This blog and subsequent blogs for the next few weeks, that I will write, will center on the Documents of Vatican II.
An event in the Catholic Church with attendance and participation by mainline protestant denominations back in the 1960s.
John XXIII, a pope, chosen because many believed, at the time he would be a “place holder” because he was old, and this would give the Cardinals time to figure out who they wanted as pope for the longer term.
11 October 1962, John XXIII called the Council, the world was in wonderment, and said ‘what is this guy up too?’ Historically councils were called to deal with heresy issues, and this council was going to be a pastoral council versus a purely doctrinal one. That doesn’t mean it they didn’t address doctrine, the teachings were aimed more at helping people live out the teachings of the Patristic fathers and the early church, which meant trying to bring practices closer in line with what Jesus intended. Therefore, It’s primary purpose was to help apply the truths of the teaching of Jesus to modern-day life.
John XXIII, wanted the Church to do a ‘self-examine‘ of itself and ask the question of “what do we need to do as a people of God to make our faith deeper, live more true to the word of God and more lively in our daily lives as Christians.” John XXIII thought the council would be beneficial not only to Catholics but all Christians and non-Christians in our world.
In conversations with people, I am discovering a ‘fading memory‘ of the Council. Many treat it like some historical event that occurred in ages past.
For me, the council started while I was in High School, The effects lasted into my college and graduate days. The Council was a light shining at the end of a dark tunnel signaling a return to our ‘roots.’
John XXIII’s vision of the council was to bring about three things:
1. Awareness – The Church needs to know itself, and the focus was on the laity.
2. Renewal – This is the action step that is required after you acknowledge your awareness. To know is to act.
3. Dialogue – On-going conversation with the world at large.
Over the last fifty years, with the fading memory of the meaning of the Council, I found at times a ‘movement’ of resistance. A desire to return to the ‘glory days‘ of the post-Trent era. I encountered people both lay and clergy diminishing the importance of the Council as if it was a ‘mistake‘ that needed to be corrected.
Pope Francis said:
“As children of the Church, we must continue on the path of Vatican Council II, stripping ourselves of useless and harmful things, of false worldly securities which weigh down the Church and damage her true face.”
So with that in mind and the ‘call to action‘ by Pope Francis, I am going to attempt to instill the principles of Vatican II in our minds and hearts and hope we experience a renewal of the church in the twenty-first century. And since this century will end in 2099, we have a lot of time to get it right. My goal is re-birth of the teachings of Vatican II and the emphasis on the world that was at the heart of those who participated in the meetings. We, as a church, both lay and clergy must do a better job at educating and collaborating with the people, and I believe once we do that we will turn that corner and meet the living God in the Modern World.
I would highly suggest you get yourself a copy of the documents. All the major publishers have copies of the documents, both in hard, soft cover and in E formats. You can go here and see the documents in various languages: Here is the Vatican’s website with all 16 documents.
There are four themes to the documents of Vatican II, and they are called ‘Constitutions.’
2. The Church,
4. The Church in the Modern World.
I am going to approach the four areas through the lens of being ‘Christian‘ versus ‘Catholic.’ Taking the call of both creeds (Nicene & Apostles) with the understand when we say “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church” we are using the lower case ‘c’ for ‘catholic.’
We will look at our failures and success from my perspective as a lay theologian, and one who has spent the last forty years working in the world of technology, FinTech, and management, trying each day to live the gospel and the spirit of Vatican II. Over those forty years, my fellow co-workers and I have spent many an evening discussing the documents and most of my co-workers were not Catholic and a few not Christian.
We all have heard the phrase used in military context, management, and sports, ‘you are either with me or against me.‘ Many at the time the council was called believed this is what was in the heart of John XXIII. I believe when you read the documents and the commentaries that involved the thinking of John XXIII you do not see this ‘you are either with me or against me‘ attitude but a desire for innovation, education, and collaboration. The act of collaboration was and still is the most challenging action people experience in living out the message, teachings, and guidelines of Vatican II.
In John XXIII opening remarks he said:
“The greatest concern of the ecumenical council is this: “that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.”
What we see in the documents of the council is an emphasis not on doctrinal issues but pastoral concerns. It was all about understanding what the apostolic and patristic church were living and believing and applying the core principles to our lives in our world, A world that is drastically different than the ones in the early church. In all the documents you ‘feel‘ the sense of charity and understanding for the ‘pastoral concerns‘ of everyday life.
In the closing session of the day the simplicity and faith of John XXIII are seen in his prayer that set the tone going forward:
“Almighty God! In Thee we place all our confidence, not trusting in our strength. Look down benignly upon these pastors of Thy Church. May the light of Thy supernal grace aid us in taking decisions and in making laws. Graciously hear the prayers which we pour forth to Thee in the unanimity of faith, voice, and mind.”
We must understand today that the Sixteen official council documents each were voted on. For, in the end, the documents ‘trumps‘ all earlier arguments and discussion that took place, and ‘trump‘ second-guessing in our time today. The documents were voted on, and therefore each of the documents becomes part of the Magisterium of the living Church. A model for Christianity in the modern world in our quest to meet the living God.
Writing this blog and dedicating the next few weeks to understand better and hopefully revitalize our desire to fully implement the teachings and guidelines of the documents in our world today. Less we forget, the instructions of the Second Vatican Council are the official teachings of the Church for my Catholic friends and foes. That is why the more than fifty years that have passed since the close of the council we are evaluated in our lives and actions by the Church in the light of the council documents.
Next week we will look at the Constitution on Liturgy. Take a perspective that all Christians of all denominations celebrate ‘liturgy‘ in their way and what it means for us as Christians.
Hopefully, this begins your transformational journey in thought-provoking ideas in making the documents of Vatican II come alive once again in our world. for my Catholic friends and foes, I invite you in the words of Thomas Merton, “Join in the General Dance.”