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THE WASHINGTON POST
Valerie Grays right receives Communion from the Rev. William Norvel at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Baltimore on Sept. 18.
The Catholic Church, its religious authorities often remind its followers, is intentionally slow to change, if it ever changes at all. The ritual of Communion, where the priest consecrates the bread and wine for distribution to the faithful, for example, has been observed in similar fashion for thousands of years.
But this weekend, millions of English-speaking Catholics will experience some of the most profound change in their lifetime when the words of the Catholic liturgy are phased out in favor of a new translation.
As Michelle Boorstein reported this month, a summer survey showed that most Catholics were then unaware of the upcoming changes. In recent weeks, say church officials, priests and parishes have been preparing Catholics through instruction at religious services, direct mailings and communication campaigns.
The overhaul has been in the works for a decade, and “is aimed at unifying the more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide with a translation that is as close as possible to the original Latin version.” In some cases, the new language will more literally reflect the Scripture passages on which liturgical prayers were based.
One example of that shift is in a line familiar to Catholics at the height of the Mass, just before Communion. “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” Catholics have said for decades. This weekend, those words change to, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” This new translation borrows from a story in the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus entered a man’s home and healed his servant.
If you’re attending Mass this weekend, here’s what you need to know:
- The new Mass will first be celebrated at the Saturday vigil, to be followed by Masses on Sunday and thereafter.
- Priests are unlikely to interrupt the Mass with instructions, but instead will encourage congregants before the service begins to follow along to printed materials containing the new text.
- Some familiar Mass songs will change to accommodate the new translations.
- If you’re interested in the reasoning behind any specific word choice, you can read the commentary from the bishops’ conference at their Web site. Click on the ‘commentary’ links below the Mass part.
You can see some of the new language in the graphic below.
Source: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/The Washington Post
You can read the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ explainer on which familiar sections of the Mass are changing, below.