Wednesday, October 11, 2006
A History of a True Blue Conciliar Kid
Today is the memorial day of Blessed John XXIII; and it is also the forty-fourth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, of which I have only positive memories. I guess you could call me a true blue conciliar kid!
I am just old enough to remember the pre-conciliar days: the very first liturgical change happened the Sunday following my first communion, so we had to learn how to receive communion both ways, the way it would be on first communion day and the way it would be for the rest of our lives. The Latin Mass I remember and love is that "radical innovation" called the dialogue Mass, where the entire congregation answered and sang back in Latin. In preparation for a trip to see relatives in another diocese, my grandmother told me about the "old Mass," the one where the priest and the altar boy had Mass in the sanctuary and the congregation had rosary and devotions in the pews at the same time; as a kindergartener I thought that was really wierd, but Grandma assured me that it was ok, that their bishop hadn't taught them about praying the Mass yet the way our bishop had.
The Council was happening around me as I grew up. The various documents would come out, they would be read and preached on, Latin changed to English, the language got plainer and simpler, both for the good and for the bad. (Bring back the bees, the autumn and the spring rains, and the joy of our youth, but we can do without going all the way back to "the sublime words falling from the Holy Father's august lips" for "the Pope said.")
Most of my classmates dropped out of religious education after fifth grade (and Confirmation), as seemed to be the perpetual tradition, but those of us who stayed had a steady stream of fresh Church documents to ponder as the Council continued and then was implemented. I found it great fun, but then I was a nerd. By high school, there were only 5 or 6 of us in my religious education class, when there should have been at least 5 or 6 dozen, if all the 15-year-old Catholics were in religious ed.
My parish gave up on formal religious ed classes when we turned sixteen; the half-dozen of us who were still there were welcomed into adult study groups and put to work instead. By the rules then used in Cleveland Diocese, 16 years old + confirmed = adult. I ended up on the parish liturgy committee, learning about rubrics and appropriate music and illuminating my first manuscript (a scroll of the Christmas proclamation from the Roman Martyrology for the creche display). I also got my own paperback copy of the complete Documents of Vatican II as a present from my confessor! Of course I've worn it out and replaced it several times since 1973......
So, I'm a 100% true blue Conciliar Kid --- too old to fall for romantic tales of the good old days, too young to regret the passing of the good old days; remembering the excitement as each document of the Council and each post-conciliar encyclical and apostolic letter would be issued in those skinny little stapled booklets with the discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and how we would read them over and over again, and set out to live them.
And it all started 44 years ago today.