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Vatican II Was an Act
of the Whole Church

    Vatican II and the Traditionalist Mass

    I am confused. What was Vatican II all about? Why all the changes? Were they made by the pope or just the American bishops? Is the Latin traditional Mass still acceptable? Did the pope give his blessing for traditional Catholics to attend the traditional Mass? What is the Society of St. Pius X?

    For starters, I can offer a few short articles that explain the meaning and impact of the Second Vatican Council. The Catholic Update, “Vatican II: The Vision Lives On,” and Youth Update, “Vatican II: What’s It To You?” are available from here at St. Anthony Messenger Press for $1.00 each. The reasons for the Council should be clear in those Updates. The Council consisted of bishops from all over the world acting together with the pope. Therefore, Vatican II’s decisions were decisions of the worldwide Church.

    When Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre would not accept the decisions of the Council, he finally led a group of like-minded followers into schism. He founded the Society of St. Pius X. Those who continued in the Society of St. Pius X separated themselves from Rome.

    Whatever rationalizations or convoluted reasoning they used, they are not in union with Rome and the Holy Father. Pope John Paul II has made that abundantly clear.

    Some followers of Lefebvre were unwilling to follow him into schism. They established the Priestly Society of St. Peter. They are conservative in matters of liturgy and religious practice. They are, however, in union with Rome and accept the authority of the pope.

    Part of the Lefebvre conflict has been over the use of the Roman Missal, approved and published by Pope Pius V after the 16th-century Council of Trent. That missal was, of course, in Latin. With some changes and modifications that missal continued in use until after Vatican II. The rite in that missal is often called the Tridentine Mass.

    After Vatican II came permission for the use of the vernacular (in our case English) in celebrating the liturgy. In 1970 the new Sacramentary and Novus Ordo (New Order of Mass), based on the decisions of Vatican II regarding the Mass, were put into use.

    To identify the Latin Mass with the Tridentine Mass, though, is not quite correct. Latin may be used in celebrating Mass according to the New Order, and a Latin text for the ordinary prayers and eucharistic prayers can be found in Appendix IV of our English Sacramentary.

    As I understand it, the Society of St. Pius X and those of the Lefebvrite school insist on the celebration of Mass according to the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Missal, in Latin. The literature of one of these groups suggests that the use of the New Order may result in invalid Masses.

    For the sake of some people attached to the Tridentine Mass, near the end of the 1980’s the Holy See allowed the bishops to permit the use of the Tridentine Rite under certain conditions. Among those conditions were that celebrants would follow the latest edition of the old Roman Missal published in 1962.

    Also, those who petition for this permission must have no ties with groups that call into doubt the lawfulness and doctrinal soundness of the form of Mass approved by Pope Paul VI in 1969.

    Regarding your question about Catholic beliefs, the basic doctrines of the Church cannot and do not change. But surely the Church and papacy have seen any number of changes over the centuries. Any good history of the Church will show that.

    After all, even the Tridentine Mass differs in language and rites from the way the Eucharist was celebrated in New Testament times before the fourth-century introduction of church buildings. The appearance of the first Code of Canon Law in 1917 and the revised Code in 1983 testify to changing laws as changes in society and cultures take place.

    How Should I Provide for Burial?

    Being the last survivors of our small family, my sister and I have decided to donate our bodies to science. That means cremation.

    When bodies are donated to science, it may be some time before they are cremated. What should follow the use of our bodies and cremation?

    I think you could say that the policies and procedures for Church burial or entombment of cremation remains have been evolving since 1962, when the Church began allowing cremation under certain conditions.

    The U.S. bishops recently received permission from Rome to permit a funeral Mass to be celebrated in the presence of cremated remains. It will be up to individual bishops whether or not to permit the practice in their dioceses.

    Until new ritual prayers are approved and distributed—possibly by the end of this year—the expectation in all dioceses is that the body of a deceased be brought to Church for a funeral Mass before cremation takes place. Or, if that is not possible, a memorial Mass be celebrated with no remains present.

    There is also a clear expectation that after cremation takes place the remains will be buried in consecrated ground or entombed in a Catholic cemetery. In the case of cremation some dioceses have their own rules and procedures that are to be followed. I would therefore suggest you contact the chancery office of your diocese about what is to be done in the case of donating your body to science and the cremation to follow.

