Growing up, Claude Langlois remembers listening to Mass in Latin with the priest facing the altar instead of the congregation.
All that changed in 1965 after more than 2,000 bishops from the world met in the Second Vatican Council to make significant changes and reforms in the Catholic Church. The Council met from 1962 to 1965, over the course of four sessions, producing 16 documents.
“I went along with the church,” Langlois said of the changes. “I thought it was a good move because it allowed people to know what was going on in the Mass,” said Langlois, a member of St. Monica Parish in Methuen.
Tomorrow, Catholics around the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II.
To mark the anniversary, Pope Benedict XVI will proclaim a “Year of Faith” in an apostolic letter “Porta Fidel” to strengthen the faith of Catholics and draw the world to faith by their example. This is also the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or a summary of principles, which was released in 1992.
The changes brought about by Vatican II include celebrating Mass in native languages instead of Latin, emphasizing the Eucharist as the source of the faith, establishing a relationship with Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindus, and giving the laity a bigger role in the church.
“It opened up what was going on in the church, what their faith was about and what was taking place in the Mass,” Langlois said.
The Rev. Kevin Deeley, pastor of St. Michael Parish in North Andover, remembers serving Mass in Latin during high school.
“It’s a significant renewal of the church specifically in bringing lay participation into the life of the church into the liturgy and into the Mass,” Deeley said. “It really revived the central role of the scripture and appreciation for it because people were not just attending Mass, they were participating in the Mass from singing, reading and helping distribute the Eucharist.”