PLATTSBURGH — May the lord be with you.
And also with you.
Oops. We mean, "And with your spirit."
That is a common mistake that has been happening in Catholic churches around the North Country over the past six months as Catholics adjust to the new Roman Missal wording.
But things are getting better.
"It's like breaking in a new pair of shoes," said the Rev. John Yonkovig, pastor of St. Agnes in Lake Placid.
"The old shoes are comfortable and broken in, and it takes awhile to break in a new pair, and I think that is where we still are at; the breaking in stage."
The changes were instituted by the church last November as a way to make the readings of Mass clearer and closer to the meaning of the original Latin language that the Mass was written in.
The new missal is the result of about 20 years of work and study by clergy scholars.
"They wanted to make it as close to the Latin language as possible, based on scholarly language, not common language," Yonkovig said.
Parishioners were given the changes in special pamphlets known as pew cards six months ago and were encouraged to adjust.
The first few weeks it was 50-50 in terms of how many people would remember to say the new words and those who, by habit, rattled off the old text. Priests would often exaggerate the new words in an attempt to remind their flocks.
As the weeks have rolled by, more and more Mass celebrants are getting the hang of it, but some strange faces are still being made in church.
"I think those who struggle the most are some of the elderly people who have said those same words for so long," said the Rev. Scott Seymour, pastor of St. Alexander's in Morrisonville.
"But I haven't had anyone complain to me."
The most notable changes arguably come in the greeting of the Mass with the aforementioned, "And with your spirit," and in the Nicene Creed.
In the creed, the section that formerly said "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in being with the father" has been changed.
The new version reads "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the father."
The new word "consubstantial," which means of the same substance, is lost on many Catholics but shouldn't be, Seymour said.
"I think part of the problem is that Latin is no longer taught in school anymore, and people would be amazed at how much Latin helps you understand English better," he said.
"If you want to learn how to text message somebody, you will learn all the special nuances of texting like 'lol' (abbreviation for 'laugh out loud') and things like that, and people have no problem learning that because it helps them understand texting better. Well, the church is just doing the same thing sort of by giving the missal a new special language that connects with people and expresses something that they deeply believe in. Consubstantial means that Jesus is of the same substance of God, and it says that more clearly and strongly."
Yonkovig is not so sure the changes have had the desired effect so far.
"The meaning of the prayers are what is important, and if people don't understand the words, they might lose the heart of the prayers, and we don't want to lose the heart," he said.
Yonkovig said he still struggles with some of the changes to the words that the priests have to say during the Mass.
"If I am struggling saying the words, I can't imagine what it is like for those who have to hear the Mass," he said.
"I have yet to find a priest who is thrilled with it. Whether you are a liberal or conservative priest, no one is giving it an A-plus."
Yonkovig said two retired English professors in his parish say they don't even understand some of the changes.
"The feeling is that we are not trying to get 800s on our SATs, we just want to be able to talk to God," he said.
The Rev. Timothy Canaan, pastor of St. John's in Plattsburgh, said his parishioners seem to be giving their very best effort to make the change whether they understand the new meaning or not.
"The Mass is a celebration and, sometimes as Catholics, it becomes a routine, and we run the risk of not always appreciating the gift that we have, and now this just seems like a more beautiful way of expressing prayer, and that causes us to reflect a little more, which is good," Canaan said.
Canaan said that while it might take a little time, he believes his parish will eventually nail down the new verses.
"Most of us don't normally like change, but change helps," he said.
Seymour agrees with Canaan that the new language is sweeter.
"Before, I think the language was basically watered down, and you didn't get all the nuances of the language that you should have," he said.
"These changes are so rich, and sometimes you have to want to learn them, and I think the priest's attitude plays a big part in that. If you are positive about it and not down on it and have a good disposition about the change, people will respond."
Seymour thinks that six months from now, the changes will long be an afterthought.
"I don't think people will even remember this down the road. They will just become a part of it."
And also with you, and with your spirit.
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