Oct 15, 2012

Survey on the New Missal Translation

October 2012
Vol. XVIII, No. 7

Responses show more work is needed to restore reverence, beauty

Survey Q & A Summary

NOTE: In some cases respondents selected more than one response; in these instances the total exceeds 100%.

1) Do you think the advance preparation for the new Missal translation was adequate?

Yes – 80% (289)
No – 13% (47)
No opinion – 7% (24)

2) Did the preparation for the new translation in your parish include:

a. Homilies – 56% (238)
b. Presentations – 35% (151)
c. Distribution of booklets or pamphlets – 67% (285)
d. Other – 8% (35)

3) In my opinion, the new translation compared with the old one is:

a. Greatly Improved – 63% (245)
b. Somewhat improved – 22% (85)
c. Neutral – 5% (22)
d. Somewhat worse – 4% (14)
e. Much worse 6% (25)

4) Which of the following do you see as improvements with the new translation?

a. More reverent-sounding language – 58% (247)
b. More complete, accurate translations of prayers – 63% (270)
c. Clearer connections with scripture – 39% (166)
d. Other – 7% (29)

5) Which of the following do you see as difficulties with the new translation?

a. More difficult vocabulary – 9% (40)
b. More awkward sounding – 13% (57)
c. Difficult to change memorized responses – 58% (248)
d. Other – 25% (105)*
*NB: Many who selected “other” wrote “nothing” or “no problems”

6) Do you notice a difference in the music at Mass since the new Missal has been in use?

Yes – 26% (94)
No – 74% (270)

7) What parts of the new Missal does your parish sing?

Kyrie – 54% (231)
Credo – 6% (25)
Sanctus – 67% (285)
Lord’s Prayer – 23% (98)
Gloria – 61% (260)
Agnus Dei – 60% (256)

7a) Does your parish ever sing any of these Mass parts in Latin in the ordinary form of the Mass?

Usually – 6% (21)
Often – 8% (29)
Sometimes – 21% (74)
Seldom – 23% (82)
Never – 42% (147)

8) Has there been a noticeable difference in reverence in your parish since the introduction of the new Missal.

No – 69% (230)
Yes – 24% (78)
Not sure or too early to say – 7% (25)

9) In your opinion, what is the single most important thing that is needed to improve the celebration of the liturgy? (written response)

I am a Priest – 14% (52)
Deacon – 2% (6)
Seminarian – 0% (0)
Religious – 4% (14)
Lay Person – 80% (295)

Six months after the introduction into parishes of the new translation of the Roman Missal, Adoremus conducted a reader survey. The survey, included in the May 2012 issue of AB, asked readers for their views on the translation, the preparation, and initial reception of the new texts, and invited comments on the effect of the new Roman Missal translation on the liturgy in their parishes — in particular on reverence and music.

A total of 427 people responded to the survey (about 6% of our readers). The responses came from 152 of the 177 dioceses in the US (86%). The most responses came from three dioceses: Phoenix, Chicago, and Orange, followed closely by Cleveland, Philadelphia, Rochester, Arlington, Los Angeles, and New York. Two responses were received from Canada and three from Australia.

Most people who responded to the survey were laity (80%); though 14% were priests. An overwhelming majority (95%) of those who completed and returned the survey were over 45. Only four people under age 35 mailed in the survey. (Though this suggests that few AB readers are 35 or younger, might these results have been different if the survey had been conducted online instead of by mail?) Twenty-two respondents indicated that they attend the extraordinary form Mass only.

The first five questions on the survey dealt directly with the new translation, including advance preparation, introduction, and reception. (The most unusual means of preparation reported was holding backyard barbecues!)

Questions 6, 7, and 7a were focused on music. A large majority (74%) saw no difference in the music at Mass after the new Missal texts came into use; and 65% said that the ordinary chants of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, etc.) were seldom or never sung in Latin in their parish.

