Remembering Vatican II, in her own words

| Patricia Gries | December 21, 2015 | 4 Comments
Prior to the liturgical reforms of the Council, the liturgy was seen as the work of the priest and those few assistants at the altar. Today the liturgy is supported by a variety of ministries (deacons, readers, servers, music ministers, etc.), and the work of the Church is carried out daily by a broad spectrum of people serving, leading, and teaching in the name of the Church. CNS

Prior to the liturgical reforms of the Council, the liturgy was seen as the work of the priest and those few assistants at the altar. Today the liturgy is supported by a variety of ministries (deacons, readers, servers, music ministers, etc.), and the work of the Church is carried out daily by a broad spectrum of people serving, leading, and teaching in the name of the Church. From a blog published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; photo by CNS.

The documents of The Second Vatican Council and their subsequent dissemination throughout the Catholic world, created a lot of excitement and change for the life of the Church.

For those of us who grew up in the pre-Vatican II Church, many of the changes were welcomed. Some people of course did not want to welcome or make changes.

I remember all too well what it was like to attend Mass with the priest’s back to us speaking a language we could not understand. To pray in the vernacular was a breath of fresh air, and the liturgy became not the clergy’s but a celebration of the people.

New liturgical ministries arose as a result of the changes with laypeople being able to participate as lectors, eucharistic ministers, greeters, cantors, female acolytes and liturgists. Choirs also grew with new members happy to sing the new liturgical music.

The Archdiocese saw a tremendous growth in lay ministry not only in liturgical ministries, but also in the area of social justice, pastoral ministry, parish administration, finance councils, parish pastoral councils and youth ministry, to name some of the ministries.

Parishes have become parishioner centered and not clerical centered. Parishioners have taken ownership for the life of their parishes and no longer passive folks coming only for a Sunday Mass.

In the 1970s and ’80s, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis became a national leader in liturgical music and lay ministry. A number of local lay people became involved in national organizations, thus having influence beyond the local Church as well as bringing “best practices” back to the local Church.

Along with the involvement of lay people, we also had priests and deacons involved on a national level. This local Church was alive with many good people doing great things for the Church.

Many people now worship in new or renovated church structures that foster more engaged and welcoming communities.

The Second Vatican Council changed how we as Catholic Christians are to be and act in the world.

Patricia Gries served as director of the Division of Ministry Personnel of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1985 to 1994. As a director, she was a member of the executive team of Archbishop John Roach, the first lay woman member of the leadership group.

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  • Bill Keane

    The article seems rather superficial. It skims the surface with no real depth. There is nothing about the effect of the council on young people and the changes they accomplished: .how mass became a community celebration rather than a spectacle where the congregation were spectators rather than participants.

    I had looked for some suggestions on how our energies could be harnessed once again to seize the opportunity Francis’ pontificate offers to reinvigorate the Church as John XIII did.

    • gabriel_syme

      I am surprised to see you state that John XXIII “reinvigorated” the Church, Bill.

      If you look at the statistics, the story since the time of John XXIII is only one of failure and decline. Mass attendance, vocations, number of religious – you name it, all have gone off a cliff starting from the disasterous period following Vatican II.

  • Paula Ruddy

    Thanks, Patricia and Editors, for this reminder of the reforms following Vatican II. We need the history. We also need, as Bill comments here, some vision for the future on how Vatican II can be continually implemented. Building on the past, what needs to be done now?

  • gabriel_syme

    Its disappointing to see Patricia resort to old Protestant falsehoods when discussing the traditional mass.

    Its simply not true that Catholics “couldnt understand” what was being said at mass – rather, everyone followed along using their latin-english missal. (plus, after a while, you get to know whats being said by heart anyway).

    Resorting to being dishonest undermines Patricia’s crediiblity.

    Personally, I discovered the traditional mass ~3.5 years ago now and it was like a breath of fresh air. It is far superior to the superficial novus ordo which is no more than – to quote Joseph Ratzinger – “a banal on the spot fabrication”.

    The traditional mass is reverent, authentic and God-centric. The traditional mass also reflect Catholic belief. The new mass – which has run the Church into the ground in many places – is / does none of these.

    The new mass is also not faithful to Vatican II, which did not call for any major liturgical changes, and stated that latin and greogrian chant should remain prominent.

    I tend to find those who prefer the banal new mass and disaparrage the traditional mass – which produced centuries worth of saints – tend to be very protestant in outlook and belief, and they tend to think the mass is about them, not God. Hence the desire they have to be “doing everything” instead of praying and following the action of the priest.

    I am 37 and would never dream of going back to the protestant worship I understood as “mass” growing up. My wife and I have just have had our first child and, God wiling, our child will never have to endure the circus that is the novus ordo missae.