for you what effect the Second Vatican Council has had on me to date. This is such a huge and comprehensive subject, it cannot be isolated from the past or from what is going to develop in the future. So it is well beyond the scope of my writing ability. However I will try.
To me, the Council has brought great joy. I thank God, with every fibre of my being. that I have lived to hear and to see the events of the last two years. As a "cradle Catholic", I havt been showered with the richest graces and blessings from my birth. My parents—my mother British born of Irish parents, my father an Englishman—were both devout Catholics, happily married, and so gave to me the love. affection, and security which is the foundation of the future years.
I lere I would mention that my father. from early childhood, had a deep devotion to the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament, and always, when we were on holiday, took me with him to daily Mass. This is one of my most cherished memories of him. We lived in a large parish, at that time in the care of the Jesuits, and their teaching, both direct, and by their personal holiness, was a priceless treasure. The Catholic lay teachers were most devoted, sound and efficient, and so laid a firm foundation for future work.
Perhaps God, in His infinite mercy, gives these kind of graces and blessings to His weakest and frailest souls. This I know to be so in my own case. Where would I have been, or, what would I have become, had 1 had to face life, as so many countless ones do, without any design or purpose, perhaps unwanted from the start, and having to struggle along, maybe the greater part of life, trying to find out what it was all about?
All this was made obvious to me. with great clarity, during my nursing days. It taught me that sin begets sin, that the sinner has always been sinned against, very often deprived of love in the early years. From the cradle to the grave, we all need to love and to be loved, and when this is denied, grave results are inevitable. Within the refuge of the Church. I have been cradled, mothered and protected throughout my life.
During my adult years, however, I have become increasingly aware that within the Church we take little or no part. on a communal basis, in the life of the world around us. Individually, yes. in her we have the source of grace and love, which we take out to the world in our daily work, inasmuch as we respond to these graces. But as a visible living organisation, part of the country in which we live, we are sadly lacking.
Where I have lived for the last nineteen years, the Church, in this aspect, has been moribund, and this at a time in history when the whole world is increasingly sick for lack of that which it is our duty—and should be our privilege to give. We live side by side with people who are searching for God, for a meaning to life. A heart that hungers for God is a basic piete of human equipment. And yet, we who have been given so much, seem unable to make contact. It is as though the devil himself had hypnotised us. And, then, along came Pope John, and so to the Second Vatican Council, and the effect it has had on me to date.
Pope John announced the primary aims of the Council as the reform and renewal within the Church, after which she would be able to display herself to the rest of the world in such a way as to be understood by twentieth century man. Out of this would come the hope that the ecumenical movement would develop the reconciliation with our separated biethren commenced. This, together with Pope John's public recognition that the Church herself had some share and responsibility for the causes and results of the Reformation, is to me the greatest event of the century. I am aware that when he spoke thus, he was not speaking ex cathedra, but following this, we have had Pope Paul, twice in 1964, publicly ask forgiveness of our separated brethren for the wrongs and hurts done to them in the past. I repeat, this, to me, is the greatest event of this century.
Pope Paul has also made it quite clear, both by word and deed, that he wants us to be aware, and to show that we are aware, of the goodness of the many peoples of the nonChristian religions, and also the goodness of the countless peoples who profess no religion at all, God, in His infinite generosity. uses many ways and means to give His graces, and to us. who have been so richly blessed, there should be no difficulty at all in recognising Christ in every single member of the human race. Indeed this ought to be our very hallmark.
It is now up to us to follow the lead given to us by Pope John and Pope Paul, and acknowledge that we have sinned against truth and against charity, and so do all we can in the way of reconciliation and reparation, and the sooner the better. It is up to us, to open our minds and hearts, with genuine sincerity and humility, to our separated brethren, to take every opportunity to meet and get to know them, to learn of their beliefs, and go ahead and do what we're able to do together. If and when we know fear and apprehension. we should remember that Pope John told us that this is the sign of lack of faith in Christ.
How have we offended our separated brethren? The laws on mixed marriages, the manner in which these have been carried out—no flowers, music. in and out of Church in a matter,of minutes. This, for a Sacrament received once in a lifetime, and in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and the greater part of the few minutes' service in a language no one understood anyhow! In this we lacked courtesy let alone charity, sanity let alone sanctity.
The laws forbidding us to take part in the services or prayers of our separated brethren, whilst having a sound reason and necessity in days gone by. appear to them. in this day and age, as arrogance, bigotry and superiority on our part. They have been deeply hurt by this. and it has been the cause of many a bitter quarrel. We must make amends.
