verify his own silent prayer prior while turning toward the server to have his hands washed.

Most striking of all was the dismissal (if that’s the precise term). Later in the morning I returned to the sacristy to verify the wording in the beautiful Magnificat Roman Missal, third edition (pictured above). There are four forms of dismissal allowed the celebrant or deacon.

The simplest is “Go in peace.”

Then there is the moderately revised “Go forth, the Mass is ended.”

Finally, there are two forms that are truly striking:

“Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”—

—and the dismissal used this morning, which so caught my attention—

“Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

Those final two forms are powerful advice, completely in keeping with the “new evangelization” recommended by Pope Benedict. To glorify the Lord by my life is a high calling, the highest possible really.

What a great way to end the Mass and start the day.

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