Some years ago (2009) I published on this blog a recollection of my youth in those critical years of the changeover from the “old Mass” to the “new” Mass. And, while I recall some puzzlement in those years about the changes and how they violated my training, I do not recall big protests from adults to the changes.
And while many people today who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass speak of the changes forced on us after the Council, I do not recall big protests, or objections as the changes came in swiftly in those years from about 1965 -1975. Granted, I was a pre-teen kid. But I do not recall protestors outside with signs, any even any vocal objections, that reached me at the time.
It is my recollection that the objections to the new Mass came largely about ten years later (mid to late 70s). By that time radical priests and nuns had abandoned all show and were either leaving in droves or were staying and causing all sorts of trouble with dissent and rebellion.
At any rate, I am interested in your experiences if you are a bit older, say 55+ and recall the changeover. My thesis is that the true reaction did not happen on “Sunday 1” when the altar was changed to face the people etc. Rather the negative reactions came later. For those were times when “Father says…” was enough to quell most concerns or protests. Only later when, for many “Father” had left with “Sister” to get married or, if he stayed he was misbehaving and commanded little respect, only then did the protests from some mount.
Anyway, tell me your experiences. It is also helpful if you can point to anything written at the time (65-75) that documents concerns.
What follows are my own recollections and a cool (strange) video from the era.
I received my First Holy Communion in 1968 on my knees at the altar rail in our parish church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in a suburb North of Chicago called Glenview. I received from a very elderly pastor, Fr. Dussman, whose hands shook from Parkinson’s. It was an awesome and fearsome event. I was more nervous since Father’s hands shook and receiving communion from him could be a challenge, especially for the first time.
I remember well how seriously we took Church in those days. We had special Church clothes (always a coat and tie), special Sunday shoes and approaching the altar rail was something quite wonderful but very formal: hands folded before the chest, fingers straight, right thumb crossed over left. Kneeling and waiting for the priest and altar boy to pass by was a time of anticipation, a kind of distracted prayer, alert and ready, don’t make the priest wait! Suddenly a altar boy slid a Paten under your chin. Head back, tongue out (not too far!) just over the lower lip! The priest spoke in an ancient language (Latin). Only years later did I learn exactly what he said. I am sure the Sisters taught me but I couldn’t remember(I was only 7 going on 8): Corpus Domini Nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam (May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ guard your soul unto life eternal). And suddenly there he was, Jesus in Holy Communion. Pretty awesome, very special, beyond my comprehension but no doubt this was holy, this was serious and sacred.
But little did I know I was at the end of an era. Within a year strange things began to occur that I did not understand, things that did not comport with my training. I remember my mother telling me that we were going to a special youth mass. I had heard of a school mass, but not a youth Mass. We got there early and I noticed something that confused me. “Mom!” I whispered, (you always whispered in Church in those days), “What are those drums doing there? Right in front of the Mary Altar, behind the rail too, were electric guitars, a drum set and chairs. Then out came these guys I had never seen before, a couple of them were wearing jeans too (a major no-no in the old days).
After Church my mother asked me if I liked it. I said no and she was surprised. “But Mom, I don’t know those songs and they were so loud.” I was confused. The sisters said we should dress well, be very quiet in Church so others could pray and only talk or sing when it was time to do that. It all seemed “a violation of my training.”
But little did we know (I would argue) that it was the end of an era. Something was taking the place of what came to be call the “old Mass.” But none of us call it that then. And if some one were to mention in those days the Missal of 1962, blank stares would have resulted. These were all later terms and distinctions. We certainly talke about Mass in the vernacular etc. But it was Mass. And yet little by little the familiar gave way to the new. The transition was at times startling, at times exciting. But I don’t remember a lot of protests at first. That came later when for some “a bridge too far” had been reached. Anyway I am interested in your remembrances and experiences from that time if you’re old enough to remember.
I do not write this post to “bash” the liturgical changes. Just to document an experience. I have become quite accustomed to the “new” Mass. I am also privileged to say the Traditional Latin Mass. I guess I am blessed to enjoy the best of both worlds. I am proud of the of how the new Mass is celebrated in my parish. We have a wonderful gospel choir which also does classical very well. There is great joy at every Mass. I am also so happy to be able to celebrate ancient Latin Mass that reminds me of the joy of my youth (qui laetificat juventutem meam). I merely document here, I leave the judgements to you my faithful readers.
The following video depicts a Mass in the year 1969. It is from an Elvis movie entitled “Change of Habit.” What an amazing little video for me! It’s just as I remember it as the changes set it. Notice the still strong presence of traditions: people all dressed up for Church, nuns in traditional habits, the priest at the high altar facing east. But notice too the guitars and “informality” of the musicians. The music is up front not back in the choir loft. And many struggle to understand the new lay of the land. It was 1969. It was the end of an era. But I wonder if we knew that?
94 Replies to “Liturgy at the End of Era – Revisited”
It was the end of an era. Sometimes I am frightened when I think about how much society has changed since my youth. I was born in 1971. Madonna seemed very shocking when she first came into the public eye in about 1983. But the songs today are much more vulgar…I don’t listen to the radio anymore.
When I was young I enjoyed rebellious music and blasphemous celebrities. But life has knocked the wind out of my sails…I just want to retreat from the world and draw closer to Christ.
Sorry I don’t know about the changes in the church!
I attended Catholic school and yes, I remember it very well how solemn and sacred we celebrated the Mass. Like you, it was an acceptable shock to see it changed. Acceptable shock, meaning, there were no complaints nor protests that took place. The changes were calmly and willingly accepted. I could really understand why changes were made, so that we are able to more so understand and participate in the mass. With this change however, I could honestly say that somehow, something is missing. Is it the traditional solemnity of the celebration? Or it may be that people of today have changed in their perception of the Holy Mass? It is my opinion that whether it be the old or new mass, the real change is in the hearts of the new generation. I just hope that I am wrong. Thanks.
I had to stop the video at 1:40/2:23 because I just couldn’t take anymore.To me the changes back then were more incremental like Obamacare so as not to stir the masses, “pun intended”, to the point of large groups in protest marches. Maybe the present administration has taken it’s lead from the same fundamental changes playbook the Catholic Church used back then The irony of being a victim of your own design and then having the secularist and government come along and use it to drive the final nail in your coffin. Lull them with platitudes and promises of a newer, better transition while slowing slipping in the changes so it will be almost impossible to stop it once reality sets in. Hindsight is 20/20 but it’s not pleasant looking at life through your behind.
I was rather young when Vatican Council II took affect in my parish. I remember distinctly being handed a paper with prayers in English upon it. I began to walk up the aisle thinking this is so strange but shrugging it off saying to myself. I guess Father knows best! ( no pun intended).
Before the Council, life was very simple within the Church and simple for myself and my family. Our lives revolved around the Church. Mom was in the Altar/Rosary Society and Dad in the Holy Name Society and I was in the ( Girl Scouts)Brownies. Novenas were a staple and we attended St Anthony’s Novena in June (every night for 9 days) and the Miraculous Medal Novena to our Lady every Wednesday. Adoration and Benediction, the Divine Praises was the norm not the exception. And the Rosary was recited and said twice during storms. Everyone had a make shift altar in their homes. On the Feast of Corpus Christi Jesus was carried through the streets under a canopy. We knew instinctively; THIS WAS IMPORTANT,SPECIAL AND EXTRAORDINARY! When I received first Holy Communion I too knelt at a communion rail,it was the happiest day of my life and of course the day would not have been complete without a visit to the altar of our Lady. We went to Confession EVERY Saturday. God forbid we did not receive Jesus with a pure soul We knew about the Saints and we invoked their assistance for something or other everyday of our lives. Then my Mother would remind us to thank the Saint for their intercession and for the favor obtained and flowers were ALWAYS sent to the Church! God was everything to us along with his Mother and all the Angels and the Saints, they were so much a part of our lives and the focus of our lives AND THEN IT HAPPENED……………………….
The Churches which were always our refuge and a constant reminder of a higher realm were torn down and replaced with Churches in the round, no altar rails, stripped of any reminder from the past, the focus gradually emphasized community rather then the worship of Jesus. Communion was given in a standing position and on the hand which was sacrilegious to many of us who were taught the sacredness of the Eucharist. The Mass became almost unrecognizable and oh those distractions, the choir behind the Altar, searching for Jesus in the tabernacle because he has been moved from the main altar and was no where in sight. And if you did find Him He was more often in not in a place which resembled a closet rather then a chapel. Gone were the beautiful tabernacles, sacred music was replaced by noise and lyrics centering around people rather then praising and adoring the Lord. Ridiculous homilies which spoke nothing about sacrifice, redemption, sin or salvation. Statues representing Jesus, His mother, angels or saints were taboo and more often then not disappeared. Confession was replaced by writing your sins on paper then burning them in a bowl. But we reap what we sow. I understand the documents of Vatican II. My problem today is not with the documents nor the Council. My problem lies with the Spirit of Vatican II which maligned the actual documents and implemented and ruptured the truth of those documents This was allowed and tolerated and the Church is now seeing it fruits. Two generations of un catechized parishioners, people not frequenting the Sacraments, (especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation) many with little knowledge of reality of who is present in the Eucharist. Saints (?) no need of them at all, least we forget they are wonderful examples of people who experienced hardships and crosses,they showed us the way to bear them by being united to Jesus.
Well Monsignor I will say this as I say to my own son studying to be a Priest (and to all Priests:) Be courageous it is up to you to speak the truth. Preach Jesus Crucified and when you celebrate the HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE Mass, please, please I beg you say it with reverence and awe. Be a contradiction to the world ( and to some in the Church) There must be continuity from the birth of our Church until now. Our Church was not founded at Vatican II it has a rich history. We the laity deserve to know and appreciate ALL of it.. In the end it will be our Clergy who will be accountable for souls lost. God Bless You Always! You are in my prayers.
Msgr. Pope, your experience closely paralleled mine. I am older than you – I received my First Communion on April 30, 1960 at St. Francis Borgia Church in Chicago. Like you, I can remember the details of that day like they were yesterday and I will never forget the awesomeness – and that is meant in the true sense of the word – of the moment the host touched my tongue. Later in life I came upon the phrase “mysterium tremendum” and immediately thought about that moment.
What I remember about the changes in the Mass is that most people I knew welcomed them. They were very happy to hear the Mass in English. I do not remember any serious protest outside of the normal discomfort most people feel about change in general. I attended a Catholic high school and remember the first guitar Mass I attended there. It was a jarring experience because, as you noted, it seemed to turn everything I learned about being in church upside down.
I don’t want to get involved in any discussion about why one way is better than another, but I have always thought that the biggest casualty of the entire process has been the diminishing of reverence, or a sense of that “mysterium tremendum”. There is nothing common or pedestrian about what happens on that altar every time the bread and wine is consecrated. But in the attempt to make the Mass “relevant”, I’m afraid we’ve made it look that way.
I’ve asked people who attend my local Extra Ordinary Form if they protested the changes that occurred during those ‘spirit of Vatican II’ days. They said back then laity “Prayed, Paid, and Obeyed”. The priests were viewed as holy, Alter Christi even out of the sanctuary. They were the ones making all the changes saying it’s what Vatican II called for. Who were the mere laity to question?
The sex abuse scandal has certainly done away with the notion a priest is infallible. The Internet makes it possible to confirm anything a priest claims his superiors have ruled on. I doubt the Ordinary Form would look as it does in most parishes now if Google was around back in the 1970s.
Since the Council Fathers never called for ad populum, all vernacular, Communion in the hand, etc, the question our generation faces is: what do we do about it?
what generation? about how old are you?
Here in Spain we have been through similar problems, but I think the most remarkable issue has to do with the vernacular languages. Even though Catholic means “universal”, the “local” churches of some regions (singularly Catalonia and the Basque Country) are, with some notorial exceptions, extremely nationalist. Thus, most of the masses are in the local languages and not in the common-shared Spanish.
I remember a recent interview to a catalonian bishop, speaking of the language difficulties with… Latin-American communities.
Wow that video. Sums up the problem we still have today with the ‘youth’ or ‘Lifeteen’ or praise and worship Masses – the cult of the rock star guitarist. Clearly the message of the video is the nun (Mary Tyler Moore) is falling for Elvis. Who will she choose? She looks around the Church – Blessed Virgin Mary or Elvis; Jesus or Elvis. Elvis looks dreamily at her, she looks back. Who does she choose, her vocation and love for Jesus, or her rock start boyfriend (Elvis)? Is it any wonder that there has been so much “Jesus is my boyfriend’ music over the past 20 years or so?
I received First Holy Communion in 1967 from a wonderful,young, dynamic, and tough as nails priest who people of all ages respected and loved. He was a hero to us kids. Less than two years later he had vanished – run off to be married to one of the nuns in the convent. And as best I can remember, moving to the English language was no problem at first until the weirdness started seeping in. The 70’s were brutal.
Thanks for the blog and video – very interesting. I was born in 1977 so this was all before my time: didn’t convert to Catholicism until 2001. On a personal level – although I’m a musician versed a variety of musical styles from traditional (pipe organ / chant) to CCM ( guitars / drums) – I’m very glad to see a re-interest, and thankfully in some cases – a revitalization of the traditional music for the Western Church.
Gregorian Chant has a certain other-worldly quality that just seems to elevate one from oneself while most CCM music – while provoking an emotional reaction – seems to often be inward rather than outward if that makes any sense. Just a subjective observation, but I’m saying this both as an active church musician and a person in the pew at times as well. Peace.
My First Communion was in 1946. Impressed by the solemnity and beauty, and privileged to attend a church with a good men’s choir — and was in great part even as a five-year-old drawn by the music. We’re not talking Palestrina here, but well composed traditional English and Latin hymns that have for the most part been replaced by stuff composed since the ’60’s. (As one pleasantly reactionary scholar put it to me several years ago, “Do you not know that if you are aware they are going to sing “On Eagle’s Wings,” you have no obligation to attend Mass that Sunday.”)
I had no strong objection to many of the liturgical changes and am sure that the vernacular is a blessing for many, but having received a reasonably good education for the time (including several years of Latin) and having a belief in the importance of continuity in these matters, I strongly objected to the discarding of the Latin. Why not both? But the younger and more active priests to whom I spoke (and who seemed very much in charge in these matters) were positively disdainful of a Latin liturgy. At one point I wrote a long (and polite) letter to my archbishop on the subject — the reasoning very much in line, as it turned out, with that expressed 40 years later by Benedict XVIth. I did not receive the courtesy of a reply.
It seems to me that some (much) of the confusion is being sorted out over time and is to a great degree made bearable by church shopping. No choice in my little town, but we have a good and intelligent priest, and he has hired a classically trained organist to lead a tiny choir which compliments the guitar mass at the other weekend service. And in Washington and New York where we spend some of the year, there are excellent liturgical alternatives if one’s parish church is inadequate — which is, unfortunately, often the case.
