Among your Golden Oldies, you will not have forgotten Harry Belafonte’s beautiful ballad. But if you are my age, or even twenty years younger, try to remember what it was like for Catholics like us, growing up in a Catholicism that is nothing short of unbelievable to our children and grandchildren.
Remember the Holy Name Society ? The Legion of Mary, the C.Y.O. (Catholic Youth Organization), the Hibernian Society, the Nine First Fridays, Parish Missions, retreats, the fifteen decades of the Rosary, fish on Friday, the Scapular, confessions on Saturday afternoon, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, processions, St Pat’s Day celebrations in our school uniforms, the Latin Mass, High Mass, Low Mass, daily Mass, incense, three Hail Mary’s after Mass for the conversion of Russia (a debatable success … ), Stations of the Cross, etc. etc. ?
All of this, and more, was part and parcel of our Catholic religion and practice just fifty years ago. The Sixties changed everything. Was it the Vatican Council (1962 – 1965), meant to open the Church’s windows and, in the words of the Pontiff, Pope John XXIII, who convoked it, to “let a little fresh air in” that did it ? Or was it just, as Vatican 2 documents, notably “Gaudium et Spes” (“Joy and Hope”) put it, “a sign of the times” ? It was the era of the Beatles and a revolution in thinking around the world.
We should be grateful. I personally am. Many of us discovered at that time the questions which put into doubt the “certitudes” with which we had grown up. We now know that our only honest option is “search“.