Ezequiel Menéndez, director of music at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, accompanies more than 100 musicians in a hymn. (Photo by Jack Sheedy)
ROCKY HILL – When the new English translation of the Roman Missal goes into use on the vigil of the first Sunday in Advent this year (Nov. 27), how readily will the average Catholic accept it?
That is the question put to many of the 120 people from 60 parishes who attended "Singing and Celebrating with the New Roman Missal," a workshop sponsored by the Archdiocese of Hartford Feb. 12 at St. Elizabeth Seton Church.
"I think most people will take to it fairly easily," said Dr. J. Michael McMahon, president of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM), one of the presenters at the workshop designed primarily for music ministers.
"There will be some initial confusion. There will be some questions about why we’re doing it; but by and large, I think it will go pretty smoothly for the average pew-sitter," said Dr. McMahon.
"You know, I think more will take to it readily than we imagine," said his co-presenter, Dominican Father Paul H. Colloton, director of continuing education for NPM. "While I’ve been giving workshops around the country, I’ve found that people have responded very, very quickly and seem interested in learning not only the composed settings but some of the chant to connect us with that part of our tradition."
As he began his talk, Dr. McMahon sang, "The Lord be with you," inviting the familiar response, "And also with you." But that response will change to "And with your spirit," and even though Dr. McMahon pointed to those words projected on a screen, many people sang the familiar words.
"This gives us a clue of what we’re about today," he said. "We have something kind of familiar but something kind of different too."
It is an example, he said, of a change that more closely adheres to the original Latin, "Et cum spiritu tuo," meaning literally, "And with your spirit."
Father Stephen M. Sledesky, Pastor of the linked St. Bridget and St. Bartholomew Parishes in Manchester, told The Transcript that older Catholics may take to this particular change more readily than younger Catholics will, because before Vatican II that was the translation that was used.
"They say, ‘Oh, don’t worry about us, Father, we’re just going back to what we used to do,’" said Father Sledesky, who, with Passionist Father David Cinquegrani of Holy Family Monastery, is one of two priests on the archdiocesan Music Advisory Committee working with musicians to implement the changes. "For [older people], this will be very familiar because they did it already and they understand the dynamic of the change," Father Sledesky said.
Dr. McMahon told the many organists, pianists, music directors, cantors, liturgists, choir members, priests and deacons present, "The Gloria is probably the part of the Mass where you’ll see the greatest change." He noted that "peace to his people on earth" will change to "peace to people of good will," because that is a closer translation of the Latin, "et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis."
Father Colloton humorously pointed out that some confusion may occur in the Creed, when "I believe in one God" will replace the current "We believe in one God." He said that when half the congregation says it one way and the other half says it the other way, it may sound like, "Why believe in one God?"
As the audience chuckled, he added, "For my brother clergy present, that would make a wonderful homily."
Accepting change doesn’t have to be difficult, he said. "Change always involves letting go to let in."
Dr. Ezequiel Menéndez, music director at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, said the presentation was "a great inspiration." He said the changes may take some getting used to, adding, "I think it’s going to be fine, but this takes time. We’ve been doing the same thing for a long time."
Dr. Menéndez, also a member of the Music Advisory Committee, later announced that the Archdiocese is sponsoring a contest for composers of musical settings for the new translation. A cash prize of $1,000 will be awarded to the winner, he said. For details, go to http://www.cathedralofsaintjoseph.com/missal-music/missal.php.
Donna Cole, a cantor at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish, in Unionville, said, "I think it will be difficult for some people, because it’s hard to change, and already there are people saying, ‘Why do they have to do this?’ or ‘Why do we have to do this?’ I don’t think they understand that the translation that we have now isn’t really exact."
She said once people get used to it, though, "they’ll be fine with it."
Bonnie Pepper, cantor and choir member at the cathedral, said that if the changes are presented in the right spirit, "I think that people will love it."
The workshop was hosted by Elizabeth Husmer, minister of music at St. Elizabeth Seton and a member of the Music Advisory Committee. Other committee members are Jean Degan, Dr. Richard Gard, Sarah Gedicks and Michael Mainella.