Sunday, December 17, 2017

After Vatican II [1975-2050]

Just discovered (from a reader) this website with an abundance of research and writing on it about the Church. I still haven't "vetted" it for content (though I already see some things with which I disagree), and I don't know much about the author, Fr. Tom Richstatter, O.F.M., beyond what is published in this short bio (though it looks like he teaches classes on this material), In any case, it looks interesting. There's doubtless a lot here worth reading and knowing.

The "Index Page" for the website alone shows the extent of research and writing the site offers. Below are a couple of charts and commentary displayed under a tab somewhere on his website entitled "Chapter d30 After Vatican II [1975-2050 CE]":

Cultural and Theological Context

James D. Davidson (in an article "Alienation in the Catholic Church Today" p 22 in Robert J. Kennedy'sReconciling Embrace [Liturgy Training Publications, 1998]) states that Catholics who experienced their formative years during the 1950's and 1960's witnessed the following changes:

ItemPre-Vatican IIPost-Vatican II
Liturgical LanguageLatinEnglish
Liturgical MusicGregorian chantFolk
Liturgical InstrumentsOrganGuitar
MoralityEmphasis on Sexual PurityEmphasis on Peace and justice
EthicsNatural Law Ethics Consequentialism (An emphasis on the context and consequences of behavior)
FaithFaith is obligationFaith is personal choice
The WorldOther-worldlinessThis-worldliness
Catholic IdentityParticularism (the superiority of Catholicism)Ecumenism (an emphasis on how much Catholicism has in common with Protestant denominations)

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Moving the Furniture

At a gathering of parish leaders on January 19, 2002 from St. Mary's Parish, Evansville (one of the parishes mentioned in Excellent Catholic Parishes by Paul Wilkes) we discussed the metaphor of "moving the furniture."  The theological concepts we hold are something like furniture in a room.  Sometimes when we introduce a new piece of furniture, the old ones need to be rearranged.  Applying this to the arrangement of our "theological furniture" before and after the Second Vatican Council we found several key items have been "moved."  These changes are summarized in the the following table:

ItemPre-Vatican IIPost-Vatican II
JesusDivineDivine and Human
GodTranscendentTranscendent and Immanent
GraceThing / QuantitativePersonal Relationship, Process
Gives Grace
Act of Worship
Reveals who God is
Builds Church
BaptismTakes away original sinMakes one "Another Christ"
Makes Church
Makes Disciples/Ministers
Pope, Bishops, etc.
Body of Christ
People of God
BibleProtestant BookOur story
Faith witness
Good Friday
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday
Meal : Sacrifice :: Sacrament : Union with God
SinBreaking the law
Not loving God & neighbor
Failure to grow
ConfessionTelling sins to the priestReconciliation
Public act
Worship and Praise
Celebration of God's Mercy
Aid in human forgiveness and reconciliation
PriestOne set apart fromOne in the midst of
Boot camp
Incarnational Theology - The place of our salvation - God's dream for a harmonious, reconciled garden

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Sacraments Yesterday and Today

How is our thinking about sacrament and sacraments different than it was 50 years ago (pre Vatican II)?  What are the principal changes in sacramental theology during the past 50 years?  Once again I refer to the "tip of the pistol" metaphor.  What are those often unseen changes that have big implications.  Often the really important changes are not the most noticeable, not the things that the people in the pew would name as the "big changes."   I list what I have come to consider the 10 most important.  The following list is not in any particular "order of importance." 

1.  Anabatic / Katabatic   Before the Constitution on the Liturgy the anabatic dimension of the sacraments was not emphasized; the sacraments were primarily to "give grace" (the Katabatic movement) rather than considered primarily as acts of worship by the community.  The primary thing is not what we get, but what we give:  worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God.

2. Private to corporate and personal.  When the emphasis is on "what I get" from the sacraments, it's easy to think of sacraments as something administered to an individual. When we think of sacraments primarily as acts of corporate worship, liturgical worship is the act of the entire Body of Christ. This is why sacraments are always (ideally) celebrated by the worshiping community (at Sunday Eucharist).

Eucharist, at least the celebration of the Eucharist (1) when not separated from merely "receiving Holy Communion" is usually seen as a public act. The (2) Sacrament of Holy Orders and the(3) Sacrament of Confirmation are, with increasing frequency, celebrated in the midst of the Sunday worshiping community. The initiation of adults takes place at the Easter (Vigil) with the worshiping community. More and more, infant (4) Baptism and the (5) Anointing of the Sick are celebrated at Sunday Mass.  (6) Marriage is celebrated during the Eucharist, but is often not with the worshiping community but with the circle of friends who often are there not to worship God but only as friends, honoring the couple.   (7) Reconciliation seems to be the last sacrament to find its a public context.

3. Anamnesis   Anamnesis is another fundamental tip of the pistol change. Eucharist no longer "repeats"  or "re-presents" or "reminds" us of the passion death and resurrection of the Lord, but through anamnesis -- Liturgical Remembering we become mystically present to these events. This mystery of presence is one of the fundamental changes that is not been preached or taught sufficiently during the past 50 years.

