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Posts Tagged ‘Second Vatican Council’

spring treeThe image of a budding tree is one of spring’s most beautiful earmarks, as it shows nature filled with the promise of new life.

Christ’s Church — as well as ancient Israel, the great “womb” of the Church — is kind of like nature in that it goes through similar cycles of darkness and renewal.  The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was arguably one of the great episodes of renewal.

Pope John XXIIIAnd that brings me to the Council’s convener, Blesséd Pope John XXIII, due to be made a saint — along with Blesséd John Paul II — in a short while.

Pope John XXIII and Vatican II were most definitely progressive…though perhaps not in the sense in which some people understand the term.  Any time we are talking about such “progressive” issues as renewal and reform, we are talking about the someone or something in question becoming more what it is.  There is nothing more anti-progressive than for he/she/it to become something else entirely by giving up indispensable characteristics or trying to “conform” to something else.

So precisely what progress did John XXIII intend?  In brief, he saw the need to make the Church a more fit vehicle to bring the Gospel to the modern world.  Vatican II, therefore, was not so much about the Church getting with the times as it was about seeking new avenues and means by which the Church could sanctify the modern world.

During his tenure as a priest, Royal Italian Army sergeant, bishop, papal nuncio, and cardinal, Angelo Roncalli (Pope John’s birth name) had traveled all over Europe and into Asia Minor, gaining a fairly extensive experiential knowledge of the modern world and its troubles.  As pope, he became the first pontiff in 90 years to make pastoral visits within the Diocese of Rome, visiting troubled youth, prisoners, sick children, and others.

Combined with his expert knowledge of Church history and his deep pers0nal sanctity, he was able to discern that it was time for what he later called a “new Pentecost.”  Having spent a long time looking inward, the Church needed to open its doors to the world so as to bring to it the Good News, and with the same enthusiasm with which the Apostles came out of the upper room to the streets of Jerusalem (see Acts, chapter 2).

Undoubtedly, a major part of that was the amazing and disarming warmth, simplicity, and gaiety that Pope John himself exemplified…which brings us to our next topic: What, precisely, was the nature of his great mirth?

Pope John XXIII with Others

A photo of Angelo Roncalli (middle) as a seminarian in 1901

The answer is very simple.  It was nothing less than the joy of holiness…of the complete and superabundant freedom of having given up everything for the “one thing necessary” (Luke 10:42), the infinitely desirable Treasure that is Jesus Christ Himself.

The relationship he enjoyed with God was able to develop because of many years of discipline, asceticism, and prayer.  From the age of 14 (perhaps earlier), Roncalli had imposed on himself a very rigorous spirituality; this consisted, to name just one example, of self-mortification in the form of refusing to allow himself to listen to love songs!

Angelo_Giuseppe_Roncalli_Patriarch_of_Venezia_(1953-1958)It was precisely because of his holy detachment and total openness to the Holy Spirit that he was able, as pope, to discern the divine will for the modern age.  He was a man for Jesus Christ, and therefore a man for all of humanity and the whole world.  I would say that if he taught Catholics (or, rather, reminded us of) one thing, it was that a Church of and for Jesus Christ must be the same.

“Pope John XXIII, pray for us!”

All photos from Wikipedia, except for the first (yours truly)

P.S.  Here is a brief video (under 9 minutes) that does a much better job than I at portraying this great man:

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