Though we are one, Holy, and apostolic Catholic Church, we still have our own internal spats. Arguments about this doctrine or that discipline can be found in every spectrum of the Catholic blogosphere. While a great many disputes can be settled by simply referring to the Catechism, there still exist some rifts between the Church faithful — and some of those rifts can become downright nasty.
Perhaps one of the biggest points of contention between Catholics today is over Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II as it is often called.
Vatican II was the 21st ecumenical council (the second to take place in the Vatican, hence the name) and acted as a major turning point in the Church’s history. Taking place from 1962 to 1965, it wasn’t called to dispel any heresy or establish new dogmas — unlike other Councils before it. That’s actually a very important fact to recognize before going any further: Vatican II changed nothing about sacred tradition.
Instead, it focused on different areas of discipline, ecumenicism, and a host of other topics that helped to reaffirm the Church’s role in modern times. However, for the more stubborn, orthodox Catholics, Vatican II was seen as break away from tradition and an attempt to “secularize” the Church—an idea that is still held by many “traditional” Catholics today.
Now, I’m not going to break down every point of Vatican II in order to prove why those who criticize the council are misguided and perhaps overly zealous. Much hooplah has been attributed to Vatican II, and many try to point to it as the cause for some of the Church’s internal issues. Instead, I want to make two points about Vatican II (especially for those of you who joining RCIA this year) that should silence any critic, and satisfy any of those who have perhaps read too much anti-Vatican II jibber-jabber on the internet.
1: Vatican II was supported by an overwhelming majority of the Church authority, including John Paul II and Benedict XVI (both of whom were present at the Council before becoming Pope). That alone should be enough for any member of the laity. If the Church says it’s right, then it’s right. End of story.
2: Perhaps the most important aspect of Vatican II, and the one that I’ll be discussing from here on out: it encouraged and increased participation and engagement with the Mass.
One of the changes made in Vatican II was that Mass could be said in the vernacular, rather than Latin. This meant that people attending Mass who didn’t know Latin would actually be able to hear and understand the prayers and participate along with the priest.
In fact, before Vatican II, it wasn’t uncommon to hear lay Catholics on Sunday say that they were headed to “watch Mass,” because that’s what they did. They watched the priest say Mass rather than actually participate.
Vatican II opened the door for people to engage in the Mass in a way that they previously couldn’t — and that’s a huge deal.
Before and during my conversion, one of the things that really drew me in was that during Mass, Catholics worshiped with their entire body, mind, and spirit. It was an all-inclusive experience—one of constant participation throughout. I’d never been a part of anything like that before. It made me excited to become Catholic and that Holy experience was available to me because of Vatican II.
Those who criticize Vatican II are mistaken. I believe they do more to divide and splinter the Church than bring it together. At the same time, by challenging the nature of Vatican II, they challenge the authority of the Church, and that is a dangerous road to travel. For the rest of us Catholics, old and new alike, I’ll end with this notion. When we attend Mass, we come face to face with the literal Body and Blood of our savior Jesus Christ. Vatican II allowed us the opportunity to come even closer — to not only partake of the Eucharist, but participate in the consecration, the moment that bread and wine cease to be as they are and become the Holy Flesh and Precious Blood.
‘What a treasure there is, dear brothers and sisters, in the guidelines offered to us by the Second Vatican Council… I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century’ there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.’—Saint John Paul II
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