Vatican II and Years Later
|Hillenbrand and Vatican II
Hillenbrand welcomed the reforms of the council, seeing the reforms of the liturgy as a formal recognition of the ideas he had been promoting for decades. Hillenbrand helped his own parish and others in the Archdiocese to understand the texts coming out of Rome. For years he served on the Liturgical Commission of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Though his mission to reform the liturgy had begun thirty years earlier, even in the very last years of his life he gave lectures at Sacred Heart parish entitled “The Main Themes of Vatican II” and :The New Rite of the Anointing of the Sick.” Because Hillenbrand had spent almost twenty years catechizing the parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish, he implemented all of the Council’s changes as they were permitted.
Because of his long experience in studying and teaching the liturgy, Hillenbrand saw the liturgical reform of the Council less of a break with the past than a continuous process that had begun decades earlier. He opened one lecture on the council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy by beginning with the reforms of Pius X, XI and XII. Though he emphasized that the word "participation” was mentioned 19 times in the new document, he made sure to insist the Council did not give unlimited freedoms as was claimed by some of the more zealous “reformers.” Always a loyal and devoted churchman, Hillenbrand opposed priests using their own unofficial translations, deplored the lack of vestments, use of non-scriptural readings and priests’ elimination of parts of the Mass they thought irrelevant Dismissal of papal authority and the possibility of scandal to the laity worried always him greatly.
Hillenbrand’s long view of the liturgy and staying near the heart of the Church in this liturgical meant that some thought him overly cautious, yet his approach has proved prophetic as the liturgical exaggerations of the immediate post-Conciliar years have moderated under the inﬂuence of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
|Hillenbrand's Life of Mission
Divine Life through the participation of the Mystical Body in the Liturgy
Hillenbrand died in May of 1979, and like many of the pioneer reformers of his generation, was viewed by some as ‘limited” in his ability to adapt to new theological and ecclesiological ideas because of his strict adherence to the teaching of papal encyclicals and official liturgical norms. The very encouragement of the laity that he had recommended all of his life began to bear some bitter fruit as the social upheavals of the 1960s and 70s grew into outright disobedience and disrespect toward the Church and the Sacred Liturgy. He faced the organized resistance of the teachers at Sacred Heart School when he insisted that children attend daily Mass, and was asked by some of his closest associates to step down from his leadership positions in the national organizations he had founded and promoted. At the end of his life he had doubts about some of his life’s choices, thinking that he may have wasted years of his life working with small groups instead of larger ones. Yet Hillenbrand continued on, giving talks and addresses and promoting the participation of the faithful in the life-giving sacraments of the Church.
–Monsignor John J. Egan, 1974