Catholic Free Press

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  • Mar
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A ‘student’ of Vatican II

Posted By March 15, 2013 | 11:08 am | Featured Article #3

By William T. Clew

LEOMINSTER – When Msgr. Francis T. Goguen, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish, was a youngster growing up in Gardner, he was an altar server at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish.
The Mass was celebrated in Latin then and the young altar boy recited all the responses to the prayers in Latin, the universal language of the Catholic Church at that time.
That all changed with the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, and Msgr. Goguen, then studying for the priesthood at the North American College in Rome, was there at the Vatican when it happened.
He graduated from Assumption Preparatory School in Worcester, then attended Assumption College  for two years before moving on to the Seminary of Philosophy in Montreal, where he studied for two years. He then began four years of study at the North American College in Rome, arriving there in 1963. He said the seminarians lived at the North American College and had classes at the Gregorian University nearby.
The Second Vatican Council, otherwise called Vatican II, had begun in October 1962, and the first session ended in December that year. Msgr. Goguen missed that one, but he arrived in Rome on Oct. 3, 1963, a few days after the second session started on Sept 29. It ended Dec. 4 that year. The next two sessions ran from Sept. 14 to Nov. 21, 1964 and from Sept. 14 to Dec. 8, 1965.
He and the other seminarians were busy with their studies and classes. But when the Council had public sessions classes were cancelled and the seminarians were free to attend if they could get tickets.
“Tickets were easy to get,” he said.
The bishops and cardinals met in St. Peter’s Basilica. In the formal meetings they wore white copes and mitres. In working sessions they wore red. Msgr. Goguen said that he and his fellow seminarians would sometimes go to St. Peter’s Square at 12:30 or 1 p.m. when the meetings ended. The doors of St. Peter’s would open and the cardinals and bishops, about 2,500 of them, would pour out.
“There was a flow of bishops, a river of red,” he said.
Back home in the Worcester Diocese, it was a pretty big deal when a bishop came to a parish. In Rome, after the meetings, there were busloads of them riding back to their living quarter.
He said he once saw Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, famous throughout the United States for his national television show broadcast from 1951 to 1957, running to catch his bus in Vatican Square. TV star or not, the bus would not wait for him.
Archbishop Sheen, who died in 1979, now is being considered for sainthood. The Vatican has declared him “venerable” as part of the process.
Among the many cardinals and bishops in attendance were Cardinal John Wright, who had been the first Bishop of Worcester when the diocese was founded in 1950, and Assumptionist Father Wilfrid J. Dufault, the Spencer native who was superior general of the Augustinians of the Assumption. Msgr. Goguen said he and other seminarians saw them in the Vatican and called  to them, “we’re from Worcester.” He said the two came over to where the seminarians were and Cardinal Wright said, “Oh yes, Worcester, I laid the foundation well, didn’t I.”
He said that, at Vatican II, the U.S. bishops had a press panel to explain to American reporters what was happening. He said Cardinal Wright was on the  panel and was “brilliant.” He said the cardinal would sometimes give a general answer to a question while he organized his thoughts, then go straight to the heart of the subject with a precise answer.
He said Bishop Flanagan, who attended all four Vatican II sessions, took Worcester seminarians in Rome to dinner and answered their questions. He said the bishop had a “prodigious memory.” The bishop sent letters on a regular basis back for publication in The Catholic Free Press to inform the people of the diocese about the sessions.
Msgr. Goguen, who was in Rome for the last three sessions, brought a dictaphone on which the bishop could record his letters and send them back to the paper to be transcribed and printed.
Msgr. Goguen said he and the other seminarians knew of the importance of the Second Vatican Council.
“There were only 21 councils in history and this was the first in 100 years,” he said. And Vatican II changed the Church in many ways.
He was at the public sessions for the promulgation of several documents that were approved by a vote of the cardinals and bishops and became rules of the Church. Among them was the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), which changed the rite of the celebration of the Mass and the administration of sacraments and the breviary  which priests read every day.
Before this promulgation, the Mass was celebrated in Latin in all Catholic churches around the world, the priest faced the altar with his back to the congregation and the laity didn’t have much to do with the operation of parishes.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy led to changes in all that. Soon after Vatican II the Mass was celebrated in the local vernacular, as was administration of sacraments and the breviary, that meant English in the United States and other English-speaking countries. The altar was moved and priests faced the congregation during the celebration of Mass.
Msgr. Goguen never saw Pope John XXIII, who called the Council and who died June 3, 1963. But on occasion he did see the newly elected Pope Paul VI, who presided at the Council’s closing ceremonies in Vatican Square on Dec. 8, 1965. He said it had rained for a couple of weeks before the closing ceremonies. But on that day the clouds disappeared, the sky was blue and the sun was bright. He captured it all with his camera.
For Msgr. Goguen and others studying for the priesthood Vatican II made a big change. All his studies were in Latin. He said he was thankful that he had attended Assumption Prep and Assumption College where Latin was emphasized.
His studies in Rome were in Latin, as were the oral examinations. Students would be given a subject and asked to talk on it for 15 minutes. Msgr. Goguen said that, after completing two of those exams, he went for a third before an American priest.
“Oh, you’re an American,” he said. “We can do this in English.”
Msgr. Goguen said that was such a surprise that he was tongue-tied for a moment.
He said the change to English was welcomed by the seminarians he knew.
“It made no sense to continue with Latin,” he said.
He said he never celebrated a Mass in Latin. After he was ordained a priest in Rome on Dec. 17, 1966, he celebrated Masses in Roman hospitals in Italian until he returned to the Worcester diocese. He was assigned to St. Anthony di Padua Parish in Fitchburg on Aug. 1, 1967. His first Mass there was in English. For the first year after the change to the vernacular was made, the Eucharistic Prayer was in Latin. Then that, too, was changed to English.
He had returned to a diocese that, led by Bishop Flanagan, was in the forefront of American dioceses in implementing the changes promulgated by Vatican II. It was said to be the first diocese in the country to develop and print its own Mass missal, first to publish its own hymnal, establishing guidelines for organists and choir directors and allowing priests to celebrate Mass in homes any hour of the day, any day of the week. It was at least one of the first dioceses to have a free-standing altar where the priest faced the congregation during Mass. Bishop Flanagan mandated parish councils and lay apostolates and he established a covenant between the Worcester Diocese and the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts.


