When I was young I looked forward to graduating from my First Communion prayerbook to my first missal. Back then it was a book with some gravitas: black leatherette binding, pages edged in gold and richly colored ribbon place markers. The Latin Mass was on the left with the English translation on the facing page. By listening and looking back and forth across the two pages, I learned the Mass in both Latin and English. As a second grader both versions of the liturgy were mysterious and foreign compared to the immigrant English of my home and neighborhood. I enjoyed the process of attempting to understand the content in both tongues, of puzzling and pondering over the possible meanings and how they related to the sounds. Was it just because I was a child, or would this contemplation have been a lifelong pursuit if not upended by Vatican II?
Vatican II ushered in the English Mass and ushered out my beautiful missal. In came the missalette, a disposable thing that resembled Reader's Digest. It made the ritual seem less ancient, less permanent, more accessible and stylistically more secular. Mass was friendlier, but less awesome. Did the simplicity of the vernacular give us the illusion that we have somehow tamed and mastered the mystery of the Mass?