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Sunday marks the beginning of the season of Advent in the Roman Catholic Church—-the spiritual preparation for Christmas.

But it will also mark a major milestone for millions of Catholics across the country, including the 200,000 members of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Sweeping changes to the church liturgy–the ritual prayers recited during Mass—go into effect.

One of the revisions involves a greeting between priest and congregation. The priest says, “the Lord be with you.”

Right now the congregation responds with, “and also with you.”  The new response will be “and with your spirit.”

It’s among many changes in the newest translation of the Roman Missal, the third since the Vatican directives of the 1960s that allowed for an English-language Mass.

This version bears the mark of the late Pope John Paul II, who called for an English translation more faithful to the original Latin text.

Dr. Judy Bullock, director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Worship Office, says the new missal is intended to provide a richer understanding of the Latin ritual.

“They get more of a word-for-word translation, so we’re going to actually be praying more exactly what is there for the universal church around the world.”

Bullock says by and large, parishioners she’s encountered are enthusiastic as they prepare for the changes.

But the revised liturgy has its critics.

“In general, it is not needed,” says Micheal Diebold.

Diebold spent ten years in the priesthood and remains active in a Louisville-area church.  He’s co-chair of a group called Louisville Liturgy Forum, which has been speaking out against the changes.

He says the new translation is often awkward and it contains obscure, less conversational words like “consubstantial,” and changes that he fears will mark a return to a more patriarchal church and alienate Catholics.

“They will not, in my opinion, be able to easily enter the Paschal mystery of Christ dying and rising that they can now, with the translation that we have now,” he said.

But church leaders say there’s no reason for anxiety.

“I tell people jokingly that it’s kind of like me taking a golf lession,” says Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz.   “It gives me a chance to get back and in a sense look and redo the things that I love about the game and hopefully I’ll play it a little better.”

Kurtz says, yes, there are a few words in the new liturgy that you probably won’t hear on the street, as there are now, but he doesn’t believe they will be disruptive.

“I think they will find more vivid words. I use the example that is one of my favorites is right now.  At the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest says ‘from the East to the West.    We’ll be saying in the new translation, “from the rising of the sun to the setting.” That’s poetic, it’s biblical, gosh I think it’s much more inviting.”

At the O’Bryan family home in eastern Louisville, eight members of St. Albert the Great Parish are gathered in the living room for their weekly Why Catholic? meeting. It’s a program that allows Catholics to meet in small groups and discuss their faith.

This group is not overly concerned about the changes.  Member Steve Teaford sees it as another learning opportunity.

“We take it for granted, and I think we’ve come together in a group and sort of talked about some of these things. And it’s given us a new perspective, sort of a new energy for the liturgy in a lot of different ways,” Teaford said.

While parishioners have been preparing for the liturgical changes, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz expects there will be some initial confusion with the new missal, but he hopes they will take it in stride.

“And I hope in some ways not get so serious that we don’t enjoy even making a mistake occasionally,” he said.

(Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Louisville)

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation."