A really cool thing about being Catholic is that wherever you go to mass, whether it’s in the good ol’ USA, or half way around the world, you always know what’s going on, even if you don’t speak the language.
We’re about three months into the “New Translation of the Roman Missal”. Some of the words we’ve been using for decades in the English-speaking world have been changed. Some of us adapted to the changes easily; some of us not so much. But the reason for the changes is very simple. Our English translation wasn’t always accurate. One change that’s happening slowly in some places is our response when the priest or deacon says “The Lord be with you.” As recently as this past Sunday I’m still hearing some “and also with you”s. Change is never easy.
But, take a look at the title of today’s post. “Et Cum Spiritu Tuo.” I’m no Latin scholar, I’ve barely mastered English, but the word “spirit” is clearly in there. Et is “and”. Cum is “with”. Spiritu is “Spirit”. And Tuo is “your”. (Latin sentence structure is different from ours.)
Take a look at some other languages. In Irish it’s “agus le do spiorad“. There’s that pesky word spirit again. In French it’s “et avec votre esprit“. Are you beginning to see a pattern? One more for the members of my community, Saint John Nepomuk Chapel in Saint Louis, “a se svym duchem“. Duchem = “spirit”.
The point is that every Catholic mass is consistently the same. There was a recent story in the news where a priest in nearby Southern Illinois liked to make things up as he went along. He just can’t make himself say the prayers as they’re written in the book. He no longer has preaching faculties.
Please don’t think I’m minimizing the faith by comparing it to a secular business, but hopefully you’ll see my point. McDonald’s has become one of the most successful businesses in the world by offering virtually the same menu all over the world. There are some local exceptions like wine in French locations, and non-meat choices in India. But basically a Big Mac is a Big Mac in Los Angeles or New York City; Boston or Bejing. Imagine how you’d feel if you pulled into Micky D’s and you were served a Big Mac with catsup instead of special sauce. You’d be outraged! You wouldn’t stand for it! You’d demand your money back!
The same principle applies. You can go to mass anywhere in the world and even if you don’t understand a word of the local language, you’d know exactly what’s going on. The priest greets the people. There’s a penitential rite. Then there’s a prayer. There are two readings (assuming it’s Sunday) separated by a responsorial Psalm, followed by the Gospel and a homily. Next comes the Liturgy of the Eucharist, you receive communion (always unleavened bread), then the mass comes to it’s conclusion. The closing prayer is never first. The greeting is never last. And you know that every Catholic congregation on the planet is hearing the same readings. If you have your own Sunday missal you can read them for yourself. Or, you can get them online.
The point is that there are a lot of churches where the Sunday service is what the pastor wants it to be. If he wants to preach on the same Gospel every single week, that’s his choice. If he chooses to ignore certain scriptures because they don’t support his particular brand of theology, that’s ok too. But it’s not cool!
The Catholic mass is what it’s supposed to be. The celebrant or the deacon may deliver a homily based on what the Holy Spirit reveals to him in the day’s readings, but otherwise there’s no wiggle room. You can count on it. If you have Catholic online friends and you want to have a discussion about the day’s readings, have at it. They heard the same ones today as you did.
And that’s another reason why it’s cool to be Catholic.