Friday, June 17, 2011

Come September, a New Song: In the States, the Missal Gets a Head Start

While this week's planned agenda was unusually high-octane for a Summer Meeting of the Stateside bishops, as life in the trenches goes, arguably the most consequential aspect of the plenary -- at least, its public element -- was a surprise announcement during yesterday's last open session on the Floor.

In a significant tweak to the US' implementation of the overhauled Roman Missal in English -- previously planned to roll out in one whole piece on the First Sunday of Advent, 27 November -- the bench's Worship Czar, Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, revealed that the sung acclamations set to the new texts could be "gradually" introduced in parishes starting in September, but only with the sign-off of the respective diocesan bishop.

Among other concerns leading to the shift, the bishops' Committee for Divine Worship was particularly focused on the reworked Gloria -- which, as Aymond noted, would only have been used once before Christmas (on Immaculate Conception, 8 December) with the full-on November timetable. That said, no indication was given toward employing the new settings all at once, nor a set order or timeline for their debut, presumably with the thought that communities would begin using the new Gloria, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamations and Agnus Dei as familiarity and pastoral sense dictate.

Said to have been requested by several bishops -- and, in a notable assist, called for by the USCCB's lay advisory council -- with an eye to easing the load of the new texts' emergence in one fell swoop (and without the customary three-month window that, in the past, has allowed old and new liturgical books to respectively be phased out and in), the move brings the US church closer in step with the Missal's staggered introduction in most of the rest of the English-speaking world.

While most of the 11 Anglophone territories undergoing the transition will switch to the full Third Edition texts at Advent, the new renderings of the Ordinary of the Mass with People's Parts have already hit the pews in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, with September bringing their first public use in Britain and Ireland before the whole book comes into force. To the North, however, Canada is sticking with the overnight turnover of the entire Missal at November's end.

In the US church, the finished volume will be released in October. Much as it'd be convenient for catechetical and logistical purposes, though, the new Missal won't be published in an electronic format, and not just domestically -- at least in an official version, the texts' e-release has been prohibited worldwide.

And now, back to prepping the Post-Game Show.