Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"What Happened at Vatican II" - A Review and Reflection

I recently finished an excellent book by Fr. John W. O’Malley, “What Happened at Vatican II.” It is a very readable account of the Second Vatican Council, which ran from1962 to 1965.

He begins by the outlining the condition of the Catholic Church in the decades leading up to Vatican II, the view of the Church, the hierarchy, the place of the laity within the Church at that time, the involvement of the Church in the world of the 19th and early 20th century.

He then describes the opening of the Council, and covers the main events of the four sessions; the documents, the debates, the behind the scenes, and the results. He writes a narrative that anyone can understand and appreciate.

Reading this book has given me a new appreciation of the accomplishments of Vatican II, what the Council Fathers were striving for, what the spirit of the Council was, and how endangered that spirit is.

For me, the main themes of the Council of importance are first of all that we are all called to holiness. That all the baptized have a share in the prophetic, priestly, and kingly ministries of Jesus Christ.

This means that the laity are no longer observers of the liturgy, but are called to be active participants in it. The laity, as did the clergy, received the command from Christ to proclaim the Good News, by word and life. The means that the laity has a voice concerning the life of the Church, letting their pastors know their needs, sharing their opinions on issues of importance for the Church.

I still sense distrust among some of the bishops about the laity; that the laity must be kept separated from the sanctuary; that the sacred acts must be hidden from their eyes; that they are unworthy to receive the Body of Christ in their hands. There are bishops who have forgotten that they are called to be servant leaders, not lords. That they must listen to the laity, as they share their experiences, and struggles of living the Gospel.

Many wonderful things came out of Vatican II. Their implementation has been a long, slow process, with mistakes being made, and sometimes a desire to turn back the clock. I can only hope and pray that the power of the Holy Spirit will overcome our human weakness, enflame our hearts once again, and keep the spirit of Vatican II alive.

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