Catholics Adjust To Season With New Liturgy

Catholics across the country are celebrating the start of their annual Advent season in an unfamiliar way. For the first time in four decades, the wording of the official Catholic liturgy has changed. Weekends on All Things Considered guest host Rachel Martin talks with Father Carmen D'Amico of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Meadow Lands, Penn., after he performs his first mass with the new translation.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This weekend is the beginning of Advent, the high season for the Catholic Church. Catholics celebrating Mass today may be surprised to find some new changes to their liturgy. After four decades, the English-language Mass has changed. The Catholic Church spent over a year preparing its priests, deacons and parishioners for the major script changes.

Father Carmen D'Amico has been serving the parishes of Pittsburgh for over 20 years. And I caught up with him at his church, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, right after he performed his first Mass this weekend with the new translation. Father Carmen, welcome.

THE REV. CARMEN D'AMICO: Thank you, Rachel. Good to be here.

MARTIN: So you've just completed your first Mass with all these changes. How did it go?

D'AMICO: It went pretty well. I mean, I screwed up a couple of times during the liturgy. You know, just the old words, they just stay with you. But all in all, it went pretty well. I was amazed at the congregation, you know, how quickly they adapted.

MARTIN: So you said that you made a few stumbles. What did you stumble over?

D'AMICO: You know, usually when the priest says, the Lord be with you, now the people are saying, and with your spirit, while the deacon was proclaiming the gospel.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you always.

D'AMICO: He said, the Lord be with you. And I said in response, and also with you.

CHURCH CONGREGATION: And also - with your spirit.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Oh, not supposed to say that anymore.

D'AMICO: Yeah. So I thought, oops. But I got it the next time. He said it at the end when we were doing the blessing, and I got it right.

MARTIN: OK. And as you were going through this - I mean, obviously, there were those stumbles - were there any other surprises for you?

D'AMICO: No, not really. I had to like, keep my eyes focused on the text, which is really a change for me because I'm usually looking at the congregation. You know, the words of the liturgy are like, you know, part of me, and so I can really pray them and, you know, and interact with the congregation - where I was pretty - now - much tied to the text. And that was a little uncomfortable, you know, because my eyes were down at the book, and I'm trying to do all the other things at the same time. But I guess, you know, in time, I'll get used to it.

MARTIN: But interesting, because the liturgy is such a part of you, you can pay more attention and connect with your congregation. So you're not quite there yet with these changes, then.

D'AMICO: No. And I would suspect it's going to take a while, you know? Probably several months of, you know, repetition. They say repetition is the mother of all learning, and I'm sure that'll be the case with me.

MARTIN: Were there any particular reactions from your parishioners when the service was over and people, you know, were doing their ritual chatting?

D'AMICO: Yeah.

MARTIN: What was the scuttlebutt?

D'AMICO: I think they were kind of happy. There was like, a little bit of an enthusiasm. It was something new. You know, I think that they were happy that we got through it. We did pretty well. So it was generally really positive. They were telling me, oh, you did a good job. I said, even when I screwed up? They said, yeah. You did a good job, you know? So it was all pretty positive.

MARTIN: Is there something to the idea, Father, that because you've been saying it the same way for so many years, that maybe it's a good thing to have to refocus on the words themselves and what they mean; to pay more attention, be more vigilant in the reading?

D'AMICO: You know what, Rachel? It really has been, I think for me, a renewal. You know, just to look at the liturgy anew again; again look at the context of the prayers that are there; understanding them and even, like, teaching the congregation about it - it's been a real blessing for me, you know? And I think it's good actually, you know? I think the change is good.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Well, thank you so much for sharing your reflections after giving this new Mass. We appreciate it.

D'AMICO: Thank you for asking, Rachel.

MARTIN: That's Father Carmen D'Amico, of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Meadow Lands, Pennsylvania. Father Carmen, thanks again.

D'AMICO: You're welcome. Thank you.

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