Last Monday we celebrated the feast of St. Pius V. And to be sure you get your names and numbers right St. Pius V was pope from 1566-1572, immediately after the Council of Trent which was between 1545 and 1563. It made me think of the close, but different, name and number of Pope Paul VI who was pope from 1963-1978 and would lead and incorporate the changes from the Second Vatican Council. Each would incorporate the liturgical changes from the ecumenical councils of their day. And reflecting on that, I think is worthwhile to see the differences between the two times and the changes that would come about, appreciating the changes required if we are to continue to grow and be as a church and also to help see the way these may help us more fully live out our faith in our day.
At the time of Pius V the Protestant Reformation had occurred and the Council of Trent solidified certain practices regarding the liturgy and the sacraments. With the printing of books advancing and allowing the production of books much easier so the books for these various sacraments could be spread throughout the world in a way that was not possible before. Also with the Protestant Reformation there would be a much greater variety of practices and teachings that people would encounter and along with the books describing the liturgies for the sacraments was also a catechism to help clearly spread the teachings and beliefs of our faith.
Along with the Protestant Reformation this was also the time when the New World was being explored and numerous missionaries would be going to various cultures throughout the world with minimal ability to keep in contact with others for long periods. Establishing clear and uniform practices for our faith was a critical way to help assure the faith passed on was our Catholic faith.
Going forward to 1963 and Pius VI with Vatican II we realize the world was now very different. Communication, transportation, education are only some of the most basic differences let alone our government and societal structures and beliefs. The most obvious change from Vatican II of celebrating the sacraments in our local language allowed such a deeper understanding and participation for the average person. With our current catechism we not only encourage a uniformity of our beliefs but also a deeper understanding so we can truly form our individual consciences regarding these beliefs and how we are to live them out in each of our unique situations.
These are very simple comparisons and observations about these two different times, but if we don’t take the time to consider them not only can we miss the opportunity of learning from our history, but also the opportunities that the future may hold. Continued changes and advances in our world will always provide new challenges, but hopefully we also see the opportunities they offer to understand, live and share our faith in ways that we couldn’t before.