Laity elevated from passive spectators to involved members

By Marcellino D’Ambrosio
Catholic News Service

Councils of the universal church, called “ecumenical councils,” had been convened 20 times in almost as many centuries to discuss all sorts of issues. But the Second Vatican Council, the 21st ecumenical council, was the first to specifically address the laity and its place in the life of the church.
So how was the role of laity seen prior to the council? A certain English monsignor of the 19th century quipped, with regard to the laity, “to hunt, to shoot, to entertain. These matters they understand, but to meddle with ecclesiastical matters they have no right at all.”
Before the council, laity were passive spectators in the liturgy, often praying devotional prayers while they were “hearing” Mass since the readings were in Latin. Of course, lay ushers collected and counted the money, and often the choir and its director were lay.
As for the apostolic life of the church, laity were involved in charitable works of mercy through groups such as the Knights of Columbus and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. However, the teaching of the faith was predominantly the role of priests and the sisters. There were few lay teachers in Catholic schools and a few lay theology professors in Catholic universities.
The goal of the council was to promote the conscious, active participation of the laity in the liturgy, but also to restore a much broader and richer participation of the laity in the apostolic life of the church as reflected in the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles.
In the liturgy, laity began serving as lectors. As the numbers of priests decreased, laity also were called to serve as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, both at Mass and, in some cases, bringing Communion to the sick.
While the traditional works of mercy and their respective lay societies continued, laity came to exercise leadership in an important new work of mercy: advocacy on behalf of the oppressed and the unborn. Lay leadership drove social justice work and the pro-life movement in the decades following the council.
Probably the biggest change in the aftermath of Vatican II was an explosion of lay participation in evangelization and catechesis. Prior to the council, those wishing to “convert” to Catholicism would receive private instruction from a priest.
With the restoration of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, we see an extensive process of instruction where not only lay catechists predominate, but the laity serve in a very personal and critical role of sponsor.
After the council, Catholic school teachers and administrators became increasingly lay, as did catechists and directors of religious education.
But the council taught something that elevates the catechetical role of the laity even further: It identified parents as the primary religious educators of their children.
It also taught that the secular employment of laypeople, far from being a distraction from their Christian vocation, was their primary way to sanctify, not only themselves, but society.
– D’Ambrosio is co-founder of Crossroads Productions –