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A time of change – a time of renewal

Twice a year, usually during autumn and again during Lent, I have been offering six-week-long Bible studies for adults in the parish. Over the last several years, we have studied each of the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the book of the prophet Isaiah. On average, each of these series has had about 50 people in attendance. That changed this fall when I led a study of the book of Revelation. Suddenly, there were nearly 80 folks in attendance. The interest was high and our discussions were even more lively and insightful than usual. From these experiences, I have learned that, contrary to the opinions of some, adult Catholics are indeed interested in learning more about their faith. Providing opportunities that are convenient, engaging, and which require a limited time commitment all seem to make this an appealing combination for parishioners whose lives are busier than ever.

Like all priests in the United States, I’m in the process of preparing for a key ecclesial event that will occur later this year. On the First Sunday of Advent 2011, we will welcome the newly-translated Roman Missal, which will guide our prayer at Mass for many years to come. The new translation is the result of many years of work, rendering the Latin original into English. When we begin to pray using this new translation, many prayers that we have known in English for more than 40 years will sound a bit different, while others will remain in the form we now use. There will be new music to be learned and a number of other riches to be mined from the implementation of the new translation.

The implementation of the newly-translated Roman Missal provides a wonderful opportunity to delve deeply into the celebration that is at the very heart of our faith. Beginning in Lent and continuing into the Easter season, I will be leading a parish study of the Mass. As with anything that we know well and experience often, I suspect that all of us can fall into a sort of “auto pilot” mode from time to time when we come to Mass. The current words, actions and gestures have become so familiar to us that we can forget the much deeper realities that they help us to celebrate. Taking time to help folks to understand the mystery of the Eucharist more deeply will provide all of us with an opportunity for deepened knowledge of and appreciation for that which is both the source and summit of our faith.

As the old saying goes, change is not easy. It can either be a source of angst or we can see it as a time for renewed understanding and growth. I choose to see this as an opportunity for a deeper appreciation of the central mysteries of our faith. I’m hoping that all of us will do likewise and take full advantage of the many opportunities that will be available to us in parishes around our diocese in the coming months. And so our journey in FAITH continues.