And occasionally some slightly unorthodox combinations. In Newport Rhode Island at Easter, we would attend vigil at the Benedictine Abby and then Easter Sunday Service at the principal Episcopal church — whatever their other defects, they cared about music. Glorious Easter hymns with a small orchestra; in that respect one felt that Christ had truly risen.
fr pope, I am 64 yrs old . I remember these times clearly. Protests of the nature you describe would have been unthinkable to my parents. However their protests were of the mind heart and soul. I assure you, they did suffer. We lived a block from the church, and I served almost every 6:30 am sat. mass. I was simply bewildered. Times have changed very little. Those who embraced the change, were mostly those who were embracing the then spirit of the age.There will always be those who try to remake the Church in their own image.
#1 It’s difficult to consider but it’s true: the priest said, “Corpus Domini Nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam” when giving Holy Communion to each person individually. Now we’re lucky if the person receiving actually believes this to be the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
#2 Things took a turn for the worst by the time the late 70’s rolled around giving us balloon masses, clown masses, liturgical dance, rock masses, and all that nonsense. A radical change occurred for us when my son, shortly after receiving 1st Communion and after just returning to the pew after Communion one Sunday, turned to me and said, “Dad, are we Catholic?” I said “enough” and changed parishes for one that knew what religion we all were.
Dear Reverend Deacon: i can beat you on this. Two years ago at the end of Mass-during Mass-the Irish pastor haf the ENTIRE church sing the old Pittsburgh Steelers fight song for that weekend’s Superbowl. Love South Florida.
I was 16 when Vatican Council II began. Like you, I lived within the Archdiocese of Chicago. I attended a Catholic H.S. We followed & discussed the proceedings of VII via the New World archdiocesan newspaper. The Council ended when I was in Catholic college. During college we read & the main Constitutions from VII.
The first change I remember is that we began to recite the Lord’s Prayer in English. Other changes came gradually. I think the most expensive were last, like removing communion rails and erecting permanent altars (there were temporary altars at first) and redesigning the sanctuary.
My first time participating on the altar at Mass was as cantor. Getting people to sing was an effort, because that had usually been left to the choir. Later, when I was in the Air Force, I volunteered as lector or Eucharistic minister. Parish Councils were a new thing and I participated in that.
As for complaints, I, too, didn’t hear any at first, but later I did. In my family the generation of my parents grumbled sometimes. I tried to explain what I had learned through the years so they might understand.
I would not want to return to pre-Vatican II theology or liturgy. I once went to a Latin Mass, not Tridentine, and I felt as though I was in a museum. I do, however, enjoy some Latin hymns occasionally or praying the Pater Noster.
P.S. I believed at the time and still do, that my parents’ generation were poorly catechized concerning the changes. I think the seasoned priests of the time didn’t have much formation about it either.
There were no protests because the adults were told to accept the new changes for the betterment of the Church. I remember the change in Northern Indiana. My parents and the rest of the adults in the parish were called to meetings with the parish priests. They were instructed NOT to cause any problems and to accept the coming changes being told that they were ordered by Rome. At that time, my parents would never disobey the instructions of a priest regarding theology or Church matters. The EF was stopped and the NO in Latin began. That was done for about a year and then the NO in English began. I don’t remember what grade I was in at the catholic school I attended but I do remember Brother meeting with all the boys who would begin altar boy training telling us we did not have to learn Latin. We were the first group who did not have to know Latin to serve Mass. Not long after that, the year would have been 1967-8, the folk masses began. They were full of guitars and tambourines, At the time, as a child, I thought it was “groovy.” I also remember that we stopped dressing up for Mass. No more coats and ties. That started around 1967-8, also. As I look back on it now, it all went down hill quickly from there.
I made my first communion in 1963, at the age of seven. It was amazing. We of course dressed up for Mass. I remember wearing a mantilla and gloves and always a dress. My dad and brothers in suits and ties. We would taught to be silent in the church and the priests were respected and honored. I barely remember the Mass, but some of the Latin stayed with me. When the “change” came, my parents went kind of nuts. The drive home after Mass was filled with anger and arguing. My parents were outraged that statues were being rmoved from the churches. I remember my father refusing to go to the church in our area because the priest had a beard, they had acoustic guitars at Mass and the priest said that if your children do not want to go to Mass, don’t make them. This must have been the late 60’s.
We eventually ended up at an “acceptable church,” but I was lost by then. I found it all pretty worthless and my parents hypocrits in their actions. If they forced me to go to Mass, I would sit up with the choir and read a book, going out at some point for a smoke break. At 15, I refused to go Mass and my parents gave up making me. I turned from the church, religion and God. I came back six years ago at the age of 51, thanks to the Lord coming to me and I was confirmed in 2008. I struggle constantly with the constant chatter of people before and after Mass and the lack of reverance for Jesus in the Tabernacle. I am always in the first pew and I try to never look at anyone. I am saddened by the way people dress for Mass or don’t dress. I pray constantly that the Lord will help me ignore all externals and only concentrate on Him. I hate to say this, but I love daily Mass because pretty much everyone there comes because they love and desire the Lord. I go on Sunday because it is an obligation, but it is the most painful Mass of the week. I pray the Lord opens up everyones heart so that they will once again believe in Him. I feel that the lack of belief that Jesus is truly and really present in the Eucharist is why there has been so much deterioration of the Mass. I love my priests and I love the Church and I love the Lord and every Mass is an amazing touch of God’s grace, but sometimes it involves a lot of offering up and yes, suffering. English or Latin, Old or New, the hearts of Catholics need to be opened to the workings of the Holy Spirit and maybe a little preaching on proper dress and behavior wouldn’t hurt. Priests are afraid they may drive people away. If you expect nothing of people, you get nothing.
Due to my preference for sexual sin, I became an apostate just prior to the imposition of Pope Paul’s revolutionary rite but after I experienced a metanoia, I decided to return to the Catholic Church I was born into in the late 1940s.
I went to Mass at Holy Cross Catholic Church in So. Portland, Maine and I was shocked at what I saw and after the service (assembly theology) I asked the Priest if the church had been purchased by Methodists and even though he assured me that the Church was Catholic, I still had my doubts.
What I can write with absolute certainty is that the Catholic Church into which I was born is now invisibilum but even though it is invisibilium that does not mean it has ceased to exist for the promises made to and about His Church by Jesus are promises incapable of failure.
The Invisibilium Catholic Church is recapitulating the Passion of Christ and its sudden resurrection will shock the entire world – especially the world of nominal Catholics. Who knows when that will happen? Our Triune God alone knows that.
Owing to the fact that every single document of V2 (The revolutionary rocket that destroyed Tradition) was Baptised in Ecumenism (the universal solvent dissolving Tradition), we have effectively lost the Faith and we now suffer, justly – due to our sins – in an extended nightmare of over one-half of a century and during which time we have seen our Popes engage in actions that not of the 260 Popes prior to V2 would have been caught dead doing – from frequenting Synagogues without preaching Jesus and Conversion as Peter and The Apostles did (see Acts) , to praying with imans in mosques and asking saints to protect that false religion to the Assisi abominations directly in opposition to Mortalium Anomis .
It was the destruction of the Roman Rite that served as the incubator that resulted in the flowering of indifference to which so many Catholics have become inured and we lost sheep have yet to be able to see the advent of a dawn that will signal an end to our nightmare.
Invisible within the Hierarchy is even one Prelate who embodies Tradition and which embodiment could act as a force which could be applied against our Inertia Into Indifferentism and I am quite sure that events will become even worse over time as the elderly who were born prior to V2 begin to die off and leave our Churches empty and the weirder the church becomes the more insistent will be the obviously false claims of continuity as the revolutionalised Holy Mother Church, behind a felt banner reading Everything is different nothing has changed processes into ecclesiological evanescence.
Few are those who understand that The Grace of The Holy Ghost can be refused during a Conclave and that the men in Gelaros are not impeccable in their choice of a Pope and even fewer understand that a Pope can chose to Pass on Tradition rather than Pass on Tradition as did the 260 Popes prior to V2 and even rarer are those who know that the Fathers in an Ecumenical Council can refuse the Grace of The Holy Ghost and take decisions that are destructive and all of that is owing to the fact that our Hierarchy insists that V2 was a positive good in the face of ALL objective measurements of Catholic life which show a dramatic decline after V2 and it is a decline that has yet to be stopped, say nothing about the decline being reversed.
The sole salvation for me is being able to assist at the Real Mass fortnightly and the times I am forced to go to the Lil’ Licit Liturgy (a calvinist inspired assembly service) is a mini-Lent.
Dear Monsignor Pope,
Why did you allow the comment by I am not Spatacus? Such heretical blasphemy will only weaken the faith of those who read the post.
I received my First Holy Communion in 1956. I am 64 years old now and people often refer to reception of the Sacrament as ‘taking’ Communion now rather than receiving it. I was an altar boy from 1960 to 1965 and studied intensely to become one.
The New Form of the Mass crept in while I was in my late teens. I would not have had, and did not, have the theological acumen to understand the changes that rolled-in but even in my adolescent ignorance I sensed something had really changed.
The congregation ‘dressed-down’ more and more rather than earlier when suits and ties and dresses and polished shoes were the way of things.
The atmosphere was more, for lack of a better word, ‘people-oriented’ and far less reverential.
Whereas before one would hear the same Mass anywhere one went, Mass prayers (even the words of the consecration) often varied from parish to parish and from priest to priest within the same parish.
Although I was immature I ‘felt’ (if that’s the word for it) less and less talk about sin from the pulpit and more and more about the poor, etc.
No. I did not protest nor did my parents or other family members when the Latin Mass was eased out, but it was more of a situation like the frog in a pan of water having the heat turned up gradually until it dies.
By the early 1970s I stopped attending Mass and (no joking) played ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ on Sundays.
I remember assimilating that birth-control was not a sin, that Sunday Mass was not required, etc. All wrong of course but things were sliding and every day Bishop what’s-his-face or Father so-and-so from Notre Dame or Maryknoll Sister what’s-her-name were on the television protesting Church policies on the death penalty, the war, penalties for drug use and so on.
It was a mad time and truly the smoke of Satan had entered the Church.
Anyway, to make an ever so long story short, by the grace of God I and my siblings have read Church teachings and theological works extensively over the years and are (please God) back.
My parents belong to the local FSSP parish. I do so wish there was one remotely near me.
The Old Latin Mass was permeated with the presence and the ‘feel’ of God. The New Mass is, for lack of a better description, a church social.
I would second “olen bryant’s” recollection of how things transpired. I was an altar boy for the TLM in the late 50’s and served it up until I was a junior in high school. My parish was devout with long lines for Confession every Saturday. One of my most vivid memories, burned indelibly into my memory, was of an old Italian man who was with his wife leaving Church in the late 60’s. He was sobbing and asked “What have they done to my Mass?”
The change was not vocal or a protest; it was private and the pains produced were heartfelt. When the initial Mass came out (the first version which few recall), the people basically said the Mass on the English side of the Missal instead of listening to the Latin side. That changed very quickly! Soon, the hymns and so on followed. From there, those who were faithful simply went along for the ride looking for the most devout option we could find.
I did not grow up Catholic, but I clearly remember my babysitter, Mrs. Stack, talking with what sounded like a mouth full of tacks about the changes in the Mass. I was between 3 and 6 when I stayed with her, about 1968 to 1971 or so. She was so devout; an elderly woman who read to me from her daily Missal in Latin. I agree with Olen; Mrs. Stack would never have protested, but she was in obvious pain.
Thanks for all your wonderful writing.
Dear Mgsr Pope,
I was born in ’37 so I have strong recollections from my childhood and of all that changed after Vatican II.
In our parochial school we were taught Gregorian chant beginning in the fifth grade. At about that grade level, every Friday morning, our religious instruction focused on the Mass. We all sang at Mass, (Gregorian ordinaries and simple harmonized propers.) We sang hymns in both Latin and English.
Above the altar, in the sanctuary there was written the text from the Psalm: : O God, I love the beauty of Thy house and the place where Your glory dwelleth.” Church was that sacred place, full of beauty and full of reminders of the awesome holiness of God. It remains a cherished memory of my childhood.
When I was in high school, our then Cardinal offered free tuition to any student willing to seriously devote time to study chant. Faculty from Pius X School of Liturgical Music in NY flew in to a local campus. For two years, until my HS graduation, during fall, spring and summer semesters, together with nuns and priests, we high schoolers took college level courses in chant and sacred music. It was my thrill to have my own copy of the Liber Usualis! I treasured those enriching experiences. All of that led to my studying Organ at New England Conservatory and later completing a Masters Degree in Church Music/Organ.
Then it happened! A misinterpretation of the directives of Vatican II, decreed that the vernacular was in and Latin was out. I was in despair with years of study seeming gone to naught. Out of tune guitars and vanilla music replaced a rich patrimony of Catholic church music. When interviewing for organist positions in Catholic Churches, and trying to advocate for solid liturgical music I was told: “You have to give the people what they want.”
Sadly, I took a position in a Protestant church since, at least they upheld high worship music standards.
For most of my adult life I have had to made it my practice to attend Masses (usually early morning) that were without music rather than suffer the sounds of sacro-pop.
How happy I was a few years ago to find a Catholic church where the music was worshipfull! On Sunday mornings–chant propers–chant ordinaries sung well by the entire congregation–well chosen hymns with beautiful texts in both English and Latin—and all of this in the Novus Ordo liturgy. Better still, this was happening in a congregation that was predominately young—mostly students!
Again sadly, The music director was let go on the excuse of budget limitations. The pastor wants no chant and no Latin.
So I am back to finding churches with early morning Masses without music. To my dismay, these Masses are what I call “Missa ad Libitum” There are all sorts of additions and substitutions in the words of the Mass. Folksy introductions replace the Entrance Antiphon. Yesterday, the Nicene Creed took the form of a versicle response. Even the Preface did not escape the creative tweaking by the celebrant. I held my breath when he approached the Words of Institution, hoping that at least those sacred words would be spared. (They were.)
All this is not what the Council Fathers envisioned. It deeply concerns me since orthodoxy and orthopraxy are closely intertwined. Our understanding and respect for the sacredness of the liturgy has a profound effect on how we follow God’s law of love. We seem to have lost our sense of the sacred.
I’m encouraged to know that these days, young seminarians are being better trained in the theology and practice of worship. All of this probably won’t turn around in my lifetime, but it is my hope that in years to come the true and the beautiful will be restored to the honor and glory of God.
Thank you for your article. Let us hope and pray for better days.
You asked – but I need to warn this is a bit long b/c I’m rather long in the tooth.
I received my First Holy Communion in 1952. I still have my 1958 St Joseph missal – interesting to look at it now with all the complicated calendars, ferial days, Masses of the first order and all that stuff that we knew how to wade through. [I also have my father’s even more complicated Missal from the 1930s which speaks of participating in Mass by following what is going on]
My recollection is that things started slowly changing and then picked up speed. Witness: my 1960 Catholic HS yearbook has a photo of us learning the new “dialogue Mass” – still in Latin. Before then, it was the servers or the choir who did the responses. It was hoped that we would be able to “break the ice” in our parishes and set a model to get the adults to dialogue, too. That was a nice change and not radical at all.
Then in 1962 I started St Lous U during Vatican II and our professors had Council discussion materials from their friends in Rome so we followed what was going on better than the folks in the parishes. There were some scholastics fooling around with guitar folk music in their dorms (like everybody else at the time). Pretty soon there were new-fangled Masses being tried out in the lower level of the college church with the young Jesuits trying out their new music. From one week to the next you never knew what Mass was going to be like and the students really got into it. When we went home on breaks, we now found those Masses boring.
