(The bishops of the world opened the 2nd Vatican Council. The first session lasted for barely 15 minutes.)
Today, 11 October 2012, on the glorious reign of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ on earth, the Church begins the Year of Faith in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Opening the Second Vatican Council. It is also a year that the aging Pope wishes to serve as a time not only for renewal but also for conversion and action. For me, it is a great time to seek grace and help to deepen and enrich our experience with the Faith, our holy Catholic Faith.
(Pope Paul VI opening the Council once more after the death of John XXIII)
These recent days, a word-war was sparked between the official publication of the Philippines’ Royal and Pontifical Catholic University, the University of Santo Tomás’ The Varsitarian and the students and alumni of my own alma mater, the Ateneo de Manila University. Insults were hurled, accusations and ad-hominem attacks tweeted. At the core of the issue, however, was a judgment that my Jesuit school is not fulfilling its obligations to Christendom for allowing the pro-RH views of a considerable number of professors to be published. I will not discuss the RH Bill but I will bring to this reflection my take on the issue.
UST is undoubtedly promoting its responsibility to the Magisterium, the Apostolic teaching authority of the Church by defending the stand of the Bishops with regard to the RH Bill. Indeed, UST has always (if I am not mistaken) stood by the Catholic Church. It is courageous and earnest in its desire to be faithful to its identity, heritage and mission. However, what I found disgusting and appalling was the Varsitarian’s derogatory and completely fallacious article that condemns the Ateneo and the Jesuit Fathers for allowing its faculty to actually think and speak for themselves. Although I myself find it imprudent for the professors to still include their affiliations with a school that identifies itself as Catholic, I don’t think that it should merit them expulsion. Ateneo is a university, a world-class university that proclaims that the Faith can be in the service of the poor and that the Faith can be an educated kind of Faith.
But then again, I have a thing about the haughtiness and obviously condescending reactions of Ateneans to the RH Bill, the Varsitarian article and things related to the Catholic Church.
This Year of Faith should be a call for Ateneo, the Jesuits too, to renew its fidelity to the authority of the Church. It should be taken as a perfect opportunity to renew its identity and charism as a Catholic school, which it has undoubtedly lost. Gone are the days of Ateneans who are proudly devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of Ateneans who express their love and affection for the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, of Ateneans who knew and identified with the person of Ignacio de Loyola or any of the Jesuit saints. Many Ateneans today graduate without getting to befriend not a single Jesuit or having a personal experience with a Jesuit unlike generations of Ateneans before.
Indeed, this is the case in many, many Catholic schools. The strong sense of Catholic identity has been lost. The visibility and friendliness of the religious have gone and they now simply occupy administrative positions inaccessible to their students. Unlike before when girls from girl schools would hear the nuns in their schools sing at Mass, with habits and all, today, many of these girls no longer have any idea what the religious life really is. I know many girls who scorn nuns because their only experiences with nuns are shallow encounters: nuns accosting them for the color of their hair clips or a sudden talk from a visiting nun about the fires of hell one expects after having pre-marital sex. Gone are the nuns who teach poetry, music and history.
On my own experience, the Faith for me was always nourished by a constant and conscious reception of the Sacraments. I am so thankful that in high school, I became close to the late Fr. Felixberto Trinidad, SJ, a holy confessor who showed what many priests no longer posses – a paternal, pastoral care that is genuine and compassionate. He was the person who led me to a deep love for the Eucharist, for the Sacrament of Penance and for respect for the religious life.
It is imperative that Catholic institutes have people like him who will lead its students and wards to a greater appreciation of the faith. Unfortunately, in schools like Ateneo, they have hired men and women who proudly, excitedly teach and write to “think” – to doubt God, His Church and Her teachings. For some classes, Atheism and Communism are promoted by these professors who enjoy a comparatively generous salary from the Catholic institution they are employed in. It is despicable how many souls are led into confusion because these teachers do not possess the personal care and caution they should have. They simply spout and talk and leave the students “to think critically”. Instead of guiding them, they allow the students to experiment and to stray away from the Faith (or from the norms of society even). It is alarming, completely alarming, how many students in Catholic schools no longer display, for example, esteem for the religious life nor adoration for the Holy Mass. Just look how Ateneans don’t kneel during consecration or when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed! It is a telling sign of their lack of understanding/appreciation/adoration for the Bread of Life!
