English-Language Catholic Masses to Get New Translation

If anything, it'll be a new way to tell who hasn't been to church in a while.

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Every Sunday, the world’s one billion Catholics usually attend mass. That means that for a few hours a week, some one-seventh of the world’s population is in sync, reciting the same liturgy, praying the same prayers. But on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, English-speakers will face the first major change in nearly half a century: a new translation of the sacred mass.

Until the early 1960s, the mass was the same for Catholics worldwide. But that is because it was in Latin, a language almost no one speaks. The Second Vatican Council made the decision to switch to local languages, and English-speaking parishes in Britain, India, Australia, Canada, Ireland, and the United States were among those to adopt the mass in their local dialects. But British English is not the same as Australian English, and for traditionalists, these changes seemed to stray too far from the age-old Latin.

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Now the new Roman Missal, as the mass is called, attempts to unite English speakers more closely with the original Latin and with other languages’ translations. But the new translation—even though it took some 30 years to design—often makes the mass even more wooden and more difficult to understand. When Catholics recite the 4th-century Nicene Creed, for example, Jesus will be described as “begotten, not made, con-substantial with the Father,” instead of “begotten, not made, one in being with the Father.” Begotten is hard enough—how many people know that “consubstantial” means substances that are the same? That’s a word found most often on tests in theological graduate school programs.

For now, while some priests and bishops remain on the fence about the changes, most reactions will likely happen after the mass hits the pews after Thanksgiving. Here are some of the top changes to look out for:

When the priest calls, “The Lord be with you,” the congregation will respond, “And with Your Spirit,” instead of “And also with you.”

“Lord I am not worthy to receive you,” will become, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”

The confession “I have sinned through my own fault,” will change to “I have greatly sinned.”

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