I remember, as a child, the Second Vatican Council and my mother explaining the news to me. "The pope," she said, "has called all the bishops to Rome to help him bring all the non-catholics into the church." Subsequently Pope John XXIII died and when the news of Paul VI's election came the whole of my primary school trooped into the church to sing "God Bless our Pope". Some time in the following year our teacher announced to the class that we were living in historic times and that soon we would be able to have mass in our own language. This was one of the results of the Council but there would be others in order to make the mass more accessible. In retrospect I can appreciate that he was talking about inculturation since he gave as an example African tribesmen dancing around the altar because, he explained, dancing was part of their culture. We were also told that mass would be celebrated with the priest facing the people. When, over thirty years later, I told my mother that I thought this change to have been a mistake she recalled my young self having written an essay in favour of it, "because we shall be able to see what the priest is doing on the altar".
In later years there would be much talk of the "spirit of Vatican2" as a justification of things which did not quite square with the letter of its documents and, in particular, Sacrosanctum Concilium. In recalling these personal memories I have the strong feeling that this "spirit" was not something that proceeded from the Council as from a source but something that was "in the air", so to speak,perhaps before the Council but certainly before the ink was dry on the documents. The Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool is an interesting architectural manifestation of contemporary thinking. Planned before the Council was over and completed and dedicated over two years before the Missal of Pope Paul VI was issued it nevertheless represents a radical development in the ordering of the church interior along lines which were soon to be all but universally applied.
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