The Pope asks us to do our part this Year of Faith. It is an opportunity for us to reflect on our Faith as Catholics and to discern whether we have maximized the many sources of grace it offers us.
(Pope Benedict’s personal preference for traditional vestments and practices [giving Communion kneeling down] showcase the Pope’s care for continuity. He emphasizes that we are part of a long and noble tradition and heritage that we should not break apart from.)
This Year of Faith coincides with the golden anniversary of the opening the Second Vatican Council, which was convened by the Blessed Pope John XXIII as an aggiornamiento – a renewal. The said pope wanted the Church to “open up its windows” and to see the “signs of the times”. The council lasted until 1965 and since then, countless changes have been gently or turbulently implemented. Some have wrongly interpreted the Church as a complete break from Tradition either negatively or positively. These false interpretations have shocked, confused, and ultimately, weakened the Church.
(A celebration of the Tridentine Mass, which was NEVER abolished by the 2nd Vatican Council but wrongly forbidden by bishops around the world after the c
One example of this is the Latin fast. Before going to Mass, I observe the fasting of one hour before receiving the Eucharist. One day, my own mother told me that it is no longer required to fast because according to her nun friend “It’s already Vatican II.” This is the wrong kind of interpreting the Council. I still remember how a priest told me to no longer genuflect because “Genuflecting is so Vatican I”. These are falsities. The Second Vatican Council was not meant to be a break from Tradition and neither was it meant to water down the Faith to a mere “lovey dovey” thing.
One of the more obvious revisions that ordinary lay Catholics felt was with the Liturgy. For centuries, the Mass was said only in Latin and was celebrated with much reverence. After 1967, almost all Masses were said in vernacular languages and for many years, Latin steadily died. This is again a wrong interpretation of the Council. The Second Vatican Council did not, in any official document, say that Latin will be thrown out of the window. This includes Gregorian Chant, the wearing of veils (or appropriate dress), or the over-all solemnity that was once witnessed in Masses. Unfortunately, after Vatican II, countless horrific things have been done by priests and lay to the Mass. Masses today no longer facilitate a sense of the sacred and mystery in the celebrations; the sacrificial aspect has been watered down; silence during the Mass has been replaced by constant noise and movement. People no longer kneel and tabernacles have been removed from the center of the altar and moved to awkward, almost hidden, places.
The Church needs to recall that it is part of a living Tradition, and that Tradition gives continuous renewal and life to the Church. Vatican II is not a break from the pre-Vatican II Church. The many issues our Faith is facing can be addressed not by completely abandoning the Apostolic teachings but an acceptance of the Wisdom of our heritage as Catholics.
Just like the tension between UST and Ateneo, the tensions among “liberals” and “conservatives” have caused the Church much pain, hurt and sorrow. The Council’s message is not lived-out and neither is it blossoming. Some have resorted to Marxism (which is a complete failure) in interpreting the Faith and the fault with this movement is that they have discarded the Church’s rich tradition and resigned to accept the ways of the world. On the other hand, there are those who have become stagnant and robotic in the Faith.
What we indeed is a genuine “renewal of the renewal” to borrow Pope Benedict’s words; a hermeneutics of continuity.
In this year of Faith, I hope and pray we learn to find reason to participate and aid the Church, a Church that is engaged in countless enterprises that seek to promote humanity to an experience of Divine Love. The Church us not antiquated when it is in-touch with its identity. The Church, however, is alive and vibrantly bursting with the hope it promises.
In recent discussions of the RH Bill, the Church has been wrongly labeled and accused as “anti-development”, as a “power tripper”, and to a very stupid extent, “a reminder of the dark Spanish regime”. But in fact, the Church is more than that as it has been, through the centuries, our leader in medicine, in education, in community development, in the protection of the arts, in the flourishing of architecture, engineering and design, in the preservation of books and manuscripts, etc. The Church needs to be respected not only as a source moral inspiration but an agent of positive change and a strong anchor in the secular world.
Like a Mother to her children, Holy Mother Church says “No” to many things that she knows, based on her wisdom, can harm her children. Let us heed the Holy Father in reaffirming our love and trust not only in the Church but in our Deposit of Faith. He believes that the next generation will no longer know who Jesus Christ of Nazareth is and what He stood for. Indeed, the responsibility now lies upon us to re-learn or to re-affirm our friendship with Christ. If we want Christ to be known, then let us trust in the Church and do what she says us to do: be like other Christs. Live in mercy, in simplicity, in prayer, in prudence, in love.