Recalling Vatican II

Fifty years have passed since the Second Vatican Council, commonly known as Vatican II. The effects of Vatican II still resonate in the day-to-day life of Catholics today.

“Vatican II really was what John XXIII said, open the doors and let the fresh air in,” said the Rev. John Manno, of Our Lady of Lourdes in Montoursville. “As a pre-Vatican II seminarian and a post-Vatican II priest, I loved that it brought me closer to my ministry with the laity. The laity was the sleeping giant and it was woken and released.”

Before Vatican II, “priests did everything,” Manno said. Today, laypeople have a far more active role in the Roman Catholic Church.

“It was quite remarkable to return to the ancient tradition where laypeople have an active role, where there’s a permanent diaconate,” said the Rev. Glenn McCreary, of the Church of the Resurrection in Muncy. “Fifty years ago the only deacons were those preparing to be priests. In our diocese the chancellor now is a laywoman.”

Pope John XXIII convened the council in Oct. 1962, telling the assorted bishops in his opening address that the “truths, which are contained in our time-honored teaching, is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth with their meaning preserved intact is something else.”

The decree on the apostolate of the laity, one of 16 documents that was ratified by the council’s bishops, said that those who “live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.”

“It brought in more conscious participation. We still have to work on that,” Manno said. “But before, the joke goes people were supposed to ‘pray, pay and obey.’ We never heard of social justice when I was in seminary. A lot of things I’ve gotten involved in (this) town wouldn’t have been done by a priest before.”

After Vatican II, churches could recite the liturgy in their native tongue, rather than the traditional Latin.

“Going into the vernacular, that was the big change,” Manno said. “No one really knew what was going on before.”

“There was a new openness to the role of scripture, that scripture could be examined in the light of history with textual criticism,” said Dan Doyle, a member of Church of the Resurrection. “Those of you who come out of the Protestant tradition say, duh, of course, but that was a big change prior to that the average layperson thought you go to Mass for Eucharist, not for scripture.”

“The change in ritual part, some people had a very tough time with that,” Manno said. “They felt it was very transcendent.”

“Non-Catholics can now know what’s going on,” McCreary said. “They would have simply been present before.”

The council broadened the church’s definition of the people of God.

“Those who don’t have knowledge of God or Christ but who seek are considered God’s people,” McCreary said. “There’s a really broad sense of what the people of God is. The council urges us to be embracing.”