November 25, 2011

As new Mass translation begins, priest reflects on its preparation

Father Patrick Beidelman processes with a Book of the Gospels during a June 29, 2007, Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis that celebrated the centennial of the dedication of the cathedral. As archdiocesan director of liturgy, Father Beidelman has been busy for two years helping to prepare Catholics across central and southern Indiana for the implementation of the new translation of the Mass that takes place on Nov. 26-27. (File photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Father Patrick Beidelman processes with a Book of the Gospels during a June 29, 2007, Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis that celebrated the centennial of the dedication of the cathedral. As archdiocesan director of liturgy, Father Beidelman has been busy for two years helping to prepare Catholics across central and southern Indiana for the implementation of the new translation of the Mass that takes place on Nov. 26-27. (File photo by Mary Ann Garber)

By Sean Gallagher

For two years, Father Patrick Beidelman has called the weekend of Nov. 26-27 a “new moment” in the life of the Church in central and southern Indiana.

This is the weekend on which the first new translation of the Mass in a generation will begin to be used in churches across the country.

As archdiocesan director of liturgy, Father Beidelman has been hard at work preparing Catholics across the archdiocese and beyond to pray those new words of the Mass.

In dozens of presentations and workshops, some of which lasted for eight hours, Father Beidelman has spoken about the new Mass translation with priests, parish leaders, school administrators, faith formation directors, youth and young adult ministers, and music and liturgical ministers.

He has also helped priests in the Lafayette Diocese and the archdioceses of Cincinnati and Miami learn about the new words that will be prayed at Mass.

On top of all of that, Father Beidelman has spoken before more than 20 parish or school communities in the archdiocese.

All this travel and work intensified in the weeks leading up to the implementation of the new Mass translation.

But Father Beidelman found some time to sit down with The Criterion to reflect on his experience of this “new moment” in the life of the Church.

The following is an edited version of the interview.

Q. Has leading the archdiocesan preparations for the implementation of the third edition of the Roman Missal helped you grow in your own knowledge of the liturgy and of the Mass in particular?

A. “This process has helped me grow in my understanding of how deeply connected and attached people are to the eucharistic celebration.

“From priests expressing their love for the Eucharist—priests of all stripes, of all generations, sharing how central the Eucharist is to their lives—to seeing volunteers show up for lengthy sessions to prepare themselves to serve others while expressing some enthusiasm and excitement that is infectious had a great impact on me.

“It was a joy. I haven’t been to a session or a workshop in which I was teaching or talking about the third edition of the Roman Missal that has not been gratifying in some way. So it’s been wonderful work to do.

“And for people who work in the Church, it is a privilege to be able to focus on that which is at the center of all that we’re about, which is the Mass. It’s at the very heart of who we are as Catholics. It’s at the very heart of our faith family. And it’s really nice to get to talk about it over and over again with people and to hear their love, their devotion, their joy and hope for the future in our celebration of the Mass.”

Q. People could look at the schedule that you’ve kept up, especially over the past year, and think that it would be easy to have an everyday attitude about it—“Here’s another presentation about the Mass.” That hasn’t happened with you?

A. “No. You would think it would. And sometimes, as I’m leaving the office to go out and give another talk or workshop on the Roman Missal, I feel a little fatigue as I head in that direction because I have a lot on my plate in these final days of preparation.

“But when I get there and when I start interacting with people about this new moment in the life of our Church, I just am really much filled with a spirit that does not tire me, but invigorates me. And I mean that sincerely.

“It happened just last night. I gave a talk with a young adult group that meets pretty regularly that’s called Faith on the Rocks—an initiative that was originally founded to serve young adults from anywhere, but primarily from the Indianapolis parishes of Holy Trinity, St. Anthony and St. Barnabas.

“They meet at a bar. And it’s kind of like Theology on Tap. And I realized that I felt like I was talking about it for the first time.

“Probably it was because I was talking to people, many of whom were hearing these things for the first time. And I was excited to be able to share with them some of what I’ve come to know about the new translation and about the Mass as a result of this new translation.”

Q. Have the weeks immediately before the implementation of the new Mass translation been even a busier time for you than it has been up until now?

A. “It’s probably less involved on preparing for talks and workshops because I’ve been doing it long enough that I have a good repertoire of material to share. But it is a little busier because we’re also preparing for other things in the archdiocese.

“I’m very involved with assisting with the preparations for the National Catholic Youth Conference, which is the weekend before the date of the implementation.