From my home parish, I have a 1965 hardback Our Parish Prays and Sings book with English & Latin for Sundays & Holy Days only, with instructions on how to do the vernacular responses and a mixture of hymns, antiphons, recessionals and songs. It also has some “People’s Sung Masses” with all the parts in English. Less emphasis on choirs. Note that the book still has the Latin as well as the English. The idea was, at first, that English was now permissible but not required; however, Latin started disappearing.
By the time I was married in 1966, the Mass booklet was all in English. At Advent of 1969 when the Novus Ordo came in we were all so used to constant changes and variations from one parish or diocese to another that it wasn’t a big shock at all. I remember a Kyriale booklet promulgated by Paul VI that said all parishioners should be able to sing some of the simpler Gregorian Masses and should know some psalms to sing for processionals and recessionals, as well as standard hymns. But to my knowledge no parishes did that. [This is still available on line somewhere but I don’t have the link] And the changing parts of the Mass dropped out – choir directors picked hymns they thought fit the day’s readings instead. And then we started getting liturgy committees and felt banners and we had a hippy vibe for awhile.
By the late 70s & 80s my sons were in Catholic HS and boy was that something. A lay religion teacher showed home movies of his wife having their baby. A priest instructor rode a Harley and brought his girlfriend to some of the kids’ parties. By this time the sisters had gone from being so old-fathioned and strict to being way to the left of the students, marching in protests and working in prisons. Of course I live in the Belleville IL diocese and we had some pretty radical stuff going on here.
Anyway, I now see an easing back to singing actual responsorial psalms instead of praise songs and people just burned out with all the experimenting. I was in a choir for a real chant Requiem Mass for seminary students a year or so ago. I was able to teach the other singers the Dies Irae – I remember it well from my GS choir days. I was the only one who knew it; it was going to be left out. LOL
There was a time before The National Catholic Reporter/Review and Crisis magazine and blogs when the lay people didn’t have a forum for discussing and arguing what was going on in the church. I don’t think it was so much oppressive as that we didn’t have constant changes and issues pre Vatican II that needed discussing.
I think people of my generation like the new emphaisis on the readings, but miss some of the solemnity that is gone. I remember when the Gospel and Epistle were sung in Latin by the priest at the altar and sometimes not even procaimed in English from he pulpit – I’m glad that’s over. I hope the 2 Masses continue to influence each other. I took my sons to a 1962 simple low Mass a few years ago and they were truly stunned at how different it is. There was no incense or extravagences I’ve seen at some 1962 Masses; just a simple Mass that you would have seen in a plain old parish church back in the day. It was very, very nice.
I am a little older than you Monsignor, since I received my first Communion in 1964. Apparently the “changes” occurred at different times in this country because I when made my 1st Communion the Mass was definitely the Latin Mass, but by 1965, the Mass had changed into English in my diocese. I originally received the host with the priest using the longer “Corpus Domini Christi…..” prayer. Around a month or so after I made my 1st Communion, the prayer was changed to the simpler “Corpus Christi”. I remember my father asking if Corpus Christi was going to be said in addition to the Corpus Domini Christi prayer and I told him that it was in place of the old prayer (I felt really cool giving religious instruction to my dad, but I was in Catholic school at the time and Sister Gregory gave good instruction). The change to saying “Corpus Christi” was the first change that was done around here. I remember being a bit annoyed as a child by having to learn things in Latin (the Mass and Benediction) only to have to re-learn everything in English. I must say, as I have said before, I prefer the mass in English. and the priest facing me ( I know that this puts me in the minority on this site). The only thing I really remember about the Latin Mass as a child was my mother’s Persian lamb coat because that is what I had my head against while I slept (sorry folks). I originally liked the “teen” or “Folk” masses. I was even a “pastoral musician” as a guitar player at my parish. I would play guitar with the teens at the 10:30 mass and then join the choir for the more traditional music at the 11:45 mass (yes masses were that close together in those days and I don’t think that making them longer necessarily made them better- the next mass was at 1:00 PM).
I was also a guitar player in the Charismatic Renewal for several years. All this music playing and the lively liturgies kept me in the church for years (I might have drifted away otherwise). Now if I walk into a ‘teen” mass at my parish I admit that I don’t like it anymore, I have gotten older and now I feel like I am walking into a bar!. Maybe the modern music appeals to some of these young people and is keeping them in the church too. My brother was a musician at a church down in Va., when they got a new pastor who didn’t like that type of music. he eliminated the group my brother played with -Result: my brother drifted away because there was no reason that he HAD to be there anymore.
Lately I have come to understand how my parents (Greatest Generation) must have felt when all these changes started to happen in the 60’s. They would never have protested; That generation, did their duty & would never question the church! In the early 70’s my mother asked me how I felt about the newer mass, I said that I was okay with it & liked it & I didn’t really remember the old one that well. She told me that she “missed the old mass because it was more….more” I answered “mystical?” She said that was the word she was looking for…we both agreed that there was something intangible about the “old mass” that the new one didn’t quite capture. As the years went by my parents became less and less involved with the church (was that because of the mass or because we moved out of our old neighborhood? I don’t know.) My father was in Holy Name and was a 4th degree Knight of Columbus. My mother was in the Catholic Daughters. By 1975, they were mostly out of those groups. My dad was in law enforcement (FBI) and came home sadly one day and said “Well that’s it” to my mother “today we had to arrest a priest!” (Berrigan). Do the liberals in the church realize how hard it was for those Agents (who were mostly Catholic) to arrest priests who were engaging in acts of vandalism????? Then there was the legalization of abortion..my parents could not understand the thinking of fellow Catholics there either! (Ted. Kennedy anyone?). They actually had to pull their children out of CCD classes because of the stuff that was being taught in the late 60’s – I had to plead with my dad to just let me stay for a few more months so I could make my Confirmation. ( I actually had to plead this with my devout parents, because the stuff that was being taught was soooooo bad).
Now I am a much more devout Catholic (also older and wiser) I see that we, western civilization, is drifting off the cliff. In addition to abortion, out of wedlock parenting etc…we now have the HHS mandate and the redefinition of marriage (both unthinkable when my parents were alive). The Church is under siege and we need (all Catholics – Novus Ordo & Latin Mass lovers) to work together because the Father of Lies is seeking to divide and destroy Jesus’s Church!
Now I am a parent, and I understand how my parents must have felt! Sorry mom & dad – I get it now.
I remeber the switch somewhat. I took First Communion on Thanksgiving Day in 1963, Latin Mass, altar rails, everthing. About the time I became an altar boy (5th grade, maybe 6th), Latin was gone and we faced the congregation. I do remember going over to the choir loft (by being in the grade school, we were automatically in Children’s Choir) and learning the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei in English. I rember they remodeled the church and took the communion rail and the statues on the big altar off (I remember St. Blaise being one of them), as well as a very large statue of the Crucifiction that later spent years in the Sacristy (thus, maybe it was only large to my eyes). It would be the mid-90s before I would see a Latin mass where I actually understood what was going on (more or less). Last year, I was privilege (and I use that word purposely) to attend three Latin Masses (one at Assumption Grotto in Detroit for Feast of the Assumption, a papal mass [I believe that was the term used] at the same church at the end of a conference, and a regular Sunday mass there]. I was so moved. My wife converted this spring, and I hope to take her to a Holy Day or special mass there, so she may see the beauty of what we had. The parish I attend has a traditional High Mass (without the Latin 🙁 ) that we attend on Sundays. They did not remodel the Sanctuary, the Communion rail, an absolutely awesome tabernacle and all the saints’ shrines remain. Interestingling, because it was built in the 30s in the round (meant to resemble the tent where the ark was kept in the Old Testament), they still use the orginal main altar, they’ve only switched sides (this is a good thing, since it is a HUGE block of marble). I am embarresed to admit that in my late high school/early college years I sang in the “choir” at the “guitar mass.” I am fortunate that none of my family seems to remember that era, and there apparently and thankfuly, no recordings of our performing music that is now painful to my ears with very few exceptions.
I do not remember any discussion by my parents or my Catholic grandparents of the changes.
I’m about your age, Father. I have vague recollections about the “old’ Mass but mainly came of age with the “new” Mass. But I recall the changes that seemed to be regularly implemented. I don’t remember any of the adults around me complaining of the changes. The standard refrain to my questioning of the changes was “we don’t do that anymore” and I had to accept that. For a few years after my first Communion in 1972, we continued to kneel at the altar rail to receive. I became an altar boy and served Communion with a paten that I held under each person’s chin. Then, we were told about the “new” way to receive: now we held out our hand and used the other to give Communion to ourselves, and we received standing. I also have “fond” memories of the “folk” masses with the guitars and tambourines in the sanctuary, and I can still see the felt banners with the dove hanging in the sanctuary. The music went from solemn and majestic to what seemed like the drivel I heard on the radio. I also remember learning the Rosary and praying it, then later being told that “we don’t do that anymore.” I remember Benediction and Adoration, and then that suddenly stopped, because “we don’t do that anymore.” And then when I was 13, confession became “reconciliation’ and we were told to sit face-to-face with the priest and have a chat. Quite frankly, all these changes were jarring to me. I was a committed and prayerful kid, and these changes conveyed to me that none of this was really important at all since it could be changed so easily and what was once done thrown away readily. In the early version of the “new” Mass for the prayers of the faithful, we used to respond “Lord, we beseech you hear us’ but that was soon thrown out and replaced with the command: “Lord, hear our prayer.” It went from a supplication to our Creator to giving Him marching orders, and still bothers me tremendously even today. It made it very easy to walk away from it all as an older teen because it was all such a turn-off and helped me to become an non-believer by 18. I remember going into churches over the ensuing 25 years and I was regularly overcome with sadness and anger because I recalled my childhood and the faith I had lost, and which I partly blamed, rightly or wrongly, on those adults that, to me, destroyed the Church. After 28 years of wandering in the “desert”, I came back, but I still have a hard time with much of the music and the irreverence I encounter each time I go to Mass, particularly when it comes to receiving Holy Communion.
And I still have that nagging doubt that this is really not that important based upon what has happened during my lifetime. If it was so important, would Jesus allow it to be tossed aside like an old shoe? Also, it is quite apparent that the fruits of these changes are in bloom: 10-25% of Catholics go to Mass each week now, but 75% did when i was a kid. I guess others got the same message from these changes that I did. Sadly, I think my kids are getting that same message despite what i try to teach them.
I grew up Lutheran in a not very pious family, so I can’t really comment on personal experiences during those years. But I think you hit on one of the basic aspects of the upheaval of the 1960’s and 70’s that oftentimes gets overlooked: the laissez fair passivity of the older generation who seemed to have abdicated their role as mentors and preservers of culture which in turn enabled the radical element of the 60’s generation in the first place. The question is, why?
I was born in ’59 so my recollections were strictly a child’s perspective. My father served mass and I remember seeing him bow down at the stairs with the priest as they first approached the altar. I also remember him bumping me with the patten at communion because my three brothers and I were fighting in the pew all mass. He was mad. But I don’t recall any hullaballoo from my parents regarding the changes. I was just sad when he quit serving. I never did serve at mass.
“the laissez fair passivity of the older generation who seemed to have abdicated their role as mentors and preservers of culture which in turn enabled the radical element of the 60′s generation in the first place. The question is, why?”
There was no abdication by my parents, I assure you, and my father’s house remained profoundly Catholic in the teeth of the societal and church upheavals of the 60s, 70s, and thereafter.
I believe that the Catholics of my parents’ generation could never concieve of the Church pulling the rug out from underneath them in the way that it was done, effectively undermining their authority, disparaging the theological climate my parents had been raised in (and so many others for untold centuries),
The parents of that ear had no social networking so that like-minded individuals could find one another and develop a plan of action.
And then there was the feeling that ‘going against ‘Father’ or ‘Sister’, much less the ‘Church’ was an unthinkable affront and most likely a sin.
I salute my parents and all those parents who were dry martyrs during that era of profound, if not diabolical, confusion in so many respects.
I am glad you had such vigilant parents!
I am sure much, much more could have been lost. But why wasn’t the engagement of those trying to stem the tide not enough? Certainly there must have been many who were caught off guard by the magnitude of the changes happening around them. I can’t help but think that for these to happen and take root, there must have been enough folks in leadership positions who allowed, maybe even encouraged, them.
I am one of those un-deservedly called the ‘Greatest Generation”, for that honor, hands down belongs to the generation that raised us. I start with this preface because, your opening remark knocked me over,but then reading on I better understood where you were coming from.
I was raised in an Irish-German neighborhood in the 30’s and 40’s. A city kid. We lived in back of Holy Family church,a German church for in those says we had National parish’s where of course the Mass was said in Latin, but the homilies in German,Italian or English.
My family being Irish attended Mass at St. Augustine which was four blocks away.
Let me tell you about the family structure. Most parents in those days just about finished grammar school, very few I knew graduated high school. Most everyone went to Mass on Sunday. Many of the men belonged to the Holy Name Society or the Knights Of Columbus and the women the Rosary or Altar Society. In essence life revolved around our parish and schools.
These were people who loved and respected their priests, and most importantly trusted them and in turn the priests deserved that trust. (of course this includes Bishops) True there are always exceptions,but in the main this was so.
So now you have a small back drop of what it was to be Catholic in the days, “when garlic sold for 10 Cents a bushel”.
Your opening statement in all respect shows little understanding of the silent earthquake these changes wrought.
But,understandable,considering your age. The real debacle is that the church to this day doesn’t recognize it.
Let me bring you back to an incident that occurred on those first days, it rings so clearly in my ears. It was that Sunday when my wife and I got this tearful call from my mother, “Arthur what have they done to our Mass ,they’re playing guitars.”
How cruel? What bumbling arrogance,in one shot over night we blantly slam this on an aging,faithful generation. Their whole life they lived and loved this Mass.
REACT?? Absurd, this generation loved and trusted it’s Church and priests too much. They were hurt and confused,but they obeyed. As for the rest in our 30’s and 40’s at that time, and with Catholic educations far superior to our parents it took 10 years to see the earthquake. Why not we could see the “buildings” begin to fall.
Thanks for your take on that. Very interesting.
If I may, with respect, you are still the Greatest Generation to me, you lived through the Depression, WWII, and a great economic expansion. The childish, self serving, self congratulating “Boomer” generation cannot hold a candle to you guys. I wish my parents were still around so I could tell them — so I’ll tell you! Thank you!!!!!!
From my reading of the comments, I’m thinking that what was lost was stability. Not just over time, but from one parish to another; one diocese to another; one country to another; one generation to another. The cohesiveness of the Catholic world kind of slipped away. Like some other commenters I left for awhile – mainly because I felt the trivialization of the rich Catholic life I had known had flown the coop.
But I came back because I really missed it – and tried to keep an open mind. In 1963 I had been in Paris attending a local parish Mass each Sunday and felt right at home because everything was in Latin just like at home. In the 1990s I was in Portugal, Spain and Rome – turns out sometimes the Mass might still be Gregorian chant, or a familiar old hymn was still being sung, or I even heard a Mass of Creation in Spanish. A few years ago I was at a really interesting Mass on the French side of St Martin – again a mixture of local color and age old Catholicism. So the cohesiveness isn’t all gone; it’s just not monotone any more.
