Mass yesterday was beautiful. I’m not sure if it was due to the beginning of Advent or to the new translation of the Roman Missal, although I suspect it was a little of both.
My husband and I arrived at Sacred Heart Cathedral fifteen minutes early like we always do and it was already so crowded that we took some of the last available seats. Even though it is the cathedral for the Diocese of Raleigh, Sacred Heart is very small, seating perhaps 250 people and there are usually people standing in the back; however, the pews aren’t usually filled until just before Mass begins and there were considerably more people standing yesterday, filling not just the entrance, but overflowing along the side walls of the cathedral. It was amazing to have the cathedral filled to the brim.
I’m not sure why so many were there. Perhaps those that have been away from the Church or who only attend sporadically were inspired by the beginning of the liturgical year and the Advent season to attend more regularly. My husband thought that the extensive media coverage on the introduction of the revised Missal may have piqued the curiosity of many lapsed Catholics who decided to check out the changes for themselves. Either way, I will be spending much time this week praying that they will be returning next Sunday. Looking around at all the people reminded me of the message that was in every Catholic newspaper in our old diocese: “When you’re not at Mass, we miss you.” So true, their absence will be felt and the cathedral will seem empty if they aren’t there next week.
The introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal went very well at our parish. In fact, since everyone was following along with the new responses as written in the bulletin, there was even more participation than during an ordinary Mass. The responses were louder and more clear than usual - perhaps because many Catholics usually mumble the responses because they aren’t sure of the real words, a problem that is solved when they can read along. Of course, there were several times when the old words could be heard mixed in with the new (especially “And also with you”), but everyone seemed so good natured about it, lightly chuckling and trying harder the next time.
The new Missal struck me personally as very powerful and beautiful. My husband and I went to a Catholic store Saturday in search of an engagement present for my brother-in-law and his fiancée and while there picked up a Sunday Missal for the new liturgical year. We did so for the readings (we previously printed them out each Sunday to bring with us to Mass), but an unintended advantage was that we had the entire Order of the Mass at our disposal (including the ten Eucharistic Prayer options). I was able to follow along not only with the responses of the congregation, but also the parts of the priest which have changed considerably as well. If you are feeling like you’ll have a hard time learning the new responses, imagine how difficult it is for our priests! Since I was able to read along closely throughout the entire Mass, I could fully absorb the beauty of the new words, especially new Eucharistic prayer. I encourage everyone to go out and buy their own Sunday Missal so you can follow along. I also find it helpful to read and contemplate the readings before Mass and to follow along with them during Mass (especially since sometimes I can’t hear the lectors well). You can buy the New Saint Joseph Sunday Missal and Hymnal online for $4.95.
Another reason Mass was so lovely was that the Bishop was presiding. We’ve been attending Mass at the cathedral since our second week here in Raleigh and this is the first time we have seen the Bishop. I feel blessed to live in the city at the seat of the diocese, as we also did when we lived in Indiana. It is incredibly moving to have the privilege of attending a Mass said by your shepherd, the Bishop, something that many Catholics throughout the world never have the opportunity to do.
The Bishop gave a beautiful homily linking the introduction of the new Missal to the beginning of Advent using the concept of change. Personally, I feel the new Missal has enhanced my preparation for Advent. In the past, Advent seemed to sneak up on me, leaving me without an opportunity to prepare. Yet this year, because of all the preparations for the new Missal, I have been keenly aware of when Advent would begin and have been able to make due preparations.
How was your first Sunday of Advent? How was your first experience with the new Missal?