National Society for
Volunteer Catechists
A Service of CATECHIST Magazine Log In Join
« Back to search
Roman Missal 3.0: Helping Children and Youth Discover the New Translation of the Mass
by Joseph D. White, Ph.D.
Some important changes are coming soon to our celebration of the Mass. What do we need to know as catechists and teachers, and how can we help to prepare our learners?
Some important changes are coming soon to our celebration of the Mass. What do we need to know as catechists and teachers, and how can we help to prepare our learners?

This Advent marks an important time in the life of our Church as we begin implementing the new revision of the Roman Missal. The most notable difference will be changes to some of the words we say and hear at Mass. As catechists and teachers, we have a unique opportunity to assist our learners in understanding what is changing and why and to guide them as they participate in the new form of the liturgy.


Changes to our liturgy might surprise some of our learners (and even some catechists and teachers who weren’t around prior to Vatican II). It’s important to know the difference between the core elements of our faith, which are part of our Sacred Tradition (that’s Tradition with a capital “T”) and the practices of our faith (what we might call small-“t” traditions). Sacred Tradition is constant. For example, the Catholic Church will always teach that God is a Trinity—one God in three persons. We will always teach that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist. These are two of the many core teachings that make up our Sacred Tradition. However, the small “t” traditions, such as the particular words we recite in worship, can and do change over time as the need presents itself. These changes are generally overseen by the Church’s Magisterium, the bishops in communion with the Pope. The Magisterium is the official teaching office of the Catholic Church.


After the liturgy was reformed during the Second Vatican Council, permission was given to celebrate the Mass in the language of the people (called the vernacular) rather than always in Latin. Official translations of the Mass followed, and the first English translation of the Mass was published in 1973, with some minor revisions implemented in the years following. The newest translation, the third edition, was completed under the oversight of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), which represents ten conferences of bishops in addition to the United States. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the final version in November 2009, and the Vatican gave final approval in April 2010.


On the night before he died, Jesus prayed for the unity of all the believers, not only his disciples but also everyone who would hear their teaching and choose to follow him (see John 17:20-21). There was so much Jesus must have been thinking about as he faced his crucifixion, but our unity was important enough that it was foremost on his mind. For this reason, our Church takes the unity of Christians very seriously, and we strive to foster that unity in what we believe and teach and also in how we live. Our liturgy is a sign of our unity. We come together to celebrate Communion with Christ and also with one another. For this reason, we work to ensure that our Christian worship, though celebrated by diverse cultures and peoples, has common threads that show that we are all part of the same Church. We don’t all worship in the same language as we did prior to Vatican II, but we want to ensure that, in whatever language and culture, we are united in our prayer.

Liturgiam Authenticam, the Vatican’s instruction on how to translate the liturgy, states, “Certain expressions that belong to the heritage of the whole or of a great part of the ancient Church…are to be respected by a translation that is as literal as possible” (56). Some of our previous translations of the liturgy did not accurately represent the meaning of the original Latin. One of the primary purposes of the new English translation of the Roman Missal is to recover that meaning. In this way, we can better ensure that, as a Church, we are praying with one voice all over the world.


The majority of changes in the new translation of the Mass are in the words said by the priest, including the greeting, the act of penance and absolution, the prayers before and after the Gospel, the prayers at the preparation of the gifts, the Eucharistic prayers, and the dismissal. There will also be some notable changes, however, in the assembly’s responses. For example, in response to “The Lord be with you,” the people will reply, “And with your spirit.” There will be substantial changes to forms A and B of the penitential act, as well as the Gloria. The wording of the Creed will also change, but it’s important to note that these are changes in wording that will bring the precise phrasing closer to the Latin that serves as the basis for all of the translations on the Mass. The tenets of the Faith expressed in the Creed are part of our “capital T” Tradition, but the particular translations of the Creed can change over time. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, there are notable changes in the Sanctus (now, “God of hosts” rather than “God of power and might”) and the Memorial Acclamation (now called the “Mystery of Faith”).


Liturgical Education is one of the six tasks of catechesis given to us in the General Directory for Catechesis—the Vatican’s guide for forming others in the Faith. For this reason, it is particularly important that we as catechists are ready and able to assist our learners in understanding what is changing and why, and to help them to participate fully in the new form of the Mass. Here are some tips for helping children and teens understand and learn the new Mass responses:

•    Familiarize yourself with the changes. The word catechesis is from the Greek word that means “to echo.” As catechists, we “hand on” or “echo” that which we have first received. Be sure to do your own reading and research on the new Roman Missal and know the new responses so you can better pass them on to your learners. There are many resources available, both online at the U.S. Bishops website ( and in printed form from various Catholic publishers.
•    Plan ahead. Look through your catechetical text and note areas in which the new responses should be covered. If you are using a text that has not yet been revised for the new Roman Missal, flag places in which you will want to give your learners the new wordings. Preparing handouts or using preprinted resources may be helpful in providing a way for learners to see and remember the responses.
•    Present the new parts in the context of the whole. While some things have changed about our Mass, many things haven’t. Some of the earliest recorders of Christian worship, like St. Justin (second century) and St. Hippolytus (third century), discuss the basic elements present in their communities’ celebrations that are still present in ours today: the gathering, reading of the prophets, praying, collection of gifts, and most especially, the people’s belief in Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist.
•    Be creative. The liturgy is a living, vibrant part of our faith. Don’t turn learning the new Mass responses into a series of dull and lifeless memorization drills. Try the following multisensory methods for ensuring that lessons are engaging for all learners:
        Create custom crosswords, fill-in-the-blanks, word searches, and other word puzzles. You
can do this for free online at sites such as (look under “teachers,” and then go to “Puzzlemaker”).
        Play games. A group game in which learners match the priest’s words to the assembly’s responses might be a good way for learners to familiarize themselves with the rhythm of the new translation. A game in the style of “Wheel of Fortune” might involve guessing key phrases from the new liturgy.
        Create visual aids. Visual learners might enjoy making posters that have words from the new translation presented in an artistic form (for example, the Creed or the Sanctus).
        Use music. Music can be a fun and efficient way to memorize things. Utilize some of the new music being created for use in the liturgy as well as music created especially to teach children the new Mass responses. You might wish to check with the director of liturgy or music at your parish and see where you might get copies and/or a recording of the new music being used for sung parts of the Mass, such as the Gloria, the Sanctus, and the Mystery of Faith. With your class, sing along with the recordings and use words printed on poster board or leaflets.
        Take it to the church. One principle of educational psychology is that we are more likely to retain and practice something we learn in the environment where we will use it. Actually going to the church to learn and practice the new Mass responses can be a helpful way to transfer this learning to the Mass itself.
        Ask if your priest might be available to provide a teaching Mass. A Mass in which the priest takes time to stop and discuss what is happening and why is a great way to learn about the liturgy. Many parishes do this for children who are preparing for first Eucharist, but the changes in the Mass provide an ideal opportunity to celebrate a teaching Mass for children of all ages.

The new revision of the Roman Missal calls us to renew our understanding of the meaning of Christian worship and enter more deeply into Communion with Christ and with one another. Let us worship God joyfully as we praise him with one voice!

Dr. Joseph White is a child psychologist and former DRE. He currently serves as a writer and consultant for Our Sunday Visitor.

Copyright 2017, Bayard, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Bayard, Inc.