I thought the liturgies in Rio for WYD were also interesting. Mixed in with exhuberant Portuguese hymns were some Palestrina and Panis Angelicus. We may be entering an era where connections to the past are again valued along with expressions of today and various cultures. What allowing some vernacular has done is release some local color into our Catholic Masses. The Church is not primarily European any more.
Maybe we have quit throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
I was in my 20s when the changes came and there was a lot of backlash, perhaps not protests with signs but our pastors kept up a steady and vocal barrage of sermons exhorting the virtues of the changes and frantically trying to get us all to go along. And in time the some of the Bishops admitted that perhaps the whole thing had been poorly planned and perhaps they should have gone slower. It took me about thirty years to finally come to peace with the changes. But two things I still hate and that is the whole sale abandonment of all Latin at any time ( I speak locally of course) and all abandonment of chant and polyphony. The last two indicate to me a blind prejudice and a determination on the part of the ” powers ” that all Traditionalism is to be expelled from the New Form. And I think that is a shame.
Dear Monsignor Pope:
I am a similar age, but grew up near Scranton PA, so have vague recollections of the Priest saying mass facing the altar. It would be very tough to not say any changes we perceive from that time are not colored by what has transpired in the intervening 40(+) years, and our experience of that, which you allude to, perhaps the bigger stress was not the change in the mass but the following dissent and confusion which we connect the change in the liturgy with. Dissent is like that, it expands on what is often a stylistic change, witness some folks because of Pope Francis’ less formal style are suggesting he will reverse the teaching on something or other, birth control, or whatever. I think the chance of this is similar to me levitating.
There is something from that era I do recall and will never forget however. Two things really. I was a student in public school and in my small town the Catholic School ( St Patrick’s) was across the street from the elementary school. It was routine when I was a boy that on Tuesday afternoons the Catholic kids got let out of school about an hour early to get CCD ( we called in religious instructions) no one complained and no one in the small town dominated by ethnic Catholics would have thought the government was establishing a religion. The protestant kids and the Russian Orthodox kids got a little extra time to do homework, everyone was content. Around 1968-69 when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, this arrangement was ended, and with it religious instruction was Tuesday night, attendance fell off.
Right around the same time Our books changes from the Baltimore catechism ( I have a copy of it today) which was foreboding in some ways, the nuns really made sure you knew it.. but was clear, concise and to a kid firm. It was pretty clear what God wanted and how to make him happy. I then recall a change to a black and white catechism with odd photos of beaten up areas of the inner city, but the teachings were really opaque. I recall vividly being dressed down by a teacher when I heard a story about two children one who stole something from the school and another who told the teacher, the villain in the story was the kid who told the teacher. I was surprised and dismayed since back in First communion days, we were told if the teacher asked you a question you did not lie and you did not steal, both being sins. Now morals got much less clear to my 8 year old mind, stealing was not so bad, and squealing ( even if the teacher asked you what happened) was some sort of uncharitable behavior.
Anyway my point is the moral confusion and disdain for religion that followed in the wake of Vatican II, not directly caused by it, but perhaps facilitated by the dissent that occurred post Vatican II is the real culprit in the crisis we face and not so much the change in the Mass
It was 1972. I was in a wedding party. The night before was a rehearsal session. When it came to communion I knelt and the Priest went off on me. We don’t do that anymore. I asked why? He said it would not look right when I would be the only one kneeling. So I said “Why not have everyone Kneel” He told the bride to be “If I kneel I would not receive communion.” She didn’t want me there because I was a of the Old Rite. Now she was sure I would ruin her weeding. So I could not leave the weeding party.So the next time I genuflected. So I would not ruin the day for her. My last time a Mass on Paul Vl. I was going to Ave Maria Chapel with Catholic Traditionalist Movement.. My church St. Fidelis went under the New Order No Altar Statues Gone. Sorry for my boyhood Catholic Faith gone.
Monsignor, I am a few years younger than the age group you are requesting to hear from, but allow me to make one comment. I recall that my first Confession was face-to-face and that way for everyone of us making our first Confession. The only thing I recall was the sense I had that the priest found me annoying and couldn’t wait to get me out of there.
I am 57. I shall never forget the jarring experience of ending the third grade, with an old-fashioned “POD” textbook of the Catholic faith, crammed with (interesting to me) arcana about the Catholic faith and institutional Church, and then returning from summer vacation to begin the fourth grade, finding “religion” textbooks, full of jargon, B&W photos of cool-looking young people with soulful expressions, and vague, incomprehensible appeals to feelings and relationships. From unambiguous clarity to the doubt-ridden Pepsi Generation, in the blink of an eye. I despised those new texts, whose desperate bid for “relevance” in my view cried out for mockery.
My memories of the pre-conciliar Mass are sketchy. I do recall clearly the worship aids provided us at a time that must have been close to the end of the Council: hybrid leaflets in which the language switched between Greek/Latin and English. I am just old enough to have “always” known what Kyrie eleison and Dominus vobiscum mean. When I became an altar boy in the fall of 1965 I recall we were the first class that never had to learn the Latin Confiteor — a relief to me. Suddenly the priest was facing the people (a development on which I had no opinion at the time). The (vernacular) Roman Canon was suddenly the norm, and I do recall being struck by the words of institution, which I had never pondered before. Still, even then I regretted the loss of solemnity and mystery, though I hadn’t the words to articulate it. Every year I looked forward to Christmas Midnight Mass, confident that at last the “good stuff” would be brought out. Every year I was disappointed: the liturgy was flat, matter-of-fact, routine.
When I started high school in 1969, by a merciful inspiration I chose Latin as my foreign language. My first Latin text exposed us to (too few) simplified selections from the Vulgate, which were mind-blowing to me: I suddenly felt as though I were making a connection with something timeless, universal, and sacred. My favorite Latin teacher made a point of having us all learn the Pater noster, Gloria Patri, and Ave Maria, for which I’ll be forever grateful. Of my experience with liturgy in the 70s, there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said often before by others. In me it created a hunger for what I can only call “authenticity”. After college I found my way to a parish where Latin liturgy, celebrated ad orientem (at least on Sundays), had never lapsed. Today I am MC at that parish, as well as DRE. Under a brilliant and highly cultivated pastor of exceptional gifts and learning, I form others in the liturgy (both o-and-x-forms), and on Sundays and solemnities serve at Solemn Mass celebrated to a degree of splendor and dignity rarely encountered. I hope I never forget how blessed I am to be so intimately admitted to something shared by surely no more than a hundred or so men anywhere in the world.
BTW: the traditional Latin Mass is the real “youth Mass”.
I am 38, so obviously I wasn’t around when the changes in the Mass took place, however, I have had many conversations with people who lived through that time. I have sat with my grandparents at their kitchen table as they told me, with tears in their eyes, how the beautiful liturgies and 40 Hour Devotion (along with so many others) were destroyed and taken away from them. I remember my grandfather dancing a little jig in the kitchen while singing, “Alleu-alleu-alleeeee-lu-ia,” in mockery of the then-popular song, “Sons of God.” I asked an aunt of mine, a former daily Communicant, why she left the Church. Her face dropped and she looked down and said, “Well…the Church has changed.” My mother told me the first crack in her losing her faith in the Church was when meatless Fridays were dropped. “How could it be a mortal sin for all of those years and then over night…poof…its gone?” A gay man that I worked with who had grown up in the 60s went into great detail how the new Mass was implemented slowly, dialog Masses, then a little English, then all English, turning the altar around and then bam the new Mass. A man in my parish tears up every time he tells the story of his last Sunday going out to bury the incense ashes after the last Tridintine Mass in 1970. He went out to a hill and buried the ashes and sat there and wept, he couldn’t explain why at the time and was deeply ashamed of himself. He said he just couldn’t bring himself to serve the new Mass as a 15 year old and drifted away from the Church as he went off to college. He described it as a feeling of “The Church left me, not the other way around.” He mentioned years later, at a men’s conference, he told the story to a few men after one of the sessions and each one, about his age, who had been an altar boy, had a similar experience when the new Mass was implemented. One lady told me that she did start a petition at her parish, but all anyone wanted to talk about was how ridiculous they thought Humane Vitae was. She said she continued to wear her veil to Mass and would say the prayers out of her old missal during the new Mass and the pastor and other parishioners would make fun of her.
When I would ask why no one stood up at that time, each one basically said that that was the way it was back then. Catholic just obeyed. Who would have imagined that the Church would have given her children something that wasn’t good for them? All of the young priests were enthusiastic about it and everyone just went along with it. No one was consulted, they weren’t asked how they felt about it, one just obeyed and went along with it. I have only met 1 person, my paternal grandmother, who liked the changes. I could give hundreds of other stories here, all about the same, but you have heard and read them countless times before.
A postscript: my parents and siblings never abandoned Sunday Mass. In my teen years we often found ourselves at the silk-stocking Jesuit parish whose elementary school I’d attended. Six pm mass was aimed at us young people: guitars, tambourines, and keening folk singers keepin’ it real. From 1965 till 1980 I showed up and went through the motions. Then I got out of there. I have started going back for Confession because Jesuits are smart and articulate, though sometimes have to demand a valid form of absolution. Sigh. The next generation will be better.
My high school was run by the Christian Brothers, of whom we still had more than a few in the early 70s. There was a round micro-chapel, into which maybe one homeroom could be crammed. All done up in exemplary 60s liturgical bad taste. It was scarcely ever used. If Mass was celebrated, it was in the gym. We sat on the bleachers, including during the Consecration. Music was faux-folk, guitars and the rest, because as everyone knows that is what young people want. Did we know we were being patronized? Subconsciously, probably. I became a little rebel at this point: my red line was receiving in the hand. I have done it no more than maybe twice in my life. Another element of rebellion was beginning to make the Mass responses (sotto voce) in Latin instead of English. Wasn’t I a terrible prig? But in my heart it was my defiant bid not to be stripped of something I believed mine by right, keeping faith with something universal and timeless. And maybe even more a repudiation of what I saw as trashy and contrived. I never stopped believing, which of course made it that more painful to endure, because outright mockery was unavailable to me.
Shall I go on? “Religion” classes at my Christian Brothers high school were a wretched affair: pointless navel-gazing, which instilled contempt in even the most phlegmatic. One brother gave up the pretense entirely, opting just to show movies of whatever the media class was watching that day. Only one “religion” teacher, a young married man, attempted to impart anything approaching a rigorous exposition of the Faith. This was in 1973, just after the Roe decision. Our teacher, a newly-minted J.D. had a lot to say against the Supreme’s decision, on both grounds both moral and legal. God bless you, Mr. Crow.
There were few bright spots like Mr. Crow. My Latin teacher was one. At my posh boyhood parish, a handful of energetic, articulate, educated, and influential people declined to be overawed by a mob of temporarily insane priests with no respect for Other People’s Money. This vocal minority were not afraid to get in the face of a Jesuit pastor and tell him he was very much mistaken if he had notions of ripping out the Carrara altar given in his grandfather’s memory, etc. Furthermore, they were sufficiently accustomed to having their way that they did not hesitate to go over the clergy’s head, organizing meetings and composing pointed manifestos (which my mother kept in her desk for years, like samizdat contraband). So that church was only lightly wreckovated, and a generation of Jesuits had an education in the meaning of clericalism. I am not sure they learned anything, though. As I said, the next generation will be better.
I received my First Holy Communion in 1947. So, I grew up with the Latin Mass. I thought it was very special. I had taken several years of latin in high school so I could pretty much follow along. I remember the changes were implemented gradually in the church I attended. Even though some of the changes were hard to understand ( why was the altar facing the people) I accepted them. However, when I went home for the holidays I remember my grandmother being upset. She said we will all be like Protestants now. She found it hard to accept the changes. Over the years more and more has changed. I find it hard to accept things like liturgical dance, some of the modern music, and the accepted dress, especially of the young people. We recently moved to a small town in another state. Priest here are few and churches have been combined. Many people have gone church hunting because “their” church was closed. The church is the people , not the building. Another example of the casualness of things our priest who is compelled to tell a few jokes before dismissing the people. He is very nice and I am sure a very holy man, but this is not the time or place for joke telling.The dress is so casual, especially with the young people. I sat in back of a family whose teenage daughter wore the shortest shorts I have ever seen and a halter. I think such laid back attitudes are part of the reason so many are loosing reverence and respect for the Blessed Sacrament. I do like having the Mass in ENglish and more participation of the laity but, sometimes I think there is too much change.
As a convert from Baptist/Calvinist religion, I did not come to the Catholic Church with an “obey at any cost”
attitude. I was born in 1943 (Pius XII was Pope during WWII), and as I now turn 70 years old, I still do not
have the “obey because they say to” approach. I studied Catholic theology and Latin as a college student,
and conversion happened because I became convinced that the Catholic Church was the true Church of
Christ. Unfortunately I entered the Church just as Vatican II was ending, and when horrible actions and
changes were being adopted from the Protestants I had just left. There is not enough space here to write
about these evil changes (and the older I grow, the more evil I see in the Church). I resisted the changes;
I fought against the deterioration and decomposition; I joined a rebel group of Traditionalists. Our group
was big and it existed in most of the big USA cities. Here in my archdiocese we picketed outside the main
cathedral and on the sidewalk and street in front of the archbishop’s residence. He hated us and said so
publicly, labeling us as heretics even as we taught and preached orthodox Catholicism. I would write him,
and he would answer with bizarre letters (at least he wrote back) which I began to understand after he went
public with his personal battle with alcohol and prescription pain medication. One of our better priests who
had been ordained in Rome (by Pope Paul VI in the Sistine Chapel no less) used his Vatican connections
to get our group heard by two dicasteries in the Vatican and we actually got help from a Cardinal “in” with
Pope John Paul II. Our archbishop formally silenced this priest (now dead); much was printed about this
in the local, secular newspaper. After copies of letters of permission for the Traditional Latin Mass came
from Ecclesia Dei Commission arrived, the archbishop allowed us the TLM on every Saturday evening (not
on Sundays, the traditional day) and on Holy Days. Only one parish church in the entire archdiocese (my
parish) was to have the traditional Mass; people drove for many miles, often in rotten weather, to attend.
I had the honor to serve that Mass which often the auxiliary bishop would celebrate because the ordinary
priest of our city were afraid of the archbishop’s anger and the scorn that came from the progressive priests
that they had to live with. Thank God the archbishop retired and soon died (requiescat in pace). Now
thanks to Pope Benedict XVI we have priests who can offer the TLM whenever they wish, and we have new
seminarians who are seriously studying Latin. But, will Pope Francis stop that after Benedict dies? I fear
that he will. I have known a few good priests and a few bad priests; I have dealt with bad bishops and one
truly holy bishop. I have gone through too much crap to simply obey because “that is the way it is to be.”
