Thursday, May 3, 2012

A 'holy old boy' and 'a hornet's nest' (A life under 6 Popes continued)

'This holy old boy doesn't realise what a hornet's nest he is stirring up.'

If Pope Paul indeed made this remark to a friend when his predecessor called the Second Vatican Council, he obviously thought he knew far more about the current factions in the Church than did 'good Pope John'.  By the time he found himself presiding over the continuing Council the nest of hornets was abuzz. But that is to run ahead..............


For four years my father's opposition prevented my being received into the Church.. Originally he had sworn to make me wait until the age of majority at 21. To this day I do not know why he gave in when I was 19. I was finally received  in July 1962. Three months later the Vatican Council began. I was half way through Teacher Training at an Anglican college. That was because in 1960 no Catholic College could accept me, and in any case my father would definitely not have allowed it. Ironically, for the rest of my student days I was protected as a Catholic by my former Anglicanism. At a Catholic Institution I would have been exposed to 'the changes' and their 'justification'. I did not have to cope with that challenge. At parish level there was little change to start with, either at home or at the church nearest to college in Winchester... I am grateful that these early years enabled me to settle in, without distraction, to the Faith I had embraced.

The first changes were not liturgical as I remember them.. In 1963 I attended the Easter Vigil at my home parish with the gift that Sister Agnes had given me for my Reception - The Saint Andrew Daily Missal.. The vigil was followed according to that Missal of 1962. It rained when we were outside around the brazier. The relevant pages are permanently crinkled with the effects of that Easter rain..

In the autumn of 1964 I took up my first teaching post in a Catholic primary school run by the Daughters of Charity. During the first term came the day when the world was to see the white 'cornette' for the last time. Staff were warned that the next day the Sisters would appear in their new garb. I can't remember whether the children were similarly warned. I do remember we were asked for our charity and discretion..

As it happened all went off without incident. Nobody, child, sister or lay staff member threw a wobbly and the matter was not discussed in the staff room.  It was done. The erstwhile and elegant distinctive habit  of St Vincent's daughters had passed into history. I knew why the new habit was thought sensible. I could not argue with any of the reasons for getting rid of the cornette. But all the same  I still mourn its loss, particularly when I see many DCs do not now wear a habit at all.

By 1966 Pope John was dead and buried; Pope Paul was in charge; the Council concluded . .
Then came the 1970s.........................

To be continued.

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