“Et avec votre esprit”: Catching up with the French Plan de la messe

The Peace of the Lord...

When I came into the Catholic Church the Order of the Mass had just been updated with a few changes, mostly of the verbiage I believe. Because I had no prior experience, the changes meant little to me. One, however, caught my attention. As I understood it, previously the priest would say, “The Lord be with you,” or during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, “The peace of the Lord be with you always,” and the faithful responded with “And also with you.” This phrase, “And also with you,” was probably the only “liturgical phrase” I had heard prior to deciding to become Catholic and going to mass regularly.

The recent changes to the Roman Missal by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops altered the well known response to now be “And with your spirit.” This wording is closer to the older Latin:

P: Dominus vobiscum. (P: The Lord be with you.)
R: Et cum spiritu tuo. (R: And with thy spirit.)

It did not have to be changed, but it was. I am used to it. Anyway, a number of U.S. Catholics were confused a bit, and not a little non-plussed. It seemed a bit clunky, and somewhat strange to their ears. Also, long practiced habits are hard to break. But now it seems old hat.

And With Your Spirit

Then, not long ago, I re-watched one of my all time favorite films, My Night at Maud’s (Ma nuit chez Maud), a 1969 film from the late, great Éric Rohmer. (I wrote some time ago about this film.) The film begins with the protagonist, Jean-Louis, going to mass. The two screen shots above are from that scene. And what caught my attention, now that my ears were ready, was that in the French the phrase is “And with your spirit.” The subtitles captured in the screenshots show the English translation, but if you listen to the soundtrack, and also take a look at the order or the mass in French, or Plan de la messe, you will notice the wording is just that:

P : Que la paix du Seigneur soit toujours avec vous.
A : Et avec votre esprit

As I would expect, the French, who generally care much more about language than do us Americans, maintained the essence of the Latin back in the heady days of the post-Vatican II 1960’s. Still, Catholicism was already beginning to diminish in France, fidelity to the Latin or not – which makes the rest of the film, with its deep discussions of religion, politics, sexuality, and personal commitments in the face of social pressures, all the more interesting.

Interestingly, the film was being filmed and edited during the winter of 1968 and 1969, almost exactly three years after the end of the Second Vatican Council, and right about the time (I believe) the liturgical changes were going into effect. I don’t know much of the history of post-Vatican II France, but I think mass in the vernacular happened right around the time of the film. And notice the priest faces the faithful. My guess is that this mass, in the new manner, was still very new at that time. If this is true, then this was probably the first time the new liturgical form was put on film, perhaps anywhere.


  1. Very interesting! Speaking of the English: I know I’ve heard that the post-Vatican II vernacular translation into English was rushed and not very well executed. I read a book or two detailing the changes and why they were made, and I think they are all pretty solid and positive changes. Traditionalists still complain about the “Novus Ordo” Mass. I myself have no complaints, if it’s well and piously done; in fact, I prefer it, in essence, to the Tridentine. But I do hope the Church can continue to “reform the reform” in a way that can be pleasing to the faithful and more greatly glorify the Lord.

    1. I too have heard the vernacular translation was rushed. I wonder why? If the liturgy is so important, why rush something like that? I am curious as to what people at that time were thinking, what was driving them to get the new liturgy in place so quickly, even at the probable expense of excellence.

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