Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 25, 2002
The secular media introduced Vatican II
Hungry public pressed for liturgical reform
By BERNARD DALY
and ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The secular news media, not Catholic leaders, introduced Canadians to the Second Vatican Council, according to Gilles Routhier, Laval University theologian and historian of the council.
"This was something entirely new in Church history," Routhier said as keynote speaker at a Saint Paul University symposium on The Reception of the Council in Canada. The event was organized by the SPU Research Centre for the Religious History of Canada.
Pope John XXIII's 1959 announcement of Vatican II "made the front page" in daily papers and headed radio and television newscasts in all parts of the country, he noted.
There were press reports about Vatican I in 1869-70, "but nothing in comparison with Vatican II."
"As a result, for example, the liturgy reforms, the first fruit of the council, did not fall on unsuspecting people." In fact, Routhier stressed, pre-council expectations were so high that there was disappointment - "a first brake on reception" - when Canadian bishops later had to "call for patience" while liturgical instruments such as Mass books were prepared and approved.
He noted that while Canadian Catholics were receiving Vatican teachings that called for changes, they were also hit by the 1960s cultural revolution against authority coming out of California and, in Quebec, by the sweeping changes in Church institutions flowing from The Quiet Revolution.
Despite some deceptions and frustrations, Vatican II has left its mark on such areas as how Catholics worship, how the Church relates to the world, and in ecumenism, Routhier said.
"And the reception is not ended. Picasso had his rose period and his blue period, and there are also stages in the development of the Church. John XXIII rejected the prophets of doom at the beginning of the council. History is open, and full of the unexpected."
Routhier's talk set the tone for the two-day symposium featuring eight speakers, including Father William Marrevee, a former Saint Paul University professor who taught courses at the Catholic university for several years.
Marrevee said the "complexity and the delicacy" of undertaking liturgical renewal should not be underestimated.
"For one thing, in many instances you touch on the Church's symbol system.
"Just think of the turmoil created around the placing of the tabernacle or around the suggestion that the bodily posture of standing during the entire Eucharistic Prayer may be more appropriate than kneeling for a particular part of it."
Liturgical renewal takes place in an ecclesial and cultural context, said Marrevee. "As for the Church, it is a truism that the Church is changing drastically, if not in fact, that a type of Church that my generation is still familiar with is collapsing all around us.
"It would be strange indeed if we expected the Church's liturgical life to be unaffected by that."