General and Introductory Materials
Part 2 History of the Liturgy

Chapter d30 After Vatican II [1975-2050 CE]

Preliminary Questions


Church History

Two Views 50 Years After the Council


Sacramental Theology during Period 10 of the Historical Grid

Consuming Religion

Cultural and Theological Context


Moving the Furniture

Sacraments Yesterday and Today

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

Do you feel that the decrees of the Second Vatican Council are being implemented to date?  Why?  Or why not?

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Vincent J. Miller Consuming Religion:  Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture.  A Continuum Book  ISBN 0-8264-1531-8

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Church History

2001 March 20   The instruction  Liturgical Translation, ICEL, and Vox Clara    A shift "below the iceberg" has taken place regarding the translation of liturgical texts.  "Comme le prevoit: On the Translation of Liturgical Texts for Celebrations with a Congregation (1969)"  is replaced by Liturgiam authenticam:  The Fifth Instruction for the Right Application of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council." March 28, 2001.   ICEL is reorganized.    Vox Clara is established. 

2007 July 7  Summorum Pontificum    Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI which permits priests to celebrate Mass using the Tridentine liturgy in its 1962 form (the "Extraordinary Form") without having to ask for permission from anyone. It replaced the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei of 1988 which allowed individual bishops to establish places where Mass could be said using the 1962 Missal.

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Two Views 50 Years After the Council

John Allen in the NCR (November 7 2007) summarizes the work of two Chicago Cardinals:  "Yet there is a difference. Many historians say the two great impulses that produced Vatican II were aggiornamento, meaning bringing things up to date, and ressourcement, or a return to the wellsprings of tradition, and theologians will tell you that ultimately the two belong together. Nonetheless, in different periods one may wax and the other wane; synthetically, one could say that Bernardin leaned to the aggiornamento end of the equation, while George inclines a bit more to ressourcement.

Work still to be done   A man whose opinion I respect very much, Father Robert F. Taft SJ, writing in America 198:18, P11 gives the following list of "work still to be done." A list of works still to be done would include the order of the Christian initiation of infants, The liturgy of the hours, the practice of taking holy Communion from the tabernacle during Mass and the retreat from any meaningful reform of the sacrament of reconciliation, which has left confession a disappearing sacrament, at least in North America. Regarding all of these except the last, Catholics might learn from the East.

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Sacramental Theology during Period 10 of the Historical Grid

The poet Murray Bodo has written that "who we are is where and how we have journeyed." We have come to this course from a great diversity of life journeys. This has become clear from our first assignments and from our ongoing discussions throughout the course.

It is important today for each Catholic Catechist and minister to be aware of this diversity. It is naive to believe "I think what the church thinks and everyone else should think what i think.  "This naivety opens the door to transference which can impede the Catechetical process.  It takes time to change ideas, attitudes, behavior, and particularly liturgical behavior.

Jerry Austin has written:  "One day while taking a walk with John Tracy Ellis, I asked him,  'Father John, you're a great historian. How do your think these years following the Second Vatican Council will go down in the history books?'  After a minute or two of walking in silence, he turned to me and said,  "Jerry I am convinced they will be known as an era of baptismal consciousness.' ..  It is indeed significant that Pope John Paul II wrote the following in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Laity,
Christifideles Laici:  "All the baptized are invited to hear once again the words of St. Augustine:  'Let us rejoice and give thanks: We have not only become Christian, but Christ himself...Stand in awe and rejoice: We have become Christ" (CL, 17) This is the famous totus Christus theology of Augustine, that the whole Christ is constituted by Christ the head and Christ the members, forming the one complete Body of Christ. This explains why the baptismal theology of the early Church saw the alter Christus to be the baptized woman or man. Only later on, with medieval theology, would the alter Christus be used exclusively for the ordained priest, almost forcing into oblivion the importance of the priesthood of all the baptized. Forgotten were the words of Augustine:  'As we call everyone Christians, in virtue of mystical anointing, so we call everyone priests because all are members of only one priesthood'  (CL 14)" ...  "What does it mean to be baptized? To aid us in this important task, my Dominican colleague, Paul J. Philibert, has just written a very helpful book (The Priesthood of the Faithful: Key to a Living Church) which ends by stating:  'A living church is a church awake to the dynamic significance of its baptismal vocation, one eager for the investment of its member' lives in the transforming grace of Christ in the world, and one that offers itself as a sacrament -- a living sign -- of the real meaning of human life. A living church is a priestly people  'who consecrate the world itself to God' (LG, 34). '"(Pastores Gregis: Shepherds of the Flock #10) quoted from Jerry Austin, Three Priesthoods: Assembly Volume 32, Number 4, July 2006

In addition to the specific elements of sacramental theology that have been enriched by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council there have been several key shifts "under the iceberg" with regard to the categories of thought in which this theology is expressed. 