What got lost for me during this change was the knowledge and meaning. It all became a mass about feeling good, social issues replaced Christ, the old ways and the old meanings of the mysteries were dismissed and made fun of. The Church became concern with being “hip” and “with it” and lost so much of the deep meaning of Gods love for us. When I grew up “the change” it was already the new normal and I didn’t know what it was that made being a Catholic anything special or different from any other denomination. It was as if the Baptist took over the Catholic way to make it more mainstream. What has brought me back to the Church and the Holy Eucharist has been the internet and web sites like this one. I can find out what I missed in CCD, (because the teacher was a feminist who was looking for girls to be altar servers), and explore the meaning of words, saints, theology and history. I can now undo the wrong and educate my children on why they should be Catholic. My daughter (18) want to be a veil wearing Catholic, that she will go through a hip church to be part of Christ and the Eucharist. Her love for God and her desire for Him, gives me hope and I am doing my best to nurture that love and give her the strength of meaning and knowledge of why the old Church did what it did and why it is still so beautiful.
For me, sacred space turned into ward meeting circa 1970. I remember quite well when the change hit me over the head. I served Mass for an ancient monsignor who had to be helped up and down the old altar steps. But now, a cheap table with legs covered in faux wood-pattern adhesive paper had been placed in front of the Carrara marble high altar. The poor man needed to be turned around to face the new direction. He just stood there looking stunned while the bright overhead lights that had illuminated the altar blinded him. Finally, from decades of habit, he started in on the “Prayers at the Foot of the Altar” in Latin but became confused at bowing toward the congregation and giving his backside to the tabernacle. The pathetic spectacle went downhill from there. Thereafter, in rapid succession, one of the other priests dumped the meticulously embroidered silk and cloth of gold chasubles, dalmatics, and copes (I still remember the labels sewn inside with the names of the deceased parishioners whose families had made or donated them); the statues went next; the altar rail was ripped out; and before long, the noise level rose to rally levels as the “presider,” formerly celebrant, worked the crowd as he made his way in or out. I’ve never really recovered. Neither did the crowd, which, week after week, dwindled and lost interest in whatever foolishness would be next in what Benedict XVI called a “banal, on-the-spot product.”
Thanks to all of you who submitted comments. I largely stayed back just to read since I was interested in the experiences of others. It looks like experiences varied but more than also recall little protest at the time of the actual changes. Those were times when anything “new” mesmerized. Further, the changes didn’t happen every where and not all at once. These were factors. The concerns and protests seemed mostly to have come later when things accumulated and we also began too assess the damage also in the wider culture that the whole cultural revolution had caused. At the beginning of the changes while most, including myself were puzzled and some of the things proposed seem to violate our training about reverence in Church, it wasn’t enough to evoke collectively a protest until later. I realize that some of your DO recall immediate protests, such as the group outside the Cathedral, but it looks like the majority had the delayed response.
thanks for doing this. It was very interesting to see the various stories.
How could any Catholic protest or even be listen to? At that time the protest we saw were all on that thing called the tube and good Catholics saw what all that was about. The Wars of good and evil were on the television and the communist were doing their best to silence any moral code. Lets see, the movies pushed free love and rebel behavior and now we all remember those special news reports of mass rebellions of Catholics storming the Church demanding that the Priest stick to the good old format and for God sake bring back the statues!! It is not just the Church that lost out during this time, the schools were in a full “dumb them kids down as fast as you can and give them lots of Sex, Sex, Sex, education.” Ghost stories were cool, along with science fiction movies and the Mysteries of Our faith were made fun of. We Catholics were being crushed by the new media of that time, and WWII destroyed Europe and was being rebuilt by the “good and caring United Nation”. The changes that happen then are still going on, gay marriage, using the Government to enforce health care and trust me that won’t be used on changing the church and the church leaders cozy relationship with immigration reform. Where are the church leaders when some one is killed by an illegal? The Church makes it easy for illegal to come into my home, steal my life, job, that us Americans won’t do and they get the help from the Church, Thanks! And if I complain I get labeled a racial right wing hate monger(Tea-Partier). The Church has got the Gov. to push its social agenda and it thinks the Gov. is going to leave the Church alone. The enemy to the Church is doing his best to destroy from within and the battlefield is our Hearts and the Heart of the Church. Destroy our love for the Holy Eucharist and our love for God.
I am so sorry. I will make a small sacrifice for your anguish right now-anguish many of us truly share. Our Lady of Clergy, ora pro nobis.
Thank you Craig you have a more gentle heart than I. I am just an angry old fool who has been lead away and left the Church because of the changes and the outside influence. After marriage and two children I stumble back toward God and find that the answers lead me back to the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church before Vatican II. All the beauty and mysteries as Msgr. Charles Pope describes in his post make me long for something more meaningful in my life, something deeper inside my heart. When I go to the Church in my area all the meaning points to the Eucharist and the Heart of God. No matter how shallow the sermon or the music, if I can just stay focused on the Eucharist that is where I find my peace. I will pray for you too, Thank you again for caring.
It was the church’s own experience of Maoism: a cultural revolution which targeted traditional practices and indeed all historical memory — the better to bully and control. While not wishing to be polemical, I cannot ignore certain demonic influences: false liberation, disunity, self-loathing, and extolling a utopian, humanist parody of Christ’s promise to make all things new again.
I received my First Holy Communion on May 2, 1964, at St. Joseph’s Church in Upland, California. I remember my lovely catechism teacher, Sister Charlene, taught us this song we could sing silently in our hearts as we received Jesus the first time. It is sung to the tune of “Adoro Te Devote”:
Jesus in the Eucharist,
I believe in You.
You have promised me Yourself,
And Your word is true.
Jesus, hidden God,
I love you.
Come to me and stay.
Be the Bread that makes my soul
More like You each day.
I remember that day as if if were yesterday! We received communion kneeling down and we were very, very cognizant of the fact that we were welcoming God into our soul. I remember that day for what happened in church, and the careful preparation beforehand—the wonderful anticipation of the moment—not because there would be a big party later, professional photographer, video recording of the ceremony, and all the silliness that accompanies First Holy Communions today. I remember that night, going into my bedroom, all by myself, and holding my missal and rosary, looking at a holy card with Jesus’ face, singing that song over and over again, and crying tears of joy that Jesus had really come to me! How I wish every child could have that experience!
I’ll be 55 next month. I had a somewhat different upbringing since I first learned to serve Mass (Extraordinary Form) at age 5 with my father, and continued to do so until age 12 when the New Mass was introduced. I remember thinking then…”no good will come of this:” but what did I know??? I was a kid…
30 years later I taught my own sons their prayers in Latin and introduced them to the TLM, which we prefer, but only get to go to once or twice/year.
I accept the Church Magestrum and validity of VCII, but I have a real problem with SOME of our Sheppard s, past and present, who have failed us miserably in teaching and implementation. If they wanted to “modernize” the Mass, all they had to do was translate it into the vernacular, not destroy the Churches or the Mass itself..
I made my first Holy Communion in 1959 or 1960. Yes, it was a serious matter. For months, the sister who taught our 3rd grade class prepared us In proper catechetics and even how to properly receive the Eucharist. I also remember my first Confession prior to Holy Communion. We had a young priest who was very caring and took extra time to help us make a good and thorough first Confession. (By the way, having us make our Confession prior to the reception of first Communion did not psychologically ‘wound’ us at all. Imagine that!). I was also very excited to receive my copy of the children’s St. Joseph Missal (with Latin on one side and English on the other), a Scapular and a Rosary. It was like the greatest gift in the world to me! The same in the preparation of Confirmation two years later. And yes, we had ‘special’ dress-up clothes for Church in those days. I also remember attending special devotions in the evening on certain days, particularly during Lent. Changes started about 1966 when the Mass was changed to English and the altar was turned around (actually, it wasn’t; they just put up a table and the priest faced us). I know that my parents were not too thrilled with the change, and my grandmother continued to go and pray her Rosary throughout the liturgy as she had done all the years previous. I never did like the “folk-songs” sung at Mass, with guitars and our own parish group of Peter, Paul & Mary. I thought it was dumb, and all the hymns I was familiar with up to that time had disappeared overnight. My upbringing was in both the strict Polish and Italian traditions, so weighing that probably had a lot to do with my dislike for the ‘new’ Mass. I know there was much grumbling among parishoners over the changes but most went along with them. But then, slowly, they began to leave the parish or fall out of Mass attendance all together. During my teenage years and even into my 20s, there was a lot of nonsense thrown into what was supposed to be a ‘Divine’ liturgy. I never did accept it and was always looking for a more
“toned down” version of liturgical worship, but not necessarily Latin which all but disappeared from my life and the Mass. Give me a traditional organ, traditional hymns even with the Ordinary form, and I’m happy and inspired. The over use of the GATHER hymnal (is it really a hymnal?) is like beating my ears like beating a dead horse. I am older now (60) and have been happy with the movement towards a more serious Liturgy with some decent music. Although the Extraordinary Form has been around for awhile I have yet to participate in it, although I know where it is being celebrated if I ever choose to go. It’s been a long haul to find my way back to a sense of God in worship rather than ourselves.
There was a hell of a row in our parish, not when it went over to the Novus Ordo, but when the Latin was replaced by English, around 1983, after the retirement of the priest who had been present during the changeover period.
Full story here
About one-third of the parish left for neighbouring parishes immediately, and three years later the congregation was less then half. The same thing happened again in the neighbouring parishes, and so the collapse rumbled on through the 1980s and 1990s. A disaster happening.
I received my First Holy Communion in 1951 at the altar rail of a BEAUTIFUL Gothic-inspired church. The preparation — and the reception–were “magic”. The solemnity of the Mass made it even more special. I vividly remember the altar railing linen being draped over our hands so as to ensure that the Body of Christ deservedly was greeted with majesty, grandeur and awe. Honestly, I miss the solemnity of the sacrifice of the Mass…”ad Deum Que laetificat juven tutem meum”.
Thanx for your blog insights and guidance.
(A nine year acolyte)
I was in second grade when we were ushered out of our classroom across the parking lot to the church to learn the new Mass. My recollections of Holy Mass up to that point were of silence and reverence. As the years went by and I became an altar boy I still recollect the reverence of our priests and, at Holy Communion, of the people as the people still received on the tongue while kneeling at the altar rail.
Now that I am in my 50’s looking back, my main, general impression is of noise and the people simply being spectators. A caveat to that, however: at a local Norbertine abbey the Novus Ordo is offered in Latin with respectful silence and a bit more attentiveness by the people. There is no ad-lib, the Mass is offered in holy reverence by the priests, and that permeates the people as evidenced by their dress, their demeanor and the number of vocations that have come from the families of those who have attended Mass their over the decades.
Something else that is a general impression to me looking back is that the churches today look sadly plain and empty versus those of the past that were built and decorated with an eye to theology and the ability to lift one’s mind and soul to those things Heavenly and eternal. If the stripping of the ornateness of churches was meant to make us focus more intently on the action and intent of the Mass itself, that has failed miserably.
Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that, even though I don’t feel offering the Mass in the vernacular of the people is a bad thing (after all, missals in the old days had vernacular translations, yes?), the Mass of Paul VI has ended up taking away all those things that made the Mass extra special. Perhaps the Tridentine Mass in the vernacular would be something to start us back on the road of holiness, reverence and belief.
Ok, first I ask your forgiveness for abandoning the church in 1956. When the Holy Spirit got through to me in the first years of the twenty first century and I realized that John Chapter 6: 43:58 really really Really said to eat Jesus’ flesh to have eternal life I had been out of the church forty plus years and a protestant evangelical for thirty years. So all had changed when I returned to the Church. I was not overly troubled by the changes at first but with every Mass I attend I grow a little more disturbed by the what the changes have wrought to the members of the Church.
In the summer it is not unusual to see entire families in shorts (with the girls in too short shorts) present themselves for communion. Teen boys (when they attend) often wear what I consider really inappropriate t-shirts. I have stopped receiving the Precious Body in my hand as the nuns who taught me in elementary school would have rioted over that. Also I am uncomfortable with the handling of the sacred vessels by everybody and not just the priest. Our parish seems to have contracepted itself out of the children necessary to keep our parochial school open.
I think you should have rioted when the first change was proposed But I am so thankful to be back to the One True Faith.
I am not Roman Catholic, but Episcopalian, and we, too have had our liturgical upheavals. But I have been always a fairly High Church Episcopalian, and in many ways we are more Catholic than the Catholics any more! Several RC friends who have attended services at moderately-high-church Episcopal parishes have remarked, “It is just like our old days—right after Vatican II when we had started having Mass in English, but everything else almost the same.”
I now find that I know more plainchant and even more of the old Catholic vernacular hymns than my RC friends, particularly those more than 5 years or so younger than myself.
I made my First Holy Communion in May of 1942. The altar railing gates were opened, and we second graders passed through a guard of honor of about eight first grade “angels” dressed in various pastel robes. They wore beautiful angel wings. We ascended, literally and figuratively, up five steps to the predella where the pastor stood to receive us, two by two. It was war time, but our war was with mere humans, not with Principalities and Powers.
I went to a public grammar school which had a majority of Catholic teachers who reminded us of Holy Days and sent us to a neighboring church if we had forgotten to attend Mass. At noon we brought back notes from out mothers approving of our excuse from school for an hour.
My Catholic High School had beloved diocesan Sisters of St. Joseph who wore habits and knew what was going on in our world outside of school. One of my favorite recollections was of a nun who commented about West Point and said, “We’d have the same system here except the nuns have the honor, and you kids have the system.” We had true community and were proud to be from Cathedral High School.
Then came graduation and entrance into the minor seminary. It was my introduction into the intimate world of priests. All were loyal, spiritual, dedicated, and characters. In 1961, I was to join them after eight years of study–with moral and dogmatic theology in Latin. I was now in the real world. I went through Mass in Latin, dialog Masses, Mass in Latin while some parts were in English, Mass in the vernacular. Hymn singing came into the picture in 1962, one year after ordination, because the new pastor had been an assistant in a Black church where singing was the norm. Then the trouble began. The 60’s were upon us–not Vatican II–in my mind but the breakdown in the culture. Express yourself. If it feels right, do it. Question authority! Well many expressed themselves, did it, and questioned authority. We are left with the destruction that these things caused. It is my belief that the Church should determine culture, not the other way around. With the revolution in culture, the breakup of many families, children outside of marriage, living together, etc., new technologies, the Church was infected, in a sense. Some blame the Church; I blame the culture. Today, as a retired priest who assists a few times a month in a parish, I am still dealing with the fallout from the 60’s–only now it is worse. Our government has joined the culture. Today we who are trying to be faithful to Jesus in His Church are living in a pagan culture like post resurrection Christians. It is so difficult to be faithful. Our cultural support system has collapsed. Small wonder the Church has been affected. For decades now, I have been a cheerleader, so to speak, encouraging parishioners to be faithful. I remain full of cheer as I point out to them that the world may be falling apart, but you need not fall apart. It is your choice. Many in families, including my own, have chosen to go their separate ways, separating themselves from the Church. They are doomed to repeat the lessons of history. They have had their chance.
So, though I was raised with the “trappings” of pre-Vatican II Catholicism, I do not worry about them. They are important to many people including myself. I do not criticize those who consider them major parts of their Catholicism. When I attend Mass, I go to churches where I feel at home. I know there are abuses, and they should be corrected. I worry more about the collapse of society which has brought some of them about. I am still trying, like so many clergy and laity, to be a voice crying out in the desert to people who need not just evangelisation but pre-evangelisation. Principalities and Powers are everywhere.
