Tuesday, September 18, 2012
ACTUAL PARTICIPATION AND CLERICALISM ABOUT IT?
I have a very good memory about details, especially when I was young. Of course, my memory is very parochial, not a worldwide experience but isolated to three parishes that I attended prior to Vatican II, the Post Chapel at Fort McPherson, GA from 1956-60, St. Anthony Church in the West End of Atlanta during the same period and St. Joseph Church, Augusta, GA from 1960 to 1965 when changes that Vatican II envision trickled down to us, especially actual participation.
This is what I remember about Pre-Vatican II actual participation in the Mass during that brief and early period of my life:
1. Participation in Mass was highly individualized and personal. The only communal aspect was simply being gathered together. However, all eyes had to be fixed on the sanctuary, there was very little or no interaction amongst those present.
2. The Holy Rosary seem to be the prayer of choice during the liturgy by the vast majority of people. I was taught by my parents to hold the Rosary during Mass and even pray it during Mass.
3. However, I was given a St. Joseph Missal and asked to bring it to Mass to follow the Mass and many people brought both their rosaries and missals to Mass--missalettes or worship aids were not provided by the parish, except a hymnal of some kind.
4. The laity remained quiet, and only the altar servers spoke during the Mass or the choir if there was one--my experience during pre-Vatican II times was mostly the Low Mass at the early Sunday morning time slot.
After Vatican II and when the liturgy changes were being first implemented, the thrust of the priests who were telling us what was desired by Vatican II was active participation and two things would facilitate this, the turning of the priest to face the congregation during the Mass to make the Mass more "intelligible" more vernacular to make the Mass more easily understandable and the actual participation of the laity in the responses and chants of the Mass that up until that time were reserved to the altar boys and/or choir.
This also included the laity reading the Scriptures of the Mass and eventually Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, but the latter occurred in the 1970's. The inclusion of women/girls in these ministries was also a fruit of Vatican II we were taught so that women, especially as the 20th century saw great advances in the education of women, their right to vote, their work ethic during World War II in taking jobs normally reserved to men who were absent because of the war and a number of other developments which the Church for the most part found positive.
So no one can tell me that "actual participation" as Vatican II and post Vatican II developments did not hinge on building upon what was good prior to Vatican II but also addressing what wasn't good, meaning passivity and letting others do for them what they should be doing themselves, like singing, speaking and actively engaged in the liturgy both internally and externally and the external being a symbol of internal participation and a fruit of it.
By the 1980's and at the behest the liturgist Father Eugene Walsh, active participation was being defined in the following way:
2. creating silence for private prayer, listening to the Scriptures and meditating on them and listening actively to the prayers that are prayed and not using worship aids and following these in a book, but looking and listening with eyes, ears, body and soul.
3. Actively participating and energetically in all spoken and sung parts
4. Departing Mass recommitted to bringing Christ to our homes, play and work.
The clericalism part of this was priests in the late 60's and 70's trying to enforce this post Vatican II vision and by facing the people during the entire Mass, acting like supervisors of their participation and sometime belittling people who were slow or unwilling to change from their pre-Vatican II practices. This clericalism might well explain why so many who did not like being supervised during Mass may well have dropped out of Mass altogether, especially if they were felt to be second class citizens by maintaining their pre-Vatican II worship practices.
With the priest facing the congregation and acting like a judge on the laity's participation, there also created the teacher/student relationship and those in the congregation doing what the teacher expected and doing it for the teacher to see so that the student would be considered the teacher's pet.