I sometimes wonder what went through Pope John XXIII’s mind before he announced the Second Vatican Council on January 25, 1959. What an amazing and bold step to take for a 77-year-old pope who was elected on the 12th ballot – no doubt seen as a safe bet who wouldn’t stir things up.
Despite (or because of) his age, he felt that the Church needed spiritual renewal and to be brought up to date to address some pressing concerns it was facing in the 20th century. He hoped for a new Pentecost – another outpouring of the Holy Spirit to blow through the Church. But first, he had to open the windows.
The result was beyond imagining: although Pope John died in June 1963, Vatican II lasted from 1962 to 1965. This ground-breaking ecumenical council produced documents on a wide range of key issues: divine revelation, the Church, the liturgy, the Church in the modern world, Christian education, the relation to non-Christian religions, religious freedom, mission activity, priesthood, the laity, priestly training, religious life, the pastoral office of bishops, ecumenism, Eastern Catholic Churches, and social communications.
We continue to unpack, study, wrestle with and draw inspiration from the legacy of Vatican II. (These books by Margaret Lavin and Richard Gaillardetz and Catherine Clifford can help.) At times, the winds of change seem overwhelming. Often, the way forward seems stalled. But like John XXIII did, we trust in the Holy Spirit as we walk this path together in faith and hope.
Saint John XXIII – faithful servant, reformer of the Church, seeker of unity – pray for us!
–Anne Louise Mahoney, Managing Editor