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Changes to Catholic liturgy to take effect first Sunday of Advent

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Nov. 18, 2011 at 5:18 a.m.

Nov. 27 will mark the beginning of Advent in the Catholic Church and the implementation of the revised liturgy for the Mass. Bishop David Fellhauer discusses the reasons for the new liturgy, which follows a closer translation from Latin to English.

Forty-six years ago, Victoria Diocese Bishop David Fellhauer was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth, the same year the Second Vatican Council concluded in Rome.

The church transitioned that year from a centuries-old tradition of celebrating Mass in Latin, to delivering the service in the vernacular of the people.

After years of theological studies in Latin, the newly ordained Fellhauer would have to adapt to the revisions to the Catholic sacraments and holy Mass.

"When I was ordained, the Mass was still in Latin. I was ordained just before the end of the Second Vatican Council ... I was trained in Latin, and then I had to change to English," Fellhauer said.

Adapting to the changes, while significant and historical, was a manageable transition, Fellhauer recalled.

"It was easy to adapt, though there wasn't so much time to prepare for it," he said.

But in his 46 years as a faithful servant of the church - including 25 years in the priesthood before elevating to his Bishop post 21 years ago - the Latin-literate Fellhauer said he and the rest of the church emerged unscathed from the changes.

The English-speaking Catholic church will again experience another wave of critical changes to the sacraments and holy Mass next Sunday - the first Sunday of Advent on Nov. 27 - when parts of the Catholic liturgy transition to a more exacting translation of the original Latin.

"Some people will miss the old translation, but it's not going to harm their spirituality very much," the Bishop said. "One thing it's going to do, is people will listen to the wording, and I think it will make them appreciate the Mass and liturgy even more."

The new English translation of the liturgy, approved in 2009 by Catholic officials in Rome, emphasizes a more literal translation in both wording and meaning in several areas of the Mass.

"The changes reflect the original Latin prayers, which are centuries old, and in Latin," he said.

Some of the changes occur in the Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Concluding Rites.

"When the priest says, 'The Lord be with you,' the response is from the people, 'And also with you.' When the change comes about it will be, 'And also with your spirit,'" Fellhauer said, offering an example of the changes.

Fellhauer said when the prayers were originally translated from Latin to English - the first issuance of the English Mass for the United States was in 1974 - they were done in haste and not intended to remain unaltered.

"They wanted to hurry and put the English translation in the hands of the people as soon as possible. In the mean time, it was not meant to last forever," the Bishop said. "It was foreseen that it would be revised and updated. And that has been done. It has taken a long time."

But since 2009, priests all over the English-speaking world have been preparing their congregations for the changes.

"In our parish, we've spent several months practicing," said The Rev. Stan DeBoe, a priest of Our Lady of Sorrows Church. "The new translation is a wonderful opportunity to look at the liturgy in a different way."

DeBoe also said the tighter English translation is a benefit to the whole of Catholic followers, mentioning the translation in the Spanish-speaking Catholic churches for example, held a more literal translation of the Latin. Under the new changes, his Spanish-speaking parishioners will be able to enjoy the new English version more easily.

"The English is going to match the Spanish exactly," DeBoe said.

The Rev. Dan Morales, a priest at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Victoria also said he, too, favors the changes.

"The changes will be good. The language is more authentic ... the prayers are richer, and more poetic," Morales said.

A priest of 21 years, Morales said lay people may struggle with the changes in the beginning, but encourages them to remember that English-speaking priests around the world will be relearning the prayers right alongside the congregation.

"We do a lot of the Mass from memory, so we'll have to relearn it also," he said. "But the changes will be small in comparison" to the Second Vatican changes. "The essence of the Mass has not changed."



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