For the average American Catholic in the pews, the upcoming changes to the text of the Mass might mean little more than memorizing a few new prayer responses.
But when the revised translation of the Mass sweeps into churches across America on the first Sunday of Advent (Nov. 27), it will bring with it a slew of new missals and hymnals -- and perhaps a whole new (or old) style of worship.
For the last 40 years, there has been some leeway for "mild paraphrasing of texts" when singing parts of the Mass, said Monsignor Richard Hilgartner, who heads the committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that is responsible for approving all liturgical books, including hymnals and missals.
But, said Hilgartner, the instructions with the new Roman Missal "are much more clear that musical settings are only approved when they follow the text strictly."
The new English translation of the Mass, meant to reflect the original Latin text more closely, is the product of eight years of work by an international commission of bishops. The final text was released this summer, and churches across the U.S. must begin using it on Nov. 27.
The textual changes do not affect hymns or other stand-alone songs that can be inserted in the order of the Mass, but they do affect the prayers that are sung or recited at every Mass, called "ordinaries."
That means composers have had to write completely new musical settings or adapt old ones for the ordinaries. According to Hilgartner, the musical options are as diverse as before, ranging from chant to contemporary styles. READ THE FULL ARTICLE