• Rev. Noah Carter

Vatican II and the Liturgy - Intro

In a discussion recently with a parishioner who wanted to voice a number of concerns to me, the manner of offering the Holy Mass came up. He had heard correctly that the bishops recently reminded pastors of souls that the text of the Mass and readings are never to be displayed on screens or projected. He was worried that he wouldn’t be able to participate fully in the Mass. How would he be able to recite the Creed or say the Confiteor? I responded that he will participate at least every Sunday and quickly memorize them, just as we’ve done for 2,000 years and most Catholics in other parishes already do. Otherwise, there are hand missals that contain the texts and readings for the Mass. As we have promoted over the past 6 months, Holy Cross has the Sunday “Word and Eucharist” missals sold in the parish office. However, there was an alarm that went off in my head: if one thinks that a congregant must say all the prayers, sing all the music, and follow all the texts, he/she doesn’t understand what “full, active, conscious participation” really is.


I decided to explain my own internal thought process to this gentleman. I told him that fruitful participation at Mass is not about singing hymns and reciting prayers, but the prayerful offering of our own self to the Heavenly Father through the person of Christ the head (the priest acting in the person of Christ) through union with the Holy Spirit. He said, “That’s not what the Church teaches anymore. It changed with the Second Vatican Council. Now we have to say all the prayers and understand all the readings. That’s why the Mass is no longer in Latin.” I challenged him: “Please find in the documents of Vatican II and show me where the Council fathers taught this.” Four months later he came back to me. He couldn’t find any part of the Council’s teachings that said this, and he gave me permission to use this anecdote in the future. :-)


The Second Vatican Council wrote: “With zeal and patience, pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful, and also their active participation in the liturgy both internally and externally, taking into account their age and condition, their way of life, and standard of religious culture. By so doing, pastors will be fulfilling one of the chief duties of a faithful dispenser of the mysteries of God; and in this matter they must lead their flock not only in word but also by example” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 19).


I look forward to our following series on the nature of the Sacred Liturgy and its relationship to our lives.

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