50th Anniversay of the Convocation of Vatican II

On 25 January 1959 Bl. Pope John XXIII, at the Basilica of St. Paul outside-the-walls, called for a reform of the Code of Canon Law, a Roman synod and … a Council.

50 years ago… tomorrow.

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  1. Wullie1492 says:


    I remember it well. I was a teenage altar boy in Edinburgh and turned up to serve mass one Friday evening. My first reaction on seeing the headline on the front page of the Catholic Herald was one of joy – to think I was going to be alive during such a historic event!
    The next Friday evening, the headline said “New Council May Allow the Mass to be Said in English”. Although I assumed, as I suppose everyone else did, that the same liturgy would be used, but in the vernacular, including the silent canon, I felt, as a naive, but devout, 17-year old, that the Bishops would never allow this (they are too educated and sensible, I said!)
    Almost immediately, the nonsense began. Everything traditional was criticised. The two curates in the parish (we always had three, occasionally four priests)suddenly rubbished the past and assureed me that in future, when the Liturgy had been “reformed”, we would no longer have to endure the current low Sunday mass attendance of just under 70%. Everybody would be there!!I have now, at the age of 66, returned to the parish. The attendance is abysmal.We have half of a priest – that is to say he has two parishes to look after. Since his second parish always had two priests, this means he has to do the work of five or six men. God knows how low the mass attendance is. Where once we had four masses every Sunday (in just my parish), we now have one. Where once the people said their prayers quietly before and after mass they now chatter freely, so that I cannot really make my thanksgiving after mass. These people are devout – I am thinking of those who attend the daily masses – so they have simply not been taught properly for the past 40 years.
    One of the two curates I referred to before is an excellent priest, now in his seventies, but still seems to be able to convince himself that nothing has gone wrong. When he goes on about the “great benefits of Vatican II” and is challenged, he seems somewaht flummoxed, not surprisingly. The other, being a more logical chap altogether, got married, divorced and is now an Anglican minister. Incidentally, he married a former Satanist (honest!), who told him that in America there was something of a schism among Satanists because they could not agree whether to say a “black mass” facing the people or “ad orientem”.
    I have a great many Catholic friends, but am truly appalled at their ignorance of the Faith. I do wish that just one or two of the demented fatheads who talk about “good Pope John” would actually consider the shambles which, wittingly or unwittingly, he began. Surely when you “open the windows” you have to consider what may fly in.I am tempted to continue with my observations on Pablo Sesto, but enough is enough…..
    May God bless Pope Benedict, to whom I used to bow shyly as we passed on the streets near the Vatican. I always hoped, but did not dare presume….

    Bill Casey.

  2. I wonder how many more years it will be before what was decided at the council will actually be implemented properly :-\

  3. wsxyz says:

    Bill Casey –
    That’s a sobering post. We know, however, the Church will never fail. In fact, the renewal has already started. My two little girls (4 and 5 years old) are being taught The True Faith. They are growing up an a parish where the Traditional Mass is offered, the faithful are silent and reverent, and the parish priests are holy men, who look and act like priests, and are not at all afraid to teach The Faith from the pulpit. I sometimes think that those of your generation who persevere will truly have earned a crown of victory in Heaven. May God bless you.

  4. fra paolo says:

    A word on behalf of the Vatican II liturgy. I used to attend mass frequently at London Oratory, and I found the Ordinary Form, said in either Latin or the vernacular, ad orientam, was a very attractive mass. In fact, I would rank the various possible forms of the mass I have attended in my lifetime as follows, in terms of the spiritual refreshment I have felt:

    1) Ordinary Form in Latin, ad orientam
    2) Ordinary Form in Latin, towards the people
    3) Extraordinary Form in Latin
    4) Ordinary Form in the vernacular, ad orientam
    5) The ‘1965 missal’, in the vernacular.
    6) The Ordinary Form, in the vernacular, towards the people. (Which, frankly, I cannot tolerate any longer, and will not attend. I’d go to an Anglican service in preference.)

    Old rite, new rite, it’s all right for me – if it’s in Latin.

    Sadly, in my temporary sojourn in the Diocese of Hamilton, Ontario, I seem only to have options 3 and 6 available to me, and the site of 3 is difficult for me to reach.

  5. Fra Paolo wrote:

    Sadly, in my temporary sojourn in the Diocese of Hamilton, Ontario, I seem only to have options 3 and 6 available to me, and the site of 3 is difficult for me to reach.

