It was sixty-one years ago on this day, 11 October 1962, that Pope John XXIII opened the three years of deliberations that we know today as the Second Vatican Council.
Twenty years later when I was beginning to study theology a classmate suggested to one of our most respected lecturers that we were ready for a third Vatican Council. Gerry responded that we had hardly begun to appreciate the beauty, depth and power of Vatican II.
On this anniversary of the opening of the Council, and in the midst of these months of synodal discernment seeking to hear the Spirit of Jesus speaking through every person of faith, I wanted to share with Food For Faith readers the encouragement of Pope John in his opening address.
Speaking to those gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica on that day he reflected;
“In the daily exercise of our pastoral office, it sometimes happens that we hear certain opinions which disturb us—opinions expressed by people who, though fired with a commendable zeal for religion, are lacking in sufficient prudence and judgment in their evaluation of events. They can see nothing but calamity and disaster in the present state of the world. They say over and over that this modern age of ours, in comparison with past ages, is definitely deteriorating. One would think from their attitude that history, that great teacher of life, had taught them nothing. They seem to imagine that in the days of the earlier councils everything was as it should be so far as doctrine and morality and the Church’s rightful liberty were concerned.
“We feel that we must disagree with these prophets of doom, who are always forecasting worse disasters, as though the end of the world were at hand.
“Present indications are that the human family is on the threshold of a new era. We must recognise here the hand of God, who, as the years roll by, is ever directing human efforts, whether we realise it or not, towards the fulfilment of the inscrutable designs of His providence, wisely arranging everything, even adverse human fortune, for the Church’s good.
And on this day when we remember the opening of the Council that called all Christians to seek greater maturity of faith, let’s pray the prayer that was first prayed in the sixth century, was prayed at every session of the Second Vatican Council, and is our prayer for the current call to a renewed commitment to walk together in faith:
We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us
down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together
to eternal life and not stray
from the way of truth and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son,
forever and ever.