Introducing the New Missal – Questions and Answers

15 Apr 2011

Is the Mass changing?

The structure of the Mass is not changing. The order and the actions of the Mass remain unchanged. The readings at Mass are not changed. However, with the introduction of the new edition of the Roman Missal throughout the English-speaking world, we will all notice a change in how the Mass sounds. The translations of a number of our prayer texts from the original Latin have changed – sometimes by a particular word or in the word order. Prayers that we have become used to reciting by memory now have to be relearned. Prayers that we are used to hearing the priest say will sound different to us.

The style of language we will hear and pray may seem more formal to us and perhaps, in parts, more complex. But over time, with the praying of these texts, the sound of the Mass will again become familiar to us.

What is the Roman Missal?

The term ‘Missal’ is used to refer to the book that contains all the prayers and instructions for the celebration of the Mass. The Missal is first written in Latin and this Latin text is then translated into the particular language of the people. In this way, while the Mass may be celebrated in many languages across the Roman Catholic world, it is the same core Latin text that is being prayed by the Church. We have been using our current Missal since St Patrick’s Day 1975. It is sometimes referred to as the Missal of Pope Paul VI. Now we have a new edition of that Missal.

When and why are we getting a new edition of the Roman Missal?

The new edition of the Missal will come into full use over a period of time between September and 27 November 2011, the First Sunday of Advent. The new edition is necessary for a number of reasons. Firstly, in the years since 1975 when our current Missal was published, a number of additional texts have been made available for use in the Mass. These include additional Eucharistic Prayers, some new Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Masses for over twenty new Feasts of Saints (for example, St Pius of Pietrelcina/Padre Pio, Edith Stein, Maximilian Kolbe). The new material is to be included in the Missal so that it can be used in our celebrations.

Secondly, in 2001 the Holy See issued new directives for the translation of the Latin texts. Translators were asked to make the English text follow more closely the original Latin in its wording and structure. They were also asked to strengthen the biblical language and images in the texts and to reintroduce some theological vocabulary that may have been lost over the years.

Across the English-speaking world the new edition of the Roman Missal will therefore contain both new material and a new style of translation.

Is the Catholic Church in Ireland alone in introducing this new Missal?

The Catholic Church in Ireland, along with Churches throughout the English-speaking world, is working towards introducing the new edition of the Roman Missal at this time. This new edition is the English translation of the Latin Missal that was issued by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Since 2002 the Church in its many languages has engaged in the work of translating this Latin text through study, reflection and consultation. This work in English-speaking countries is now complete. In Ireland, as in other English-speaking countries, the new Missal will come into use during autumn 2011.

What differences can we expect at Mass from September 2011?

From September, congregations will begin to pray the new translations of the people’s prayers at Mass. These new texts will be on missalettes and on specially produced ‘congregational cards’ and will assist us in becoming more familiar with the new edition. In some places people will, by then, already be familiar with this congregational card through using it at weekday Mass or at parish meetings.

Where do I find the changes in the people’s prayers at Mass?

The Mass missalette and the congregational card will have all the prayers and responses that are changing. These are also available on and, accompanied by brief video explanations.

There are new translations of ‘I confess’, ‘Glory to God in the highest’, the Creeds, the acclamations in the Eucharistic Prayers, ‘Lord, I am not worthy’ and a number of other prayers and responses, which are very slightly changed; for example, in the Holy, Holy, we say ‘Lord God of hosts’ and in the response to ‘Pray, brothers and sisters’, the addition of one word, ‘holy’ before ‘Church’; where we responded ‘And also with you’, we now say ‘And with your spirit’.

Why the response, ‘And with your spirit’?

This response ‘And with your spirit’ is one of the very obvious changes as we use the new edition of the Missal. When the priest proclaims ‘The Lord be with you’, the new response from the congregation, ‘And with your spirit’, will replace the wording of the previous response which occurs before the Gospel, at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer and at the Blessing at the end of Mass.

‘And with your spirit’ is the literal translation of what we find in the Latin text, ‘et cum spiritu tuo’. This translation is already found in other languages, for example, German, Italian, French and Spanish.

Scripture is very much the source for this dialogue between priest and people. In four letters of St Paul he uses the following greetings: Galatians 6:18 – ‘May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit’; Philippians 4:23 – ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit’; 2 Timothy 4:22 – ‘The Lord be with your spirit’; Philemon 25 – ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit’. Similar greetings can be found in the Old Testament.

What does ‘your spirit’ mean? It is not a reference to the Holy Spirit, though it is spoken by people who live according to that Spirit. For St Paul the spirit is our spiritual part that is closest to God. ‘And with your spirit’ is about having the spirit or mind of Christ as your guiding light, as what guides us through the day – a Christian spirit.

While it will sound unfamiliar to us, this greeting and response captures our biblical roots. It is recognition of the spirit that is among us as Christians, a spirit that we must live, and in greeting one another, it proclaims the presence of Christ among us.

What differences can we expect in November 2011?

From 27 November, the First Sunday of Advent, congregations and priests will use the texts of the new edition of the Roman Missal for the celebration of Mass. While the structure, actions and pattern of the Mass will remain the same and the readings will be unchanged, the texts of recited prayers will sound different to our ears. Over time, as the new style of language becomes familiar to us, it is very much hoped that we will come to appreciate both the richness and depth of our prayer at Mass.

What should we, as a faith community, reflect on as we prepare to use the new Missal?

We have been praying our current texts for over thirty-five years. Moving to new texts will be a challenge and will require that we exercise patience and support for one another. Priests and people, musicians and others involved in preparing the liturgy all need to work together to make the change as easy as it can be.

Ultimately we need to remember that the words of our liturgy are crucial – we pray as we believe. But when we pray the Mass we do more than recite words – those words are recited in the context of all the actions, symbols and people of the liturgy. As we work towards implementing the changes, may we keep in mind the bigger task of which the words of the Missal are a part: namely, the Mystery of our Faith, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ made present for us in the Eucharist.