Question 8 asked if reverence at Mass had increased since the new Missal translation came into use (69% said no, 24% said yes, and some thought it is too soon to tell).

Finally, the survey invited comments on “the single most important thing that is needed to improve the celebration of the liturgy” — which elicited the most written responses, followed by comments on music for celebration of the Eucharist. (The survey form gave the option of including names and locations if the comments were published.)

While it is impossible to publish all of these comments, we include a representative sampling of their observations and suggestions. (The number of the question to which the response is made appears at the end of the comment. See sidebar for summary of survey.)

We are most grateful for such an outpouring of responses to what is obviously a key concern of Adoremus readers. The good news is that your concern (and work) for the recovery of the sacrednesss of the liturgy has begun to see genuine results. It is also an encouraging sign that this concern is not diminished! But it is also clear that there is much more work to be done to achieve the hoped-for renewal of the sacred liturgy — the enrichment of beauty in our celebration of the Holy Eucharist — through music, art and architecture, as well as a deepened understanding of and appreciation for the profound words of Scripture and of the Mass.

Your suggestions and comments can provide a helpful basis for all who are involved in the celebration of the Church’s greatest means of evangelization — of bringing the Good News to all through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist — especially during this Year of Faith.

Suggestions for improvements

•Better teaching for the people — review the basics, repeat often what many never knew or have forgotten. Don’t take for granted that the people understand their faith or holy Mass. Some priests need to be taught the proper way to offer Holy Mass, would be nice if it were universal and consistent. — Lay person, Gaylord diocese, Michigan (9)

•The most important: teach people the awesomeness of what is happening at Mass. Also teach awareness of the presence of our Lord in the tabernacle — along with reverence for His presence — by silence. The talking and visiting now in evidence is highly disrespectful. — Lay person, Diocese of Penscaloa,Tallahassee, Florida (9)

•Priests [should] say the prayers as written in the Missal. Some still change words, though not to remove the essential meaning of them. — Lay person, Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts (9)

•To have the Mass altar decorated with the 6 high Mass candles with a crucifix in the middle of the altar: the Benedictine style. — Lay person, Diocese of Oklahoma Ciy, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (9)

•Preach on the Eucharist; cover all aspects — liturgically, historically, theologically. People must be encouraged and challenged to read and meditate on the Eucharist and try to enter into the great mystery where we are permitted to encounter the risen Lord in the love of the Trinity in the precincts of heaven itself, among the communion of saints. People need to be instructed and led to the great and blessed reality of the liturgy, which is both intimate and cosmic, both simple and majestic, beyond comprehension. Both in time and history, but also outside it. The liturgy is so much more than a highly ritualized prayer service. The Eucharist is the prolongation of the incarnation, the portal of grace, and the way of our salvation. —Lay person, Dallas Diocese, Texas (9)

•We need to promote adult education about the Mass. This past Lent, Edward Sri’s study on the Mass from Ascension Press was offered in our parish. All who took it were amazed at the scriptural basis, including Jewish roots, of the Mass. We all agreed that we had a much deeper appreciation of the Mass and the Mass became awesome (in every good sense of that word). The Mass is absolutely beautiful, not boring. The new translation underscores the beauty of the Mass. I absolutely love the new translation. — Lay person, Harrisburg Diocese, Pennsylvania (9)

•I don’t know if there is enough interest for singing the proper. Maybe repeating over and over again in the homily explanations of the Mass as sacrifice and offering of self, people would start looking for those themes in the beautiful new prayers. — Lay person, Green Bay Diocese (9)

•We need to focus on doing the [ordinary form] well and less focus on how the Mass was celebrated in the past. Our liturgy is evolving and the Great Council sent the liturgy in a forward direction. We must take the Mass of Paul VI and bring dignity and beauty to it. — Priest, Location withheld (9)

Increase in reverence?

