What the Revised Roman Missal Proves About Adult Faith Formation

A friend of mine on Google+ made what should be an obvious point, but one which hadn’t  occurred  to me:

The Roman Missal changes was the most recent…  adult educational moment for parishes in the US since the release of the US Catechism over 8 (??) years ago. Parishes do not need to teach adults the faith so many do not make it a priority. I find this frustrating.

This hadn’t occurred to me (most likely  because  I wasn’t working in catechesis when the USCCA was released), but it is true: the changes to the language of the Mass were the first sustained and universal attempt at adult faith formation in this country for some time. While there have been other, smaller efforts here and there (the Year of Paul or Forming Faithful Consciences), nothing has reached the scope and depth of the efforts leading up to last November.

Here’s the thing: the catechesis and formation around the Roman Missal, Third Edition was, as near as I can tell, a success. Parishioners have, by and large, accepted and implemented the changes without much fuss or angst. In the  Midwestern  parishes I’ve traveled to since last November I haven’t seen or heard anyone using the old translation in an intentional act of defiance, and I haven’t seen much ink (physical or electronic) spilled reporting mass discontent about the changes. People seem to have accepted (perhaps grudgingly in some cases) the reasons given for the changes and implemented them in their parishes

So what does this prove?

That when effort and resources are put into adult faith formation — when we make it a priority and act as if it is the most important evangelizing moment — it is successful. The amount of work put into the implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition was remarkable — every publisher had their set of resources, the USCCB put out massive amounts of information in the form of essays, brochures, and videos, and dioceses put together workshops and trainings for a variety of constituencies. We laughingly predicted in our offices that we  would  receive  ten calls the first week of Advent complaining that the priest was changing the words of the Mass. In fact, we got none — my only conclusion is that it was impossible to be even a semi-regular church-goer and not know that the changes were coming.

All this hard work paid off. The implementation has been a success and, from where I stand, should be a model for large-scale formation efforts in the future. My hope is that the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis at the USCCB has done or is planning to do some sort of  postmortem  on their efforts so as to be more intentional the next time this sort of evangelizing moment presents itself. I know that I will remember the lessons learned and put them into practice.

Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP / flickrCC