Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 26, 2005
Can Vatican II's dramatic impact be conveyed to today's youth
By Catholic News Service
Forty years after the Second Vatican Council, teachers face the challenge of conveying to most students the dramatic changes that Vatican II made on Church life and teachings.
"Ask seminarians what Vatican II is and some answer: 'It's the pope's summer residence,'" joked Sulpician Father Melvin Blanchette, faculty adviser at Theological College in Washington.
So how do teachers convey the dramatic impact of the council?
"Use bridge people born before Vatican II," advised Michael Pennock, author of 30 Catholic high school religion textbooks.
Pennock said teachers should get students to interview their grandparents and read novels and see movies about Church life in the first half of the 20th century. Those media convey the Church atmosphere at the time, its teachings and how moral dilemmas were framed.
Educators involved in teaching Catholicism to post-Vatican II generations said that in the decades since the council, its teachings have become embedded in Church doctrine with the result that students may know the teachings but not be aware that they sprang from the council.
Regarding liturgical changes, "I don't think there is a great deal of attention to the 'before' and 'after,'" said Sister Mary Frances Taymans, a leading Catholic educator. "The emphasis is on the richness that is experienced now."
Similarly, high school students today study world religions and have a better understanding of Protestant churches. They may not know that these courses are a direct result of Vatican II, said Taymans.
Vatican II took place from 1962 to 1965. A 15-year-old walking into a high school religion class today would have never experienced the preconciliar world of Mass in Latin with the priest's back to the people or the lack of widespread lay participation in parish life. The student lives in a world where dialogue rather than suspicion marks relations with other religions.
Pennock said young Catholics today "know that our faith is not the only faith."
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