Christopher Carstens

In Encountering the Words of Christ in the Mass, Christopher Carstens reflects upon the third edition of the Roman Missal, giving particular attention to the changes in the Mass texts.

Christopher Carstens holds a B.A. from the Oratory of St. Philip in Toronto, and M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Dallas and a M.A. (Liturgical Studies) from The Liturgical Institute. He is currently the Director of the Office of Sacred Worship for the Diocese of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where he serves as Coordinator of Pontifical Liturgies, liturgical coordinator for the Permanent Deacon formation program, and diocesan Director of RCIA. He is an adjunct faculty member at the Liturgical Institute and a frequent presenter in liturgical conferences and parish education. He is a member of the Society for Catholic Liturgy and is married with four children. Mr. Carstens is one of the presenters of Mystical Body, Mystical Voice.

Todd WilliamsonIn this blog, Praying, Believing, and Living, D. Todd Williamson discusses the pastoral, spiritual, and ministerial ramifications of the revised English translation of the Roman Missal.  Todd's blog is updated every other week.

Todd Williamson is the current Director of the Office for Divine Worship of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He is the author of two editions of Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons, and Weekdays:The Almanac for Pastoral Liturgy (2007 and 2008, LTP) and has contributed to subsequent editions. He is also co-author of Bringing Catechesis and Liturgy Together: Let the Mystery Lead You! (2002, TwentyThird Publications), and he has written for numerous periodicals (Rite, Pastoral Liturgy, Catechumenate, and Religion Teacher's Journal).

In addition to writing, he is a teacher and national speaker in the areas of liturgy and the sacraments. He is co-host of the monthly radio program, Focus on the Liturgy, which airs on the fourth Wednesday of every month on Relevant Radio 950 AM, in the Chicagoland area.

Todd has been the director of the Office for Divine Worship for eight years. As such, he has dealt with countless pastoral situations in regards to the liturgy. It is from this unique experience that he writes in this blog: breaking open the English texts and making connections to our spiritual and ministerial lives as people of faith.

A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Sandra Dooley moved to Los Angeles in 1999 after 18 years in Orlando, FL. where she spent 10 years as the liturgy director of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Winter Park. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master of Pastoral Studies degree from Loyola University in New Orleans, with emphasis in liturgy. She is an experienced church musician, religious educator and liturgist, and has been a committee member, coordinator and/or speaker at local and national conferences.

In June, 2001, Sandra joined the Office for Worship of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as Associate Director. She was Director of the Office from April, 2003 through July, 2009. She also served on the Board of Directors of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) from 2004 until her return to FL in 2009.

Sandy currently serves as the director of liturgy at St. Margaret Mary Church in Winter Park, FL, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate.


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Author: Christopher Carstens Created: 6/4/2010 10:06 AM RssIcon
Christopher Carstens reflects upon the third edition of the Roman Missal, giving particular attention to the changes in the Mass texts.
By Christopher Carstens on 2/17/2011 11:43 AM

Over the past few entries we have been examining the Gloria. Similar to the “little doxology” or “Glory be,” in this “greater doxology” the Mystical Body gives voice to her love and devotion to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Because the object of our speaking is God, and because the purpose of our speaking is to glorify him, our song is, in its parts and on the whole, soaring, grand, and lofty. Consider, by way of comparison, how the groom answers the question on his wedding day: “John, do you take Mary for your lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?” If John so agrees, he says “I do,” and not “Yea,” “Yup,” or even simply “Yes.” The words, syntax, and style—what is called the “linguistic register”—is suitable to the occasion. So, too, when we speak to God: the register matches purpose.


In addition to those human devices found in high linguistic registers,...
By Christopher Carstens on 1/27/2011 11:13 AM
In our last post (The Gloria’s Return), we asked how it was that we could “glorify and entreat” the Persons of the most Holy Trinity with the lowliness of human words. What characteristics would such a language have? These questions may be rephrased into that single question asked so often today as we familiarize ourselves with a new translation of a new Missal: Why does the Church speak like she does when praying the Mass? In answer to this question, we saw in the Gloria the application of the linguistic device of anaphora, the repetition of beginnings: “We praise you, / we bless you, / we adore you, / we glorify you, / we give you thanks for your great glory.” There are, in addition to the rhetorical anaphora, other compositional methods employed to give the hymn an exalted tone, such as the following: • lengthy sentence structure: The Gloria itself is only four sentences. Rather than the usual fragmentary and abbreviated phrases we usually use (an extreme, yet popular, example is “texting”), elevated speeches...
By Christopher Carstens on 1/19/2011 2:03 PM
One of the most common Catholic prayers, right up there with the Our Father and the Hail Mary, is the Gloria Patri, or “Glory be”: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.” It is a prayer used not only by the faithful in their individual prayers, but it is one used also in the liturgy, when the Church prays as an assembled body. In the Liturgy of the Hours, for example, the “Glory be” is said as a part of the introductory verse and at the end of each Psalm and Canticle. The Mass, too, incorporates this prayer: it is heard at the conclusion of the Entrance and Offertory Chants, and it is also incorporated at the end of many hymns.  

