October 26, 2012

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

A Vatican II lesson: Be fully conscious and active in your life of faith

Sean GallagherEarlier this month, we marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council. That day, Oct. 11, was also the start of the Year of Faith called for by Pope Benedict XVI.

I was born in 1970, five years after Vatican II concluded. Despite my lack of any memory of it, that council has played an important role in my life of faith.

It starts with my parents’ wedding.

They exchanged their vows of marriage on Nov. 28, 1964, at St. Joseph Church in Shelbyville. The nuptial Mass was celebrated according to the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, i.e., it was a traditional Latin Mass.

It turned out to be one of the last such liturgies to be celebrated at the parish until a recent celebration of the extraordinary form of the Mass there.

The next day, the first Sunday of Advent in 1964, the Eucharist began to be celebrated in English at St. Joseph Parish, and in parishes across the archdiocese and the country.

The timing of my parents’ wedding and the start of widespread use of vernacular in the Church’s liturgy, while not of ultimate importance in my connection to Vatican II, is still emblematic of it.

My parents and broader family, especially my paternal grandparents, gave me a good example of the life of faith as I grew up and made sure that I was formed well in it.

Without being able to cite council document titles and paragraph numbers, they nonetheless concretely lived out the high calling and duty of parents described by the bishops at the council in the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” (“Lumen Gentium”). “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children …” (#11).

Although I struggle to bring to full maturity the seeds of faith that my parents planted in my heart, I will be forever grateful that they did so.

My wife, Cindy, and I are now doing the same with our four sons.

But the cultural context in which we are doing this is a good bit different than when I was their age. Today, it is much more socially acceptable to have no ties to any organized religion.

A study recently released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life noted that nearly 20 percent of American adults claim no religious affiliation—an all-time high. That same study noted that just five years ago the unaffiliateds were at 15 percent. They were at 7 percent in 1972 when I was 2.

From this and other signs of change in our society, it seems clear that another council teaching connected to the liturgy needs to be applied to the broader life of faith. It is a teaching that was a reason behind the change in the liturgy that my parents experienced on the day after their wedding.

The bishops at the council taught that all the faithful should have a “fully conscious and active participation” in the liturgy (“Sacrosanctum Concilium,” #14).

When we parents are fully conscious and active in being joyful witnesses of the faith to our children, and in forming that faith in their minds and hearts, then they will not continue the trend noted in the Pew Forum study.

They will accomplish what Blessed John XXIII saw as a prime reason for calling Vatican II in the first place—to prepare the Church to proclaim the Gospel in the third millennium. †

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