1.  Sacraments as communal/personal experiences.  The theology of the Council of Trent was expressed in categories that related primarily to the individual person receiving the sacrament.  Currently, while we realize that the celebration of a sacrament is always a deeply personal experience it is at the same time a communal experience.  For all sacraments are sacraments of the Church; indeed the church itself is the first sacrament, the sacrament of Jesus in his humanity, the original sacrament. 

2.  The theology of the Council of Trent was expressed in categories adapted from the Greek philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics.  This led to a vocabulary that was object centered and tended to "reify" sacraments, grace, and even God.  Today we no longer think in ontological terms.  Today's Catholics live in a world of relationships, and the psychological dimensions of relationships often influence meaning more than ontological categories.  Today if one wishes to present the theology of the Council of Trent, it is often necessary first of all to help the one receiving this instruction to learn the language of scholastic philosophy before the theology expressed in this language can be properly understood.  For example, the word "substance" for the scholastic theologian refers to "the essential meaning of an object" whereas today the word substance refers to the physical makeup of an object.  In scholastic terms contemporary "substance" is an "accident".

Scholastic sacramental theology looked at things as they are.  Contemporary sacramental theology is more concerned with process and becoming and has a deeper appreciation that the Holy Spirit works in history and the journey itself is even more important than "where we are now".  I have used two metaphors to help us understand this shift in theology:  A) "Sacraments are more verbs than nouns."  B)  The metaphor of the "seven shoeboxes" in the metaphor of the "stone dropped into a pond with ripples extending out in ever widening concentric circles".

The RCIA is designed to accompany the convert on the initial stages of the conversion journey.  It has been described as conversion therapy.

It is in this context that sacraments are seen as "moments" in a larger process. For example, during the wedding ceremony when the bride and groom expressed their love for one another, we presume that this is not the first nor the last time they have heard "I love you".  Similarly, baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist occur at appropriate moments in a process.  The same could be said for Holy Orders.  The sacrament of reconciliation functions best when forgiveness and reconciliation have already been accomplished (or at least, are in process) through spiritual direction, counseling, and change of life.  This is one reason (among many) why "confession" is not an appropriate time for spiritual direction.

Recently I have been studying The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology, by Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler (Georgetown University Press,2008. ISBN 978-1-58901-208-0) to understand why some bishops have said that it does not express the teaching of the magisterium.  The authors express the critique some contemporary moral theologians make about scholastic moral theology.  I found this paragraph very helpful in understanding my own theological journey in understanding the sacraments.

"Revisionist critiques of traditional sexual anthropology's have parallels with the critique of the implicit moral method and anthropology used in the manuals of moral theology.  The defining aspect of these manuals, which were used to train seminarians for their roles as confessors and were the authoritative source of moral theology before the Second Vatican Council, was probably their focus on individual acts and sins.  In determining the nature of a sin and the corresponding penance, the manuals were preoccupied with the individual act and largely neglected the overall character, formation, and intention of the human person who performed the act.  The manuals have been criticized, therefore, because they did not acknowledge the complexity of the human person who can not be defined by a single act.  The classicist worldview was the prominent worldview in the manuals, and it perceives penitents as doers of isolated deeds that defined them at any given moment.  Historical consciousness rejects this static view of the human person who is infinitely more complex than one single act can reveal.  Acts are important, but they do not fully encapsulate the identity or character of a person.  Though most theologians see this act-centered morality he as an inherent weakness in the manual tradition, traditionalists continue to prioritize this approach to morality in their defense of absolute sexual norms."  (pp 93-94)

