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Catholic Voice
November 4, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 19   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Fifteen men to become
permanent deacons

Relics of many saints
to visit two parishes
Remembering Vatican II
at the end of the Year of Faith

During a retreat at San Damiano, Bishop John Cummins reads from his credentials to sessions of the Second Vatican Council in 1963.

In Rome for Vatican II in the fall of 1963, the Most Rev. Floyd L. Begin, bishop of Oakland would celebrate Mass at his residence, with his young chancellor serving.

Then the bishop would serve the chancellor's Mass.

"There was no concelebration," said the Most Rev. John S. Cummins, bishop emeritus of Oakland, who as a 35-year-old had been that chancellor.

Concelebration was among the fruits of Vatican II, which Bishop Cummins discussed during a daylong reflection and retreat, "Vatican II: 50 Years Later" at the San Damiano Retreat House in Danville on Oct. 25.

In establishing the Year of Faith, which began Oct. 11, 2012, and ends Nov. 24, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI called on Catholics to appreciate the gift of faith, deepen their relationship with God and strengthen their commitment to sharing faith with others. The reading of Vatican II documents, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, were recommended.

Father Ray Bucher, OFM, said the day of retreat was a Year of Faith offering at San Damiano. "One of the ways we're celebrating it is remembering Vatican II. We're various ages here, but many of us remember how exciting the times were," he said.

"It was a very happy and hope-filled time," he said. Bishop Cummins had been invited to offer his reflections, he said, "because he was there."

"You are Vatican II people and very well formed," Bishop Cummins told the gathering. "It's an anniversary year," he said. Quoting Pope John XXIII, he said, "An anniversary is not just opportunity, it's obligation."

Putting Vatican II in the context of previous gatherings, he said, "Vatican II didn't come in crisis." It came as the development of the contemporary world, he said.

"We don't change the substance of the faith — that's our heritage," Bishop Cummins said. "We change the style. We change how it's presented."

That process took time.

"A lot of our bishops thought (the Council) was going to go one year," he said. "It lasted four."

"The blessing of Bishop Floyd Begin was that he took the council seriously," Bishop Cummins said. In this diocese, there was no ambiguity about implementing the changes.

Bishop Cummins recalled the first Mass in English, at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral. "We were as well prepared for that as we could be," he said. The Mass itself, he said, "was really touching."

Bishop Begin attended each session of the Council, and while he moved toward making the changes, he also knew where to stop, Bishop Cummins said.

"He also did not want people doing more than the Council was allowing," he recalled.

One example, he said, was allowing Communion in the hand.

"He just did not like it," said Bishop Cummins.

While some of the changes were readily embraced — Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, for example — in the parishes, some were slower to take hold, Bishop Cummins said.

"By the time I came in 1977, only half our parishes had parish councils," he said.

Bishop Cummins recalled his conversation with Father Oliver Lynch, then-pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish in Oakland, about the difference between acceptance of RCIA and parish councils. Lynch said he wasn't surprised, Bishop Cummins said, remarking "because the RCIA doesn't tell the pastor how to run the parish."

Bishop Cummins asked members of the audience to share what they treasure about the Vatican Council. Among the comments: turning the altar and offering Mass in the language of the people changed the laity from observers to participants; the permanent diaconate enriched parish life; and greater acceptance of divorced people.

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