“Praying the Mass: a guide to the new English translation of the Mass. The Prayers of the People” by Jeffrey Pinyan (150 pages)

Praying the MassReview Article by David Schütz

In the near future English speaking Catholics are going to face a challenge unlike any since the introduction of the English liturgy forty years ago: the new English translations of the Roman Missal.

It must be acknowledged that there has been much debate about the desirability of a new translation. The fact is that this change is going to take place. Given that this change is not one that can be avoided, how can we turn the challenge of introducing the new texts into a truly positive experience for everyone?

Jeff Pinyan, an young American author, has taken a positive view of the challenge of introducing the new texts as a “teachable moment” for the Church. Inspired by Pope Benedict’s call in Sacramentum Caritatis for a “mystagogical catechesis” on the liturgy, he has written and self-published a study booklet on the people’s parts of the mass. His aim is that through using this book, individuals and groups may learn more about the origins and meanings of the prayers they say at mass, and so be enabled truly to engage in the liturgy with that “active participation” which the Second Vatican Council called for.

The focus of “Praying the Mass” is much broader than the new translations themselves. Treating the liturgy section by section, he gives both the English and the Latin text of the people’s prayers, marking with a discreet arrow those places where the are changes from the current text. Alongside the text, he helpfully gives the biblical passages from which the liturgy derives or to which it refers. These scriptural references are a unique feature of this particular study, and serve to build an appreciation for the liturgy as a response to the Word of God.

The author then follows the text of each prayer with an explanation that is detailed, informative and very readable. As well as addressing the words that the people say at mass, he has included a treatment of the postures and actions we use, bringing out the fact that worship is not just what we say with our mouths but also about what we do with our bodies. “Praying the Mass” does not, however, encourage a cold rubricism, but rather a deepening of interior prayer and engagement with the rite.

A special feature at end of each chapter is a set of questions which relate to the three stages of liturgical catechesis: interpretation, explanation and relation to the experience and faith of the worshippers. These would be very useful in a study group situation and would lead to opening out the ideas and information he has provided. Where necessary he explains the changes that have been made, but this is not an overwhelming feature of the book.

I can see many different applications for this manual. Individuals will benefit from the close study of the liturgy that it provides, but it would also be eminently suited to study groups and adult education classes. There is an opportunity here for parish priests as well. I can easily imagine a series of homilies utilising the scriptural references, examples and questions for reflection that Pinyan provides. An added bonus of the new translations is that they are uniform throughout the English speaking world, which means that there is nothing in this book that will clash with our local usage.

Copies of the book will be available through the Central Catholic Bookshop, but also may be ordered online from the author himself at http://www.prayingthemass.com/2009/08/buy-book.html

The Gospel calls us to make the most of every opportunity for proclaiming and teaching the faith. Jeff Pinyan’s book will be a valuable resource to all who wish to approach the challenge of the introduction of the new translation of the missal as just such an opportunity.

(For an interview with Jeff about his new book, see: http://www.prayingthemass.com/2009/10/interview-on-son-rise-morning-show.html )

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6 Comments

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6 responses to ““Praying the Mass: a guide to the new English translation of the Mass. The Prayers of the People” by Jeffrey Pinyan (150 pages)

  1. This actually sounds very interesting and helpful, as one of the things I am constantly trying to inculcate in the people I serve is that the liturgy is to be prayed, not said. In fact, I always say (actually I just said it again at an elders’ meeting tonight in a discussion on reverence) “this is one thing we can learn from the Roman Catholics, they really pray the Mass.” I will have to get a copy and see if I can adapt it for Lutheran use. What do you think, David?

    • Oh yes, eminently adaptable to LCA- Lutheran use – especially because the new translations are so close to the old “page 6″ liturgy in the Supplement. In fact, I am rather tempted to submit the Lutheran setting for the liturgy as a “new setting” for the new texts – they actually fit very well. And the scriptural references are just terrific.

      Truly, I think you would find this an excellent resource. You probably wouldn’t be able to just hand it “as is” to your parishioners, but you could certainly mine it for all it is worth in your preaching and teaching!

  2. Mr. Henderson, you are certainly free to get a copy and use it as a source or starting point for a similar work on Lutheran liturgy. There is plenty we have in common, but the sections of the book which present a distinctly (“Roman”) Catholic perspective on the liturgy and the faith will certainly need to be made consonant with the Lutheran confession.

    I simply request that my book be given suitable acknowledgment (e.g. bibliography entry) in any derivative work.

    Thank you for your interest.

    • My big fear about the new texts is that the people will not truly try to learn them off by heart as they did when the first texts came out forty years ago. If they fail in this, then we might see a negative in terms of “praying the mass”. At least your book, Jeff, will go a long way to helping worshippers be conscious of the text and its meaning, and hopefully then also get them into their heads and hearts.

  3. Thank you Jeffrey for that permission to adapt your work for Lutheran use. I will certainly be happy to abide by your request for acknowledgement.

    David, yes, I would edit or rework the material as necessary, with acknowledgement as above. Now this is ecumenism!