You and I may truly claim that we did not make these laws, that it is for us to obey, that we won't he held responsible for those who have labelled England's tragedy as "England 'giving up' the Faith". Neither will we be held to account for those who have interpreted the Church's claim to be the one true Church of Christ as "we're all right and everybody else is wrong". Nevertheless, it is tip to us to try to repair the damage these things have done. Out of the Council has come the change into English of parts of the Mass. The first result of this to me is that it cuts the "individual devotion" right out it is now a communal prayer. The most moving part to me, is the recital in English of the "Our Father". This, the greatest of all prayers, has suffered in the past from rhythmic and repetitive use. and in its present form should be of great benefit. I hope that in due course the whole of the Mass will be in English. From what one reads, the priest facing the people also emphasises the communal prayer, and this I can imagine to be so. I feel that in its present form, the Mass ends too abruptly. A prayer of thanksgiving, or the Gloria may be better. The new direction that a sermon he preached on Sundays and Holydays is all to the good.
At the end of the last session, Pope Paul announced the new title of Our Lady as Mother of the Church. Here we have simplicity and clarity of language; even a child understands the meaning of the word Mother. In relation to the depth of love, so is the capacity to experience joy and sorrow. To her, whose heart was once pierced with sorrow, what joy there must be at seeing her separated children at last beginning to speak to each other. What mother wouldn't weep tears of happiness at seeing the first signs of reconciliation amongst her quarrelling and sinful children, especially in that tiny island which was specially dedicated to her, and was known for so long as the Dowry of Mary?
The ecumenical movement has made me aware, for the first time in my life, of the deep love I have for England. Even in these early days, I feel a sense of unity and belonging, not just to the England of today, but to the past as well. Surely we are moving towards the threshold of the English Martyrs' harvest time. Many people have said that Newman was a hundred years ahead of his time. His "Lead. kindly Light" may well have been written for us. The man-made barriers that divide us are too complex to be removed by men. "Keep Thou my feet, I do not wish to see the distant scene; one step enough for me."
Recently, we have had the announcement about taking part in services with our separated brethren. To me, the composition of this announcement seemed to have a chilling, almost reluctant, air about it; I wonder why'? For some years now, we have had Unity weeks of Prayer; this I know through reading the Catholic press, never a word about it in the parish. For the last five or six years, the local Methodists and Anglicans have come together for joint prayer and discussion, we have been conspicuous by our silence and absence.
In the remaining Session of the Council. marriage, birth control, and seminary education are some of the things to he discussed. We are more than due for some rethinking and re-presentation on the Sacrament of Matrimony. and of the difficulties and problems that can arise in married life. In some places and at some times, the treatment of these subjects has lacked compassion and understanding of the problems involved.
We have also neglected to prepare our young people for adult life. Far too many Catholic parents, probably through lack of ability, have just hoped for the, best, or. perhaps "Father in confession" might help. The results of this are to be seen only too often in the wards and clinics of our hospitals. Young people are no less vulnerable because of the sophisticated veneer of our present day life. In our parish, there has been no visible attempt to help in this problem, and no sign of awareness that, such a problem existed.
If we continue to fail to fill this gap, I've no doubt that there will he an ever increasing number of advocates, of the so called "New Morality" who will be only too eager to do it for us. Just because we haven't got thousands of pounds to spend on school buildings, doesn't mean we have to sit hack and do nothing; the proceeds from a couple of jumble sales would buy quite a small library of books for our young people to read and study. They could then meet to discuss these, with the priest, or, some adult present to answer their queries, If recent correspondence, in the CATHOLIC HERALD, on seminary education, gives anything like a fair picture, then it is high time some radical changes were made here. To a lay person, the administration of the secular clergy appears to be of a low standard. The root cause of had administration is really lack of charity; may I say here that I speak with special training and experience behind me?
This must be put right. for it could be the reason why so many of our secular priests are such unhappy. frustrated and defeated men. What energy and talents are being wasted by men having to wait until well on in middle life before ever carrying the responsibility of caring for a parish! Surely a wore flexible method, as practised in the religious orders, would be more satisfactory. If it is necessary for so many priests to go on raising and controlling such huge amounts of money, then some training in accountancy and finance seems desirable.
During the last two years, I have become aware of being much less rigid in my ideas about many things. and this in middle age too! Until recently, i thought the place of women in the Church was as it should be—working behind the scenes, teaching, nursing, etc., in the religious orders. The Methodists having women lay preachers filled me with horror, but now I'm not so sure.
It may be that with the colossal amount of work, in the days to come, that there will be place and need for women deacons. Would sex, of itself, be any harrier to this? In His redemption of man, God worked in and with close co-operation with a woman. He didn't have to, but He did. Mary, being without sin, was no less a woman for this, on tile contrary, she was more of a woman for it, she was and is the very essence and totality of womanhood.
The most recent effect of the Council on me is that you asked me to write this letter, and the effect of this letter on you Father may be that you will think twice before you ask for a few words on paper– from any woman!
Yours obediently, Mary Graham,