This quotation expresses my experience of moral theology during my preparation for ordination -- the manuals presented the various sins (acts), number and kind.  But I had not realized that (under the iceberg) my sacramental theology had been presented in the same way.  Just as sins were individual acts, so were sacraments -- except instead of "committing it" you "received it".  Fifty years of listening to people describe to me their marriage difficulties, their spiritual journeys, etc. has caused me to think of people in their uniqueness (Duns Scouts would say, in their "haecietas") and to see them in their historical and relational context and to consider their individual "moral acts" in this larger context.   This helps me to see how sacraments also must be explained in this larger historical/relational context.   Fifty people may come to Holy Communion at Sunday Eucharist; they each put out their hand and receive the bread and drink from the cup; they each "receive the same sacrament, Eucharist"; yet they do not all experience the same Sacrament -- their experience is influenced by their history (faith journey), their life context (anxieties, grief, joys, etc.) their relationships (especially their faith relationship with God) -- in a word, their iceberg. 

Forming Christ the Omega:

 All things are to come together in Christ. Christ the Omega is the way that Scripture refers to God's dreams for the universe. In God's plan, we play an essential role in forming Christ the Omega -- God's dream for the world, that is, Christ the Omega.

Marriage is a visible sign. The two people fall in love, express that love, and a child is born. Their attention shifts from "what do I get out of this" to their concern for the health and growth of the family. The concern is directed outward.  Personally, I have found that this same shift in focus can and should take place in our faith journey. It is a movement away from "what do I get out of this" to my concern for the health and growth of God's kingdom. (My salvation is no longer my concern.)

Connected with this shift in focus is the understanding of the sacraments as things which give me something. This is the katabatic focus. When the focus shifts from my salvation to building God's kingdom, the sacraments shift from this katabatic focus to celebrations of Christ the Omega, the anabatic, upward, focus.  The Baltimore catechism presents the sacraments with the seven shoebox metaphor. The CCC presents sacraments of initiation, healing, vocation. Vatican II presents the stone in the pond metaphor.

The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden is a vision of Christ the Omega. We see the threefold harmony that we are working to achieve: harmony within the human race, they were naked and not ashamed; harmony with the earth, it brought forth its fruit in due season, the earthling called the animals and named them; harmony with the creator, the earthling walked in the garden and talked with God. The sacraments all celebrate and lead to the fulfillment of this divine dream.

In the words of St. Paul: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers--all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross." (Colossians 1:15-20 NRSV) 

Sacraments in General

The current (period 10) teaching of the Magisterium is summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law which are available online at   and   See notes on the Catechism at:  Catechism of the Catholic Church    Also, see my notes on the Code of Canon Law

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) speaks of the liturgy in two sections of "Part Two: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery", namely "Section One:  The Sacramental Economy", # 1066 to 1209, 143 articles, and "Section Two: The Seven Sacraments of the Church"  # 1210 to 1691, 481 articles.  Many theologians have observed that these two sections reflect two very different approaches to liturgy and sacraments, and apparently the two authors (or two committees) did not read each other's work or share their theological viewpoint. 

In general, Catholics have accepted the Vatican II revised rituals. -- "Millennial" and younger Catholics have no recollection of the liturgy of Trent. Some millennials, however, together with many bishops and the pope wish to return to the scholastic view of the sacraments and reform the reforms of the Council.

In scholastic theology "character" has a very specific meaning; it refers to the indelible mark placed on the soul indicating that the sacrament is permanent and can never be received a second time.  All seven sacraments give grace; only three sacraments give character.  If there is any confusion about this point, please see  "character" in the glossary section of my website.


The RCIA has gradually been accepted and implemented in most parishes in the USA . Infant baptism is celebrated for what it gives rather than for what it takes away. Infant baptism is seen as a gift to the whole parish and not merely a sacrament for the infant.


For adults and children of catechetical age, Baptism and Confirmation are one sacrament.

While the Catechism continues to speak of Confirmation as a separate sacrament, many theologians today, (based on the Rite for Christian Initiation of Adults as normative) consider Confirmation as part of the initiation process and do not assign any independent meanings to the sacrament.  Confirmation means what Baptism means.

