Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guest Post: books on the "new" Mass

Sister Anne (from "Nunblog") has spent the past year talking and studying about the new translation of the Mass, so she is providing a guest post on the books that can help you understand the what and wherefore of the changes in the Mass.

The new translation of the Missal (which went into effect on Nov. 27) provides a perfect opportunity for getting to know the Mass better, and Catholic publishers have been more than happy to provide the resources. While there are a number of new titles specifically on what's "new" in the Missal, the books that will have the longest "shelf life" are those that simply incorporate the changes into a solid presentation of the Mass itself.

One of those books is by Dr Edward Sri of the Augustine Institute (where just last Saturday our Sr Irene received her Master's in Biblical Theology). I was given a review copy of Sri's "A Biblical Walk through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy" (my copy came with a handy laminated folder with the new translation of the unchanging parts of the Liturgy).

At first I thought I would just zip through the book and gather some interesting bits of knowledge to add to my liturgical information collection. Simply opening the book to leaf through its pages quickly disabused me of that idea. To casually flip through Sri's book seems almost sacrilegious. I realized that this is a book that deserves to be read in calm, not only without haste, but also without an agenda. It offers a deeply contemplative "walk" through the Mass, Bible in hand, in the company of Fathers and Doctors and Saints of the Church. The Confiteor alone takes up 5 pages of the book, and the Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy) is another 5! Every so often, Sri will pause, so to speak, and go behind the biblical and liturgical texts to the mysteries they express, inviting us to renew our whole participation at Mass, and not just learn stuff about it. Although there is a great amount of "stuff" here to learn, too.

I see that Ascension Press has also prepared a program for groups (with a student workbook and leader's guide): an ideal way to help prepare people not just for "changes ahead," but for the kind of profound reform that Pope Benedict has said always coincides with a renewal of Eucharistic faith.

The Diocese of Duluth, MN is offering a free e-book, entitled "Praying the Mass Anew." It gives an overview of the Mass in general as well as explaining the new translation. You can download it and print it as-is, or save it to your favorite e-reader! I have only scanned it so far, but it looks like a fine presentation of the Mass for adults; if you haven't really had any instruction on the Mass since your First Communion, you'd probably do well to download this one.
On the website, you'll also find the individual parts of the book, so you can read it online if you prefer. The Director of the diocesan Office of Worship even shared his PowerPoint presentations and notes, so you can study on your own--and a printable version of a "pew card" with the people's parts that you can take with you to Mass.
What a service! (Thanks, Father Hastings!)

As a presenter on the new missal, I have spent the past year immersed in the texts and in texts about the texts. Today I just finished yet another book about the Roman Missal, this one by a Chicago priest (and consultant for Cardinal George). Of all the titles I have read this year, this is the book I would most highly recommend, both for the more sophisticated members of the "daily Mass crowd" and for parish staff members, especially those on liturgy committees.

Father Tuzik doesn't just give the background to the new translation of the Mass prayers or the lengthy process of the translation and its approval.  As the subtitle says, he really offers "pastoral reflections" on the prayers themselves, highlighting texts that the earlier translation had not really delivered (with a kind of "before" and "after" treatment in columns, so you can see the precise word changes and appreciate the difference). He also (and this is where the book is truly unique and useful) goes into the less-frequented parts of the Roman Missal: not just the various votive Masses, but the abundant ritual masses (Baptism, Confirmation, etc.) which are now included in the altar book, and the other optional masses--and they are many! (Each category has its own chapter.) Within the treatment, he will give a few examples of specific prayers, and then offer suggestions about when that particular set of mass prayers would be best used in a parish setting. As Tuzik observed, most of the time priests use the Sunday prayer texts, when there are so many optional prayers that match the readings for the day and put into relief a dimension of faith that deserves a bit more attention.
Among the Masses for various needs and occasions, there is the Mass "for the Progress of Peoples"; one "for Refugees and Exiles"; "In thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life." There is one Mass of thanksgiving whose prayers are suitable when people have been rescued from peril, and another Mass of thanksgiving where the prayers reflect more a sense of gratitude for successful endeavors. There are Masses for seedtime and Masses for harvest; Mass prayers for public officials (prayer may not be the most spontaneous thing that would occur to people when thinking of elected leaders!). There are Masses for the sick, and a Mass "for the Grace of a Happy Death" (which, Tuzik points out in that ever-present pastoral spirit, can be really suitable in the case of the terminally ill, acknowledging that they may even be longing for the Lord to come for them soon.) There's even a (how appropriate to our times!) Mass "for Chastity" whose prayers remind me of Ronald Knox's observation that virginity is not something slight and fragile, but something bold and grand, like a parade coming down the street: "Through the Sacraments we have received, O Lord, may our heart and our body flourish anew..."

His style is consistently pastoral and personal: refreshing in the field of liturgy! So, if you enjoy hearty reading of a theological bent, and haven't heard enough yet about the Roman Missal, or (above all) if you serve on your parish staff and assist the priests with liturgy planning, this is a book for you!

Regarding personal-sized "hand" missals, subscription missalettes and missal apps, see a post I did for my own blog. The Pauline edition of the Sunday and Daily Missals should be out early in the new year; maybe Sr Julia will invite me to do a post about them then!

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