•There has not been a noticeable difference to me but the laity attending daily Mass seems to happily adjust to the language changes. — Lay person, San Jose Diocese, California (8)

•Yes — because the prayers have to be read, the people generally are praying more attention, not simply going on “automatic pilot.” — No name given, Dallas, Texas (8)

•In the beginning, people slowed down to do things correctly, and that alone made the Mass more reverent. Now things have sped up, and some people will not say the new responses, but still use the old ones. Still, it is better than before overall; when the priest says the collect and other prayers more slowly, they are easier to absorb. Our pastor removed a clock from the nave of our church, and said, “when we are here, we are on God’s time.” We step outside of the world’s “hurry up” and minister to Him. — Lay person, Kansas City, Kansas (8)

•It’s too soon [to see improvement]. We had 40 years with the other translation and can’t expect to be at the same point with the new yet. — Priest, Phoenix, Arizona (6)

•Yes. Everyone has to pay more attention. Previously everything was automatic. Everyone is listening more attentively. — Name withheld, Diocese of Charleston (8)

•With uplifting, more spiritual language, new chants have been very helpful. Some of the language of the previous translation was so mundane and common; the proper prayers are now completely and more accurately translated. — priest, Phoenix, Arizona (8)

•Through this new translation, we discover anew a sense of reverence, so precious to our Franciscan spirit; the beauty and the rightness of a humble stance before God are once again revealed to us. We are invited to deepen our sense of wonder at God’s working in our lives. We discover a freshness and vigor of expression that is meant to penetrate our attitudes and actions as those engaged in the “campaign of Christian service,” in warfare against evil. And we are given a sense, a most precious sense, of tradition, of continuity with the past, which connects us to those who have gone before us and strengthens our awareness of our true identity. This applies not only to our identity as Catholics, but as Poor Clares, striving to live in continuity with those who have gone before us over the course of the past 800 years. — Religious, La Crues, NM diocese.

•I am surprised at the way people come to Mass dressed — do not genuflect and talk in church. I have to sit in the back for health reasons so I see all this — and it is most difficult to pray at this time. The people are good people, it’s just that reverence is missing. — Lay person, Harrisburg Diocese, PA (9)

•No! Reverence is not primarily a function of the language of the Mass itself. It comes more from constant and proper catechesis. — Name withheld, Arlington diocese (8)

•People have to read the responses (Gloria, Creed, etc.) and thus have to pay more attention at Mass, so there is more unity and more reverence. Same with priests. All Masses pretty much uniform for the time being! — Lay person, Venice, Florida (8)

•Somewhat — during the Eucharistic prayer, our priest chants the words of consecration. It’s hauntingly beautiful and reverent — you could hear a pin drop. Yet before and after Mass people talk, many chew gum (and receive Communion!) and dress very casually. Our priest should address this through homilies and catechesis. — Lay person, Toledo Diocese (6)

•There was already an attitude of reverence because of the way our pastor says Mass and how he wants lectors, cantors, and altar servers to conduct themselves. For example, the altar servers with lighted candles process with the priest from the altar (priest carrying Gospel) to the ambo and flank him as he reads the Gospel. Bells have been re-introduced at the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the Consecration. — Lay person, Harrisburg Diocese, Pennsylvania (8)

•Nothing markedly significant. But as we get used to the new translations, the potential for greater reverence becomes evident. — Lay person, Diocese of Broken Bay, Australia (8)

What is needed most

•What is needed is to instill an understanding in the people that the liturgy is prayer directed to the throne of God, not something directed to them, and consequently, to enter into this divine worship where Christ is the celebrant, to give and not to get. — Music director, Location withheld (8)

•Much has been accomplished — we think it is too soon to think about improvements. — Lay person, Lansing Diocese (9)

•More explanation of the various prayers — their background and thus the appreciation of the liturgy. — Priest, Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, Missouri (9)