But this “little doxology” (doxology means roughly “speaking praise” or “speaking glory”) is writ large in the hymn we call—you guessed it—the Gloria. The Gloria expands and elaborates on the “Glory be,” saying in high and lofty tones what we express more concisely in the simpler “Glory be.” By the Gloria “the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies...
By Christopher Carstens on 12/22/2010 3:20 PM
At the beginning of the Mass, the Penitential Act prepares us to hear the word of God and to respond fully to that word in offering the sacrifice of the Eucharist. The Confiteor—which is the first of three options—assists the Mass’ participants to achieve this goal by bringing a number of realities before us. The Call to Active Participation. Confessing one’s sins at the beginning of the Mass seems to have existed from the start. A first-century order of liturgy, the Didache, speaks of the breaking of bread taking place after “confessing your faults beforehand.” The Confiteor itself appears to have originally been said by the priest in the sacristy before Mass, but later it moved to the “prayers at the foot of the altar” and was said first by the priest and then by the servers. Its current place is in the Introductory Rites of the Mass, and it is said by all. Why? As one theologian put it, because each of us in the Church has work to do, and, consequently, each of us needs to be prepared to carry out that...
By Christopher Carstens on 11/24/2010 11:48 AM
In the Penitential Act of the Mass, the Roman Rite gives three options: the Confiteor, a short dialogue between priest and people, and the invocations followed by Kyrie eleison and Christe eleison. In general, what is the purpose of the Penitential Act? What does it mean? And in our sacramental consideration of the Mass’s text, what reality is presented before us when we participate in these words? Taken together, the Introductory Rites have as their purpose that “the faithful who come together as one establish communion and dispose themselves to listen properly to God's word and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily” (GIRM, 46). Our preparation to receive the word of God and to offer ourselves in the Eucharist includes the readying of our ears and our hearts. Our ears? Recall that Adam and Eve’s first sin was one of “not listening.” In Latin, “to listen” is audire, and this is the core of the English word “obedience” (ob-audire, “to hear or listen to”). Satan tempted Eve to be disobedient—dis-ob-audio—and...
By Christopher Carstens on 9/20/2010 1:41 PM
We saw last time that the priest’s greeting to the people—“The Lord be with you”—is loaded with symbolism, and that by hearing his greeting sacramentally and mystagogically we can hear not only the voice of the priest but the voice of Jesus and the Church along with him. The people’s response to his greeting is no less significant, especially if—and perhaps only if—considered as a sacramental sign. As the greeting of the priest is found in scripture (see Ruth 2:4), so too are the words of the people. Saint Paul concludes his letter to the Galatians with “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen” (6:18). His second letter to Timothy similarly ends with “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all” (2 Timothy 4:22). Referring to the spirit of the priest is a literal translation of the original Latin phrase, Et cum spiritu tuo. By translating spiritu literally, the English translation follows the translations of the other language groups: in French, Et avec votre esprit;...
By Christopher Carstens on 8/30/2010 1:15 PM
Following the Sign of the Cross at the beginning of the Mass, the priest greets the gathered assembly in words taken from the sacred scriptures. The first two options come from the letters of Saint Paul: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (see 2 Corinthians 13:13) Or: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (see Romans 1:7; see 1 Corinthians 1:3; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; Philemon 3) The second option, “Grace to you,” appears at the beginning of a number of Saint Paul’s letters. The first option, however, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father,” appears at the end of Saint Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians; it is, in fact, the very last verse of these letters. It may seem odd (at least it did to me) that we should be using a farewell as a greeting. Yet, on the social level, there are a number of expressions that are used as both. While in...
By Christopher Carstens on 8/9/2010 12:40 PM
In the beginning of the Mass, the first words spoken are greatly significant:  “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.”  The greatest source of meaning here comes from Christ himself:  his command to baptize in these divine names, as well as the cross that our gesture emulates.


But the meaning of sacramental words and gestures originate from more sources than the historical commands and circumstances of Christ (even if these are their greatest source).  “The liturgical celebration,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), “involves signs and symbols relating to creation (candles, water, fire), human life (washing, anointing, breaking bread), and the history of salvation (the rites of the Passover) . . . ” (1189).  The Sign of the Cross, then, is “related” to more than the historical Christ, for nature—as in “creation” as well as “human nature”—and history also contribute to its meaning.  Last time (see “The Meaning of the Greeting:  The Sign of the Cross,...
By Christopher Carstens on 7/26/2010 11:35 AM
Examining the texts of the Mass through sacramental lenses yields the greatest insights to their meaning. For example, the Mass begins with the Sign of the Cross and the Greeting: Priest: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. People: Amen. Priest: The Lord be with you. People: And with your spirit. A sacramental approach to the liturgy’s signs and symbols finds in them their true and grace-filled theological reality. It does this by uncovering the “roots” of the texts, roots that extend into a multilayered and “organic” soil.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says it this way: “A sacramental celebration is woven from signs and symbols. In keeping with the divine pedagogy of salvation, their meaning is rooted in the work of creation and in human culture, specified by the events of the...
By Christopher Carstens on 7/14/2010 2:19 PM
The first of the newly translated texts in the Order of Mass is the greeting of the priest and the response of the people: Priest: “The Lord be with you.” People: “And with your spirit.” Why are these texts translated as they are? Where do these words come from? (There are, it should be added, two other greetings that the priest may use.) It’s anticipated that the translation of this opening greeting will be used for the first time in Advent in the year 2011: what can be done between now and then to make these words truly meaningful? A number of approaches can yield insights into the meaning of these words at the greeting, including: 1) According to the rubrics, the rubrics indicate that “When the Entrance Chant is concluded, the Priest and the faithful, standing, sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross, while the Priest, facing...