Thursday, September 10, 2015

Vatican II: A Mercy Revolution

Holy Spirit window at St. Peter's Basilica,
via Wikimedia Commons.
Vatican II is an epic event in the life of the Church and the world. The following is my present position on its history, teaching, catechism, and theology, fifty years later: December 8, 1965 to December 8, 2015.

Vatican II is historically the center of a new mercy movement of Jesus in His Church for His world over an 87-year period. Two popes prepared this movement during the thirty years from 1928 to 1958: Pius XI with the creation of Vatican State, February 11, 1929, freeing popes to concentrate on shepherding, and Pius XII with the doctrinal declaration of the Assumption of Mary, November 21, 1950, emphasizing our everlasting destiny personified by her. Two other popes, John XXIII and Paul VI, celebrated the council from October 11, 1962, to December 8, 1965, and guided its inception and reception from 1958 to 1978, twenty years, proclaiming emphatically Jesus the good Samaritan, merciful to us His brothers and sisters in our need today. Four other popes implemented/interpreted the Council from 1978 to 2015, the remaining thirty-seven years of the fifty years after completion, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. They have promoted the new evangelization for this second 500 years in America and these third 1,000 years in the world at large since the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus for our redemption, especially through the Passion and the Resurrection, Benedict focusing on the Catechism and the Council, and Francis on marriage and family.

Image from The Saint John's Bible
This historical perspective of preparation, celebration, and implementation/interpretation of Vatican II over the span of eighty-seven years (thirty/twenty/thirty-seven) guides us to appreciate better the teaching of the Council and the Catechism. The Council issued sixteen documents teaching Jesus gathers us, renews us, sends us. Jesus gathers us, His Church (Lumen gentium) through His Word (Dei verbum), Body and Blood (Sacrosanctum concilium), for us His world (Gaudium et spes), the import of the four constitutions. He renews us lay (Apostolicam actuositatem) and religious (Perfectae caritatis) and seminarians (Optatam totius) and presbyters (Presbyterorum ordinis) and bishops (Christus dominus) and twenty-three Eastern churches (Orientalium ecclesiarum), six declarations flowing from the constitution on the Church. He sends us to our brothers and sisters (Ad gentes) differently Catholic and Christian (Unitatis Redintegratio) and religious (Nostra Aetate), and human and secular, to invite them freely (Dignitatis humanae) to share the Catholic way of Jesus for the people today, especially through education (Gravissimum educationis) and media (Inter mirifica), three other decrees and three declarations likewise flowing from the constitution on the Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church presents the conciliar teaching of the Catholic way of Jesus for the people today. Part I is the beliefs; part II, rites; part III, commandments and precepts; and part IV, prayers. The whole charts our attitude and action of virtues, counsels. Part I is professing our trust and faith, part II is celebrating our trust and hope, and parts III and IV are respectively living and praying our love and justice.

Theology in the wake of the Council moves more from practice through doctrine to new practice, "see-judge-act." Gaudium et spes has been a particularly powerful influence. "See"—we start with people today in their need of heart and conscience, their every misery; they are differently cultured (Bernard Lonergan), differently enslaved (Gustavo Gutierrez). "Judge"—we interpret Jesus in His Catholic Church, humbly, mercifully freeing and uniting us to be his humble, merciful family of friends of Mary and Joseph. "Act"—we chart our pastoral decisions accordingly.

This is my humble view of the history, teaching, catechism, and theology of Vatican II as a way of Jesus setting His world on fire today (Luke 12).

Father Don

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