LANDER — There are words and responses in the Catholic Mass that even those who venture into a church but once or twice a year know by heart.
The priests greets the congregation: The Lord be with you.
The parishioners respond: And also with you.
Except starting Sunday, for the first time in decades, the response will differ.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
The changes are happening internationally. They reflect a more literal translation of the church’s original writings in Latin, said Peter Kwasniewski, professor of theology at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander.
It’s the same Mass that has been celebrated since the 1970s, Kwasniewski said. The difference is the translation is now more accurate.
At the college, where students take a minimum of two years of Latin, the transition to the new wording has offered class discussions on translations and the meaning of the words originally written in Latin.
“What we’re aware of is that the new translation is much more accurate,” Kwasniewski said.
The changes are long overdue, he said.
“When there is a book for worship, it seems what we pray should be in meaning as close as possible to the actual book,” he said.
Before Catholics receive communion they say: Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.
As of Sunday the response will be: Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
This reflects back to Luke Chapter 7 in the Bible, when someone actually says, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof …” Kwasniewski said.
The church created the current translation in the 1970s with the idea that keeping the language common and simple would make the service more easily understood, Kwasniewski said.
But language used to worship should be different than the way we talk to friends in social settings, he said. Worshiping should involve more elevated words and phrases to reflect its importance.
“God is not easily understood,” Kwasniewski said. “He’s a mystery.”
The looser translation also changed the meaning of some phrases, he said.
In the middle of the Mass there is the phrase: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of power and might.
The new translation Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts, actually means something else, Kwasniewski said
Changing the greeting at the beginning of Mass — and with your spirit — reflects the Catholic belief that the priest is empowered, Kwasniewski said.
The changes have meant additional work for Wyoming priests, who have spent months studying the new translation and working to prepare churchgoers, said Rob Spaulding, associate pastor at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Cheyenne.
Even though the changes are small and subtle, Mass is going to sound different to people, he said.
“The reality is, that because you are dealing with people’s faith and prayer life, anything you do is going to have a strong response,” Spaulding said.
Some parishioners are excited, while others are worried it’s more important to understand the prayers, and the new wording will make that harder.
Spaulding, and other priests in the church, are charged with helping people understand the new translation. For several months, he and several priests, all ordained within the past five years, have met regularly and talked about all of the changes. It has brought them back to critically thinking about the prayers they say in church, what they mean and why they are included, he said.
“Mass isn’t changing. Our beliefs aren’t changing,” he said. “It’s simply a change in the language.”
Sunday marks the first Sunday of Advent and is considered a new year in the Catholic Church, which is why the date was chosen to change to the new translation, Spaulding said. It begins the preparation for Christmas and a new cycle of readings for Mass.
Preparation for the changes has been under way for awhile throughout the church. Music had to be rewritten, religious education classes revised and new texts ordered. And many churches have been transitioning with a few of the new translations in the weeks leading to the official change.
“We’ve been getting a small dose of it every week,” said Susan Simon, a parishioner and sacramental preparation coordinator at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Cheyenne.
She likes the changes and the idea the words reflect a truer meaning, she said.
Those who attend Mass regularly shouldn’t have a problem easing into the new language. The challenge will be for those who attend only a few times a year, such as at Christmas. Churches are preparing ways to reach out to those who will get their first dose of different responses on Christmas eve.
“Change isn’t always easy for everyone, but I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Simon said. “I think after a few months it will come easily for people.”
One area of Wyoming churches where change is not happening is in the Spanish Masses that several churches around the state offer weekly.
The Spanish translation is true to the original text, said Florante Marcelo, associate pastor at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church in Jackson, who performs the weekly Spanish Mass at the church.
“Not even a single word” is changing, he said.
The changes, while challenging, are beneficial to priests, as well as the church.
“I just realize the value of languages,” he said. “It truly brings you back to the meaning of the reading.”