    I too love the Ordinary Form in Latin. I wish it were more widespread. Indeed, I suspect that most Catholics who have attended the Ordinary Form in the vernacular regularly would find it very easy to learn, even if they don’t know any Latin, since they will find the vernacular translations popping in their head automatically. (But then they will hopefully start learning some Latin to appreciate the bits that were “lost in translation”….)

    Sadly, occasionally the Latin OF is used as a weapon against the EF. A few years ago, I was told that the reason a certain major city had no “Tridentine Masses” was that the bishop’s policy was “if they want Latin, they are only permitted the Novus Ordo Mass in Latin.” (I won’t specify the bishop and see, since this was hearsay.)

    On the other hand, I’m 44 years old, and for the first two or three decades of my life I heard NO Latin in any Catholic churches. These days it is not uncommon for me to hear the Agnus Dei or the Sanctus in Latin in suburban parishes. It’s just a small thing… but perhaps a first step!

  6. Geoffrey says:

    “Old rite, new rite, it’s all right for me – if it’s in Latin.”

    I like that! Mind if I use it? :-)

  7. Jayna says:

    “I suspect that most Catholics who have attended the Ordinary Form in the vernacular regularly would find it very easy to learn, even if they don’t know any Latin, since they will find the vernacular translations popping in their head automatically.”

    That’s actually my plan of attack in my parish. I know I won’t talk them into an EF Mass, but an OF Latin Mass might be do-able because our priests won’t really need any extensive training to celebrate it.

    As to the Oratory, I regularly attended their weekly OF Latin Masses when living in London and found them to be celebrated with all due decorum and dignity. The Oratory was also my first real experience with full Latin Masses, so going to the OF definitely help me work my way into it.

    And the Council? Well…we’re working on it!

  8. Ottaviani says:

    “Certainly, the results [of Vatican II] seem cruelly opposed to the expectations of everyone, beginning with those of Pope John XXIII and then of Paul VI: expected was a new Catholic unity and instead we have been exposed to dissension which—to use the words of Paul VI—seems to have gone from self-criticism to self-destruction. Expected was a new enthusiasm, and many wound up discouraged and bored. Expected was a great step forward, and instead we find ourselves faced with a progressive process of decadence which has developed for the most part precisely under the sign of a calling back to the Council, and has therefore contributed to discrediting for many. The net result therefore seems negative. I am repeating here what I said ten years after the conclusion of the work: it is incontrovertible that this period has definitely been unfavorable for the Catholic Church.”

    Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger,
    L’Osservatore Romano (English edition),
    24 December 1984

  9. Mitchell says:

    Perhaps what is viewed by the Holy Father as unfavorable for the Church should be firmly, authoratatively suppressed or abolished and what was good be retained, for their was certainly good that came out as well. A clear lineation is needed and what needs to be gone should be gone or overturned.Surely the Mass is at the heart of much of what has gone wrong. A properly celebrated NO may be fine but what good is it when it is the exception and not the rule. I fear a proper NO is almost beyond reach for many parishes at this point as it has been tainted. It has earned a notorious reputation for scandal and abuse in too many places. It is like builing a house with bad wood, you can not just replace beam after beam, year after year, before you start thinking that what stood there before was perhaps a better construction. Once infection sets in it is only a matter of time before it must be eradicated completely…Debate will be what is the infection, a bad parish Priest, a controlling laity, the NO Mass with its’ many options…Ultimately the Holy Father will decide. I often think of the remarks also of John XXIII about the Church not facing any particular issue for the basis of this Council, nothing to confront, and yet its’ conclusion and ultimate decisions have now brought that confrontation into everyone’s living room. I hope we wake up to realize that it was all a dream. If TV “Dallas” could have their “dream season” so could the Church. We all bought it and kept watching!

  10. Greg says:

    This event is described this way by reporter Michael O’Malley…

    On Sunday, Jan. 25, 1959, John – less than three months after becoming pope – proclaimed it was time to drag the church out of the Dark Ages and into the modern world. It was time, he said, to open the stained-glass windows and let in some fresh air.

    (link: http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/cuyahoga/123287590850340.xml&coll=2)

    … dark ages … fresh air …

    There must be a refutation of this slander somewhere. Does anyone out there know of one? Also, I’ve heard this phrase before. It would help if we know who said it first. Any scholars out there?

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