For Catholics baptized as infants, two practices develop: The bishop gives the pastor authority to Confirm children at the Mass where they receive the Eucharist for the first time (restoring the order: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. Or #2: Confirmation is administered at a later age (usually around 14-16) and as become the "sacrament of passage to Christian adulthood" often preceded by several years of catechesis and service projects, culminating in the celebration of Confirmation by the Bishop (which is often "graduation from the Church").


The great majority of Catholics have accepted and are very pleased with these changes; but many are unaware of the fundamental shift in theology and ecclesiology that has taken place. .

Some millennials, however, together with many bishops and the pope wish to return to the scholastic view of the sacraments and "reform" the reforms of the Council. For example the recent changes in the words used for the Eucharist are an attempt to return to a much more distant, and transcendent God.


The revised rite never caught on. Some attribute this to "revision fatigue". Some parishes offer a "Service of the Word" followed by individual (scholastic) confession once or twice a year. Most Catholics simply never receive this sacrament a second time.

The current Rite for Reconciliation focuses on God's action not our work.  The emphasis has moved from the confession of sins to the celebration of a God who is all merciful.  As the little girl in the story said, "I know what's most important, it's what Jesus does."

In the popular mind and the mind of the hierarchy, even today, Confession is primarily an ascetical devotion by which the pious Catholic through continual reflection and examination of conscience, works to eliminate venial sins one by one and thus come to a state of holiness.

Anointing of the Sick

The new rite meets with much success and becomes more available and is celebrated more frequently. Many parishes regularly schedule celebrations of this sacrament during Sunday Eucharist. Sometimes the sacrament results in cure; but it always results in healing.

Viaticum has been restored as the sacrament of for the dying in those cases where this is appropriate.

The Sacrament of Anointing has been restored as a sacrament of healing, healing of the entire person, mind, body, and spirit (mental healing, physical health, forgiving sins).

Holy Orders

The number of priests decline rapidly.

The number of deacons grows -- Deacons often fill in for the lack of priests.

Lay ministry flourishes.

Many things could be said about the changes in this sacrament; perhaps the key change is the movement from describing the priest as "one set apart from" the faithful with special powers, to one who ministers "in the midst of" the faithful.  Actually, the key shift in the understanding of Holy Orders comes from our enriched understanding of the sacrament of baptism which conforms us to Christ. 

Also important is the restoration of the episcopacy as a distinct order and not simply a "priest with extra jurisdiction" and the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order.  Today we have three Holy Orders: episcopacy, presbyterate, diaconate.


The definition of sacrament as a covenant of mutual love opens the door to a wider range of relationships. If one is incapable of a mature, loving relationship, the marriage covenant is not possible, and, if attempted, would not bring with it, all the ordinary effects of the sacrament (for example, Indissolvability).

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Consuming Religion

During the Spring of 2006 I taught the course, Liturgical Spirituality in a  Consumer Society.  During the course we read together Vincent J. Miller  Consuming Religion:  Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture.  The quotations from this book which appear below are printed in consideration of the "Fair Use Act."  I presume that those reading the following paragraphs have each purchased a copy of this book and have thus paid royalties to the copy write owners.


1.  This book is about the disconnect between religious belief and religious practice.  In a consumer society we form habits of interpretation and use that render the content of beliefs and values less important (1).
2.  The goal:  to become aware of how we are effected by consumer culture so that our religious engagements might be more effective (1). 
3.  Examples:  In a pole conducted by the author of his undergraduate students the majority were anonymous "in admiring and respecting John Paul II.  A majority of tem simultaneously considered the Vatican's policies on sexuality and the treatment of women to be fundamental obstacles to either joining or remaining in the Catholic Church.  Not a single one associated John Paul with any of these issues" (7).
4.  Example:  When one goes to the grocery store to buy a steak it is in its own plastic wrapped package.  we do not think of what happened to the rest of the cow; where it was raised and fed; whether it came from North Dakota or whether part of the rain forest of Brazil was destroyed to make grazing land.
5.  Example:  Formerly a child might have a treasured stuffed animal or teddy bear, which would be loved and protected for many years.  Today a child often has hundreds of stuffed animals and consequently this bond of affection is not formed with any of them.  They become simply disposable items.  Miller tells the story of a young Chinese worker who works herself to death in a factory producing stuffed animals.  Which will become "throwaway" items in the United States.  Miller uses this as an example of the disconnect between objects and values.

