Vatican II opened on my first birthday, October 11, 1962. So tomorrow I turn 51 and the Church celebrates the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Council. I grew up with the changes. My mom had been in study groups at our parish for years, and they began learning about the Council almost immediately. And of course she was a long-time subscriber to St. Anthony Messenger.
The way the sacraments were celebrated seemed to be changing just about the time I came to each of them: First Communion individually or as a group, the age of Confirmation. Few of the changes happened on the parish level without a great deal of controversy and struggle. I’m not sure whether that gave me more or less tolerance for the deepening divide in the Church today, often over peripheral issues and personal opinions.
I was baptized at a Latin Mass but I have no memory of attending another one. By the time I was in school, the first of the new songbooks were available, along with the purple mimeographs of new music. Some of it was indeed dreadful. But much of it still inspires me today. And full, active participation in the liturgy will always be central to my spirituality.
I love the vision of Vatican II. I often take it for granted. Neither old enough to remember the way it was before nor young enough to be nostalgic for something I never knew, I am a Vatican II Catholic through and through. I remember getting my first study Bible in sixth or seventh grade. I had a class in high school on the historical Jesus (much better than the one on transactional analysis; the ’70s do have a lot to answer for!). I learned to think critically, to question, but also to appreciate the tradition. I was fortunate to be raised in a family steeped in Catholicism. It gave me a foundation on which to build my own experience of the Church.
I’m looking forward to reading about the Council over the next year or two, looking back on what I lived from a historical perspective and discovering how the vision of those years will continue to carry the Church forward.