Do this in memory of me
A look at how Vatican II reforms changed worship on campus
Reflection by Jessie Bazan, communication senior and magazine intern
It just kept coming. Like a cool midsummer rain, change descended upon campus. It seeped into the crevices of Gesu, trickled down the vines of Marquette Hall, rippled across Wisconsin Avenue. The change inspired by the Second Vatican Council found its way into the very thing that made us, us — our university identity. Marquette would never be the same.
The reforms began taking shape on Oct. 11, 1962 with the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Nearly 5,000 miles from Milwaukee, cardinals, bishops and other faith leaders started discussing and debating matters of the Catholic Church — topics such as liturgy, revelation and the role of the church in the world.
For four years, religious leaders listened and wrote, argued and rewrote, prayed and kept writing. The resulting constitutions, documents and decrees were momentous. Many of the most shocking reforms came from the Sancrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Mass … not in Latin? Eucharist ... ministered by laypeople? Great-grandma would never believe it. But the council sought to engage the faithful on a deeper level. These reforms invited Catholics to take new ownership of their faith’s most sacred celebration — the liturgy.
And, so, Marquette also undertook this mission 50 years ago. There are enough stories of the impact of Vatican II on campus worship, academics and Campus Ministry to fill library shelves.
Students grabbed onto opportunities to engage with their church in new ways. Some of their excitement was inspired by three passages from the Sancrosanctum Concilium.
“But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended.”
— Sancrosanctum Concilium 36.2
Liturgies around the world took on new life by the late 1960s. On campus, students and parishioners at the Church of the Gesu experienced these reforms firsthand. One of the most notable reforms was the change from celebrating Mass in Latin to celebrating it in English.
“This is the cup of my blood …” proclaimed the presider during the revised Eucharistic Prayer, “of the new and eternal covenant. …” The familiar English words flowed from his lips. “... it will be shed for you and for all men so that sins may be forgiven,” he prayed. “Do this in memory of me.”
As he grasped the chalice, the presider gazed upon the congregation of students and community members ready to be nourished at the Eucharistic table.
At the moment of consecration, the presider lifted the chalice high for all to see. The scene was familiar, but the feeling was different for many who had spent their lives hearing “hic est enim calix sanguinis mei.”
Here was the liturgy, ritualized worship, now celebrated in English. It was jarring, yet unifying. The presider and congregation shared a newfound intimacy.
“There was a mystical, sacramental overflow that the Latin had,” remembers Rev. William Kelly, S.J., of post-Vatican II campus Masses. “But the liturgy wasn’t as gripping as when it was in your own language.”
The familiar words had a way of touching the soul.
“Zeal for the promotion and restoration of the liturgy is rightly held to be a sign of the providential dispositions of God in our time, as a movement of the Holy Spirit in His Church.”
— Sancrosanctum Concilium 43
1960s Marquette was grooving with political protests, shaggy haircuts and excitement about Vatican II. Bits and pieces of information from the council were dispersed via the technologies of the time — but on campus, the most exciting was human voices. Students gathered for lectures by theologians, such as Catholic biblical scholar David Stanley. They gathered for spiritual conversations and, most important, for communal prayer.
Retired philosophy professor Dr. Thomas Anderson, Grad ’61, ’67, remembers lower Gesu Church rang out daily in spirited song as students flocked to Mass.
“It was a heady time, an exciting time,” he recalls.
The campus community gathered for the Mass of the Holy Spirit in October 1962 to pray for the success of the council. The community marked the council’s close with a liturgy in 1965.
Years later, the flame of excitement continued to burn. Chapels sprouted up in the residence halls. Tuesday night Mass with Rev. John Naus, S.J., began in the 1980s and became a campus staple.
Dr. Kathy Coffey-Guenther, Arts ’85, Grad ’88, ’98, remembers arranging a makeshift altar in the McCormick Hall dining room for Mass in the early 1980s.
“It would be loaded with people,” she says of the dining room. “The 10 p.m. Masses were just part of life.”
Students were excited about the “new” liturgy, and Mass attendance showed it.
“Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations, which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy.”
— Sancrosanctum Concilium 14
They spoke. They sang. They prayed. Soon, they could minister, too. Vatican II redefined the role of the laity in church ministry. Lay people could now serve as lectors and Eucharistic ministers. Lay people could now proclaim the Word of God and touch the body of Christ.
At a time when many were hesitant to embrace the council’s reforms, Marquette was on the cutting edge of lay involvement and student leadership.
“Marquette, through Campus Ministry, became like the laboratory for students to exercise leadership in faith responsibilities,” says Rev. Bryan Massingale, Arts ’79, who was one of those young faith leaders.
Students began breaking open the week’s Gospel readings and planning campus Masses. Father Massingale, now the associate director of undergraduate studies and professor in the Department of Theology, remembers the profundity of these new liturgical ministry opportunities.
“We look at it now and say, ‘Doesn’t that always happen?’ Well, it didn’t always happen,” he says. “At that time, there were students who came to Marquette and began exercising liturgical ministries and leadership that they couldn’t exercise in their own parishes.”
For current students, 50 years can seem like eons ago. Graduates born after the Green Bay Packers won the first Super Bowl have no living memory of Vatican II. That’s what makes an anniversary celebration so valuable.
There is no better excuse than a golden jubilee to crack open old yearbooks and trade stories with alumni of different eras. We have much to share with one another. Our present-day community may draw inspiration from remembering past campus liturgies that packed chapels and churches. Our alumni may find solace in knowing the spirit of Vatican II is still alive on campus today, seen at the popular Thursday night student Mass in St. Joan of Arc Chapel, witnessed when young religious begin the journey to full initiation into church life, and demonstrated by students exploring how to minister to classmates.
Whether through a theology class, service opportunity, Sunday Mass or simply by being a student at a Catholic university, the reforms of Vatican II shape each of our Marquette experiences. For that, we will never be the same.
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