This is one in a series of articles your Catholic Herald will publish in preparation for the implementation of the new Roman Missal.
WASHINGTON, D.C. –– Although the phrase “consubstantial with the Father” might not roll off the tongues of Catholic youths, church officials and catechists hope its meaning will sink in when it is said in the Nicene Creed later this year.
Consubstantial, which means of the same essence, is closer to the creed’s original Latin and Greek text and basically holds more theological punch than “one in being with the Father,” the phrase it replaces. It is one of several changes in Mass responses that are part of the revised edition of the Roman Missal to be implemented in Catholic churches Nov. 27.
One pastor explained this specific change in a July 31 Sunday bulletin noting that “consubstantial” reflects the “language of theology, the language the ancient church Fathers carefully constructed to take a stab at the mystery of Christ’s divinity.”
“Part of the intent behind the new translation is to re-mystify – in the best sense of the word,” wrote Fr. John Terry, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
That sense of mystery and transcendence of God – or recognizing that God is beyond human perception – is something children and teens should pick up from the revised missal said Maureen Kelly, author of “What’s New About the Mass,” aimed specifically at third- to seventh-graders, and “What’s New About the Mass for Teens.” Both are published by Liturgy Training Publications in Chicago.
Kelly, who spoke to Catholic News Service July 28 from her home in Kansas City, Mo., said the wording in the new missal “brings in more of a sense of transcendence, which young people haven’t experienced.”
She said children and teenagers already get the sense that God is close to them and a part of their personal lives, which catechists describe as God’s immanence. “The challenge is to achieve the balance of immanence and transcendence,” she said.
In her books and in workshops she leads, preparing catechists to teach the new missal, Kelly stresses that young people need to understand the scriptural context for the new responses in the Mass.
The biggest challenge for all ages, she said, is to “understand a little more fully the meaning and mystery of Eucharist.” She said the new responses are easy enough to learn but the reasoning behind these changes might be easier for older adults – who have been through the Mass change from Latin to English – to grasp.
Fr. Richard Hilgartner, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat on Divine Worship, is convinced the new words won’t be a problem for teenagers and suspects they will catch on faster than the rest of the Catholic population.
He frequently tells parish leaders that young people “hold one of the keys to helping implement this. For one thing, they are not as wedded to tradition. In today’s culture everything is always changing. New is not something they’re afraid of.”
But just picking up new expressions is one thing; getting the new rhythm of the Mass responses is another challenge and a particular one for young people, he said, because it doesn’t flow with their natural way of communicating.
Teenagers are accustomed to everything in shorthand, like abbreviated text messages and 140-character tweets, he said, which is completely different from the communication and language of prayer.
“Prayer is not just about getting a message across in as few words as possible. Prayer is about creating a relationship,” he said. And the liturgy itself has its own language: “one where catechesis helps people understand” what is happening.
Lisa Garcia, resource director for Life Teen, the Arizona-based national program for Catholic teenagers, agreed.
“The Mass is the centerpiece of our catechism anyway and this gives us an opportunity to continue this dialogue again, to pause and think about the words we’re saying,” she said.
Since last fall Garcia has been working on “Word for Word,” a book and DVD introducing teens and their parents to the new missal. Requests for the materials have been increasing, she said, especially as parishes realize the deadline is approaching for switching to the new missal.
Garcia thinks teenagers will not have a problem with the changes, noting that “change isn’t as dramatic” for them and that they will likely appreciate how the new missal links them with the universal church.
The key is explaining the “why behind it,” she said, helping teens connect the dots between Scriptures and the Mass responses and also getting them to understand that “words we say matter and words we say collectively have power.”
If that message gets across, she said, then “come November 27, they might be the ones who know it and can lead the way.”
Editor’s note: More resources for teaching children and teens about the new Roman Missal can be found in the October issue of Catholic Herald Parenting.