Chapter 3.  Consumer Religion

1.  "Media infrastructures replace religious institutions" (102). Television and religion:  Pope John Paul II carefully orchestrated his appearance on television.  His face and voice were recognized world wide (just like any other media star).  Catholics could easily recognize the bishop of Rome where as many Catholics do not even know who their own local bishop is.  Thus the media reinforces centralization in the church and greatly diminishes the effectiveness and the authority of the local church and national bishop's conferences.  This explains in part the loyalty of contemporary aspirants to the priesthood. to Pope John Paul II and to his writings.  I have found that the writings of John Paul II are the preferred and favored text of the seminarians in any course I might teach (101).

Note that an "unintended" (at least one would presume that it is unintended) result of this media attention is that it diminishes subordinate institutions.  While the popularity of the Pope may seem an unmixed blessing, note that following remarks by David Hollenbach commenting on an unrelated issue:

"In recent years, for example, we have seen the creativity of bishops' conferences significantly reduced by decisions of the Holy See.  This has been motivated partly by the Vatican's desire to protect the unity of the church by strengthening central control.  It is increasingly clear, however, that complex global organizations are more effective when they grant greater scope for creativity to regional and local decision makers.  Effective transnational management calls for decentralization that respect local conditions.  The church, however, has been moving in the opposite direction" (David Hollenbach, "Joy and Hope, Grief and Anguish" America December 5, 2005 Vol. 193: No. 18, pg. 13)

"Second, the church needs to develop structures to enable clergy and laity to enter into more serious dialogue about how the Catholic community should respond to the challenges of public life today.  Laypeople have deep experience of engagement in all facets of our public life, an the Catholic community must learn from this experience.  Regrettably, centralization of church governance in recent years has significantly impeded such dialogue."  (David Hollenbach, "Joy and Hope, Grief and Anguish" America December 5, 2005 Vol. 193: No. 18, pg. 14)

2.  Mother Angelica's clash with Cardinal Roger Mahoney:  "Mother Angelica's impact also far outweighs that of trained theologians" (107).  The EWTN website gets more hits in an hour than the original press run of a book that was examined by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith who then excommunicated its author.  The point being that because of the media, Mother Angelica has much more influence than a contemporary theologian and the media has given her "quasi-Episcopal status" (103). 

Chapter 4.  Desire and the Kingdom of God

1.  Desire is a key element in both Christianity and a Consumer Society (107).
2.  Religious desire and the desire for consumption are not contradictory but are like "Trains on Parallel Tracks."
3.  Religious desire:  "You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee."  (Augustine:  opening lines of the
Confessions (110).  Religious desire arises from a "call beyond the self."  (111).  Religious desire calls us to "transcend ourselves, to constantly move forward to the gift of salvation".  (112).  It is related to Benedictine "Stability" (110).
4.  Consumer Desire:  Consumer Desire is manipulated by marketing and advertising and "Desire" comes disassociated from its related value and is directed towards sales.  However it is not directed simply towards acquiring things "consumerism is as much about losing interest in goods as it is about acquiring them."  (114).  "People spend money on personal-appearance products and services, clothing, and luxury items such as watches and cars, not simply out of a desire for those particular products, or even because they enjoy re-imagining and recreating themselves, but to maintain their status in a competitive society" (116).

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 Cultural and Theological Context

James D. Davidson (in an article "Alienation in the Catholic Church Today" p 22 in Robert J. Kennedy's Reconciling Embrace [Liturgy Training Publications, 1998]) states that Catholics who experienced their formative years during the 1950's and 1960's witnessed the following changes:

ItemPre-Vatican IIPost-Vatican II
Liturgical LanguageLatinEnglish
Liturgical MusicGregorian chantFolk
Liturgical InstrumentsOrganGuitar
MoralityEmphasis on Sexual PurityEmphasis on Peace and justice
EthicsNatural Law Ethics Consequentialism (An emphasis on the context and consequences of behavior)
FaithFaith is obligationFaith is personal choice
The WorldOther-worldlinessThis-worldliness
Catholic IdentityParticularism (the superiority of Catholicism)Ecumenism (an emphasis on how much Catholicism has in common with Protestant denominations)

