Wednesday, 18 May 2011

What was it like after Vatican II Daddy?

Much as it pains me to say it, I was around in 1970 and have quite a vivid recall of events at the time. I was actually all for a folksy type Mass (I was very young) and having it in English was a novelty for me because, being an altar boy since the age of five, I knew the latin backwards, upside down and inside out. English was a novelty. And, also, we did not have an awful translation, we had the straight translation from the latin; "I will go in unto the altar of God, unto God who gives joy to my youth". Beautiful even in English!
But it was a time of flux and the faithful (as well as the clergy) were confused and somewhat dazed at the disparate way that the liturgy was being chopped up and reconstituted.

Not a Bass Guitar - a Mass Guitar!
Strangely, my siblings, were very anti the changes whilst I was all for them. Now, the situation is reversed and I am the only one to pursue the EF Mass, everyone else opts for the OF Mass. I owe this change to my wife whom, when we met was a Church going Anglican - and a very strong one at that. Each Sunday, she would set off for Canterbury whilst I made my way to Rome. I do believe that it was this that strengthened my faith, without that challenge of having to 'fight my corner' I am sure that I would have joined the ranks of attrition - and those ranks were very full at that time.
After two years of marriage, my wife announced that she was interested in being catechised in the Catholic faith. This was something of a shock to me but, recovering swiftly, we made our way to our parish presbytery (where the incumbent priest was the Diocesan Catechist no less). Explaining the situation at the door we were met with the response: " Why don't you go away and find some books to read on the Catholic faith". Not so good and very humiliating for me the alleged Catholic partner. Next, we phoned up a neighbouring parish under the control of the Discalced Carmelites. There we were met with the rolling Irish accent of Fr Patrick who welcomed us with open arms. This was more like it.
We attended the Lord knows how many sessions with Fr P who had a most infectious laugh and, after making some outrageous statement such as: "I don't think anyone commits mortal sin these days" would turn to me and say: "Was that heretical?" "Yes, Father", I would reply and we would all fall on the floor laughing hysterically. We were very young, all of us.

After my wife was received into the faith (and was subjected to no less than four sacraments that night) we attended the 'house Masses' that were all the rage then. Somehow, it was deemed desirable to forsake the church building and take the Mass into the village community; it does have a certain attraction, but, let me tell you, it soon wears off. Kneeling in Mrs Boddington's front parlour with the television set in the corner and Mrs B's cat purring around one's nether regions is not good for the soul.
Now house Masses are a thing of the past; a bit like Peter and Gordon - they were great pop singers at the time but, eight weeks after they started, no one could remember them.

After some years, the Novus Ordo became an established and well loved Mass. With small children at heel we found ourselves on the fringes of Ross-on-Wye, where, just a couple of miles away was the Mill Hill Fathers' base of Courtfield and a beautiful chapel with a Welsh name (Ty Mair) - Mary's House. For a few years, all was sweetness and light; the Novus Ordo was celebrated with extreme reverence by Fr Hughes and we even formed our own choir under the strict eye of John Bevan (Catholic Books).
And there, I shall leave it. This was meant to be a snapshot of Catholic life in England in the 1970s and it will remain precisely that.
 Not contentious, just a small fragment of Catholic history that may be worth recording or, alternatively, no worries, may be chucked in the round file!

Posted By Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow


  1. I think it a very good idea if those of us who lived through the pre-conciliar and post conciliar years, post at least some memories of what it was like.

    I would do so now, but am technologically prevented for the time being.

    Congratuations on an excellent post Richard.

    My story's different. I converted from middle-or-the-road Anglicanism to Catholicism at 16, and the minute I'd been received the Church took away from me, the very reasons for that conversion. It's been a difficult half century, almost all my adult life. I thank God daily that He has allowed me to live into the reign of Pope Benedict.

    God bless,
    Jane Mossendew

  2. There's a guy on our soup run whose wife was is Catholic. VII came. Then, when the Latin went out, she missed it. So, she started going in search of the TLM and found it at 'house churches'. Soon she lost her faith and divorced him.

    There we go.

  3. There was a Priest that I knew of at that time who refused to remove the Altar rails.He stood firm for as long as he could,but of course eventually the Bishop paid him a visit and insisted that he remove them and dispose of them accordingly.Well,he did remove them,but left about two feet on one side,and the rest he hid in a dusty old room at the back of the church.They are still there.


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