The 50th Anniversary of Vatican II 2012

I was seven years old when the Second Vatican Council opened and so the impact of it on my life was profound.

I remember my adolescence and young adult years in the church as one of great hope and optimism, a time when despite all its problems, I felt my faith was being cradled and nurtured in a vibrant church, open and engaged in dialogue in the world, a church that was spearheading trails in areas of liturgy, ethics, social justice, inter-religious co-operation, communications. psychology etc and was open to the possibility of future change in many areas.

It was a time when the laity and the priesthood were beginning to work collaboratively and parishes were alive and those churches that had been stagnating, steadily began to flourish. 

People discussed authors like Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Matthew Fox, Teilhard de Chardin, Anthony de Mello, Carlo Caretto  and many others- some of us were challenged in our faith by these works and enthused, others more cautious or dismissive, but there was healthy and open dialogue and people were generally freely able to discuss and exchange ideas with each other within the church.There was no fear of being stifled in such an atmosphere. The seeds of compassion, sensitivity and discernment of Christ's will were able to be sown in this fertile ground.

It didn't seem to matter what questions were raised;  from issues on sexual ethics, marriage and divorce, the role of women in the church and homosexuality, the role of science and technology, the emerging ecology and environmental movements, liberation theology, politics and poverty and the developing world, the Catholic churches were the places where "the action" was seen to be.

People of all ages had an appetite to learn and to listen to those from a whole range of contentious positions. Everyone felt able to speak at meetings. Everyone was welcome. There was a sense of unity and acceptance in diversity that was contagious.

 I remember vigorous debates with plenty of differences of opinion but no-one was excluded or shot down in flames. Some friends who were not religious often remarked at youth meetings how surprised they were at the life and energy in the Catholic church. 
Many came along to Mass because they were enthused by the imaginative use of inclusive liturgy and other meetings because they felt able to talk without being judged.

Those years have been precious to me and they helped form a bedrock of faith that even in later years of doubt have helped to sustain me through many peaks and troughs of life.

So you can see I am a firm advocate of the pivotal importance of Vatican II in my own life and for the church.

This is a beautiful post by Kevin J. Ahern at his blog, Daily Theology, who wrote on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. 

He  writes with clarity and I share his hope and prayers. Extract below:

"How do we, as Catholics, respond to the complex issues and divisions facing our church and our world today? 

Do we respond to these challenges with despair? Resignation? Prideful sectarianism?  

Or do we look to the Gospel and respond to these challenges with faith and hope?

The Second Vatican Council, which we celebrate this year, shows us what is possible for us as church even in a difficult situation. In addition to the content of its teachings, the council as an event witnesses to us what is possible with God.

For many in the church, the situation today seems dark. I often encounter what John XXIII called “prophets of doom”—Catholics who sullenly lament the evils of secularism, violations of religious freedom and decreasing vocations to the priesthood.  

For many of them, the council is seen as naïvely optimistic and therefore no longer relevant for us in the present.

But we must be clear; the organization of the council was no easy task. To put together what John O’Malley calls the “biggest meeting is history” was fraught with logistical, ideological, financial, theological and pastoral questions. 

The church of the 1960s was not a rosy church without divisions. The debate of the council fathers, were debates with different perspectives and experiences.  And the world of the 1960s was not some idealistic utopia. On the contrary, the council met a time when the human race came closest to nuclear self-annihilation.

As we prepare to celebrate the Council, let us look at how it addressed the problems within the church and in society, let us ask God, in all humility and openness to grace, to guide us in faith, hope and love. 

This mix of humility and hope is the charism of Pope John XXIII as we can read in the speech he gave on the night of the council’s opening (the moonlight speech). I include it below (and a link to the video) as a fitting prayer for the church today."

Link to speech in English ( and video, unfortunately only in Italian ) can be read here.

It's interesting to note that the centenary of Albino Luciani, John Paul I's birthday, comes five days after the Year of Faith begins on 11 October 2012.

This article," Missing The Maestro of Mirth", sees the first Pope John Paul aka "The Smiling Pope," as the perfect herald for this time of grace. 

It concludes, "As the Year of Faith begins Pope Benedict XVI, who has spoken of Albino Luicini as being saintly, would want us all to make this extraordinary catechist’s words our own during the Year of Faith.

Let us try to meet the hopes of the Popes who held and applied the Council, Pope John and Pope Paul. Let us try to improve the Church, by becoming better ourselves. Each of us and the whole Church could recite the prayer I am accustomed to recite:

‘Lord, take me as I am, with my defects, with my shortcomings, but make me become as you want me to be.’ (General Audience, 13 September, 1978).

I have been looking at my own posts on Vatican II from my archive and include these ones.

English: PORTRAIT OF JOHN XXIII Español: IMAGEN DE JUAN XXIII (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A tribute to Pope John XXIII

 My post earlier in February this year on the Opening Day of Vatican II

Click here for one called A Call For Reformation. from 2010.

South African Bishop Dowlings views on what he has called the dismantling of Vatican II 

God's House which also has a pithy article  from Fr. Ron Rolheiser on what his definition of Catholic means and how it is being eroded

 A post that describes why I am not a pre - Vatican II fan.

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