Priests introduced to coming changes in Mass

BRIGHTON — Over 250 priests met Oct. 30 at St. William’s Hall, St. John Seminary, for an introduction to changes and clarifications made to the Church’s General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which details how the Mass is to be celebrated. The instruction, the English translation of which was approved by the U.S. bishops at their November 2002 meeting and confirmed by the Vatican in March of this year, will be implemented in the Archdiocese of Boston on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 30.

The meeting was the first in a series of instructional sessions to be held throughout October for priests, deacons, pastoral associates and lay leaders of the archdiocese.

The informational session began with midday prayer after which Central Regional Bishop John Boles greeted the priests. In his welcoming remarks, he said that the changes are an opportunity for priests to “grow in our understanding of the Eucharist — the manner in which we offer it and how we share it with our people.”

Father Brian Mahoney, director of the Office of Worship, addressed the priests for the remainder of the two-hour session. He stressed that the changes are “clarifications” rather than “corrections” to the Missal. “No major changes are going to take place,” he reassured the priests.

For example, when the instruction is implemented, communicants will bow before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, silence will follow the proclamation of each reading and the homily, and the Lectionary will no longer be carried in procession — only the Book of Gospels should be used.

The goal of the clarifications is to give better expression to the “communal, hierarchical and sacrificial” nature of the Mass, Father Mahoney said. The changes to the Missal are also to promote more uniformity between parishes throughout the archdiocese and the world.

"The Church is giving us a chance to look to see if we are truly entering into the fullness of the celebration as she calls us to," he said.

A question and answer period followed the meeting, with approximately 20 priests asking questions. While some priests voiced frustration at the changes, many see them as minor and useful.

"I think it's an opportunity for people to be on the same page; an opportunity to show more of the unity of the Church; an opportunity for people to re-think the importance of the liturgy," said Father Kevin Milton, CSSR, pastor of the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Mission Church) in Roxbury. "It will be a good teachable moment."

"It's a good refresher course for all of us and an inspiration to preach on the Eucharistic meaning behind the changes," said Father William Joy, pastor of St. Angela Church in Mattapan and administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Hyde Park.

The changes are “more subtle than dramatic,” said Father Frank McHugh, OFM, director of Worship at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston.

"It's fairly straightforward and I'm sure that most pastors will be able to instruct their people in one weekend," he said.