WASHINGTON – Mr Todd Williamson, director of the Office for Divine Worship in Chicago archdiocese, has a pretty tight schedule from now until Nov 27.

He’s making sure Chicago Catholics are prepared for the new responses to be used in the Mass effective from the first Sunday of Advent, when the third edition of the Roman Missal is implemented in Catholic parishes in English-speaking countries.

Lately he has been introducing the new missal to Chicago’s Catholic young adults in the relaxed setting of sessions called Theology on Tap. The informal gatherings are primarily held in parish halls, and food is often served.

The age group has reacted to the upcoming changes much like the overall Catholic population, Mr Williamson said, noting that their response “runs the gamut” of those who understand and agree completely with the upcoming changes and others who think the new missal will only make people feel more distant from the Church.

Despite the mixed reaction, Mr Williamson keeps on an even keel.

“This is just me,” he said, “but I have trouble believing this will drive people away. I have more faith that Catholics aren’t that shallow; plus if they see it and get the context that helps,” he told Catholic News Service.

He likens some of the missal anxiety to the Y2K fears that ended up being unfounded.

But he also knows there are hurdles to get over in the initial awkwardness in reciting unfamiliar responses.

Young adult Catholics in particular are somewhat at a disadvantage, he said, because they have never faced major changes to the Mass. Previous generations have “a starting point” with the Second Vatican Council’s dramatic changes to Mass – going from Latin to English, he said.

This age group, just like everyone else, he said, will benefit from getting the context of these changes, especially those that are closely linked to the Scriptures.

Just “breaking open the texts,” as he puts it, is a perfect teaching moment where he hopes to help people make connections between the Scriptures and their own lives.

He uses the example of the familiar response, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” which will be changed to “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”, which more clearly reflects Jesus’ encounter with the centurion in Matthew’s Gospel.

He is sure that Catholics will be able to say that response along with “and with your spirit” instead of “and also with you”, and also understand that the revised phrases hold deeper meaning.

As he explains these changes to all age groups he emphasises the need to be receptive to this transition.

In a blog entry for the Chicago archdiocese, he said a “balanced perspective on the English translation is vital to its reception and implementation. Being able to see what it is, and to understand how it came to be and how it fits in with the liturgical renewal of the last 45-plus years has been tremendously helpful for those who seek to understand the context of the third edition of the Roman Missal”.

He said this approach certainly will not “cure any and all anxieties or concerns” but should help Catholics understand why these changes are taking place, which he said is “probably the biggest hurdle to overcome”. – CNS