I turned 60 last month, Father. I was born in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and was enrolled in parochial school from the beginning. We were instructed by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, at that time a flourishing group of apparently dedicated Sisters with full habit. There were a few lay teachers as well. Cincy is a fairly clannish place and everybody knew everybody or knew somebody in their family. My pastor was a cassocked gent named Msgr. Stanley Bertke, of whom my uncle once remarked – “Stan Bertke is a good man, we played football together at Elder (Catholic High School) before the war.” We were in a newly constructed Church in a new suburb but it was essentially straight down the line, if not architecturally beautiful. Brick and wood, no plaster and color. But there was an altar rail and the Tabernacle was in the right place and Msgr. Bertke said the Tridentine Mass and the choir was in the back and the only music was from the organ and we thought it would always be that way and I loved the incense and bells. When Grandma came with us (about twice a month, the other weeks she went with my Father’s siblings) her crystal rosary beads would clatter on the pew in front of her as she knelt for Mass.
In October 1964 I was snatched from this warm cocoon by a snow/sleet/cold hating Father and deposited in Central Florida. Florida was then mission territory. There was one diocese, St. Augustine, and it was geographically huge and had growing pains that matched the Florida of that halcyon pre-Disney time. We went to Mass and the Church was a surplus WWII Quonset hut. I, then in 6th grade, went to the parish school. There were 13 of us in a rented residential detached garage. We shared the garage with a stored motor boat. When it got chilly the teacher, a layman, would crank up a kerosene torpedo and warm it up. When it was hot he opened the garage door. For recess we would have orange fights in the grove behind the garage.
It was into this environment I was thrust! Talk about culture shock. The nearest Sister was probably 800 miles away and the church was makeshift. The pastor was a Baptist convert who had been badly injured in WWII and suffered from that injury. He would frequently interrupt Mass to call out a misbehaving kid. He was no “Stan Bertke” to be sure.
After the Mass switch to the vernacular we used a translation that I recall following closely in my pre-VCII missal. It was pretty much a verbatim translation of the old Latin. Nobody bellyached as I recall. We still had a communion rail and the tabernacle was still in the rear of the sanctuary.
About 1970 the parish built a new church to replace the Quonset hut and this one was one of the first post VC-II churches in the area. No altar rail, tabernacle off to the side, built into the wall, stained glass really didn’t “say” much, just colored swirls. The pastor was now an Irish immigrant, as were very many in the area. These fellows were young and trying to sweep out the old with the new. The guitars, tambourines, Simon and Garfunkel proliferated. I was then in Catholic High School and remember serving Mass (in street clothes) while the priest (Irish) celebrated Mass sitting at a folding table. We crooned along with Bridge Over Troubled Water.
By 1976, when I got married the changes were all implemented and considered normal. Within my circle, the old Latin has been forgotten and nobody even thought about it anymore. And then! my new wife and I moved into another outlier parish and were back in a temporary building, this one a dome. And a Maltese priest who would have shot Paul Simon on sight and we went through a bit more staid time until we had kids.
Then they hired a former priest (Irish) as DRE and we were off to the races again!
Many thanks for your inquiry about this subject–it seems that many, perhaps most, of the parish priests and higher-ups do not want to hear from those of us who remain deeply saddened by the aftermath of Vatican II. I am 68 years old, received my First Communion in 1950 and was most certainly raised in the Catholic faith. My father was in the Army Air Corps/Air Force, so I didn’t grow up in any given parish or diocese. My mother was not a Catholic, but, as was required in those days, had taken instruction (and, to the day she died, loved dearly the priest who gave it) and promised to raise her children Catholic, a promise which rankled as she felt her word should be sufficient, but which she kept in spirit and in fact. My father is of Irish extraction, and in those days the Irish, like so many others, would never have thought of protesting any “edict” from the Church hierarchy. My mother used to opine that if the Pope said that all cows are purple, that would settle the matter for my dad, and she was right. I remember the Latin Mass well, and regret to say that I didn’t value it as much as I should have until it was too late, but still I wouldn’t have protested because of my upbringing and because I wouldn’t have known to whom to protest. I am at a loss to understand the objections to the Latin–I remember that every missal had Latin on one side and English on the other–if you could read, you knew what was being said. My mother said that the Church did things backwards re the language–that when most people didn’t travel much, the Church clung to the Latin, but (coincidentally) as people had more disposable income and traveled more, the Church went to the vernacular. As a military child, I lived and traveled in many foreign countries, and wherever we were on a Sunday or Holy Day, we went to Mass and knew exactly what was going on. That “universal” aspect of the Church fell victim to Vatican II’s decrees. I also remember that we always got to church on time or early, we prayed before Mass, we were silent and respectful of others’ prayer time, our attention was directed towards the altar and the celebration of the Mass.
I was in college when Vatican II struck, a Jesuit institution, and it seemed like things just crumbled. Various priests, heretofore known and addressed as “Father —-“, asked to be called by their first names, many departed, some without proper dispensation, many married, rather precipitously, or so it seemed. I hung on rather precariously, but finally, after an Easter Mass in 1976 where Mass was preceded by a slide show, the priest was bearded and encouraged the children in the congregation to come down front and sit and when the ghastly “sign of peace” signalled total chaos, I gave up. I was away from the church for 38 years, have been on the road to return gradually and finally returned, I regret to say reluctantly, officially last Easter. I absolutely loathe the Mass as it is celebrated in my parish, but there is nothing even remotely resembling a Latin Mass anywhere in the general. I am appalled at the attire, the informal chatting before and sometimes during Mass, at the applause (this is a performance??!!), the chaos surrounding the Sign of Peace, and the unspeakably ghastly music. The parish seems to be terrified of silence–there is hardly a moment of silence from the instant the bell is sounded for the procession in, until the priest and considerable entourage have departed the scene. Where at one time the “cast” was minimal–priest, two altar boys/men and ushers as needed, it now seems that Cecil B. DeMille is in charge, with his well-known Cast of Thousands. It is very disheartening and dismaying. If there are those for whom the vernacular is more meaningful, I have no objection to their opinions and their opportunities for hearing Mass thus, but I miss the reverence and the cadence attendant upon the Latin Mass. I also think there could be a bit more understanding on the part of those who champion the current form for those of us who miss the Latin Mass. I recall a most unfortunate encounter with the former pastor of my current parish, himself Irish born and still speaking with an Irish lilt, who, when I happened to encounter him one day, responded to my query about any church in the vicinity where there might be a Latin Mass, responded with “Oh, so you’re one of THOSE, are you?” Needless to say, this response was not particularly conducive to my return, and that encounter was several years ago. As I say, I am back, reluctantly, and hoping and praying for the opportunity for a Latin Mass again.
I was born in 1968. My priest in my parish always talked about how priest in his time always said mass with his back to the congregation. what he never eexplained was why it was done this way. I learned as I got older that he was worshipping together with his parish. My curiosity has led me to find a church who celebrate in latin. I go to both forms now but it curious how I have to argue with my three daughters to wear a dress for the novus ordo but they are ok in wearing a veil and dress with the latin mass with no problems.
I mentioned my wife converting earlier and my desire to get her to a Latin mass. I took instruction with her, and reading some of the comments on religious education during the years of change, I am reminded of what our instructor ( a marvelously well educated and entertaining man) said about the recent history of Catholic religious education (sponsors were encouraged to attend with the catacumens). He said if you took religion class or CCD in the 60s, you got the Baltimore catechism. It was blue with a church on the cover. In the 70s, it was more colorful, but probably had a church or cross on the cover. By the 80s, there were colorful birds or butterflies on the cover. By the 90s, there was no hint what the book was about. In the last 10 years or so, he said, there are churches and crosses on the cover again. He finished by saying, maybe, before he dies, they will bring back the Baltimore catechism. It sure would have been easier to teach my wife about Catholicism from the Baltimore catechism. The book we used was very good, but it sure helped that I bought a copy of Catholicism for Dummies, had just finished a course on the Catechism myself and had the Internet to explain and clarify. We may not need a full-fledged return to Latin Mass, but maybe we could bring back some of the majesty of the traditional Mass and the beauty of pre-Vatican II sanctuaries. The return of Holy Name & Altar and Rosary societies would not be a bad thing either.
I was born in Poland in ’59, so I’m not over 55 yet. However, I do remember the changing of the altar and liturgy. I was still a child and I also was confused by the changes. As a child I did not understand why, but as a child I was not allowed to ask.
Why the laity did not protest then? I was thinking a lot about it. In the face of today’s open rebellion, I am looking back and I am coming to the conclusion that Catholics, laity in particular, were more obedient to what Church said, was “not allowed” to question the actions.
Could be that a reason?
Sick. Sad. Understandable why people obeyed, but THANK GOD for 1) the Traditionalists and 2) Novus Ordo attendees who still had large families and practiced Catholicism.
I’m 68 years old and went to Catholic schools all the way through high school. I left the Church in the 60’s and spent the better part of 40 years in the Episcopal Church. Looking back, I see now that I never really left as much as I became an Anglo-Catholic. I still said my rosaries, kept the holy days and so on. Eventually, The Episcopal Church went over the cliff and we came back. As Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
However what I found on my return breaks my heart. I second many of the comments of Pam. The saddest thing is that I can honestly say that despite their liberal nonsense, the Episcopal Church we left celebrated the Lord’s Supper with more reverence than I now see at weekly Mass. People took communion at the rail, hands folded and kneeling. Tears come to my eyes when I watch people nonchalantly walking away, munching on the host like it was a McDonald’s fry. Those who destroyed Catholicism will have much to answer for. Meanwhile, we live in a small, rural community with no access to the TLM.
I am 73 years old, received my First Communion in 1947, studied Latin for 6 years & taught it. I had 16 years of Catholic education and attended “zillions” of Latin Masses . I completely understood the old liturgy and can still recite much of it in Latin. However, I was delighted by the new vernacular liturgy, the removal of the altar rail, the priest facing the altar, congregational participation, etc. It became even better in the subsequent years. I find this new translation cumbersome,snobbish and stuffy, and downright unpleasant. The 1998 translation approved by all the English-speaking bishops world-wide should have been adopted.
Well, people did respond to the changes: they stopped attending Mass, first as confused trickle, and then as despair set in, in angry floods. I remember thousands of people in waves walking down the streets of South Melbourne (Australia) in the fifties for the various masses for the Assumption. This was of course on a weekday usually. Admittedly, South Melbourne was a very Irish area in those days, and Catholics’ attachment to their two churches was intense. Quantum mutata!
I was in college when the ””renewal” began. I was told that the local language was to allow missionaries to present the Gospel to African and Asian people. I understood that. Later I learned that Latin was essentially omitted from the Liturgy. A young priest was anxious to see all the old priest die off so real change could come to the Church. Our elderly pastor tried to comply with the rulings, but he was humiliated in front of his congregation.
I didn’t recognize the Church. Respect and charity didn’t exist. I looked at other religions and decided this was still my Church too. After looking at the alternatives I decided that this is my Church too so I became more active in the Church. A lot of the stupid stuff is still around but I can at least recognize the Church.
Very thought provoking column. I was born in 1955, raised in a very observant Catholic family, attended Catholic grade schools and high school. As an altar boy- circa 1964, I remember well the training that I received in the traditional Latin Mass and to this day, can recite the Sucipiat…. The Mass, as I knew it, was wiped away in a few short years and I always felt a longing for just how things were in the Church at that time. Like most Catholics, I adapted and I like to think that as I get older, I can appreciate the spirit of Vatican II- to allow the congregation to understand the Liturgy more fully. I was one who played electric guitar at Mass when it was celebrated in the high school gym.
Still, despite these adaptations, a longing exists for the way things were. In my gut, I can’t help but think that the Church made a wrong turn, and that Pope Benedict realized that too. I am not sure that Pope Francis does- I guess his priorities are elsewhere (maybe that’s what’s needed now, we have to trust in the Holy Spirit). The richness of the Mass, however, the Liturgical traditions that bound us to the earliest days of the Church, the language that united all Roman Catholics- is gone for the most part. My wish is that we at least had the option of going to a Tridentine Mass- there is no such thing anymore were I live. The Church dumbed down, relaxing too much of its traditions, to be hip and to attract people that never stayed and practiced their faith anyway.
I was born in Cuba in 1948 and came with my mother and younger siblings to the US in 1960. My father was able to join us a couple of years later. For the first few years, During Mass was the one time that I felt at home, so I deeply resented the changes. But at first I saw this as a personal dislike, and though I complained about it to my (Jesuit) teachers, my objections did not go very deeply.
This became a bigger problem in college, since we studied the documents of Vatican II and it was difficult to see how the changes being implemented could be justified by Sacrosanctum Concilium. This was in college in the late 60’s (still with Jesuits) and the arguments were more heated than (then) usual in an academic setting. The result was pretty ugly: less than half of my classmates (and I suspect of my professors) remained in the Church. I myself left for a couple of years. The liturgists were clearly lying to us. (Who was it who defined a liturgist as “an affliction sent by God so that those who did not live in times of open persecution would still have the privilege of suffering for the Faith”?)
I only came back because there is nowhere else to go, is there? But sometimes I still agree with Belloc about the Church being “an institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.”
My thoughts in brackets [ ]
Some years ago (2009) I published on this blog a recollection of my youth in those critical years of the changeover from the “old Mass” to the “new” Mass. And, while I recall some puzzlement in those years about the changes and how they violated my training, I do not recall big protests from adults to the changes.
And while many people today who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass speak of the changes forced on us after the Council, I do not recall big protests, or objections as the changes came in swiftly in those years from about 1965 -1975. [During and at the end of “The Council” we were promised magnificent and earth-shaking changes. Don’t forget, the euphoria that the Council Fathers experienced was shared by many clergy and religious, and was spread to the lay faithful, all about the wonderful Renewal that was coming. What followed “The Council” was a steady but drawn-out drip-drip-drip of incremental alterations. Yes, there were some immediate and stark transformations – like the table altar and versus populum. But most of the changes were done bit by bit. And most of the Mass was still said in Latin and according to your old missal. A lector and a commentator appeared in the corners of the sanctuary. The proper prayers and the Gloria and Creed started to be said in the vernacular. The prayers at the foot of the Altar disappeared. People came to “Communion Stations” and received standing up. All gradual, but relentless. One or two things at a time. It was like the frog in the pot of water, except the frog knew he was being heated up. But there was nowhere else to go. And Catholics were used to obeying.] Granted, I was a pre-teen kid. But I do not recall protestors outside with signs, [active protest in the U.S. Church was unheard of prior to the Humanae Vitae Revolt. I, and some people I knew, persisted in quietly saying responses in Latin that had been converted to the vernacular. It was Father Curran who taught us how to revolt (or how to be revolting, or something) ] any even any vocal objections, that reached me at the time. [Many people swallowed their misgivings, because priests and bishops they respected were telling them this was good. And more importantly, that it was commanded.]
It is my recollection that the objections to the new Mass came largely about ten years later (mid to late 70s). [The New Mass as we know it did not officially come to be until the end of 1970. And generally, the people living through the ‘60s largely failed to realize the magnitude of the violent forces let loose during that time, until they had some time and distance to reflect.] By that time radical priests and nuns had abandoned all show and were either leaving in droves or were staying and causing all sorts of trouble with dissent and rebellion.
