Michael Commane on using the New Missal

By MIchael Commane This might well be the end of me as a priest in the Holy Roman Catholic Church. I sort of jest. Only ‘sort of’.

I was ordained a priest in 1974, the day the Germans beat the Dutch in the World Cup in Munich. Beckenbauer was the captain of the German team. I’m not well up in football but even the likes of me would have watched that game but because of ordination I missed it. And it so happens that a German Dominican colleague and friend came to Ireland to attend my priestly ordination.

I’m celebrating Mass quite a number of years. I think it’s fair to say I have a strong voice and have no trouble reading. Actually, I’d go as far as saying I’m quite a good reader. I take care celebrating Mass. I’ve seen too many Masses celebrated in a sloppy and unprayerful manner. I have heard too many sermons, which have been nothing but piffle.

I make it my business to celebrate Mass in a devout and prayerful manner. The new missal was introduced on the first Sunday in Advent, which was November 27, 2011. We are using the new book over five months.

Five months on I still have major difficulty using it.

It is a substandard work and I can’t help think that the same ‘secret’ people, who have silenced Irish priests are at least cousins of the people who have produced this book.

I am not going to discuss here anything to do with the theological aspect of the missal but I am going to say something about the English used in it. The opening prayer is no longer called that. It is now called the ‘Collect’. Why change from ‘Opening Prayer’ to ‘Collect’? Which word is more easily understood?

Many of these ‘Collects’ contain sentences with up to 60 words. It is well nigh impossible to spot the main verb. It is well nigh impossible to make sense of it. And if one has not read it at least twice before reading it at Mass he is sure to get lost in the middle of the sentence or more likely, run out of breath.

The word ‘offering’ has been changed to ‘oblation’. Again, so wonderful. In the second Eucharist prayer we now read about being in God’s ‘face’. The old missal spoke about being in God’s ‘presence’.

If anyone takes time to read the introduction to the missal they might notice that ‘priest’ is spelt with an upper case ‘P’ but ‘people’ can only manage a lower case ‘p’.

That really gives it all away and tells the story as it is. The ‘ruling elite’ in Holy Mother Church have decided that they and their ministers always deserve upper case letters whereas it is fine and dandy to treat the hoi polloi with lower case.

Some weeks ago I was at a graduation ceremony in Trinity College. On the walls of the hall were portraits of the great and the good who lived and ruled in Ireland in another era.

The entire ceremony was conducted in Latin. We were told it was an ‘old tradition’. Wonderful. Indeed, it was a little ironic to hear those talking in Latin, on more than one occasion mispronounce their words.

It was difficult not to think that holding a ceremony in a language the vast majority of people in attendance did not understand is a fine trick to let the world know that there is an elite class and there is a class that does not belong to the elite.

The current Leveson inquiry in the UK is a powerful example of how the elite always manage to mix with one another. How right Conservative MP, Nadine Dorries, was to refer to Cameron and Osborne as the ‘Posh Boys’.

The ‘Posh Boys’ exist in all groups. They seem to be in the ascendant in Holy Mother Church.

I believe the church is in real difficulty and I’m scared of those who are playing such a powerful role.

What at all has happened to the idea of the ‘People of God’?

Wherever the ‘Posh Boys’ are, is there an iota of a chance that the Spirit of the Lord can ever get a chance?


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  1. Mike Fallon says:

    Michael,I believe your summary of how things are five months down the line would resonate with many people.They certainly do with me
    It seems to have become ever more clear and apparent to many people that the lack of ownership and sound management of sexual abuse and the imposition of a New Translation of the Sacramentary are two sides of one coin: the wilful pursuit of control and power. My concern is that if we go along with the dictats of dysfunctional leadership which we perceive to be wrong in either area, we are doing exactly what Cardinal Brady is accused of having done: looking the other way and allowing injustice to flourish and evil to continue.
    Let’s pray that the Gathering on Monday will breathe new hope and encouragement into the hearts and minds of all God’s people at what seems to be a Rubicon moment in the Church’s development in becoming able to deliver the Kingdom in our time.
    Let’s hope that some effective way of registering disapproval can be found.

  2. Wendy Murphy says:

    Michael – this is where I came in. The end of you as a priest (just kidding) is almost certainly the end of me as a Catholic. As Mike describes, the new translation is a sort of marker put down which some of us are unable and/or unwilling to take up. It represents and signifies all the depressing, demoralizing stories and events which weigh so heavily upon us. At last, I’ve begun to wonder why on earth we should be living our lives this way, weighed down with ‘Church’ ‘Vatican’ etc. It’s no way to live life to the full as we’re made to do, let alone be capable of bringing life and joy to others. There must be a better way.

  3. To my mind the new translation does not pray ! It tells me so much about God in a totally fussy way, in a very round about way but it rarely speaks to God.

  4. Maghnus Monaghan says:

    Fr. Commane,

    I think that you have been a little unbalanced in your analysis of the new translation and the fact that you are having difficulty with it does not necessarily suggest that there is something wrong with it. I have seen many priests stumble over the new translations but only because they have not prepared for it. Clearly if a text which we have been saying for 20 years changes it will take significant effort to say the new text correctly. I think what is required from priests is for them to spend some time learning the new texts rather than just relying on their ability to read them during mass.

    With regard to your unbalanced description of the new translation, what are your feelings on the more scriptural aspects of the new translations and its efforts to make a more continuous liturgy where there isn’t a big gap between the way we proclaim the Word of God and ‘the other parts’ of the mass? As I understand it the present Pope has an excellent understanding of the needs of the Church. For whatever reasons following the reforms of Vatican II there was a significant falling off in popular devotions (I wouldn’t suggest as a result of Vatican II). These devotions were an expression of a personal faith or relationship which is a tremendously important part of believing. The new translations I think succeed brilliantly in using words which remind us that what we are doing is something extremely important, something that is not our doing but God’s. Many Catholics have very little appreciation of the importance of the Eucharist. Furthermore for many Sunday mass is the only time when they consider what their faith means. We cannot afford to have a liturgy which is substandard or which is casual, hence the new translation.

  5. Maghnus Monaghan says:

    While I don’t object to the use of the Latin mass in general I do find it difficult. As a younger member of the Church my expoure to Latin has been limited to a few years in school certainly not enough to grasp what is happening at mass. While I appreciate that many people get fulfillment from the Latin mass and there are some things which have been lost in the Novus Ordo, it is good for my faith and my person to have things which I understand directy. I think the new translation does exactly this. It balances the need for mystery with physical things that we need in order to participate properly.

  6. Please, see my texts ‘Quo Vadis? The Catholic Church’ and ‘Liturgical Vision and Evolution in the Catholic Church’on my website.
    Comments are most welcome.

  7. Been years, but this reminds me of a little book we started to read in first year.

    “Paula est puella parva…. ”

    “Cornelius est puer magna….. ”

    Not sure if the spelling is correct.

    This was ‘grammar school’ that sent out a fair proportion of future priests.

    Was this some kind of subliminal indoctrination under the pretext of a little girl and a big boy living in Rome.

    Keep them in their places.

    I can only imagine what Freud would have made of that one. lol


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