Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Face to Face -- Equality -- Thinking -- Coming from Vatican II

What follows is an article that I wrote for our newsletter, the Michaeleen. The Michaeleen will come out soon, but this electronic way of publishing may be an easier way for comments to be made. Today is April 10, 2013. I have a few daffodils blooming. I cut all of these yesterday, since I knew they would be mired by rain and snow. Indeed,we have been blessed with some rain but may get some snow as well! At least, it is good moisture. We are grateful!


After writing my last article on Vatican II, I have pondered much about the changes of Vatican II. I feel compelled to continue the topic of Vatican II as we progress in this Year of Faith.

For this article I would like to answer the question: How did Vatican II actually affect my spiritual life?

First, I think it is appropriate to explain my choice of vocabulary and why I am using such a word. The word is: ponder. I think that there are times when we just think that something which comes out of Rome really touches us, but in reality it has little to do with our spiritual lives.

I must admit that I have pondered about my past to try to be honest about how Vatican II really had something to do with my spiritual life. So, I have really pondered not just thought about this question.

My first response would have to be a phrase: face to face. When Vatican II pulled altars out from the wall and actually had the celebrant face the congregation, something happened to me. When Vatican II set up the possibility of going to confession face to face, something happened to me. When Vatican II actually invited people in the congregation to face each other and give a sign of peace to another person, something happened to me.

So what is that “something” that happened to me? That something would be the creation of relationship in a spiritual world. A relationship means communication. A relationship means looking into anther’s face. A relationship means the possibility or choice of being honest and true or non-committal and even dishonest and false. A relationship means that engagement is a necessary thing—engagement not only with God but with others as well.

So I would have to admit that these elements of Vatican II caused me to become engaged in prayer, the Eucharist, the sacraments, in retreats, in spiritual conferences, etc. like I had not been before. I remember being taught in theology that as a celebrant, I needed to engage those to whom I am ministering. In other words, I needed to look in their faces, touch them at times, give a firm and hearty handshake, and even hug people at appropriate times. All of this would be a part of what Vatican II did to me.

The second idea that came to me in regard to what Vatican II did to me would involve the word: equality. Vatican II stressed that we as Christians are all called to holiness—all of us. Anyone could be holy and saintly—absolutely anyone! That meant that a common farmer or insignificant laborer could be as holy as a very educated and religiously trained man or woman. Education and rank in the Church did not necessarily mean that those are the only people who could attain holiness. Because we are all created in the image and likeness of God as human beings, we, all, therefore are called to holiness. And so all people have the potential to attain that holiness, no matter what their state in life may be. We are all the People of God! I learned that the religiously professed and clergy members of the Church are not necessarily any better or holier than lay people – married or single! That, admittedly, was a real eye-opener for me when I was young.

The third and last words would be an infinitive: to think. Vatican II was just the beginning of this for me. But I will always remember my Catechism of elementary school. There is something wonderful about the Socratic Method of questions. But the Catechism always had answers--answers to all the questions.

I come to understand that sometimes it is just not all that black and white in the spiritual life—that there is actually an area that we might call: gray. And that the answer to many spiritual and theological questions could be answered in different words and ways and still be the correct answer, or even that the question could not be answered!

As a teacher, one of the greatest compliments that I always thought a student could pay a teacher would be a comment like: "Your class really made me think". Of course trying to draw students into thinking does mean asking questions, but it also demands listening on the behalf of both teacher and student.

Nonetheless, I can honestly say that a lot of Vatican II moved me in the direction of thinking about spiritual things and asking the “why” of things. And perhaps most importantly—it was ok to ask questions because it leads to thinking and listening.

As this Year of Faith continues, I will be pondering more about what effect Vatican II had upon me and perhaps even upon Mount Michael in general. However, it might be good also if you readers would give some input about this as well.

I will also publish this article on my blog soon. My blog can be found on the abbey webpage. Just look to the right side of the opening page of the abbey webpage and you will find my name there. Click on to my name and my blog will come up. At the end of each blog there is a place where anyone can make comments. If you would like to mention something there, I will make note of it and work towards a similar article for the next Michaeleen. And of course, you can call or write.


  1. Padre,

    Also enjoy reading your posts, takes me away for a few minutes. As a teacher, you always made us (your students) think and reach for a deeper understanding. Good to see and hear you sing on Easter Sunday. Keep the words flowing. Take care. Joe

    1. Padre J,
      The only thing I remember about Vatican II, are my siters saying you didn't have to wear doily on your head when you entered church. I could never figure out what that meant until I found out what a chapel veil was. Keep the posts coming.