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Moving the Furniture

At a gathering of parish leaders on January 19, 2002 from St. Mary's Parish, Evansville (one of the parishes mentioned in Excellent Catholic Parishes by Paul Wilkes) we discussed the metaphor of "moving the furniture."  The theological concepts we hold are something like furniture in a room.  Sometimes when we introduce a new piece of furniture, the old ones need to be rearranged.  Applying this to the arrangement of our "theological furniture" before and after the Second Vatican Council we found several key items have been "moved."  These changes are summarized in the the following table:

ItemPre-Vatican IIPost-Vatican II
JesusDivineDivine and Human
GodTranscendentTranscendent and Immanent
GraceThing / QuantitativePersonal Relationship, Process
Gives Grace
Act of Worship
Reveals who God is
Builds Church
BaptismTakes away original sinMakes one "Another Christ"
Makes Church
Makes Disciples/Ministers
Pope, Bishops, etc.
Body of Christ
People of God
BibleProtestant BookOur story
Faith witness
Good Friday
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday
Meal : Sacrifice :: Sacrament : Union with God
SinBreaking the law
Not loving God & neighbor
Failure to grow
ConfessionTelling sins to the priestReconciliation
Public act
Worship and Praise
Celebration of God's Mercy
Aid in human forgiveness and reconciliation
PriestOne set apart fromOne in the midst of
Boot camp
Incarnational Theology - The place of our salvation - God's dream for a harmonious, reconciled garden

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Sacraments Yesterday and Today

How is our thinking about sacrament and sacraments different than it was 50 years ago (pre Vatican II)?  What are the principal changes in sacramental theology during the past 50 years?  Once again I refer to the "tip of the pistol" metaphor.  What are those often unseen changes that have big implications.  Often the really important changes are not the most noticeable, not the things that the people in the pew would name as the "big changes."   I list what I have come to consider the 10 most important.  The following list is not in any particular "order of importance." 

1.  Anabatic / Katabatic   Before the Constitution on the Liturgy the anabatic dimension of the sacraments was not emphasized; the sacraments were primarily to "give grace" (the Katabatic movement) rather than considered primarily as acts of worship by the community.  The primary thing is not what we get, but what we give:  worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God.

2. Private to corporate and personal.  When the emphasis is on "what I get" from the sacraments, it's easy to think of sacraments as something administered to an individual. When we think of sacraments primarily as acts of corporate worship, liturgical worship is the act of the entire Body of Christ. This is why sacraments are always (ideally) celebrated by the worshiping community (at Sunday Eucharist).

Eucharist, at least the celebration of the Eucharist (1) when not separated from merely "receiving Holy Communion" is usually seen as a public act. The (2) Sacrament of Holy Orders and the(3) Sacrament of Confirmation are, with increasing frequency, celebrated in the midst of the Sunday worshiping community. The initiation of adults takes place at the Easter (Vigil) with the worshiping community. More and more, infant (4) Baptism and the (5) Anointing of the Sick are celebrated at Sunday Mass.  (6) Marriage is celebrated during the Eucharist, but is often not with the worshiping community but with the circle of friends who often are there not to worship God but only as friends, honoring the couple.   (7) Reconciliation seems to be the last sacrament to find its a public context.

3. Anamnesis   Anamnesis is another fundamental tip of the pistol change. Eucharist no longer "repeats"  or "re-presents" or "reminds" us of the passion death and resurrection of the Lord, but through anamnesis -- Liturgical Remembering we become mystically present to these events. This mystery of presence is one of the fundamental changes that is not been preached or taught sufficiently during the past 50 years.

4. Mysterion    The metaphor of the seven Shoeboxes. Another "invisible" but very important change has come in seeing sacraments not so much as seven distinct actions, but as the manifestation of God's loving plan for creation, beginning with Christ himself, the body of Christ, the Church, gathered to celebrate Eucharist, the other sacraments, the liturgical year and liturgy of the hours, indeed all of creation is sacrament of -- revelation of -- God's Trinitarian love. Key to this understanding is the Primacy of Christ.

5. Grace   I believe another major change comes in the understanding of grace: the movement from grace as a thing which can be quantified and classified, to the understanding of grace as God's love, God's Holy Spirit. This change is multiple implications which are important for our spiritual life and for our theological understanding.

