‘And with your spirit’

Father Richard Hilgartner talks about the new Roman Missal during a June 23 workshop at the Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh. (CR/George P. Matysek Jr.)

PITTSBURGH – You might call it liturgical autopilot.

As soon as Catholics hear a priest say, “The Lord be with you,” they instinctively respond, “And also with you.”

That’s all about to change Nov. 27 when the English-speaking world begins using the new Roman Missal – the book of liturgical prayers that has been more literally and poetically translated from the Latin.

With the new translation, English-speaking Catholics will now respond to the priest or deacon with, “And with your spirit.”

Father Richard Hilgartner, a Baltimore priest who serves as director of the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Divine Worship, acknowledged that the change will probably be one of the more challenging ones for Catholics to accept. “And also with you” has been used for more than four decades. It’s the only response many Catholics have ever known.

During a June 23 workshop on the new Roman Missal, given at the Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh, Father Hilgartner delved into some of the reasons why “And with your spirit” has been adopted.

The phrase has ancient roots in Scripture. It was used in the Book of Ruth and the Book of Chronicles. The angel Gabriel greeted the Blessed Virgin Mary with those words, the priest noted, and St. Paul often signed off his letters that way.

Father Hilgartner pointed out that there’s also an important functional component to the words.

The Latin is, “Dominus vobiscum et cum spiritu tuo.” It contains no verb. It’s as much a statement of fact as it is a greeting, Father Hilgartner said.

“‘The Lord be with you,’ is saying that the Lord is present in this gathering,” the priest explained. “The people’s response back to the priest – ‘and with your spirit’ – is an acknowledgment that the priest’s spirit has been configured and conformed to Christ by virtue of ordination to act as Christ presiding over the assembly.”

When the priest says, ‘The Lord be with you,’ the people’s response is not some kind of “right back at you Father!” as much as it is focused on allowing Christ to work through that priest, Father Hilgartner said.

“It’s a reminder to the priest that what he does, he does because the Church has called him and ordained him to act in the person of Christ,” he said. “The priest acknowledges the presence of Christ in the assembly and the assembly acknowledges the presence of Christ working in and through the priest.”

The liturgical act can take place, Father Hilgartner explained, “because the Church is rightly gathered and rightly ordered.”

“It’s a statement of ecclesiology,” he said.

Father Hilgartner noted that English-speaking countries are in the minority by not having a literal translation of the Latin for the dialogue, which is used at the beginning of Mass, at the proclamation of the Gospel by a priest or deacon, at the beginning of the eucharistic prayer and at the final blessing at Mass. The Italian translation is “E con il tuo spirito,” French: “Et avec votre esprit,” Spanish: “Y con tu espíritu,” and German: “Und mit deinem Geiste.”

It will take some time before people adjust to the change. But, if parishes do a good job explaining the reasons behind that and other changes, it will be a great moment of catechesis when we can all learn more about what we really believe as Catholics.

In the coming weeks, The Catholic Review will feature an in-depth look at Father Hilgartner’s ministry at the bishops’ conference.

Advertisements

About George P. Matysek Jr.

George P. Matysek Jr. is the assistant managing editor of The Catholic Review in Baltimore. View all posts by George P. Matysek Jr.

3 responses to “‘And with your spirit’

  • Richard Baldwin Cook

    I am surprised that this comment on “and with your spirit” does not discuss why the traditional wording in English has been “and with you” – if all the reasons for the change are so cogent.

    My Catholic, conspiratorial cast of mind suggests that the unstated reason for the rhetorical change is to displace the human form of the priest, substituted by priest-as-ordained imagery. So, an ordained pedophile can do the job . . . but a woman can’t. In other words, clericalism in an exclusively male guise is, once more, what is moving things along.

    • George Matysek

      Thanks for your comments! As I understand it from Fr. Hilgartner, the 1970 translation left out ‘with your spirit’ in the interest of simplicity. A ‘dynamic equivalence’ was used that focused on the spirit and meaning of the words rather than a direct translation – stripping out a lot of what had always been there in the Latin. The Latin text is the same today as it was 40 years ago (“Dominus vobiscum et cum spiritu tuo”) – the translation is what is changing. Stay tuned for more!

  • Introducing the new translation of the Roman Missal can be fun? « The Narthex

    […] welcome the new translation.  It will take some time to adapt to language that’s going to be more formal than what many of us have known our whole lives. But, it’s good to see a parish taking a […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: