The Times, They Are A-Changin’
Or are they?
We all know that language changes in the liturgy will begin this Advent. How are we preparing our people for them? Printed materials and/or screens at Mass will assist them in getting the new words right. But what about actual catechesis?
It seems to me that since people tend to resist change, and since they have become accustomed to the current verbiage, and in fact, for the most part, have it memorized, there may be some displeasure with having to learn something new. The manner in which the new changes are introduced will make a difference. We can catechize about the new changes in terms of their closer references to Scripture, or their nearer kinship to the Latin translation. For me, in introducing these changes, it would be important to point out how superficial these changes are. Nothing basic to the liturgy has changed. All the old ritual and its meaning remain the same.
I would catechize to the meaning of the liturgy and to the role of the assembly in it. Perhaps it is possible to catch up some of those who never really got the catechesis following Vatican II. One of the things we learned then is that catechesis is necessary. Too many parishes just made the changes without the catechesis. The result was a lack of understanding and therefore of the whole-hearted participation that was envisioned. If we can generate enthusiasm for this central action of who we are, there will be more acceptance of the changes.
Any one of the following books can assist you in catechizing your parish on liturgy.
What Every Catholic Needs to Know about the Eucharist explores the meaning of the eucharistic liturgy and the assembly’s role.
The Ministry of the Assembly specifically explores the meaning of each part of the Mass and the role of the members of the assembly at each part.
What Every Catholic Needs to Know about the Mass gives a general overview of the Mass, its history, its parts, and its symbols.
Primary Symbols of Worship explores the primary symbols of the liturgy and is written with discussion questions and prayer services for use in groups.
One result of this language change is the need for a change in the sung parts of the Mass. The texts for the Gloria, Holy, Holy, and other acclamations have changed. The composers have taken two approaches to fill this need. They have rewritten some of their Mass settings to fit the new texts. They have written new Mass settings.
Rewrites have inherent difficulties in trying to adapt the music to a different length of text and with emphases on different syllables. Is it easier for the people to use a mostly familiar melody with changes or to introduce an entirely new one? The music publishers have lists of the revised and the new settings online with audio clips. Some are doing workshops around the country to promote the Mass settings through sight singing sessions.
Each parish will have to decide this for themselves. My suggestion is to have the musicians from the various groups including cantors come together to decide on one Mass setting that will work for all of them. They can each do research on their own and bring in suggested settings that they think will work. Then a decision can be made by the group as a whole.
My recommendation would be to choose one setting that all can use—folk group, traditional choir, individual cantor, etc. That way the entire parish can learn just one setting. This will have a unifying effect, and enable everyone to fully and easily participate in major celebrations, like Christmas Mass at Midnight, or the Easter Triduum liturgies. Our parish has chosen a Mass setting and plans to use it exclusively at all Masses for at least six months. By then the regular parishioners should be familiar and comfortable with it. After that the various groups can introduce settings that work specifically with their style, if they wish. Or they can collectively choose another setting for the whole parish. This is an opportunity to musically unify the parish liturgies.
Comments on the unity candle and wedding music from Ruth Freesmeier: Our problem was with the unity candle. We have a very good policy regarding choices of music at weddings, but had no leg to stand on when it came to music for the unity candle—except to encourage the couple to keep it as appropriate as possible (we were in church!). Brides came in with an array of ideas of what the unity candle meant. Most thought it was just part of the service. They came with all kinds of music suggestions—most of them love songs. Guidelines for music at Mass are clearly stated in the Catholic ritual for marriage, but the unity candle is not mentioned since it is not part of the Catholic wedding.
So almost 4 years ago we made the decision to cut out the unity candle altogether and to use the stand (which had been donated by a parishioner) for a better purpose. We replaced the unity candle with something we called the “devotional candle.” This made the music guidelines easier to set in order to reflect the action that takes place at the time. Songs could be Marian in nature since the candle is placed in the front of the Mary statue and some brides still choose to take flowers to Mary at this time. Songs of commitment, blessing, service would also be appropriate. The lighting of this candle takes place at the end of the Mass/service right before the final blessing. We give the brides the option to light the candle and bring flowers to Mary, to do either, or to do neither.
The candle remains lit through the weekend Masses to remind those who could not come to the wedding (weddings in our parish are open—not by invitation only) to pray for the couple and for all those who were married that weekend. Our intercessions/prayers for the people at the weekend Masses specifically pray for that couple and for all couples who were married that weekend.
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