6. The role of the community   Another fundamental tip of the pistol change is our understanding of who administers, or better, who celebrates the sacraments. Formerly the priest administered, performed, the sacramental act. Today, we understand that the worshiping community is the primary celebrant of the sacraments. The community is led, coached, by the presiding minister, who therefore always praise in the first person plural, "we", to which we give our consent, our Amen. I often think of this basic change as: Formerly I said Mass for the people, now I say Mass with the people. A tiny change, a preposition grammatically, but this tiny change represents an entirely new orientation on my part when I am leading the congregation. Until this change is more widely understood (which today it is not) people will still wonder why we are baptizing an infant during the Sunday Eucharist. "I don't even know that baby. What does the baptism have to do with me?" It has everything to do with you. The sacrament is not merely "for" the baby; it is for the entire community.

7. Mind/Body/Spirit   A new understanding of the human person. My former sacramental theology viewed the human person in more static, Aristotelian categories. The human being was composed of body and soul. The body came and went; the soul was immortal and consequently the soul was the important part. Ministry was about saving souls. And the soul was viewed in more static categories. You were either Catholic or you weren't. You were in the state of grace, or out of it. You were either married or you weren't. Today I view the person as an integral composite of mind body and spirit. Faith is a journey. Conversion is a process. These are very important tip of the pistol changes.

8. Minister of the Sacraments   Sacramental roles formerly sacraments were administered usually by the priest and received, by an individual. Now we see that the sacraments are celebrations of the community, the minister-celebrant is the parish, coached by the priest. In the recipient is also the parish.  I'm reminded of the description of sacrament by Soren Kierkegaard:  "Many Christians tend to view the minister/priest as the actor, God as the prompter, and the congregation as the audience. But actually, the congregation is the actor, the minister/priest merely the prompter, and God the audience." (Soren Kierkegaard. Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, New York: Harper & Row, 1956, pp 180-181. Quoted in Erickson, "Liturgical Participation" Worship 59 (1985) p 232.)

9. Sacred Scripture Another element which I believe is very important is the realization of the role played by sacred Scripture in our understanding of sacrament. Formerly Scripture and sacrament seemed unrelated. Sacrosanctum Concilium stress the importance that sacred Scripture plays in the liturgy. 

SC #24. Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony.

SC 51 (Cp 2 Eucharist). The treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that a richer share in God's word may be provided for the faithful.  [Flannery's translation:  "... so that a richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word."]  In this way a more representative portion of holy Scripture will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years. 

Our current Lectionary for Mass contains 14% of the Old Testament and 71% of the New Testament (85% of the Bible); whereas the Missal of 1963 (the Missal in use before our current Lectionary) contained only 01% of the Old Testament and 17% of the New Testament (18% of the Bible).   Often when people speak of the Ordinary Form of Mass and the Extraordinary Form of Mass they say "The difference is that the one is Mass in English and the other is Mass in Latin" without realizing that there are deeper, but less noticeable, changes also.

10. Viewpoint   A very far reaching change has occurred "under the iceberg" regarding what the very word "sacrament" implies. Formerly it referred to "something we receive" now it refers to "something we are" (to use a phrase I learned from Prof. Ken Himes).  I am reminded of the article by the President-Rector in The Raven last week. Speaking of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament he remarked that we are each a monstrance.  "We are monstrances too. We share the task, like the vessel, of bringing the face of Christ to bear upon a world so in need of his visage."  We are visible signs of invisible grace, signs of God, Doors to the Sacred.

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To Think About

Do you think the spirit of the Second Vatican Council is being implemented today? Why or why not?   [A participant in this class once wrote:   "Thank you, Holy Spirit, for the Second Vatican Council.  But where is the next step, Spirit? Your gentle breeze isn't moving on to gale force winds. This freshness is rapidly becoming stagnant air.  Soon the smog will cover us all and we won't remember why we got into this boat to begin with. Some will hide in the bottom of the boat and construct a plan to build a more seaworthy vessel. Some will look to the sky and begin to cry. Some will curse you for meddling in a situation where you don't belong. Some will become paralyzed and do nothing. But the remainder will leap overboard, put their foot into the water and start walking toward the shore.  Please be ready with breakfast."  [R. Cavanaugh, summer 1993]

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 11/11/10 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at