Change Is Good, But For Whom?

Change Is Good, But For Whom?

I recently spent a few days at the annual convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM) in Louisville, KY. In the exhibit hall and workshop rooms, in the dining spots, lobbies, and other places where people gathered, one thing was markedly clear: there is a lot of buzz about the impending changes in the Roman Missal.

This conference draws musicians, of course, but also liturgists, pastors and pastoral associates, and other ministerial people. The uniting factor among most, if not all, participants is that in some way or another they are involved in producing good liturgy in their respective parishes. Hence the great interest in the revised Roman Missal.

Across the board, the feeling among parish ministers seems to land in three places. First, there are those who are still questioning: the language of the Mass may not have been perfect but it was good. Why are we changing it? Then there are those who are resigned: OK, it’s a fait accompli. How will we deal with this? Start teaching new Mass parts in September, or wait until Advent? Finally, there is a small contingent who is not going to do anything unless they absolutely have to. In effect, they’ll keep the status quo until someone notices and says, “Make the change.”

I wonder who will most benefit from the changes in the Roman Missal. Certainly, they will satisfy those in the Catholic hierarchy who have spent years making these changes in the hope and expectation that they will bring the faithful to a truer understanding of the Mass. It will benefit publishers, who are providing the materials that Catholics will need to enable them to learn the new responses and find ways to prayerfully adapt to the language of the Mass. Beyond that, will these changes benefit those of us who populate the pews week to week? Will they bring back a portion of the throngs of Catholics who have left the Church for various reasons over the past two decades?

No one knows. When Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, he did so in the spirit of aggiornamento—an attempt to let fresh air into the Church. And it did; the council initiated a broad swath of change that affected all corners of the Catholic Church of the late 1960s, an effect that lasted well into the 1990s. But the pendulum began to swing back: many Catholics who were raised in the post-Vatican II era began to feel that something had been lost in the upheaval enacted by the council, and longed for more.

Over the past decade, we have seen a Church reconsidering its practices. Some say it’s a move backwards; others see a move toward traditions and theology that might have been lost in the renewal movement of the late 20th century. The change in the Roman Missal is one of the most visible signs of the re-evaluation going on in the hierarchy today.

Here’s where I need to do a shout out to Greg Friedman, O.F.M., for his excellent video on the changes in the Roman Missal. This DVD will help you and those in your parish understand the who, what, when, where and why of the revised missal. It’s a great learning opportunity, and comes with some really exceptional “extras,” such as a sample pew card and six handouts to supplement the video.

Where do you stand on the changes in the Roman Missal? Is this something you’re taking in stride, or has it evoked a strong response in you?

Photo credit: Salvatore Vuono/


About the Author

Mary Carol Kendzia is a product development director for Franciscan Media Books. She lives in Rhode Island, where she occasionally dips her toes into the Atlantic and reflects on the mysteries of life, among other things.