Pastoral Letter on the Introduction of the New English Translation of the Mass

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Greetings from the Bishop’s House.

At the beginning of Advent this year we will introduce the new translation of the Roman Missal in all our Eucharistic celebrations. As from then it will be the only text approved for the celebration of the Eucharist. We got already used to the new dialogues through the early introduction of the responses of the faithful in South Africa.

Our Diocese does not have many English-Speaking communities. However, also the Sesotho and isiXhosa speaking Catholics should know about the changes and not be surprised when attending a Mass celebrated in English.

We got used to the first English translation after the Second Vatican Council. It was a great step to celebrate Mass in the vernacular. Many local Missals were based on this English translation.

It is always a challenge to change something one got used to. We experienced this already with the introduction of the new responses. Instead of being flabbergasted by the changes let us take the opportunity to discover with curiosity what insights the new text can give to us. It is much more than just a closer fidelity to the original Latin text.

Attentive listening to proper praying (reading) can already open many venues for reflection as well as catechesis. The new translation was concerned to bring out more fully the biblical roots of the Eucharistic celebration. This can be a call for those less familiar with the Bible to discover this founding document of our faith. For the many that benefitted especially from Gospel Sharing it will be much easier to discover these biblical roots.

Some new wording really needs to be explored. This is normal in any setting: nurses have to learn special vocabulary in order to be precise. Te same applies to any profession as in the law-community, the engineering or chemistry-community. This is a challenge for priests, Pastoral Councils and whole communities to creatively deepen our understanding of faith. It is an old conviction that our way of praying informs our way of believing.

It is sure that the liturgical language is different from everyday language. Some complain about this. Others love this idea. They prefer to have special styles of speaking in different contexts. Initiation schools in African cultures make use of this – and they enjoy it. I hope that the new language srves a deeper initiation into our faith.

This needs catechesis. Catechesis is a special task for priests. A DVD on the liturgy and the new translation can be a good guide for such catechesis. It contains a lot of material that can be printed and used for liturgical formation.

The choirs can be challenged with catechesis and practicing the singing of the proper texts of the Mass. They are called to guide the community in the transitional time when one has to get used to the new way of singing. The singing is new, of course, because of the new wording.

I wish that we will deepen the sense of a dignified celebration. This does not depend on language alone. Preparation is important. The priests will have to acquaint themselves with the new texts so that they can prayerfully guide the faithful in prayer. The faithful can prepare themselves. New Sunday Missals will be available that contain the new texts of the Mass.
When we commence using the new translation as from 1 Advent 2011 we are all concerned about unity. We will share the new texts, we will share their exploration and we will share our deepening of faith. Indeed, our faith-sharing may gain new quality: People who picked up new explanations elsewhere – for instance when visiting people somewhere else around Christmas – may share this with their fellow believers at home and vice versa.

Let us welcome the new translation of the Roman Missal as an opportunity to renew our faith and our witness. Let us speak with one voice. The liturgy can teach us this. It can be the daily or weekly training space for speaking with one voice. This is what we need in daily life: speaking out with one voice on behalf of the Lord. We need to experience that we are together and never alone when we stand up for the values and virtues of Christ which found such clear expression also in the social teaching of the Church and its principles.

I hope that the new texts will contribute to our unity and become a powerful instrument for God’s grace in our lives.

May almighty God bless you all!

Your Bishop

Michael Wüstenberg
Bishop of Aliwal