e-mail us

Vatican II: 40 years later

Other reactions to Vatican II

What I experienced personally was the transition from our lifestyle of the 16th century to the 20th century. We were “allowed” to read the newspapers and watch TV news every day. We could look at ourselves in a mirror. In the ’70s, there were still some of us who felt uncomfortable when our new constitutions identified us as “women.” For me, the whole change was a process to be a normal human being with common sense.

I believe our experience as Japanese, the majority of whom were not born as Catholics, could be different from that of our European sisters.

-- Mercedarian Sr. Filo Hirota
A worshiper at the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier, a community for English speakers in Rome

* * *

Did [the council] work? It all depends on who your pastor is. It broke down a lot of barriers -- age, race, generations. I know it alienated some people. They really wanted that strong Latin rite. In the old days as a little girl I had to read my missal to know what the priest was saying. Children growing up now can hear what the priest is saying. And turning the priest to facing us made him part of us.

-- Anita Nelson
Our Lady of Grace Parish, Encino, Calif.

* * *

Vatican II is an event that has reawakened the laity to the task we were given long ago. For years it was always, “Thou shalt not.” Unless you were ordained, many things that we now take for granted were out of the question. Now the message is: Read the Bible, be active in your parish, be active in worship.

-- Rick Lane
Parishioner Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Tenafly, N.J.

* * *

Instead of just coming to Mass, my sense of it is there is feeling and spirit in the church. This church itself, Our Lady of Grace, is welcoming. People can say, “We’ve found a home.”

-- Jo DiNova Daly
She and her husband, Philip, a convert, are involved in the small faith community program that attracts people in their 30s at Our Lady of Grace Parish, Encino, Calif.

* * *

When thinking of Vatican II, what comes to my mind is the saying of Irenaeus, that “the glory of God is the human being fully alive.”

After being brought up in a good Catholic home where the accent was on catechism, doctrine and many of the external forms of religious expression, Vatican II enabled me to enter a world where human relationships are valued as places for encountering God, and where my experience both as woman and Christian is valued.

Thank God for the openness to the world that Vatican II initiated!

-- Sion Sr. Teresa Brittain
Worships at the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier, a community for English speakers in Rome

* * *

As a layperson, as a woman, Vatican II has meant that I can proclaim the Word of God at Mass. I can give the Body and Blood of Christ to somebody and take it to the sick. I can be an altar server. I can fully participate in the Mass because it is in English. After Vatican II, scripture has been opened to the people -- to know it and to read it daily.

-- Susan Semler
Lawyer, Hackensack, N.J., a toddler during Vatican II

* * *

I had hoped that Vatican II would be a wonderful opportunity for the church to reach out and be engaged with the modern world, to share its great history, resources and tradition with the whole world. That engagement had already started in the 1950s and 1960s with [Fr.] John Courtney Murray, Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson. Maritain came to Princeton around that time, where he was highly respected. It was a very open and optimistic period for the church.

I’m disappointed that instead of radiating out, the church became more inward. Leading churchmen became mesmerized by trendy secular movements and seemed almost ashamed of their own church heritage. The church could have had important things to say about feminism, black power and environmentalism, but it caught whatever train came along.

There was a tendency to convert true holiness into a kind of therapeutic mode in which things were meant to feel good. But lots of the lives of the saints are about people who suffered and were pretty unhappy.

I think Vatican II tried to be a genuine, friendly engagement with the outside world that didn’t take place. The church failed to challenge lots of changes in the secular world. The confident optimism that was the spirit of Vatican II got lost or was misunderstood.

-- George McKenna
Professor of political science at City College of the City University of New York

* * *

I just wish we could go back to kneeling down at the altar for Communion. Communion is more a sacred thing. Just my feeling. The holding of the host in the hand -- I feel the priest has more of a right to do that.

The girls on the altar, women ushers, holding hands for the Our Father, it’s OK, all that, I like that. It’s just that the host I always felt was the sacred part in the church, and [that ritual] should not have been changed.

-- Mary McCarthy
Greeter, Our Lady of Grace Parish, Encino, Calif.

* * *

I was 12 or 13 when the changes of Vatican II began. It had a big impact on how I viewed the church as I became an adult. … You certainly had a feeling that you had more of a connection to what was going on. The Mass became more meaningful, more real to me and less of an ancient ceremony.

I wish all the changes had been implemented. The involvement of the laity in some of the issues has been more on paper than in reality. It’s still not “our church.” It’s their church and they tell us what to do.

-- Jeanne McDermott
A health care professional working for the federal government, Washington

National Catholic Reporter, October 4, 2002