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Lost in the translation

As Catholic church leaders change the wording of some of the liturgy of Mass, one worshiper cannot embrace the awkward phrasing.

Published June 22, 2006

What do you think of the Roman Catholic Church's changes in the language of the Mass? Share your opinion at

I haven't been saying the words all my life.

Just 16 of my 35 years.

But I am as confused, disappointed and, well, angry, as any devout Roman Catholic I know.

Mass is the starting point for my week. A renewal that I participate in. The words, the music, the people - they ground me.

So I was crushed when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted last week to change some wording in Mass to more closely match the original Latin. It wasn't so much the idea of changing some words. The problem was the specific words they approved changing.

There is one point in every Mass that is pivotal to me. It is when my heart opens and I feel myself at the feet of God, praying for his mercy.

It is during the Communion rite, as the priest is holding up the host, the body of Christ. We parishioners, in preparation for receiving this sacred rite, say, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

Tears form in my eyes every time I say these words. Every time.

My world could be upside down, as awful as anything, but when I say those words in anticipation of Communion, I feel the hand of God in my life. I feel his forgiveness. I feel his love.

And now? Now, the church wants to change these words to, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof."

My roof? Where is the emotion in that? Where is the feeling? What does it even mean?

I became Catholic during college. Not for anyone but myself. I had gone to a Catholic high school and was familiar with Mass. When I started going regularly during college at Northwestern University near Chicago, I felt like I was home.

This didn't go over so well with my family. My father's father was a Lutheran minister. He married my parents. He baptized me. He set the tone for a traditional Lutheran upbringing.

So, three years after he died, when I told my parents I planned to convert to Catholicism, they took it as an affront against them, against my history.

They pressed me to change my mind, going so far as to set up an intervention with our minister.

But the truth was, I was embracing my spiritual history. Just in a different form. A form that meant something to me because of the rules, the pageantry, the structure. I was swept up by the emotion of Mass. By the interaction and the inclusion. I knew in my heart that my grandfather would approve.

There was a priest at my college campus, Father John, who empathized with my struggle. He counseled me through a rough period with my parents.

Eventually, they accepted my decision. There was no issue six years later when I married my husband in the Catholic church. They have no problem with my daughters being raised Catholic. They accept and understand who I am.

But now I am in turmoil again. How could the church take these words from me? What will I get from "under my roof?"

I know it's wrong to think that my entire faith will crumble over three words, and I'm sure in the end it won't. But I wish someone had asked me. I wish they had asked any of the common parishioners before they approved such a change.

They say it will be two years before the Mass is affected, because of all the process and paperwork.

I hope they'll realize before then what a mistake they are making.

At least, for me.

I am proud of my church. Proud to have converted. Proud to serve as a Eucharistic minister.

Lord, help me understand.

Amy Hollyfield, news design director at the St. Petersburg Times, can be reached at 727 893-8491 or


What do you think of the Roman Catholic Church's changes in the language of the Mass? Share your opinion at

[Last modified June 21, 2006, 10:21:30]

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