‘Teens are not as wedded to tradition. In today’s culture everything is always changing. New is not something they’re afraid of.’
– Fr Richard Hilgartner, executive director of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat on Divine Worship

WASHINGTON – 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 in Catholic churches on Nov 27.

“Consubstantial” reflects the “language of theology, the language the ancient Church Fathers carefully constructed” to explain “the mystery of Christ’s divinity”, US priest Father John Terry explained in a July 31 Sunday bulletin.

That sense of mystery and transcendence of God – or recognising that God is beyond human perception – is something children and teens should pick up from the revised missal said Ms Maureen Kelly, who has written books on the Mass changes for children and teens.

The wording in the new missal “brings in more of a sense of transcendence, which young people haven’t experienced”, she said.

The American author said children and teenagers already get the sense that God is close to them and a part of their personal lives, 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 new missal, she stresses that young people need to understand the scriptural context for the new responses in the Mass.

Fr Richard Hilgartner, executive director of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat on Divine Worship, is convinced the new words would not 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 does not flow with their natural way of communicating.

Teenagers are accustomed to everything in shorthand, like abbreviated text messages and 140-character tweets, he said, which is 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.

Ms Kelly said the new missal has provided an opportune teaching moment because it gives people of all ages the chance to review the whole Mass.

Ms Lisa Garcia, resource director for Life Teen, the Arizona-based national programme for Catholic teenagers, agreed.

She 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 new missal links them with the Universal Church.

The key is explaining the “why behind it”, helping teens connect 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 November 27, they might be the ones who know it and can lead the way”. By Carol Zimmermann - CNS

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