    In the Guidelines for Christian Burial in the Catholic Church, prepared by the Liturgy Advisory Committee of the National Catholic Cemetery Conference, there is consideration of cremation and special cases. In the case of donating a body to science the guidelines say: “In keeping with Christian respect for the body when it is possible and practical there should be reasonable assurance that the remains will be disposed of in a proper, reverent and dignified manner upon completion of scientific research. Under these circumstances when the body is not embalmed, a vigil or a funeral Mass is usually impossible. The family should be urged to schedule the celebration of a Mass for the dead as soon after death as practical. The Mass texts should be those of the funeral Mass. The rite of committal is celebrated whenever interment takes place.”

    In the absence of any directives from your diocese, then, I would suggest: 1) An agreement with the scientific institution to which you wish to will your body that your remains will be treated with proper respect and after cremation will be delivered to an executor or undertaker of your choice for burial or entombment. 2) An arrangement beforehand with your estate executor or a funeral director that a funeral Mass or memorial Mass be celebrated soon after your death. 3) An agreement with your executor or a funeral director to take possession of your remains and see to their burial or entombment in consecrated ground or a structure for cremation remains in a Catholic cemetery. At that time a committal ceremony could take place.

    What Is an Agnus Dei?

    Recently an older member of our congregation presented my wife and me with an Agnus Dei locket as a token of appreciation for the wonderful music we provided at the Christmas liturgy. The locket is about the size of a dime, heart-shaped and opens to reveal a spatter of wax.

    Inscribed on the front are the words Agnus Dei, and on the back is a cross with rays radiating from its center. He indicated there was quite a story associated with the locket that included the pope and a candle which is lighted once every seven years. Do you know what the story is, and the significance behind this locket?

    You can find information concerning the Agnus Dei in A Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals, by Ann Ball (Our Sunday Visitor Press).

    According to Ms. Ball, Agnus Deis are small discs of wax taken from the Paschal Candle and blessed by the pope on the Wednesday of Holy Week in the first year of his pontificate and every seventh year following.

    On one side of the disc is stamped the figure of a lamb representing Christ the paschal lamb sacrificed for our redemption.

    The Agnus Dei is frequently encased in leather or silk and sometimes surrounded by lace and fancy embroidery.

    The ceremony of blessing takes place after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) of the Mass. In the ceremony the pope dips the wax discs in a mixture of water, balsam and chrism.

    When the pope blesses the Agnus Dei, he prays for protection from fire, flood, storms and plagues and for safety in childbirth.

    Ms. Ball further tells us that packets of Agnus Deis are placed in the miters of cardinals and bishops who come for them the Saturday of Easter Week.

    Mary and the Snake

    During an illness I was gifted with two statues of the Blessed Virgin (Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal?). They portray Mary stepping on a snake. Why is she stepping on a snake and what does it mean?

    Around 1830 St. Catherine Labouré received a vision of the Blessed Virgin and was told to have a medal struck. On the front of the medal was to be the figure of Mary standing atop a globe representing the earth. And she was to be shown crushing the head of a serpent with her feet.

    From Mary’s hands were to appear rays of light representing grace. Around the rim of the medal were to be the words, “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” On the reverse side of the medal would be a cross surmounting the letter M and the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary. The medal was made and because of the miracles associated with it has come to be known as the Miraculous Medal.

    I do not know of a statue that is called the Miraculous Medal statue. But in the catalogs of religious articles, you will find statues called Our Lady of Grace. They picture Mary standing on a globe with a serpent beneath her feet.

    These statues (and the Miraculous Medal) associate Mary with the woman in Chapter 3 of Genesis and the woman clothed with the sun in Chapter 12 of Revelation. Genesis 3:14-16 contains the words of God condemning the serpent for leading Eve and Adam into sin. There God pronounces he will “put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”

    Chapter 12 of Revelation speaks of the woman clothed with the sun whose son the dragon seeks to devour. In both instances the serpent or snake represents the devil and evil. Both passages are applied to Mary as the woman whose offspring will conquer Satan.

    More About a St. Monica Novena

    Thanks to all of you who flooded the Wise Man with novena prayers to St. Monica! I finally gave up trying to thank you all with personal letters.

    A St. Monica novena leaflet is published by Franciscan Mission Associates, 274-280 West Lincoln Avenue, P.O. Box 598, Mount Vernon, NY 10551-0589.

    See also Women of Faith, a 72-page booklet from Augustinian Press, P.O. Box 476, Villanova, PA 19085.

    The Wise Man welcomes your questions. If you have a question, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Wise Man, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.
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