November 28, 2014

Archdiocesan Catholics reflect on Vatican II’s liturgical renewal

Seminarians worship together at a Mass in 1965 at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in St. Meinrad. The liturgical renewals called for by the Second Vatican Council had begun to be implemented months earlier. The liturgical formation that seminarians have received at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology over the past half century have greatly affected the renewal of the liturgy in the Church in central and southern Indiana. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archives)

Seminarians worship together at a Mass in 1965 at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in St. Meinrad. The liturgical renewals called for by the Second Vatican Council had begun to be implemented months earlier. The liturgical formation that seminarians have received at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology over the past half century have greatly affected the renewal of the liturgy in the Church in central and southern Indiana. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archives)

By Sean Gallagher

The Second Vatican Council brought about renewal to many aspects of the life of the Church.

But for many Catholics, the most noticeable developments appeared 50 years ago this week—on Nov. 29, 1964. On that day in the archdiocese and across the United States, parts of the Mass began for the first time to be prayed in English, priests started facing the congregation, and the approach to liturgical music sounded a different note.

(Related: See what was in The Criterion 50 years ago this week)

Retired Father Clifford Vogelsang, who was ordained a year and a half before the renewal, took the modifications in stride.

“When I had my first Mass at Saint Meinrad, the day after my ordination, I used the chapel in the former guest house. That altar faced the congregation,” he said. “That was no problem for me.”

Father Vogelsang’s first assignment, as assistant pastor at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, continued his preparation for the renewal in the liturgy.

“I had Mass in the gym,” he said. “That altar was set up to face the people.”

The start of the implementation of the liturgical developments came naturally for lay Catholics like Sheri Berg, a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis, who was a student at San Diego State University in San Diego at the time.

“Those first liturgical changes did not have much impact on our liturgies in our small chapel,” said Berg, who worked in the 1990s for the archdiocesan Office of Worship. “We had sung our hymns in English and all recited the Latin responses at Mass. Changing to some responses in English and some Latin just required a different book.”

Varied quality of preparation

Many young priests like Father Vogelsang and seminarians at the time were prepared well for the renewal by the priestly formation they received at the former Bishop Bruté Latin School in Indianapolis, an archdiocesan-operated high school seminary, and Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

Father Noah Casey, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis, was a sophomore at the Latin School in 1964. He continued his priestly formation at Saint Meinrad, entered Saint Meinrad Archabbey and lived as a monk until becoming an archdiocesan priest in 2007.

He noted that Benedictine Archabbot Ignatius Esser, who led Saint Meinrad from 1930-55, was highly involved in the Modern Liturgical Movement, which led the way to much of Vatican II’s renewal of the Church’s worship.

“There was a spirit of [liturgical renewal] there already long preceding the council,” Father Casey said. “Then, when the council came, they were ready.”

So was the faculty of the Latin School, led by its rector, the late Msgr. Joseph Brokhage, whom Father Casey described as “an excellent theologian and a very fine liturgist.”

“When we saw where the council was going, Msgr. Brokhage started talking about it in our assemblies,” Father Casey said. “Then he demonstrated it.”

Msgr. Brokhage prepared the high school seminarians so well for the liturgical renewal that they took a leading role in helping to prepare priests serving in parishes across central and southern Indiana for them.

“When it finally hit and you had to have an altar facing the people, there was a team of us that he put together,” Father Casey said. “We did demonstration Masses around the archdiocese for priests in the deaneries.”

Looking back on those efforts, Father Casey realizes that they weren’t enough.

“One weekend, you came in and the Communion rail was there, and the next weekend, without any explanation, the Communion rail was gone,” he said. “It was all coming so fast that it was hard to catechize the priests and get them to assimilate it.

“In some ways, I wish that we had taken more time on catechesis and delayed the implementation a bit, not that catechesis is going to settle everything.”

As it happened, though, the development of the liturgy called for by the council was implemented in a piecemeal fashion. For example, on Nov. 29, 1964, only the Scripture readings and some of the prayers of Mass were authorized to be proclaimed or prayed in the vernacular. The rest of the Mass was still prayed in Latin.

“It was a progression of changes, and they were not uniform from place to place,” said Berg. “It was no wonder that many people were confused. Something that had always been consistent was that way no longer.”

Changes in music

The implementation of some developments—like allowing the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the Mass—resulted in other changes.

The translated antiphons, part of what is also known as the propers of each Mass, did not come with any accompanying Gregorian chant. So, in many cases, new music was composed for them on an almost week-to-week basis at the start of the implementation of the reforms.

Charles Gardner, who led the archdiocesan Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship for more than 30 years until his retirement in 2013, experienced this firsthand when he was a college seminarian at Saint Meinrad in the mid-1960s.

“[Liturgical music] was all student-directed,” he said. “I was told that I was going to direct a group. I was supposed to write my own music for the propers. I experimented and tried to see what worked. It sat well with what it means to be a student. You’re trying things. It felt natural.”

