There many explanations why John XXIII had so unparalleled a number of individuals and different religious bodies praying for him in his last illness-why peoples of various religious persuasions throughout the world manifested a deep personal concern when it became known that his death was near. Pope John had a most engaging personality. In his dealings with his fellow men of every rank and station he was genial, warm, solicitous and human, humble, simple and direct. The anecdotes about his simple friendliness are legion. He strongly impressed all, most appropriately, as wholly benign and fatherly.
Pope John’s strong personal appeal had a lot to do with the wide and eiithusiastic acceptance of his many statements that directly carried on and developed principles expounded by his predecessors, notably Pius XII. It was Pius who instituted, for instance, maior liturgical reforms that led to the further changes recently approved by the Fathers of the Vatican Council. Continue reading →
In addition to the recent post on America’s special issue commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Council, there will no doubt be many more retrospectives in the media to come. For now, check out the National Catholic Register’s look back, the National Catholic Reporter’s contents of their special expanded commemorative issue, and the current Commonweal editorial analyzing the Council’s legacy. Stay tuned; there will be more!
From the September 21, 1962 issue of Commonweal, a followup to the announcement by the archbishop of New Orleans that all the parochial schools of the archdiocese would be desegregated for the 1962-1963 academic year.
When Archbishop Joseph F. Rummel announced last spring that segregation of parochial schools in New Orleans would end with the opening of school this fall, he laid to rest some lingering doubts about the effective meaning of the Church’s condemnation of segregation. He certainly knew, as did his coadjutor, Archbishop John P. Cody, that trouble could be expected.
Now, with more than a week of desegregation behind them, the Catholics of New Orleans have good, reason to take pride in their response to the Archbishop’s decision. To be sure, there were many instances of white parents’ boycotting the integrated parochial schools. And there were as well some nasty scenes of white and Negro parents’ being jeered and harassed. Yet, by and large, the opening week went off very well indeed. The only real trouble came in some of the outlying areas of the Archdiocese. In Buras, deep in the heart of Leander Perez’ domain, Our Lady of Good Harbor School lost all of its white pupils through parental boycott. As for the five Negro children who entered the school on the opening day, they did not return on the next. Continue reading →
From the June 28, 1962 issue of Commonweal Magazine, a provocative call for liturgical reform by an organizer of the North American Liturgical Week recently held in Seattle in conjunction with the World’s Fair, imagining how liturgy might be celebrated 50 years from now.
By John B. Mannion
Of all the actions likely to be taken by the forthcoming Ecumenical Council, few will affect the Catholic people so directly and personally as the liturgical reforms. For most of us, our principal public contact with the Church is Sunday Mass. And indeed, this is as it should be, for the liturgy is “the chief duty and supreme dignity” of Christians, and takes precedence over any other religious activity—public or private, individual or corporate. For this reason the Mass should be our most meaningful Christian experience. That this is not the case is one of the several motive s which have prompted the liturgical reforms of recent decades. Pope Pius XI’s “outsiders and mute spectators” of 1928 have become Pope John’s “telegraph poles” of 1960.
Clearly the reforms instituted have not been adequate to the task of conveying to the people the true nature of liturgical worship and their role in it. Perhaps this is because the changes have been within the structure of the Roman liturgy as it was frozen in the sixteenth century.
To the man of the twentieth century, the Mass does not appear to be what it actually is: a formal proclamation of the Word of God, a sacrificial oblation re-presenting “in mystery” the redemptive work of Christ, and a community meal renewing the covenant—the pledge of eternal life and love—between the Father and His chosen sons. This threefold reality is not immediately and directly revealed by the words and actions of the Latin rite Mass, which fact has led to a growing realization of the need for further reform. Continue reading →
From the Eternal City, Michael Novak reports on the general atmosphere as the time for the Council gets closer:
Rome sweltering hot this summer. Stepping out from the cool interior of St. Peter’s, one meets rolling waves of dry heat and a blinding glare from the Piazza. Rome is quiet now too. The great work of preparation for the Council has been concluded. Summaries have been sent out to the bishops of the world, and now, in the summer heat, Rome is settling down to wait for October. Continue reading →
Over the years, perhaps no question has so exercised American Catholics as the relationship between Church and State. The question has been forced upon Catholics not only by non-Catholic s dubious about the compatibility of Catholic principles and a genuinely pluralistic society; it has also been forced upon them by those gradual developments in Catholic theology which, today, place considerable emphasis on the profound importance of the individual’s free conscience, his personal integrity and his personal relationship to God. For this latter reason particularly, the question of the relationship between Church and State today is usually seen in the far broader context of the problem of human freedom and religious liberty.
