Vatican 2day symposium draws all-comers

Feature Cecily McNeill28 February 2013 Fr James Lyons of Sacred Heart Cathedral parish led participants at the Joy and Hope: Vatican 2day Symposium down a 1960s Memory Lane on Friday…


Cecily McNeill
28 February 2013

Fr James Lyons of Sacred Heart Cathedral parish led participants at the Joy and Hope: Vatican 2day Symposium down a 1960s Memory Lane on Friday 22 February with a rousing rendition of Bob Dylan’s The times they are a-changing which soon raised the roof as people joined in.

There were lots of changes in the 1960s, he said, and ‘We were excited about the way Vatican II wrought changes in the Church.

He was ordained in the 1960s and recalled running Housie evenings in the Newtown parish hall.
‘Lay people started to do more than just turn up for Mass.’

The biggest ‘emotional’ change was turning the altar around so that the celebrant faced the people.
Catholic Women’s League stalwart, Mary Richardson from Upper Hutt, also spoke of the excitement of the changes Vatican II brought. ‘The Church of Vatican II was a great place to be in.’

Fr Petelo Mauga was ordained in Napier in 1961 and later worked in the Tokelau Islands. He spoke of the frustration of not having access to materials in the local language because of the isolation of the islands.

But he said one of the most important changes was the opening to other churches.

Catholics were able to develop relationships with non-Catholics and he remembers a minister from another denomination inviting him to preach in his church.

‘The great thing about Vatican II was its openness.’

Sister of Mercy Anne Campbell who spent seven years working in community development in Peru, remembers the rich unfolding of Vatican II in the parishes.

‘Creation continues to groan … and the Spirit still hovers over our chaos.’

Former director of the National Centre for Religious Studies Gary Finlay converted to the Catholic faith when he married. He found the RCIA (adult rite of initiation) ‘most rewarding’.

The important message from Vatican II for him was that God was incarnational – ‘present to us in all situations’.

Master of ceremonies for the symposium Chris Duthie-Jung pleaded for acknowledgement of several ‘elephants in the room’ – the question of how to express the insights of the Vatican II texts for a generation that is more present on Facebook and Twitter – the vernacular that Vatican II ushered in ‘steadily reverting to an almost foreign language’ – the adherence of Church leaders to tradition but then being selective about which to hold onto – the frustration of a perceived stalling of momentum in the Church. ‘It is sometimes hard not to despair at what appears to be a near death wish on the part of our Church.

He asked participants to acknowledge the truth in these ‘elephants’ and agree in principle to try to focus on the positive, the constructive and the local.

In Pope John XXIII’s words as he opened the Second Vatican Council on 11 October 1962,

With the opening of this council a new day is dawning on the Church, bathing her in radiant splendour. It is yet the dawn, but the sun in its rising has already set our hearts aglow. All around is the fragrance of holiness and joy. Yet there are stars to be seen in this temple, enhancing its magnificence with their brightness. You (we) are those stars.

In introducing the first of the four constitutions discussed at the symposium, Sacrosanctum Concilium (sacred liturgy), Fr Patrick Bridgman said Vatican II’s reform of the liturgy was part of a liturgical movement since the 19th century. The first dialogue Mass, facing the people though in Latin, was celebrated in a German Benedictine monastery in 1921.

The principle of full participation had been around since Leo XIII and Pius X a century ago.

The document reinforces this, ‘Full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; For it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work (SC14).

Through the principle of subsidiarity, each person, minister or layperson was to fulfill their own office, all the faithful actively participating through response, song, action and silence.

The scriptures were placed at the centre of liturgy and all were encouraged to study them.

The council fathers also ‘endorsed what we now know as inculturation; the ability for local cultures and traditions, where appropriate, to become part of sacred liturgy.

Sacred music was to be preserved and fostered, choirs were encouraged as long as the congregation was able to actively participate.

With vestments, furnishings and art the emphasis should be on noble beauty rather than sumptuous display.