At the same time, given the perspective of 50 years, Gardner recognizes that not all of the experimentation in liturgical music went well.

“It certainly was the beginning of a period that was not necessarily highly thought out,” he said. “Everybody grabbed for things, some of it good, some of it not so good.”

Benedictine Father Columba Kelly, 84, returned to Saint Meinrad Archabbey in January 1964 after completing graduate studies in sacred music in Rome.

“I kind of had a front-row seat as the people were working on the documents,” Father Columba said.

After returning to Saint Meinrad, he helped implement the liturgical renewal in the community, including composing many chant melodies for English texts and psalm tones for chanting the psalms in English.

He also was a part of the seminary faculty at Saint Meinrad that prepared a generation of priests that have helped implement the council’s liturgical renewal across central and southern Indiana and in other dioceses across the country and around the world.

“It was wonderful,” Father Columba said. “You got to help explain why things were restructured this way and how important the language that the people spoke and understood was [in the liturgy].”

‘The art of celebrating the liturgy well’

In addition to allowing for the use of the vernacular in the Mass, Vatican II’s liturgical renewal also gave the option of the priest facing the congregation during the Mass.

“Once you did that, all of a sudden your gestures, your facial expressions and your tone voice became crucial,” Father Columba said. “You have to be present to what you are doing. You’re not there to entertain. You’re there to lead prayer.”

Father Vogelsang called this attentiveness to facial expression and vocal tone, “stage presence.”

“You can’t just stand there and mumble everything,” he said. “And an awful lot of our priests had gotten into the habit of just mumbling the Latin.”

Father Vogelsang said introducing the vernacular into the Mass and changing the gestures and orientation of the celebrant “made a big difference,” saying “it has forced better celebrations.”

Father Robert Gilday, pastor of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (Little Flower) Parish in Indianapolis, agreed. He was a sophomore at the Latin School on Nov. 29, 1964, and continued his priestly formation at the former Saint Meinrad College before completing it at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

He said that the faculty at Saint Meinrad instilled in him and his fellow seminarians a value of “ars celebrandi,” the art of celebrating the liturgy well.

“One of the things that you learned at Saint Meinrad in particular was the importance of good liturgy,” Father Gilday said. “You realize that celebrating well is important.”

Helping seminarians value celebrating the liturgy well during a time when it was developing rapidly was a challenge that Father Columba and his fellow faculty members were up to.

“All of those people were dedicated to making this new rite work,” he said. “We had mutual support and the students, I think, saw that.”

They saw it and were affected by it, said Father Gilday.

“More [archdiocesan] priests have been formed [at Saint Meinrad] than anywhere else,” he said. “If you look at all of the people that were there during the time of change—which were big ordination classes in most cases—that had a tremendous impact on how the liturgy was celebrated by most of them.”

‘Engagement in celebration of Mass’

Father Patrick Beidelman, current executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship and pastor-rector of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish in Indianapolis, was born in 1972, eight years after Vatican II’s liturgical renewal began to be implemented.

He, too, received his priestly formation at Saint Meinrad and was ordained a priest in 1998.

Yet, unlike the priests and seminarians active at the time of the start of the implementation of the liturgical renewal in 1964, he grew up experiencing the Mass only in the vernacular and with the priest facing the congregation.

“A great grace in my life has always been my engagement in the celebration of the Mass,” Father Beidelman said. “Even before I was an altar server, I can remember really being aware of what was going on, being interested in it and being drawn to it. I’ve had a love for my Mass all my life.

“I think that was cultivated, not only by my parents’ example and guidance of me, but also my ability to comprehend it [in English], and perceive it, and to see it done well.”

Retired Msgr. Frederick Easton was ordained in 1966, two years after permission was given to use the vernacular in the liturgy. Yet over the course of his nearly 50 years of priestly life and ministry, he has used his knowledge of Latin constantly in his ministry in canon law in the archdiocese’s Metropolitan Tribunal.

Nevertheless, praying in the vernacular seems wholly natural to him.

“You’re praying in a language that is more immediately conscious to you,” Msgr. Easton said. “The words hit you in the face a little bit more. You ponder them a little bit more.”

At the same time, Gardner acknowledges that the earlier music traditions in the Church that were quickly left behind when the liturgical reforms began to be implemented are starting to be used again.

“Some of the appreciation for that is returning,” he said. “But it’s taken quite a few years.”

Even Father Beidelman, who never experienced the Mass celebrated in Latin while growing up, says that he has come to appreciate its use in liturgies where people who speak a variety of languages are worshipping together.

“On this occasion where we are celebrating the use of our native languages,” Father Beidelman said, “we also need to recall how helpful it would be … for us to remember that Latin still has a place in what we’re about as a Church—not as much in the everyday [experience] for most of us, but certainly in some special celebrations to connect with folks of other language groups.” †

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