Yet it is perfectly clear that considerable confusion exists within the minds of many Catholics, not even to mention non-Catholics, about the Church’s teaching in the area of religious liberty. The reason for the existence of this confusion is no t hard to find. For a number of decades Catholic theologians have been sharply divided on these matters, papal statements have usually been ambiguous, and Catholic practice from country to country has been so varied as to make meaningful generalizations exceedingly difficult. In one sense, to be sure, confusion is not necessarily unhealthy. The fact that it is impossible to find a decisive contemporary papal pronouncement on religious liberty has served to stimulate rather than to hinder creative theological thinking. But in another sense, this uncertainty has often placed the Church in what may be an unnecessarily suspect position.
With this background in mind, the recent official reports that the Second Vatican Council is likely to consider the problem of religious liberty are very heartening. The rise of pluralistic nations, the ecumenical movement and the developments in Catholic theology make the problem a central one in the Church today.
From the August 24, 1962 issue of Commonweal. Used by permission.
The eminent American Catholic historian John Tracy Ellis, in evaluating the role of the laity on the eve of the Council, cautions against the dangers of anti-clericalism, which American Catholicism has so far avoided but which is increasingly likely unless the gifts of the laity are recognized.
By John Tracy Ellis
Each age in the long and eventful life of the Church has its distinguishing characteristics. When the history of this second half of the twentieth century is written there will, in all probability, be few more striking notes than the emergence of the laity into a strong and active role as collaborators with the clergy in the apostolate. So marked has been this development that there has even emerged a theology of the lay movement, a ne w tract, as it were, which theologians have been refining in recent years in a way that suggests the revival of the part once played in the early Church by the deacon who assisted the priests and bishops in advancing the word of God through the ancient pagan world.
In part this expanding concept of the layman’s place in the divine economy of salvation is an answer to a need. For every well-informed Catholic has for sometime been aware that the rate of increase of the faithful—to say nothing of the increase of potential converts among our separated brethren—has become so rapid that the supply of priests and religious for their spiritual care can in no way keep pace, with the result that the emphasis on the need for lay apostles is by no means confined to Latin America but has become virtually worldwide. Continue reading →
In recent months laymen have repeatedly been invited to voice their views and aspirations on the Ecumenical Council. Thus Francis Cardinal Koenig of Vienna, a member of the Central Preparatory Commission for the Council, said: “Do not wait for the Bishop or for a report from Rome, if you have something to say about the Council…. Urge, when you feel urging is necessary.”
In keeping with these invitations, The Commonweal is publishing a special series devoted to the layman’s hopes and desires in connection with the Council. Joseph E. Cunneen, author of this third article in the series, is managing editor of “Cross Currents.” —The Editors
By Joseph E. Cunneen
Let me strike a sour note at the outset, and suggest that the invitation for laymen to speak out on the coming Council first be considered in the dominant context of Catholic indifference and skepticism. It is true, of course, that in the last few years alumnae groups who wanted to be au courant have scheduled at least one speaker who could flavor his talk with words like “ecumenical” and “dialogue,” but any idea that the Council requires an involvement and commitment of the entire Church could hardly make much headway against our perennial absorption in building drives and rhetorical anti-Communism. To all outward appearances, the parish clergy and church-going laity possess a united response: the Council is a good idea, but no concern of ours.
And as for consulting laymen, what possibly can Cardinal Koenig, who voiced the explicit invitation, mean? Doubtless there are available amiable eccentrics who specialize in Byzantine liturgies or the history of canon law, but what response outside of downright hilarity would greet any wide-eyed “Catholic Actionist” who told the local Holy Name Society—to say nothing of that more representative group, the men who do not attend the meetings—that their views on the coming Council were being solicited? “I can’t get through to my pastor,” one might say, “on why I object to using envelopes in the collection, or why I want to keep my family together, and not ship the kids off to a separate children’s Mass; how can I have anything to say to theologians and cardinals?” Continue reading →