“And, through the Providence of God, our seminary [Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary] has grown to 35 students this year. That means that I’ve doubled the number of students with whom I work in formation, from seven to 14. It’s the happy problem of God’s good work being accomplished in the Church.

“So my time is divided. But it is all connected to good work. And you just put one foot in front of the other and rely on lots of good people around you.”

Q. Will you be glad when Nov. 28—the Monday after the weekend in which the new Mass translation is implemented—comes around?

A. “I’m sure there will be a sense that we have arrived at a moment of culmination of a lot of work.

“But I’m eager to see what’s next with regard to people truly beginning to use these words for our prayer, and truly beginning to take the opportunity to experience a fuller expression of the Mass.”

Q. Have you given any thought to what it will be like for you to use those words for the first time?

A. “I have. I celebrated Mass within the last couple of weekends at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. And they had begun using the new sung texts. I was struck during the Mass as we began to use those that it’s no longer talk anymore.

“It’s no longer something of the future, but, as we get to use these sung parts of the Mass a little earlier, I was aware that it had arrived and, in a sense, what would be available to us for the whole Mass was beginning.

“It was exciting, and sent chills up and down my spine.”

Q. Do you have any particular hopes for what the implementation of the third edition of the Roman Missal will do for individual Catholics and parish communities in central and southern Indiana?

A. “I hope it opens our eyes and ears a bit more to the power and mystery of God at work in our everyday lives, and to what God is truly offering us and what God is truly asking of us each and every week as we gather as faith families for the Eucharist.

“The Mass primarily is our worship of God. I hope that we can increase or intensify our focus on giving thanks and praise to God in our worship. But I also hope that the Mass opens our eyes and our ears to what is possible with God as a result of us worshiping him week after week in the fullest way possible and with all our hearts.

“So I hope it makes us holy. I hope it calls us deeper into the sanctification that is proper to each member of the faithful.”

Q. When you went through the seminary in the mid-1990s, you may have heard stories of what it was like to implement the reform of the Mass during and following the Second Vatican Council. Did you ever think at that time that you would be in a similar position, that you would be called on to implement a significant change in the words we pray at Mass?

A. “I can’t say that I recall thinking that I would be a part of helping to prepare our local Church for the reception of a new translation of the new edition of the Roman Missal.

“But I would say that, as I look back on that time, I remember the stories of the implementation of the developments in the Mass of the Second Vatican Council as being a time of great enthusiasm, a time of great energy and commitment to the liturgy on the part of a broad spectrum of folks.

“And I hope that continues because I think what was begun at the Second Vatican Council continues to unfold in this new moment and will continue to do so in the future.

Q. How would you say that the parishes and schools in which you’ve served over the years helped prepare you for what you’ve been doing in this important moment, as you’ve described it, in the life of our Church?

A. “The parish and school communities in which I’ve served have formed me best by loving me and supporting me as a priest. And I’ve experienced that wherever I’ve been in their patience and their kindness in our work together of building up God’s kingdom.

“So their example of putting their faith in action and their witness to Christ’s love, particularly to me as I served in their midst, impacts how I strive to serve other people as I’ve been called away from them to new work.”

Q. One of the places you were called away to was the University of the Holy Cross in Rome to study liturgy at the graduate level. People might think that such studies are abstract. Did your studies there and the conversations that you had with your professors and fellow students have a discernible effect upon what you’ve been doing in the past year during all of the presentations you’ve been making about the new Mass translation?

A. “Where I rely on my formal theological studies is that I’ve been exposed to a broader range of the Church’s thought, both from its history as well as in its present articulation, of how we pray and worship, and particularly in some of the finer points of what the Church calls us to and why.

“What I’ve tried to do is translate that into the way people speak and think in their everyday lives. It may be not in higher, abstract theological expression, but rather in what that would look like at a parish in rural Indiana or in the center city of Indianapolis or in a high school Mass.

“When I’ve been able to accomplish that, that’s when I’ve been effective in assisting people to prepare to receive the new translation of the Mass. I hope that that’s happened more often than not.”

Q. What you’ve been doing over the past two years to help the Church in central and southern Indiana prepare for the implementation of the new translation of the Mass isn’t a typical ministry of a parish priest. But how has this been an important part of the living out of your priestly identity and ministry?

A. “I have had the opportunity to witness people’s great hunger for understanding their faith. And I’ve had the opportunity to witness people’s great love for their faith in a variety of settings throughout the archdiocese that have encouraged me and inspired me and given me hope that the Church is alive.” †

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