•The single most important thing is to have holy priests as examples to lead us: priests who are pastoral, but who also are unafraid to correct the people. A priest who is a preacher as well as a teacher, and in whom there is no doubt that he’s in charge, and who will insist that reverence for Jesus in his presence is shown by all, and that the warm and fuzzy feel-good gestures are not a part of the liturgy. — Lay person, Salina Diocese, Kansas (9)

•Priests need to explain the importance of the Mass and the proper way to offer the sacrifice. This includes responses and singing when music is played. — religious, Philadelphia Archdiocese, Pennsylvania (9)

•First — catechize those under 40. They do not know the Faith, much less the Mass. Then just bring back the sacred aspect of Holy Mass. (More about the altar and the sacrifice — less about the meal and table.) — Lay person, Orange Diocese, California (9)

•I think it depends for a great deal on how the priest looks at and feels for what he does, especially at the altar. If the great gift of our blessed Lord Himself calls for gratitude, praise, life, it will set a reverent tone. The priest also needs to explain the workings to his flock and begin instruction, also sometimes to the children. — Lay person, Diocese of Corpus Christi (9)

•Consistency — between parishes and priests. There is so much variety that many people don’t know what the liturgy is supposed to look like — from entrance processions to blessing or not blessing children, genuflections, use of liturgical ministers, etc., size and type of host, who goes to the tabernacle, what altar servers do, what deacons do … there is just a great deal of variety and people don’t know what or who to believe — all this is detrimental to the development of faith in the young. Some variety is healthy and reflects the community style — but some makes faith, especially in the Real Presence, difficult. — Lay person, Location withheld (9)

•Reverence and the realization that this is the greatest prayer of the Church. It is truly an encounter with the Living Lord and we need to come prepared to acknowledge and receive Him. — Lay person, Detroit Archdiocese, Michigan (9)

•Education of the lay faithful is most important. If people read only the two-page introduction to part two of the YOUCAT, they would realize how awesome the sacramental life is. — Religious, Location withheld (9)

First impressions/implementation

•Sometimes the wording seems awkward but this is not very frequent and it was also the case in the old Missal.

— Priest, Diocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis (5)

•It’s new. Takes time to learn. That’s okay. — priest, Diocese of Peoria, Illinois (5)

•The novus ordo needs to go! The only true worship is the Tridentine Mass. Concelebration is a joke. Reverence and true obedience to God, Son, and Blessed Mother come from the extraordinary form. However, the new translation in the novus ordo is a step on the right direction. — Religious, Location withheld (9)

•Our Church went the route of secular society and “dumbed down” the language of the liturgy and the laity’s knowledge of the teachings Christ gave to His true Church…. Pope Benedict XVI is attempting to return our focus away from the secular/progressive attitude back to our traditional, orthodox doctrines and practices, but obviously, not all Catholics hear him, or they just ignore him. However, he has made some progress, and that gives us hope. — Lay person, San Antonio, Texas

•“Greatly improved” needs clarification. Does the English more closely correspond to the Latin — generally yes. Is this text meant for public proclamation — no. Too many prayers sound like a graduate thesis. These prayers are meant to be proclaimed in public worship. Yes, they need to be faithful, but yes they also need to be prepared by people with an awareness of the spoken word. — Priest, Location withheld (8)

•I must admit that these new translations do not move me in the direction of the classical definition of prayer: the lifting up of one’s heart and mind to God. It is not only that we lift up our hearts and minds to God, but the words we use in prayer should help us in this endeavor. The new translations are composed of sacred-sounding words, but tend to have a clumsy arrangement about them; thus producing a mechanical reading. Moreover, since one must be occupied with being on constant alert for the next jolt in the text, they are not a great aid for me at offering a more meditative and prayerful Mass. It may well be that I am one of those malcontents who is hard to please, but when prayers are well composed, my sensus fidei tells me that they will not be something we have to struggle through in order to make sense of them. — priest, Little Rock Diocese, Arkansas

