Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue dedicated some words to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the convocation of the Second Vatican Council, in an article which appeared Friday on the Catholic Truth Society website.
Jan. 25, 1959, was the day Blessed Pope John XXIII opened the council, and the conclusions of this event are still relevant today, affirmed the prelate.
He related an anecdote about the experience of some English bishops who thought that the council would be over quickly, that the preparation documents for the event were "marvelous" and that "nothing could possibly be added to them."
The bishop added: "However, the reality of the Council was very different […].
"This willingness not to be constrained by the pre-prepared schema set the precedent for a far-reaching and creative debate among the Council Fathers, lasting three years and producing a body of documents that are a Magna Carta of the Holy Spirit for the modern Church.
"If we truly lived by the decisions of Vatican II we would know how to balance continuity and change."
Bishop O'Donoghue noted the "sheer energy and hope of the 60s," which has been overlooked or forgotten, "a decade that saw the rise of the modern world from the wreckage of the Second World War."
"The council fathers judged rightly," he noted, "that it was time for the Church to find a new language to speak the eternal truths of faith to modern men and women."
The prelate recalled: "I remember the excitement when people heard the Church speaking in a way that was straightforward, biblical, personal, and pastoral.
"It was as if we were in Galilee again during those heady days when the apostles walked with the Lord, hearing the liberating truth of his words and seeing his love, bringing miracles to all wounded by sin, sickness and doubt.
"And the world flocked to him, knowing that he spoke with power and authority. And the world flocked to Rome -- through the media -- during the Council knowing that something wonderful was happening, Christ was speaking his words of hope and healing with authority to the peoples of our times."
Back to the source
The bishop expressed the hope that this year will see a return to the documents of the Council, "especially the four constitutions, because they are our direct link to a time in the life of the Church dramatically blessed by the Holy Spirit."
He continued: "I have little sympathy with those who argue that we should somehow get past the documents of the Council -- which they say are fatally flawed by compromise and politics -- and try to reconstruct the 'event' of the Council in order to know the 'true' intentions of the council fathers […].
"Just as many Scripture scholars involved in the historical search for Jesus created a 'Jesus' that merely reflected themselves, there is the danger that those involved in the historical search for the Council will create a picture of the 'Council' that reflects their own likes and dislikes."
He pointed out that there would be less confusion about the Vatican II documents if Catholics really knew what they say. He asserted that Catholics could not "continue to live lives focused on their own prosperity if they truly knew that 'Gaudium et Spes' 69 teaches […] that we must 'feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him, you have killed him.'"
Bishop O'Donoghue likewise pointed out the congruence between the encyclical "Humanae Vitae" and Vatican II regarding the issue of birth control.
He stated that "Catholics would not mock the Mass of Paul VI if they accepted that 'Sacrosanctum Concilium' 36 teaches that 'the use of the vernacular [...] may frequently be of great advantage to the people.'" In the same vein, "Catholics would not say that Pope Benedict XVI’s 'Summorum Pontificum' went against Vatican II if they knew that 'Sacrosanctum Concilium' 36 teaches that 'the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rite.'"
Bishop O'Donoghue recognized the tendency to some people to look back at the times of saints such as Sts. Francis, Clare and Dominic, thinking that it would have been wonderful to live in "that golden age when the Church was young and creative."
He added: "It is time for us to wake up to the fact that during and after the Council, giants have walked among us: Blessed John XXIII, Blessed Mother Teresa, Servant of God Pope John Paul II, Servant of God Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Henri de Lubac, Father Karl Rahner SJ, Father Hans Urs von Balthasar, Brother Roger of Taizé, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Chiara Lubich, Dietrich Von Hildebrand, Pope Benedict XVI, and many more.
"I suspect that future generations will look back and say: 'Oh, to have lived in times so blessed by the Holy Spirit!'"
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Full text: www.cts-online.org.uk