Teens likely to adapt quickly to revised missal, say catechists
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Although the phrase "consubstantial with the Father" might not roll off the tongues of Catholic youths, church officials and catechists hope its meaning will sink in when it is said in the Nicene Creed later this year.
Consubstantial, which means "of the same essence," is closer to the creed's original Latin and Greek text and basically holds more theological punch than "one in being with the Father," the phrase it replaces. It is one of several changes in Mass responses that are part of the revised edition of the Roman Missal to be implemented Nov. 27.
One pastor explained this specific change in a July 31 Sunday bulletin noting that "consubstantial" reflects the "language of theology, the language the ancient church fathers carefully constructed to take a stab at the mystery of Christ's divinity. 'One in being' uses slightly more Anglo-Saxon words. It demystifies the theological language."
"Part of the intent behind the new translation is to re-mystify -- in the best sense of the word," wrote Father John Terry, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
That sense of mystery and transcendence of God – or recognizing that God is beyond human perception – is something children and teens should pick up from the revised missal, said Maureen Kelly, author of "What's New About the Mass," aimed specifically at third- to seventh-graders, and "What's New About the Mass for Teens." Both are published by Liturgy Training Publications in Chicago.
Kelly said the wording in the revised missal "brings in more of a sense of transcendence, which young people haven't experienced."
Children and teenagers already get the sense that God is close to them and a part of their personal lives, she said. which catechists describe as God's immanence. "The challenge is to achieve the balance of immanence and transcendence," she said.
In her books and in workshops she leads, preparing catechists to teach the revised missal, Kelly stresses that young people need to understand the scriptural context for the responses in the Mass.
The biggest challenge for all ages, she said, is to "understand a little more fully the meaning and mystery of Eucharist." She said the revised responses are easy enough to learn but the reasoning behind these changes might be easier for older adults – who have been through the Mass change from Latin to English – to grasp.
Father Richard Hilgartner, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat on Divine Worship, is convinced the revised translation won't be a problem for teenagers and suspects they will catch on faster than the rest of the Catholic population.
He frequently tells parish leaders that young people "hold one of the keys to helping implement this. For one thing, they are not as wedded to tradition. In today's culture everything is always changing. New is not something they're afraid of."
But just picking up new expressions is one thing; getting the new rhythm of the Mass responses is another challenge and a particular one for young people, he said, because it doesn't flow with their natural way of communicating.
Teenagers are accustomed to everything in shorthand, like abbreviated text messages and 140-character tweets, he said – completely different from the communication and language of prayer.
"Prayer is not just about getting a message across in as few words as possible. Prayer is about creating a relationship," he said. And the liturgy itself has its own language: "one where catechesis helps people understand" what is happening.
That's where religious education classes and parish workshops come in.
Kelly said the revised missal has provided an opportune teaching moment because it gives people of all ages the chance to review the whole Mass.
Lisa Garcia, resource director for Life Teen, the Arizona-based national program for Catholic teenagers, agreed. "The Mass is the centerpiece of our catechism anyway and this gives us an opportunity to continue this dialogue again, to pause and think about the words we're saying.
Garcia thinks teenagers will not have a problem with the changes, noting that "change isn't as dramatic" for them and that they will likely appreciate how the revised missal links them with the universal Church.
The key is explaining the "why behind it," she said, helping teens connect the dots between Scriptures and the Mass responses and also getting them to understand that "words we say matter and words we say collectively have power."
If that message gets across, she said, then "come Nov. 27, they might be the ones who know it and can lead the way."
Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service
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FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy