Confusion in the Pews

Confusion in the Pews

I was born in 1965, so I consider myself a Vatican II baby. I’ve never known or experienced the pre-Vatican II Church. That is, until recently.

Is this my Church?

Did that confuse you? Yeah, it confuses me, too. There seems to be a trend toward liturgical practices that are more reflective of the pre-Vatican II Church than of the Church in which I was formed and which I embrace. And even more puzzling to me is that this effort, at least in my experience, has been the work of priests who are younger than me. If I have no lived experience of that Church, they definitely don’t. 

Is this trend rooted in a desire to bring back their idea of the Church’s “good ol’ days”? But wasn’t Vatican II called because there was a need for the Church to get with the times? So, even when Vatican II was called, some of those old ways were seen as outdated and no longer effective in promoting the Church’s mission of bringing people into relationship with Christ. 

Are these priests trying to promote a greater respect for the Eucharist? Funny, but the Vatican II Church has fostered in me a profound and deep respect for the Eucharist. My faith—a faith formed in the days of posters-and-butterfly religion classes and guitar Masses—was nurtured so well by that Church that I’ve devoted my professional life to sharing it.

©Gino Santa Maria\\photoXpress

Respect? Love? Both? 

Here’s my big question: Are people being invited into personal relationship with Jesus through the return to aspects of pre-Vatican II liturgy? Respect is one thing. Love is another. They’re not mutually exclusive, but they don’t always come together either. Might these priests be going overboard on the respect and not fostering in their people a love relationship with our Lord? 

I recently accompanied my teen daughter and her classmates to a retreat that was part of their Confirmation preparation. The retreat emphasized Eucharistic Adoration. These 16-year-olds spent hours on their knees on a hard gym floor that weekend. Now, I’m not knocking Eucharistic Adoration at all. But shouldn’t we first work to help these young people develop personal relationships with Jesus before asking them to adore him in the Eucharist? 

I can get used to the changes each priest brings to my parish. I try not to get hung up on the actions, dress, language or bells. I do wonder about the messages these outside symbols send to the people—and whether they’re really effective as invitations to know Jesus in the Eucharist. If I’m confused, others must be as well. 

What about you? Are you experiencing this same trend in your local Church? What should be our response?

Feature photo: ©Pavel Losevsky\photoXpress


About the Author

Joan McKamey works for Liguori Publications.
  • Laura

    The only way to get to love the beloved is to spend time with Him.  Eucharistic adoration is the best way to develop that friendship that will help them to get to know the one who loves them more than anyone.   The sadness that envelops many of the faithful when the total disregard to the true presence in the Holy Eucharist is displayed by those who have not been properly chatechised.  We have lost many from the church because they never knew the treasure that they had.  God bless you!

    • Anonymous

      I agree that spending time in the presence of the Lord is one of the best ways to foster true love and devotion to Him. Adoration is a gift that profoundly impacted my spiritual life. I am pleased to hear that a younger crowd was giving the opportunity for Adoration. In response to Joan’s question: I think that Adoration is one of the -best- ways to help people develop a personal relationships with Jesus. Adoration isn’t just about “adoring”; it’s about contemplation, prayer, and opening your heart in silence and letting Jesus fill it. I wasn’t sure what to do or what to expect when I went to Adoration for the first time (at the suggestion of my mom). I figured that God would take care of everything since I was making a spiritual effort (albeit a hesitant and somewhat blind one). My prayer went something like this: “Lord, I don’t know what I’m doing here or what exactly to do, but I am happy to be in your presence.” I was not disappointed.

    • Joanm

      I think Eucharistic Adoration definitely has its place and is a powerful way to connect with our Lord. While it’s not something I was exposed to much growing up, I’ve often been drawn to simply sit in a quiet church and pray before Christ. Sometimes–and these are usually the best times–no words are even needed. But I’ve been evangelized and catechized. It’s very appropriate to invite teens to experiences of Eucharistic Adoration if the invitation is part of or follows experiences which help them hear Jesus’ invitation to friendship with him. Thanks for your comment–and for reading! God bless!  

  • Annie

    Personally, I love the direction the Church is going. I am a post Vat 2 convert but I think that a lot of things after Vat 2 moved too quickly and sometimes the baby got thrown out with the bathwater. This move to bring back some of the more essential elements of the liturgy and a reminder that Jesus is actually present in the Eucharist is great as far as I am concerned. Change always scares people but if it was healthy in Vat 2 times to make changes, there’s no reason why it can’t be healthy to make some more now. Relax and trust in the Church, remembering that not all the gates of hell shall prevail against her. 

  • Susan

    I agree on the part about getting the kids to form a personal relationship with Jesus before forcing Eucharistic adoration upon them.  It sounds to me like you are a member of a parish with some really old fashioned ideas.  The new Roman Missal Translation – which will go into affect for all English speaking countries – is not a step to pre VaticanII, but a step toward a more literal and noble translation from Latin to English.  It is to be used universally starting on Advent of 2011.  Maybe this will help your pastor feel better about the spirituality of the Eucharist, without going so overboard.  Like you, I am not knocking Eucharistic adoration, but faith formation comes with conversion, not forced spirituality. 

  • Pegconway

    I totally agree with you!!!  Born in 1963, I am grieving for the church I’ve loved.  My experience of liturgy at the parish where I’ve belonged since college has fostered complete reverence and deepened my faith in every way, including nurturing outward concern for my neighbor near at hand and around the globe.  A lot of my struggle with the new missal stems from the Vatican power moves that brought it about.  Vatican II doc specifies that regional bishops conferences should oversee translations, and that process was wrested away.  The whole notion that awkward phrasing of literal translations will make us reverent is doublespeak to me.  I can understand that perhaps some important things were lost in the changes after Vatican II, but the new missal is a step backward to me.  I’d rather have judicious use of actual Latin. 

  • Monnaleeyounger

    Well Joan I have to disagree with you somewhat about Eucharist Adoration. My husband and I spend ONLY one hour weekly before our Lord in adoration. I am somewha surprised that he will even give up golf to do so. I can’t think of a better place to be than to be in adoration of our Lord who gave his life for us. If being on the knees is too much for some people then I think it is okay if they sit and quietly pray to our Lord ( contemplation ). I am in great wonder as to why our parish church never has Benediction. It is an amazing thing when I attend our regularly scheduled monthly Discalced Carmelite meeting (formation) that our most beloved priest who is 80 years old can be on his ‘knees’ as long as he is during Benediction. I am somewhat sorry for not being able to agree with your thinking but I simply can’t. I believe with all my heart the ‘young’  need to know more about this and to actually take part in the adoration. I know you and the wonderful mother you are but not knowing that spending quality time with our Lord is the best time spent anywhere, anytime. I miss seeing you at SAMP alot, miss Jon’s candy and your daughter’s beautiful smile. I became Catholic right before Vat II and that was a bit of a shock for me because it caused confusion of what I had just been taught was being untaught. Probably what you are feeling now yourself. I say read lives of the saints (your choice of which one) and read the Bible (I’m sure you do) and pray because it is somewhat always the same. God be with you and your family. 

  • Marie

    In response to high school teens spending hours in adoration, although this is a wonderful way to participate in contemplative prayer, it needs to be properly introduced. I was a core member for Life Teen and went on many retreats. I have seen the “natural high” that teens get when they enter group adoration. And although this is fine if it is heart felt, the “emotional high” should not replace the actual praying or reason for the adoration. I feel strongly that someone of that age, who is still learning and studying their faith, should really understand the communion through the Eucharist first so they do not entirely rely on their emotions when praying (which can be dangerous). If this is initially explained, then their growth in faith and understanding of the proper use of adoration can be much stronger for a life time.

  • Lperson97

    I believe the purpose of Vatican II was to reach out to the Catholic people, to improve cathechesis so desperatelly needed, to spark in us the desire to really learn and live our faith.  The Eucharist, we must remember, is the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord.  He deserves to be praised and adored.  Adoration is a way to keep him first in our lives. 

  • Mike

    As someone born in 1952 who remembers the pre-Vatican II days and still likes to have fish every Friday, I’m rather happy to see a little of our Catholic heritage returned to the modern-day liturgy. Occasionally hearing a bit of Latin, the ringing of bells, and perhaps even some of our traditional sacred music (Gregorian chant, anyone?) can do wonders for inspiring reverence towards God and giving us a sense of continuity with generations past as well as fellowship with the universal church. I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to the “olden days” entirely, where we sat and listened to the entire Mass in Latin while following along in our St. Joseph missals, but there are times today when I’m hearing the 39th repetitive rendition of “One Bread, One Body” during communion and thinking to myself, “Can’t we do a little better than this?”.

  • Marcia Jensen

    I worry about the need to “impose” a worship system on anyone. I believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I have no problem with a time of adoration. I also believe in the true presence of Jesus in the “Body of Christ” that is our christian community. I hope both the ritual and the daily reality will be part of our Catholic community.

     I think sometimes we get so caught up in the trappings that we forget that we are trying to do as Jesus did. I want to follow the Way of Jesus, know and pass on the Truth Jesus tried to pass on to us, so that I can be part of a community that is the Life of Jesus in this world.

    A tree is known by its fruit. The constant bickering and anger that seem to attend all the attempts to regulate the outward observance of our Catholic Christian life do not inspire confidence in the efforts at hand on either “side” of the power-struggle.

  • Simon D

    Our response should be great joy that a number of things that were distorted in the liturgy—innovations despite the Council’s injunction against innovation—during the postconciliar era are now being fixed as we return to an authentic ars celebrandi.