[Keep in mind that from the 1950s almost all of the way through the 1960s, like a lilting background tune, the false promise that the Church was going to loosen its moral strictures – premarital sex, contraception, divorce and remarriage, etc. — kept teasing the Faithful. Because of some deliberate hype, people expected The Council to do some of that loosening with the birth control question, and were disappointed when it was removed by Pope John XXIII and placed in the hands of the lay/clerical committee. But hope flared up when the committee voted to recommend loosening the standards. Humanae Vitae hit like a stingingly cold shower, but the organized revolt against it (and the “conscience loophole”) reinvigorated the hope that eventually, the Church would become flesh-friendly. This sub-plot is inextricably entwined with the laity’s reaction to the changes in the Liturgy. The promise of physical gratification was a big factor in the way the Second Ecumenical Council of Vatican City was received. That cannot be over-emphasized. The Sixties was a libidinous decade, when society “let it all hang out.” Many Catholics heard that siren song and yearned to follow. Some of them expected that one of the fruits of Vatican II would be permission to do so.]
What follows are some of my experiences:
I received First Holy Communion (you never used “communion” without “holy”) on December 13, 1959 at the 8:15 AM Mass at Our Lady of the Annunciation in Albuquerque. Father Coggiola-Mower, a solemn and imposing older priest, was the celebrant. My mother got me up, well before dawn to have breakfast, as she didn’t think a seven-year-old should risk fainting for lack of food on such a day. I wore a brand new navy-blue suit and the white clip-on bow tie that came with the kit we were all supposed to buy. I wore my grandfather’s jet cufflinks that my mother always brought out for special occasions. The boys were on the Gospel side and the girls were on the Epistle side of the church. We processed up in two columns, split at the gate, and populated our respective communion rails. I was the second boy in the procession because Sister Mary Barbara had preferred the way Joseph held his folded hands. I was very happy finally to be able to receive the Lord myself after watching others do so for so long. After Mass we were invited to take our rosaries out of the little pocket in the prayer book cover and hold them out to be blessed. Then we were inducted into the Brown Scapular (also included in our kits that we bought).
The next year, I was finally allowed to join the altar boys, if only as an additional body on the altar, going where told and trying to act dignified (we were told we represented the innumerable angels who attended every Mass). With the little card that guided us in pronouncing and learning our Latin responses, I began at last to crack the inscrutable code-talk that the priest used. Until that time, I had been convinced that if I just listened hard enough, I would understand what Father was saying. Now I knew it was a whole different language, like the French my parents would speak when they wanted to be secretive around us.
In 1962, we moved to Charleston, and on my first day in 5th grade at Nativity Elementary School, I saw an unobtrusive letter-sized poster on the wall that urged us to “Pray for the Success of Vatican Council II.” I had no idea what that was, but I said a prayer.
Next year, we moved and our parish church was St. Mary of the Annunciation, called the “Mother Church of the Carolina Lowcountry.” My mother urged me to go into the sacristy and ask Father Molony if I could serve. He was very kind, patient and encouraging, and during the couple of years we lived there, I found some early moments of heaven in that church. On the days when I knew I was going to be “key man” or another important post, I had butterflies in my stomach. I remember one morning high Mass when the force of the organ was making the soles of my shoes vibrate as I knelt. I loved the Latin and dreamed of being able to study and speak it (didn’t priests learn to speak Latin?) On at least three occasions, I was stopped by a parishioner and complimented for saying the responses “so clearly.” One of my older colleagues told of attending a Mass and saying the responses audibly from his pew, and a lady asked him (in awe) “Are you a priest?” One day I told Father Molony I thought I might have a vocation. He was pleased, but didn’t push one that young. At that time, St. Mary’s had a pastor and a pastor emeritus, and there were four Sunday Masses (including one at 6:10 P.M. that my mother favored, having my youngest brother in diapers to attend to). Today they have one Sunday Mass and the church is really only a satellite of the Cathedral parish. My grandfather’s funeral flag covered the catafalque for the memorial Mass for John F. Kennedy. When the diktat came to turn the altars around, the father of one of my fellow altar boys constructed a wooden table that looked very much like it was more of the white marble of the original altar and steps. In 1965 we moved back to Albuquerque, and the changes started to affect us more and more. We knelt around a table instead of facing the altar, tabernacle and crucifix. We lost our “Ad Deum qui laetificat. . .” and much else that was hard won and part of us. But we soldiered on and learned the new moves and words.
I remember one weekday morning in the late 1960s at Our Lady of Fatima, when some of us servers had been asked to hang around because a priest was expected who had special permission to say the “Old Mass” because of his age or other exceptional conditions. We were very excited (and worried we wouldn’t remember our moves right), but alas, he never showed up. In high school, I made the rude acquaintance of the “guitar Mass.” Father X (now in hiding) believed that that was the way to make the Mass relevant to the students, and the school glee club became the voices and instruments of our school Masses with all the old classics – “Sons of God” “Allelu” “Here We Are” and so on. It was a most unedifying experience.
As word spread that eventually all of the Latin was going away, I started listening to the priest’s prayers with a new intensity and trying to memorize some of them. And eventually what was predicted happened. When I went to college, part of the intake process was auditions for the church choirs, and I was asked to join the Catholic cadet choir. So on Sunday mornings I was in the choir loft. I was too busy to notice the implementation of the Novus Ordo (as Pope Paul called it) on the first Sunday of Advent that year. One weekday morning I attended a daily Mass, and was asked to serve, as none of the regulars had shown up. I was shocked at how different (and reduced) the server’s role was. I hadn’t really noticed from the choir loft. This was the full “New Mass” and I really missed the old one. But everyone you asked told you the old Mass was strictly forbidden.
The reaction to the 1970 Pauline Missal took time to gather itself. A petition of English folk managed to persuade Pope Paul to grant a partial indult for them. But otherwise the old Mass was treated as a dead letter. Most people in the pews had become resigned to the experiments and variations introduced during the second half of the 1960s, and a new set of changes was just more of the same. It took until the mid ’70s for the Vatican to notice that there was a reaction and Archbishop Lefebvre’s Society was duly critiqued, called on the carpet and written off as a disrespectful nuisance. The pretense continued that the Tridentine Mass had been and continued to be forbidden — abrogated or obrogated or whatever you like. Not until 1984 would a ray of sunkight penetrate the fog and the Latin Mass Indult began the slow rehabilitation of the Mass that made so many saints over centuries. I didn’t have a part in making that happen, other than saving a book or two from destruction. But I have benefited from the return of the Extraordinary Form and I thank God frequently for letting me live to see the day.
Not having been raised Catholic, I used to go with my Catholic Grandma to Mass in the ’50’s and early ’60’s. I don’t remember much but a man up front mumbling something I didn’t understand, and old, black-clad ladies clacking their beads during the Mass.
Muuuuch later, in the very early ’90’s, I felt a strange need to connect with my ancestral religion, took instruction, was received into the Church, and after being confirmed, was appalled at what had happened.
So far as WHAT happened, if you say, ‘Boomers’, you’ve said it all. (My generation has a LOT to answer for.)
Mass in the vernacular — no problem, since Latin was once the vernacular. Turning the altar about, meh, maybe not. Turning the Church into a vast experiment in social engineering, yuck!
Being neither ‘trendy’ not ‘traddy’, I have no special vested interest. But — it does seem that pre-V2, the Church knew what it stood for. That triumphalist certainty can never be recovered. However, it *would8 be nice if priests and bishops and nuns would try to at least be Christian before they get all ‘relevant’, or ‘defenders’, or whatever.
In this regard, may I say a good word for Pope Francis? As a radical Christian, he seems to be trying as hard as he can to remind us all that it really is not about our various agenda, it really is all about Jesus the Christ, and what we are doing about our relationship with Him.
In that perspective, the Latin Mass is, while yet worthwhile and wonderfully glorious, less important than whether one is a non-hyphenated Catholic. (No ‘liberals’, no ‘conservatives’, no ‘trendies’, no ‘traddies’, just Christians.)
Or, so it seems to me.
We got caught up in the changes within the church in another way. We left the church in 1977 when the local priest wouldn’t baptize our baby daughter because we were not going to church every sunday; we were honest and admitted we weren’t faithful. At the time, we thought, if the priest won’t baptize our children, what is the point of church, and we left, for 33 years. It was a sad and fateful decision and the biggest mistake of our lives. As it turned out we grew into parenthood slowly, and now know we would have raised our children to be Catholic just as we learned slowly to be good parents in many other ways. If we could have just made to right decision to stay with the church. It has taken all these years to accept and own up to our mistakes. Our chlldren are now lost to the Catholic faith, and it is our fault, and we have endless sorrow. We have returned to the Catholic Church and we are now critisized by our children for our religion. So much endless sorrow and loss.
Today is the Feast of St. Monica. Her life story and her prayers may be of great help to you both. It is not too late for grace!
I love the mass as all Catholics do. I am a happy 65 year old and occasionally attend the Tridentine mass. I was studying in a Redemptorist minor seminary, away from home in 1962 thru 1964 when the changes gradually came into the liturgy. After leaving the seminary, I was a commentator for two years before joining the US Navy.
My wife and step children do not like the Tridentine mass and I completely understand. Many of those who did not experience the pre-council sacrifice can appreciate it as an artistic performance, especially a solemn high Mass of the Angels with the glorious music, incense, and bell-ringing. But the vernacular is better for understanding and worship
Thanks for asking Msgr. Pope.
I am only a 49 year old wife and mother(That was actually pleasant to type!), but until nine years old, I was raised in the very devout, Polish Detroit parish of St. Josephat’s at that time in 1970-71. The entire Latin Rite was the only type of Mass that was celebrated. I have heard that in some places, maybe even in the back pews of St. Josephat’s, people would go on with their own private devotions during Mass. From my perspective with Grandma Sophie, 1/3 of the way to the front, I did not witness these things. In fact, while I have no doubt that God can draw exactly the lessons He Will from these changes, I am grateful to have come to understand my role as one of the Common Priesthood in the Catholic Church. Without words, the fact that we all, due to our blessings received, faced the Eastern Alter taught volumes about the nature and duties of the laity. Since then of all the Masses in which I have been privileged to participate, whether in a small, open air chapel in Honduras, St. Peter’s in Vatican City, The Hermitage in Assisi, a mountainside Mass here in America, or even in my home parish, I find my own early instruction on my role as a member of the Common Priesthood perpetually instructing me, no matter my orientation to the Celebrant. There are some very beautiful vernacular, novus ordo Missae, and these may be made much more beautiful if we all recognize our places as part of the priesthood and so comport ourselves in order to give praise and thanksgiving to Our Blessed Lord! Yet, with the entirety of the Ordained and Common Priests facing the East alter, it is hard to think of a more beautiful, bold, unifying act of a group of people to willfully make.
I was born in ’37, so I am older than you. The changes occurred here around ’68 and after. For me it was not a gradual change because I had my first child in 1968 and by the time I got back on my feet the old was gone.
I was totally unprepared and resented it. I still do not love it and when I have the opportunity to sneak a TLM I am so happy. It is pure joy to me.
Judging from all the replies above we are the generation that suffered. But through all this you have the lady by the name of “Hope” who through all the turmoil managed to have a son become a priest.
Or “Deb” who said “if you expect nothing of people, you get nothing.” This is our secular society, glad she found her way back.
Thank you for this post Msgr. I think you did all of us a great service.
I was born in 1978 and I’ve never had an opportunity to experience the LTM (I pray I get an opportunity). I am saddened by what I see today when attending Mass. Everyone seems so distracted and you rarely see reverence. Agnus Dei gets thrown into the middle of contemporary music and it just doesn’t seem to fit. Instead of drums and electric guitars, I wish Mass sounded more like Guillaume De Machaut.
I am 74 yrs old. I attended Catholic school for 12 years. And my teachers were Nuns for all 12 years. When the changes came I was so happy. Until that time I had not much use for mass. I didn’t understand it and it meant nothing to me. When English was introduced I was so very happy I was able to understand what the mass was all about. The missals we used were in two languages Latin and on the other side of the page was English. I sis not feel part od the mass. Now I do and I love going to mass every week.
“I didn’t understand it and it meant nothing to me.”
The shift into the vernacular, however, was really the *least* substantive change in the Mass. Far, far more was changed than that, and it was done with too little examination or consultation.
My apology if I sounded bitter but that was not my intent. I attempted to keep it to a few words but keep it accurate and it didn’t turn out well. Mea Culpa.
Even prior to learning Latin, I never found the Latin Mass a problem since there was the side by side translation. I was in the seminary at the time of Vatican II and I couldn’t imagine the Mass and the Holy Office not being in Latin. Word I heard was it was for the missions. This was not a problem to me since I could see the problem Latin might present to a non-European culture.
I ultimately left the seminary (not because of the changes but because of further discernment) and obtained my degree and began working for the Diocese as a social worker. I was not brought kicking and screaming into the modern Church. I looked for the best in both the Latin ritual and the Post Vatican II. I still find both liturgical forms of the Mass beautiful if done well.
The point is that the transition was poorly done. There was a lot of confusion. We were given the nuts and bolts of the new liturgy but the Theology was lacking. As a result the ‘change advocates’ filled in the blanks and it was hard to determine what was what. I and I think a lot of people who were used to accepting whatever “Father said’ were very confused. Some priests were saying things that did not seem consistent with what I believed.
Some were down right uncharitable. I didn’t recognize the Catholic Church. I compared it to the other churches and realized I was still Catholic deep down.
Once I made the decision, I have remained solidly Catholic ever since I am now 75 have an ever deeper Faith.
I attended Mass at my Swiss town on Sunday and the priest said (in French) that as there was no choir today, we would sing the mass in Latin. I was amazed that everyone around me (young and old) new the Latin words (I’m a recent convert, so it was all Greek – sorry, Latin,- to me). People seem to yearn for the traditions and want to kick out the new reforms as soon as possible.
I was in my very early teens when the changes started. I recall it was only some of the older grownups who always talked a lot that were all for the changes. I do not recall any of my young friends being for the changes. I certainly did not like the changes. In fact I recall being mocked for liking the Latin by some of these grumps. I liked the beauty of the old Mass, the careful priestly gestures, the ornaments on the altar, the vestments, and of course the music, that wonderful chant that made be happy to listen to, and hum in a very low voice with the choir. I could feel I was in a special holy place close to God, an atmosphere that gave me joy in those days.
I recall that those days were definitely not a time for protesting about the changes and I, like so many of the faithful, accepted the Church’s wisdom in all these changes. Nevertheless, I hated the new Mass so much that I stopped going to church for many years not finding much there for me anymore, I could certainly pray better at home. It was many years later that I discovered an Anglo-Catholic church and that eventually lead me back to Rome thanks to the Internet, a gift from God
I have thought about this over the years and am convinced that the changes were the result of the WWII mentality. I suspect after the war people wanted a great change from that terrible war, a change to the modern, seeing hope in the glories and wonders of the new science that would create a new wonderful society; there was a great optimism for the modern future. I think this from the attitude of the grown ups at the time, my teachers at a Catholic High School, with their constant reminder that this is a world of new values, a changed modern world, everyone had to change and be modern. They were constantly yoking us young students to attend youth Masses which we hated. I believe it is that WWII generation that set up the climate for the baby-boomers with their rejection of traditional values. I am referring to those born before 1945, such as the Beatles, for even a very young child of 2 would have been greatly influenced by the terrors of war he was exposed to and react to them later in adult life.