4. Mysterion    The metaphor of the seven Shoeboxes. Another "invisible" but very important change has come in seeing sacraments not so much as seven distinct actions, but as the manifestation of God's loving plan for creation, beginning with Christ himself, the body of Christ, the Church, gathered to celebrate Eucharist, the other sacraments, the liturgical year and liturgy of the hours, indeed all of creation is sacrament of -- revelation of -- God's Trinitarian love. Key to this understanding is the Primacy of Christ.

5. Grace   I believe another major change comes in the understanding of grace: the movement from grace as a thing which can be quantified and classified, to the understanding of grace as God's love, God's Holy Spirit. This change is multiple implications which are important for our spiritual life and for our theological understanding.

6. The role of the community   Another fundamental tip of the pistol change is our understanding of who administers, or better, who celebrates the sacraments. Formerly the priest administered, performed, the sacramental act. Today, we understand that the worshiping community is the primary celebrant of the sacraments. The community is led, coached, by the presiding minister, who therefore always praise in the first person plural, "we", to which we give our consent, our Amen. I often think of this basic change as: Formerly I said Mass for the people, now I say Mass with the people. A tiny change, a preposition grammatically, but this tiny change represents an entirely new orientation on my part when I am leading the congregation. Until this change is more widely understood (which today it is not) people will still wonder why we are baptizing an infant during the Sunday Eucharist. "I don't even know that baby. What does the baptism have to do with me?" It has everything to do with you. The sacrament is not merely "for" the baby; it is for the entire community.

7. Mind/Body/Spirit   A new understanding of the human person. My former sacramental theology viewed the human person in more static, Aristotelian categories. The human being was composed of body and soul. The body came and went; the soul was immortal and consequently the soul was the important part. Ministry was about saving souls. And the soul was viewed in more static categories. You were either Catholic or you weren't. You were in the state of grace, or out of it. You were either married or you weren't. Today I view the person as an integral composite of mind body and spirit. Faith is a journey. Conversion is a process. These are very important tip of the pistol changes.

8. Minister of the Sacraments   Sacramental roles formerly sacraments were administered usually by the priest and received, by an individual. Now we see that the sacraments are celebrations of the community, the minister-celebrant is the parish, coached by the priest. In the recipient is also the parish.  I'm reminded of the description of sacrament by Soren Kierkegaard:  "Many Christians tend to view the minister/priest as the actor, God as the prompter, and the congregation as the audience. But actually, the congregation is the actor, the minister/priest merely the prompter, and God the audience." (Soren Kierkegaard. Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, New York: Harper & Row, 1956, pp 180-181. Quoted in Erickson, "Liturgical Participation" Worship 59 (1985) p 232.)

9. Sacred Scripture Another element which I believe is very important is the realization of the role played by sacred Scripture in our understanding of sacrament. Formerly Scripture and sacrament seemed unrelated. Sacrosanctum Concilium stress the importance that sacred Scripture plays in the liturgy. 

SC #24. Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony.

SC 51 (Cp 2 Eucharist). The treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that a richer share in God's word may be provided for the faithful.  [Flannery's translation:  "... so that a richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word."]  In this way a more representative portion of holy Scripture will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years. 

Our current Lectionary for Mass contains 14% of the Old Testament and 71% of the New Testament (85% of the Bible); whereas the Missal of 1963 (the Missal in use before our current Lectionary) contained only 01% of the Old Testament and 17% of the New Testament (18% of the Bible).   Often when people speak of the Ordinary Form of Mass and the Extraordinary Form of Mass they say "The difference is that the one is Mass in English and the other is Mass in Latin" without realizing that there are deeper, but less noticeable, changes also.

10. Viewpoint   A very far reaching change has occurred "under the iceberg" regarding what the very word "sacrament" implies. Formerly it referred to "something we receive" now it refers to "something we are" (to use a phrase I learned from Prof. Ken Himes).  I am reminded of the article by the President-Rector in The Raven last week. Speaking of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament he remarked that we are each a monstrance.  "We are monstrances too. We share the task, like the vessel, of bringing the face of Christ to bear upon a world so in need of his visage."  We are visible signs of invisible grace, signs of God, Doors to the Sacred.

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To Think About

Do you think the spirit of the Second Vatican Council is being implemented today? Why or why not?   [A participant in this class once wrote:   "Thank you, Holy Spirit, for the Second Vatican Council.  But where is the next step, Spirit? Your gentle breeze isn't moving on to gale force winds. This freshness is rapidly becoming stagnant air.  Soon the smog will cover us all and we won't remember why we got into this boat to begin with. Some will hide in the bottom of the boat and construct a plan to build a more seaworthy vessel. Some will look to the sky and begin to cry. Some will curse you for meddling in a situation where you don't belong. Some will become paralyzed and do nothing. But the remainder will leap overboard, put their foot into the water and start walking toward the shore.  Please be ready with breakfast."  [R. Cavanaugh, summer 1993]

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 11/11/10 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at

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