The Roman Catholic Church met changes in the wording of its Liturgy in November, but as far as local priests and parishioners are concerned, it’s mostly been a smooth, rewarding process.
There have been a few bumps on the way.
“Sometimes, you get a little tongue-tied,” said Rev. Fr. Anthony Verdelotti of St. Mark’s Catholic Church at 31 Poplar Drive in Cranston. “For priests, your head is definitely buried in the book because you try not to make a mistake.”
He said his congregation was unsure of the changes at first but has warmed up to the translation. After being issued on Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent, they are getting used to it.
“They catch themselves saying the wrong words, but they’ve accepted it very well,” said Rev. Fr. Verdelotti. “It’s not the way we, as Americans, speak, so I think that’s what’s difficult for us. We’ll struggle with it and I pray that they don’t change it again while I’m alive.”
His brother, Rev. Fr. James Verdelotti, also heads a parish in Cranston, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church at 1525 Cranston Street. He said while it will take time to get used to, the people at his church have accepted the translation.
“The parishioners are going better than the priest,” he joked. “It’s a transition, but the people responded quite well. We used to say, ‘The Lord be with you,’ and now it’s ‘and with your spirit.’ We’re all doing it together, and that’s a good thing.”
He’s right. A revised translation of the Liturgy, which is in Latin, was issued in 2001 and the third edition of the Roman Missal, or the text that contains prayers used during Mass, was circulated in 2002 and revised in 2008. On the 27th, the English translation reached completion in churches and is now being implemented in parishes throughout he world. The United States is one of the first countries to undergo the translation. Statewide, 150 Roman Catholic churches are experiencing modifications.
In 2001, the Vatican came out with a document that guided the principle of translation so it would be more exact, as the translation that took place more than 40 years ago wasn’t completely accurate.
“The words being spoken now are more in line with what the words really mean in Latin,” said Fr. Jeremy Rodrigues, assistant pastor of St. Philip parish in Greenville, who was one of five Rhode Island priests who served on a committee established by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin more than a year ago to help people of the diocese understand the new version. They held conferences and uploaded information about the changes to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence at www.dioceseofprovidence.org to assist others better understand the modifications.
“A few things got lost in translation and weren’t specific,” Rodrigues said. “Now, people are exposed to the richness and the depth of the text. It’s helpful for the people to know there’s a continuity of prayer. If they are open it, they feel that they are hearing the words you’d hear in other languages, as well. We’ll be more in sync with one another.”
Msgr. Anthony Mancini of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul at 30 Fenner St. in Providence was also on the committee. He agreed that the prayers and readings are more accurate as well as beautiful and poetic.
“It’s richer because it conveys more of the original meaning of the Mass text,” he said. “After 40 years, you get into habits, but we have Mass cards for people to follow and they’ve been doing pretty well here.”
Since he’s been a priest for 34 years, he accidentally says the former liturgy from time to time. This, he said, is not a problem.
“I stay pretty close to the book now,” Msgr. Mancini said. “We’re a little bookbound but will memorize it after a little while.”
While he didn’t serve on the committee, Rev. Fr. Edward J. Wilson of Sts. Rose and Clement said he also has made some flubs. He agrees with Msgr. Mancini that errors are bound to happen. Overall, he thinks it is a “marvelous” transition.
“We’ve had our ups and downs and a few laughs about it,” he said. “We’re realizing that we’re making mistakes, but we’re making them together. The language is beautiful and elevates the mind and the heart to God a little more than the old translation. The old translation was good, but this is a little bit better. There’s a lot of scripture in it, and I think it’s helpful to people’s faith when we have this poetic language.”
His parishioners agree. Among them are William Patenaude, who recently earned a master’s degree in theology from Providence College. For a graduation present, he headed to Rome in November and was there to hear the new translation for the first time. Although he didn’t understand the new words, as they were spoken in Italian, he said he felt more connected to God and even the strangers around him at Mass. When he came home and heard them at his own church he enjoyed it even more.
“The words sounded awesome,” Patenaude said. “They were much more inspiring and it drew me into the Mass more. It just made it all the more powerful and draws us together.”
Lori Healey, who teaches fourth grade at the school, said she began showing students the new translation a few months before the change took place at Mass. It was “scary” at first, but they got a hang of it in no time.
“It was an easy transition for my students,” she said. “Fr. Wilson made it very comfortable for us.”
Her brother, Richard Silvia, agrees that it was going to initially be confusing. Now, he said he is pleased with the translation.
“The church provided cards to help out, and overall it’s more traditional,” he said. “If you mess up the person next to you doesn’t look at you any differently. This is a great church and a good community of people.”
Robert DelVecchio, who serves as an usher and greeter at the parish, said he makes mistakes sometimes, too. But, it doesn’t upset him in the least.
According to Rev. Fr. Roger Durand of St. Patrick Catholic Church at 2068 Cranston Street, a parish that does not fall under the authority of Pope Benedict XVI and therefore did not undergo the changes, said some practicing Catholics can’t wrap their heads around the translation. As a result, he said his parish has gained 25 new members since the modifications took place.
“Some people feel it to be a bit archaic,” he said. “It’s a little rough on the ears.”
Yet, DelVecchio said, “Some people can’t accept change. If this is the worst change that happens in your life you’re doing quite well.”