Dear Faithful of our Lord,
If you are forty years old or younger, you may not know what a momentous anniversary the Church celebrates this coming Thursday. Fifty years ago, on October 11, 1962, Pope John XXIII, opened the twenty-first Ecumenical Council in the Church’s history at St. Peter’s in the Vatican.
With the words “Gaudet Mater Ecclesia” (Mother Church rejoices), the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II, began. Gathered were over 2,500 bishops from around the world to discuss the Church’s role in the Modern World. Also invited and attending were members of the Orthodox Church, of other Christian communities, and of other world religions – clergy, religious, and laity – men and women.
It was historic for a couple of reasons: 1) unlike all other Councils, it was not convened to refute heresy or correct errant practices; 2) it was the most culturally diverse and the largest Council in history; 3) non-Catholics and non-Christians were invited to attend; and, 4) it was a surprise to many that this elderly pope would undertake such an overwhelming task.
If memory serves me, Pope John attended only one day of the Council – that opening day. Due to age and poor health he died eight months later.
Between the charismatic John XXIII and the great John Paul II is the unsung backbone of the Second Vatican Council – Pope Paul VI. He remained strong in the midst of some of the most difficult and divisive sessions. After four intermittent sessions ending on December 8, 1965, Paul VI promulgated (published) 16 extensive documents of the Council Fathers. These texts clarified our mission as followers of Jesus Christ in relationship with other Christians and non-Christians, called for a renewal of clerical and religious life, for a revision of the Sacrament rituals, including the Mass, for greater study of God’s revelation in the Scriptures, for religious liberty, and greater solidarity with the poor.
And Pope Paul led us on the journey to proclaim the Gospel message anew in the world. In simplicity, he sold his papal crown and gave the proceeds to the poor. As a pilgrim, he became the first pope to visit Jerusalem since St. Peter had left it; then to the USA, the United Nations, and five other continents. As a peacemaker in the world, he begged for “No more war! Never again war!” He sought to mediate peace to end the Vietnam War, sought to reconcile a rift with the Orthodox Church that began in 1054, opened dialogue with Communist nations; wrote on our devotion to the Blessed Mother and gave her the title, “Mother of the Church”; wrote on marriage and artificial forms of birth control, and sought truth through dialogue with people of all nations.
Blessed Pope John Paul II, whom many 40 year olds would recognize because of his journeys, continued the dialogues with the modern world that his namesakes began. What a journey these past 50 years have been. In his opening address Pope John expressed this hope:
“Illuminated by the light of this Council, the Church — we confidently trust — will become greater in spiritual riches and gaining the strength of new energies therefrom, she will look to the future without fear. In fact, by bringing herself up to date where required, and by the wise organization of mutual co-operation, the Church will make men, families, and peoples really turn their minds to heavenly things.” Gaudet Mater Ecclesia
In this ‘Year of Faith’, proclaimed by Pope Benedict for this anniversary, we will reflect on that historic Council in which a human institution underwent a massive reform and yet lives on. In my opinion, the Church remains a sign that the Holy Spirit still guides us as Jesus promised the Advocate would do. What do you think? Do we live up to the hope Pope John expressed?
For the ‘Year of Faith’ that begins Thursday, a daily reflection booklet is available in the church or office. Regularly seven dollars; we have copies for $3.00 – while they last. Ask an Usher for one.
Our biennial Diocesan Convocation will be this week. Please note that Deacon Dennis Smith will lead a Communion Service later this week while the priests of the diocese join our bishop in a semi-retreat. There is no Confessions or Mass at St. Mary on Wednesday, but the Bible Study of Revelation will meet at 6:30pm.
Again – next weekend the Sunday Mass at St. Mary will change to 8:30am on a regular basis. The Spanish Mass at St. Bernard will change to 1:00pm.
On Sunday, October 21, we will honor and thank Jim Kintz for 25 Years of Service to St. Bernard. There will be a special collection at all the Masses, and a gathering in the Social Hall after the 9:30am Mass. Please add to the festivity by bringing some cookies and/or finger food for that morning celebration.
Only four private schools were named a “National Blue Ribbon School” in Ohio this year. All four are in our Diocese and two in Summit Co. – Holy Family, Stow and Our Lady of the Elms, Akron. Congratulations! Let’s hear it for Catholic Education!
May your Faith be enriched this special year as we journey together illuminated by Vatican II. Fr. Dan