From Sacrosanctum Concilium to the Average Parish

Some people believe that the changes which were made to the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council go back to the council itself. I remember a visitor to my local parish was disgusted by the fact that some of our songs were sung in Latin as she made a comment along the lines of “we got rid of the Latin”, possibly implying that Latin became obsolete due to the Second Vatican Council.

One important thing to keep in mind when examining the liturgy that is celebrated in the average parish is that it is often several steps removed from the actual decisions made at the Second Vatican Council. The council decided that the liturgy needed to be reformed and laid down the principle and guidelines for the reform in the document Sacrosanctum Concilium. Yet the decisions of the council had to be applied to the Roman Missal and to parishes in the Latin Rite so Pope Paul VI organized a special consilium headed up by Archbishop Bugnini. This consilium did not always follow the guidelines laid out by the council which resulted in a new Roman Missal in 1969 that wasn’t always true to the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council. Thus, the actual current Roman Missal, the third edition of the 1969 edition, is in effect one step removed from the decisions the council made.

An additional step is made by most parishes which do not follow the Roman Missal in the celebration of the mass. Most of the time the average parish celebrates mass ignoring certain rubrics of the missal but many times there are rubrics which are completely violated. This means that many, if not most parishes, celebrate a liturgy that is twice removed from what the Second Vatican Council Fathers intended concerning the liturgy.

Therefore, it should never be assumed that what one sees taking place in the liturgy of one’s own parish is directly a result of the Second Vatican Council; often times, it is not and sometimes is opposed to the letter and the spirit of the council.

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