•I think this is too soon to evaluate. Until the prayers can be proclaimed more normally and people respond with greater confidence, we are going through a learning phase — not an internally expressed reverence. — Priest, Location withheld (8)


•We still sing too many “me” songs and not enough praise and glory of God. — Lay person, Location withheld (6)

•The music selection has noticeably changed for the better. This contributes to greater reverence and understanding of what the Mass is about. I also moved both of my parish choirs back into their respective lofts at the beginning of Advent. They are no longer up front distracting the congregation. — Priest, Saettle Diocese, Washington (8)

•The greatest need is a return to the use of the Proper chants — as opposed to banal hymnody. Also, our choir directors need sound theological training. Too often music is chosen that does not fit with the liturgical action. — Religious, Location withheld (9)

•Think about using more music that the congregation can sing — and leave the vocally demanding stuff for the choir to sing during Communion. — Lay person, Wheeling-Charleston Diocese, West Virginia (9)

•I recently attended a Mass at the local church, done for the schoolchildren, and I found it considerably more reverent than previously. The new Gloria did not include hand-clapping and the mood was less jocular. At another church the Agnus Dei was in Latin. At our parish, I have heard not a single negative comment on the new translation. One parishioner found the ICEL Mass a bit gloomy. We are working on the St. Francis Mass at present (from the Adoremus Hymnal). — Lay person/choir member, Seattle Diocese, Washington (8)

• We need to improve the music selected for the entrance, offertory, communion, and recessional. Many times the selections are not at all reverent or accurate according to theology. They are folksy tunes and not at all spiritual — about us, not God. And we need to keep silence upon entering church and leaving church. People cannot pray when there is so much chattering in the parish church. — Lay person, Gaylord Diocese, Michigan (9)

• Trying to retrofit the new prayers with the same liturgical music does not flow well at all. It sounds very awkward. We need new music to go with the new Missal. — Lay person, Omaha Diocese, Nebraska (6)

•In my view there is an urgent need to have a national hymnal, purged of hymns unsuitable for singing in the context of the Holy Eucharist. This must come from the USCCB in order to give pastors leverage to enforce it. I was of the impression that a repository of sacred music was to be drawn up — where is it? Authentic theological experts in sacred music must be employed to oversee this project so that we will receive hymns that are theologically sound, singable, and beautiful. These hymns must lift the heart and soul to God! As we pray (sing) so we believe! — Priest, Location withheld (9)

• We are using a combination of new and reworked music for the sung parts of the Mass. It’s coming along slowly. — Lay person, Baltimore Archdiocese, Maryland (6)

• No [increase in reverence], primarily because of the horrible music! Mass is offered reverently by the priests, so it’s not their fault. I believe the pastor makes no change in choir director because there are so few people to choose from to replace him. What does the future hold as organists retire? — Lay person, St. Louis Archdiocese, Missouri (8)

• The age of experimentation in sacred music needs to be reined in and serious devoted composers need to be encouraged to compose the best expression of our worship in the art of music. — Lay person, Harrisburg Diocese, Pennsylvania (9)

• The parish adopted new music for the ordinary of the Mass, which is often used at our Masses. This necessitated a re-learning process, which was positive. — Lay person, Diocese of Broken Bay, Australia (5)


Helen Hull Hitchcock

Helen Hull Hitchcock (1939-2014) was editor of the <em>Adoremus Bulletin</em>, which she co-founded. She was also the founding director of Women for Faith & Family and editor of its quarterly journal, Voices. She published many articles and essays in a wide range of Catholic journals, and authored and edited <em>The Politics of Prayer: Feminist Language and the Worship of God</em> (Ignatius Press 1992), a collection of essays on issues involved in translation. She contributed essays to several books, including <em>Spiritual Journeys</em>, a book of “conversion stories” (Daughters of St. Paul). Helen lectured in the US and abroad, and appeared frequently on radio and television, representing Catholic teaching on issues affecting Catholic women, families, and Catholic faith and worship.