Father, I am 58 and I remember quite well when the several changes to the Mass came. They were definitely NOT well received in my small town in northeast Illinois. They were essentially rammed down everyone’s throat; the priests were horribly embarrassed and in short I would say that the whole thing was quite destructive of faith. Many people left the church then and there, never to return. The big objection was that the mass had been explained to the older people as something which could never be changed, that it was the official “Mass” of all time, and suddenly it was changing every 3 years or so.
The rest of the stuff that went with it (mass facing the people; mass on a table and not an altar), etc., was likewise forced down everyone’s throats.
It was extremely destructive to my faith–I left the church in 1972 and did not return for a good 20 years. I strongly prefer the Traditional Latin Mass, but am happy to attend the New Mass in English; I especially like the varied scripture readings. However, in my mind, there is no comparison–the TLM is worshipping the Living God in spirit and truth; there is nothing really very holy about the New Mass at all.
Msgr., you have made my day! I am 66 and made my First Communion at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview from Father Dussman too! But in 1955 he wasn’t elderly! An imposing figure if there ever was one and “Father says…” definitely decided anything! Thank you for making me smile. And yes I completely agree that people mostly accepted the changes as obedient Catholics until time went by and many of the negative implementations were recognized. I believe it was more the how rather than the what of the changes that caused the great disappointment. Thank you for your writings. I look forward to them! Who knew you were an ol’ OLPH graduate:-)!
I was born in the late 60’s so I wasn’t raised in the traditional church, however I recall from my mother and family members that the changes came in slow and were initially accepted, but as things took a radical and contradictory turn, this is when people started to complain.
All one has to do is go to any TLM chapel or SSPX chapel and talk to the older people there after mass. They will tell you their stories on how they went to talk to the priest after mass to ask questions or because they were confused and they were given erroneous, simplistic or condenscending answers and so they made up their mind to find a TLM or leave the Church.
My mother finally stopped going when sexual scandals with priests started to come to light in our parish in the early 80’s. The parish Brother came to our house to ask why we don’t go to Mass and my mother gave him an ear full. He didn’t know what to say.
Eventually I found a conservative parish and my family started to return, I eventually went exclusively TLM and avoid the Novus Ordo whenever humanly possible, which means I would rather stay at home and say my rosary than be forced to attend the Novus Ordo. I have no respect for that rite, for the priests that say it nor the Church they have destroyed.
I am sure that historians will refer to the changes after Vatican II as a great spiritual trauma imposed on the Western world from within that has devastated our civilization, exposing it to the scorge of liberalism and its eventual destruction.
More mischief has been caused by tampering with ancient rituals than by guns and cannons.
That era is not OVER. Thanks to Blessed PJPII and Benedict XVI, that era is coming back.
I left the NO two years ago and finally feel like I’am in Church again.
The Latin Rite Church I go to is full and it is nice to be able to pray without the noise of the NO Churches I was going to. The Priest’s in the NO Churches are trying to get people to dress better and be respectful of Jesus
in the Tabernacle and other people Praying but they ignore them.
I was born in 1947 and in 1960 when I was thirteen years old my parents sent me, a protestant, to Catholic school. There I fell in love with the Tridentine Mass and longed to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion but because I wasn’t Catholic I could not. Every morning I would walk six blocks to attend the 7AM Mass before school.
I had every intention of becoming Catholic but my parents wanted me to wait until I was twenty-one. Then the changes started. I don’t have any memories of being terribly upset until the Sunday I went to Mass and there were paper missals in the pews and most of the Mass was in English. Meanwhile the Church seemed to be not so sure that she was the true church anymore. I decided that if the Church no longer believed in herself then neither did I. I married a nominally Catholic man in a Catholic ceremony but did not convert and then stayed away for the next thirteen or fourteen years. In the 1980’s I became a Catholic because deep in my heart I knew that the true church was buried under there somewhere. They were very difficult years though with irreverent liturgies and very erroneous teaching coming from the priests. I almost ended up losing the faith again and leaving the Church for the agnosticism that was gradually creeping into my soul.
We moved in the mid 1990’s and I decided to go to Mass at a parish in our new home town and give the Church one more chance. Fortunately it was a say the black and do the red type of parish with pretty straight forward catechesis so I stayed. My faith gradually became stronger and I read everything I could get my hands on about our wonderful faith. Even so I always missed and longed for the Tridentine Mass I had fallen in love with as a young girl.
I heard that there was a Tridentine Mass every week at Old St. Mary’s in Washington, DC. I had family living there so in 2004 I visited and went to the High Mass that was held in the evening once a month and you were the celebrant, Msgr. Words cannot express what that Mass meant to me and after that I made many visits to DC so I could attend Mass at Old St. Mary’s.
Now I am living far away on the west coast. Our Lord has been good to me as there is a parish about twenty minutes away with a weekly Tridentine Mass and the Novus Ordo masses are also very reverent with Communion at the rail and on the tongue. The priests are firm about proper dress for Mass and the homilies and catechesis are solidly Catholic.
I am so grateful to our beloved JPII and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for making this possible and for the Norbertine priests for providing an oasis in the desert of southern California. There are still many serious problems in the Church that must be dealt with but now there is hope in my heart for a restoration of the Church and the liturgy.
I’m encouraged to read so many moderate responses to this blog, though Traditionalist hostility to the Novus Ordo rears its ugly head even here.
I was born in 1942, an altar boy under the old regime, and I recall very clearly what happened in the USA as the reforms of Vatican II were introduced. The older generation of faithful Catholics–people born before 1920–were dismayed by the sudden introduction of the Novus Ordo, with its informality and its shockingly different appearance. I think that if the Canon of the Mass had been retained in Latin, if priests had taken the trouble to remain reverent on the altar, if the purpose and reason for liturgical changes had been clearly explained to the older generation, then they would have been far more comfortable with the changes. They went to their graves in the 1970s and 80s and 90s, clinging to their love of the old Church, because they had been taught to pray, pay and obey.
But the next generation, people who like me had grown up in the 1950s and 60s, often embraced what they saw as a wholesale change in the life of the Church–a revolutionary change, and to them a welcome one. It was not simply a new liturgy they were embracing, but a revolution in theology and in moral life. My generation–the kids who grew up in the 1950s and 60s and got the full blast of the new liturgy–were exhilarated by all the changes in the Church. Mass in English! Just like the Protestants! How modern! How ecumenical! Informality at Mass–the priest as our buddy!
And there were other change too, beyond the liturgical ones. A Christocentric theology: oh, boy, no more praying to legendary saints like Saint Christopher, who never even existed! No Satan! References to him in the New Testament were just reflections of Old Testament superstition. No talk of Hell in sermons! We’re all going to Heaven–or most of us, anyway! Sin is “whatever separates us from God” and is no longer to be defined as objectively evil in each case. The Church has no right–indeed no power–to send anybody to Hell, and so let’s just practice birth control, and (by the 1980s and 90s) let’s have sex outside of marriage. Priests are just guys like us–why can’t they be married? And why can’t women be priests? On and on it went.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a Christocentric theology, and my impression is that not even the worst Traditionalists would now abandon it and go back to the old devotional practices of the pre-Vatican II era. The rest of the popular, liberal understanding of the “new” Church has produced a backlash, as it might have been expected to do.
Why can we not mount a reasonable defense of the Novus Ordo? It’s Christocentric. It offers a wonderfully more complete and more varied set of scriptural readings. It is in the vernacular, so that it can be understood. (Some people seem to want not to understand–i. e. to be mystified by alien and otherworldly language–and for them the Latin Canon of the Mass ought to have been retained in the Novus Ordo.) The Novus Ordo contains varied prefatory prayers, some of them in absolutely beautiful English.
What’s bad about the Novus Ordo is the whole body of practices with which it has been surrounded in most parishes in the USA. (Go to Italy or the UK and you’ll hear it celebrated much more reverently.) The Novus Ordo could inspire reverence too–if priests celebrated it reverently, if the choir sang traditional chant as an aid to prayer and not as a distraction, if the members of the congregation came to Mass decently dressed, remaining silent when appropriate and praying reverently, receiving Holy Communion with reverence and only after having gone to Confession recently. These things, and not the Novus Ordo itself, are the problems in our parishes today.
Once again we face the question of which hermaneutic of interpretation to use with reference to Vatican II. The Council Fathers called for liturgies in the vernacular languages, and they decreed the writing of a Novus Ordo for the Mass itself. But nothing in the teaching of the Council allowed the wholesale abandonment of chant or incense or other sacramentals, nothing authorized applause and loud conversation during Mass, nothing allowed people to eat food immediately before going to Mass or avoid Confession for years at a stretch, nothing encouraged people to come to Mass in flip-flops and immodest blouses. Nothing. If the bishops are concerned to restore the dignity of the Mass while keeping the Novus Ordo, then they need to see to it that all priests–in this country at any rate–pray reverently during the liturgy, stick to the liturgical prayers exactly as they are written in the Missal, instruct choirs and choir directors to perform reverent music, stop having informal conversations with the congregation during the liturgy, ban immodest dress at Mass (to include having the ushers ask immodestly dressed people to go home and change clothes), and refuse to give Holy Communion to persons who fail to approach the altar with silent reverence, having confessed their sins recently. Who’s at fault for the decline of reverence in our parishes? The authors of the Novus Ordo? No. The bishops in countries where–like the USA–Mass has become a travesty? Yes.
The American bishops have done some wonderful things in my lifetime. They have defended life from conception to natural death, they have condemned war and worked for social justice, they have been outspoken critics of American consumerism and materialism. They have also done some awful things–the failure to discipline fractious priests, the abject failure to deal quickly and compassionately and openly and honestly with the victims of priest-pedophilia, and the failure to insure the reverent celebration of the Mass. These are serious sins.
The Tridentine Mass can be beautiful, but also boring. And there are other gorgeous liturgies. Why don’t Traddies ever express their love for, say, the Eastern Rite Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom? It is an overwhelmingly beautiful liturgy. Traditionalists would love it, but ironically in English, since so few of us know any Greek or Church Slavonic or Aramaic. Life is full of ironies, not least among reactionary Christians.
I will say that my memory is that the immediate changes from the Council, particularly the Mass in the vernacular and the reformed Lectionary were widely and favorably accepted. Having said that, my own parish was well prepared for it. It had been an early practioner of the Dialogue Mass. We practiced frequent communion. We had a free standing altar. The priest wore gothic vestments. Weused Missals rather than prayer books and were encouraged to “Pray the Mass.” The pastors preached more to the liturgical season than the saint of the day. We had active engagement of the lay faithful with the Christian Family Movement and the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists.
What gets forgotten (though Pope Benedict once alluded to this) is that the liturgical “liberals” embraced a sense of diversity in liturgical styles that was very open to retaining former practices in places that favored it. It was the conservatives (who would be a different school of thought from the Traditionalists) that sought too rapidly to recreate the uniformity of the former rites in the new rites.
A few more memories of how the changeover came abot–there were some very strange things that happened, and quite frankly they were so unpleasant, and so destructive of my faith, that I have had real hesitation in even bring them up now, over 40 years later.
On the South Side of Chicago, our parish church (Sacred Heart at 70th & May) was like many others-about 1 Catholic church per square mile, or more. Every Sunday there were 5-6 masses which were standing room only. In many parishes in Church, the entire church basement had a second mass for the spillover crowd, also standing room only.
We moved out to McHenry in the early 1960’s. There was a different order of nuns at our new parish church, St. Patrick’s (one parish for the Irish and one parish for the Germans). This order was the Registered Sisters of Mercy.
When the changes started in 1965, it was the parents who really supported them. I recall that prior to the 1970 missal, there was a rather straightforward English translation of the TLM for a few years. However, in the fall of 1967, things began to go wacky. I specifically recall that our 8th grade nun and the associate pastor made the rounds of every class in the building, and started talking about how the church was changing. They specifically began to denigrate the Mass, the Sacraments, and the Saints–we had been taught to respect the saints. They began to tell us that most of the saints were not holy at all; that they were mentally ill; that they did things like lick up vomit or diarrhea which if they did today would get them committed to mental institutions, etc. We were so thunderstruck that most of us did not know at all how to react. The only way I knew how to react to this kind of talk was to mentally compare it to a drawing we had in a reader in the earlier grades, where a young Polish child is in tears as his Communist teacher forces him to repeat over and over, “there is no God.”
People began to pull their children out of the Catholic school and to re-enroll them at the public school, but it was only a handful.
After the 1970 missal came out, church attendance really took a dive. The general reaction to all of the new garbage that came out after Vatican Ii was, “we were taught that there were basic principles of the faith that were absolutely not negotiable–now you’re telling me they’re totally plastic, can be changed all the time? In other words, April Fools on all of you stupid laypeople!! The changes were so poorly handled that they were quite destructive of the faith of many people.
Mass attendance, and the collection basket, dropped so dramatically that our parish got into something that I believe many people my age and older recall–sermons which were all about, “more money, more money.” People listened politely, but the faith was never taught any more. I recall that at one Sunday mass some man (no one ever identified him) stood up in the mddle of the church, in the middle of the sermon, and started screaming at the priest (unthinnkable before V-II). He basically shouted about, “all you ever talk about is money–why don’t you teach the Bible and talk about Jesus like the Protestants do? They don’t have problems with their money?!” and stormed out. The priest reportedly turned beet red and stopped his sermon. People did not applaud the man, but everybody agreed strongly with him.
Most of our parents’ generation were hook-line-and-sinker in favor of modernizing the church. They thought that Teilhard de Chardin was the genius of the century. My father had been a seminarian before dropping out prior to final vows, and since he was a well-education professional as well, he took over CCD. He was considered to have instituted a very excellent program which sincerely tried to teach the faith while adapting the methods to modern public school students. Unfortunately, he contracted lung cancer and died in 1977.
After he died, a female with a Ph.D. in some theological area took over CCD. Instead of the basics, the children were taught things like comparative religion from the earliest years.
My older sister married fairly young, and when her oldest daughter was in 3rd grade, the inculcation into Jewish religion was so strong, and the Catholic teaching was so negligible, that she came home one day and asked, “Mom, are we Jewish?” (and she really meant it seriously). My sister was one of the ones whose faith was badly shaken by all the changes. She pulled her children out of CCD, enrolled them in the Methodist church Sunday school, and became a Methodist. To this day, she and everybody in her family are totally anti-“Catholic, to the point that I would not hesitate to call them bigots. They are still incensed about the “April’s Fool” treatment of basic Catholic principles.
Out of 7 children in our family, for many years all 7 were out of the church. I reverted in 1992, after about 20 years out; one of my younger sisters (married to a non-Catholic) is raising her two sons Catholic, and that’s it. It is not possible to discuss the faith with them. I pray and offer suffrages for them continually, but I believe that most of the fallen-away Catholics are going to die in that condition, barring an absolute miracle.
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