Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington says the new English translation of the Roman Missal represents “a catechetical moment for the whole Church in the country.”
In anticipation of the new translation, the Cardinal has co-written a new book — a step-by-step walk through the parts of the Mass — which he hopes will be a “helpful tool” to help Catholics deepen their understanding of the Mass.
“We begin the book by saying the Mass is ‘what Catholics do.’ The most clearly identifiable action of the Catholic Church is the Mass. ... It is the identifying quality of our Catholic life,” Cardinal Wuerl told CNA in a Jan. 31 phone interview.
“The Mass is how the salvific redemption of the Cross reaches Christians today, nearly 2,000 years since the death of Christ,” he said. “And that’s why there is nothing the Church does that is more important, more significant, more grace-laden, than the Mass.”
Cardinal Wuerl’s new book, co-written with popular Catholic author Mike Aquilina, “The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition” (Doubleday, $22), is richly illustrated and includes reflections by Cardinal Wuerl and Aquilina as well as insights from Church Fathers and other Church writers.
The book was written specifically with the new Missal translation in mind, the cardinal indicated. The Roman Missal is the official book of prayers and instructions for the celebration of the Eucharist.
The United States bishops have announced that parishes will begin using the new translation in Advent 2011.
While the essentials of the Mass have not changed, the new translation offers a richer way to explain and proclaim the Catholic faith, Cardinal Wuerl said.
The cardinal explained that Pope Benedict XVI has called Catholics to “re-propose” the Catholic faith to everyone, and the year-long preparation for the new Missal event is “a chance to do just that.”
“I think we all know that there are many, many of our Catholic faithful who have been, through no fault of their own, under-catechized. They simply never had the opportunity to learn the richness, the beauty, the wonder of the holy sacrifice of the Mass,” he said.
Some of the most important changes in the new edition correct the “shorthand” approach that earlier translators had taken in an effort to eliminate what they considered to be “repetitious or unnecessary” expressions.
For instance, in the “Confiteor” section of the Mass, Catholics presently pray: “I have sinned through my own fault.”
The new translation restores the literal language of the Roman Missal, using the phrase, “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”
“Here, the richness of that repetition is driven home,” Cardinal Wuerl commented.
The “Gloria” of the Mass has also been expanded to follow “the exact translation of the Latin.”
It now reads “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory.”
The cardinal said there is nothing “wrong” with the current translation. “It’s just that now we have a fuller, and I believe richer explanation of, and proclamation of, our faith.”
Catholics uncomfortable with the changes should realize nothing essential is being changed, he said.
“I’m very sympathetic to people who say ‘I prefer we don’t have any changes at all.’ But change is a part of life even in the unfolding of the liturgy, where we deal with the non-essential items.”
“The celebration of the Mass is essentially what Jesus did at the last Supper, and commanded his Church to do. ‘Do this in memory of me…’ And the Church has done that faithfully for the last two thousand years,” Cardinal Wuerl said.
How the mystery of the Mass is “clothed” in language and rubrics has changed during the course of the Church’s history, he said. This latest translation aims to “get as close as we can to what the current Latin edition says.”
The Eucharist, Cardinal Wuerl stressed, is “at the very heart” of Catholic identity. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, Catholics “enter the mystery of new life in Jesus Christ” and “enter into fullness in his new body the Church.”
Cardinal Wuerl said he has encouraged his priests in the Archdiocese of Washington to begin to help Catholics understand the changes coming with the new missal.
“The changes are not substantive, but the Mass is going to sound a little different. I think we simply need to be helping all of our faithful people to get used to and prepare for some of those new sounds.
“In a very short period of time, we’ll become accustomed to them and we’ll simply take it as the normal way in which we celebrate Mass,” he added.
“I encourage every one of our Catholic faithful to use this as a moment now to reflect on what is happening at Mass, what these words signify, what they communicate, and what mystery is being re-presented on the altar.”