Are you used to saying ‘And with your spirit’?

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, December 18, 2011

For three weeks, Catholics throughout the Englishspeaking world have been wrapping their minds and their tongues around the changes to the Missal, which debuted on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27.

While not everyone is happy with the changes — especially many people who do not remember the pre-Vatican II Mass — most seem to be coping with them. Several said they don’t see what the big deal is.

“It’s just like what we said before,” said Angie Kurowski, a parishioner at Resurrection on the North Side. “I don’t see what everyone is getting so upset about.”

At Resurrection, as in most parishes, the congregation tends to mumble a bit, especially when the response “and with your spirit” is called for. That response, which used to be “and also with you,” occurs five times over the course of the Mass, and it seems to be the most difficult for people to remember, according to what many Catholics have reported. Perhaps that is because folks are not always looking at a pew card or missalette when the say it.

People at various parishes report that some priests have helped by signaling when a new response is coming up, whether by giving a verbal heads-up or holding aloft the card with the new responses on it.

More focused on Mass

Pegeen Quinn, a parishioner at St. Mary of the Angels on the North Side, said she likes the new translation because it has led her to focus more intently on the words that are used during the Mass — not just the responses given by the congregation, but also the prayers made by the priests celebrating the Mass.

“There’s a lot of depth in a lot of these small adjustments in the new translation that provide new insights and greater clarity in some places,” she said, noting especially the change in the response to the invitation to Communion, which now is, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

The phrase is based on the incident in the Gospel when a centurion approaches Jesus and asks him to heal his sick servant. Jesus praised the faith of the centurion after the centurion told Jesus that he didn’t have to come and see the man in person, because the man would be healed if Jesus would only “say the word.”

When it comes to “and with your spirit,” Quinn said, “It shows how quickly you can become distracted, and how much of what you say is just memorized. This makes you think about it.”

Kids got it

One group that hasn’t had too much trouble with the phrase is the children’s choir at St. John Brebeuf Parish in Niles. Assistant music director Carol Zalinski said the choir learned about changes to the Mass when they were learning new musical settings, and she told them they would have to be role models for their parents as the changes were implemented.

The effect was clear at an all-school Mass Dec. 8 for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

“It was good to hear them all really scream it out,” she said.

One upside is that during Masses, more people are using the missalettes to follow along, and they seem to be more likely to actually turn to the hymns and sing, she said.

Zalinski and St. John Brebeuf music director Ron Vanadslen spent about two years preparing for the changes, first learning about them and then working with choir members, musicians and the people in the pews, she said.

As a result, she said, there have not been many problems.

“It’s been kind of like the whole Y2K thing,” she said. “There was all the preparation, and then nothing much happened.”

To read Father Robert Barron’s take on the new translation of the Roman Missal see Page 8.

What does it mean?

The Mass begins with a greeting that is no ordinary, "Hi! How ya doin?" greeting, but is rather a ritual greeting and response — "The Lord be with you / And with your spirit."

This is not so much a way to say "hello" but more of a way to enter into the liturgical rite by extending a solemn wish to someone undertaking a profound task. This ritual exchange takes place at several other critical moments in the Mass: as we are about the hear the Gospel proclaimed; as we enter into the Eucharistic Prayer; as we are about to be dismissed.

The priest's greeting represents his prayer that the Lord be with us as we are about to undertake these profound tasks. Our response, "and with your spirit," is much more than a "back at ya." It is our prayer that the Lord be with the priest in his unique role as the ordained celebrant of the liturgy and as the head of the gathered body, the liturgical assembly.

It is also important to remember that this liturgical greeting is scriptural. Remember that from the earliest years of the church, we have the tradition of taking quotes and allusions from Scripture, and putting them in the texts of our liturgical prayers. "The Lord be with you" is a greeting that can be found in Ruth 2:4. The response, "and with your spirit" is based on Paul's greetings to the communities to whom he was writing (Gal 6:18, 2 Tm 4:22).

Finally, the words, "and with your spirit" more closely correspond to the Latin and are more consistent with the response as it appears in other languages.

— Joe Paprocki and Todd Williamson