Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, marks the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which was the most important ecumenical council since the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The Second Vatican Council had four aims: (1.) to make Christian life more vigorous, (2.) to modernize Christian institutions, (3.) to unite Christians, and (4.) to invite all non-Christians into the Church. With these aims in mind, and guided by the Holy Spirit, the council produced four “constitutions”, and a number of other directives and statements, by which the council reformed: (a.) the way we worship God, (b.) the way we describe the Church, (c.) the way we proclaim the Gospel, and (d.) the way we relate to non-Catholics and non-Christians.
My generation has no memory of the Second Vatican Council, but we have easy access to the constitutions and decrees of the council, and, fortunately, we have in our lives the living memory of those Catholics who experienced the immediate effects of the council in their formational years. It is important for us all to read and re-read the documents composed by the council, and to listen to the experiences of those whose lives those documents changed.
Listening to those who lived through the initial reforms, it’s clear to me that there was considerable hope and excitement. Indeed, the four aims of the council remain impressive even today. Christ would certainly not want His Church to become stagnant and fruitless, but to remain fresh and fruitful, so my generation owes an enormous debt to those clergy, religious and laity who made the invigorating reforms promised by the council a reality. Thank you!
If the Second Vatican Council still has meaning fifty years later, then we must keep applying its aims to our present circumstances. Are there proposed reforms of the council that we have missed? Are there proposed reforms that need to be implemented differently in the 21st century? Is it possible that some proposed reforms could have been implemented better? Are there some proposed reforms that were well implemented, but since forgotten? Are there proposed reforms that were begun, but remain unfinished? These are some of my questions that I think we could discuss together.
As we begin the sixth decade since the Second Vatican Council concluded, let us all remain open to the will of God, guided by his inspiration, and rooted in the living tradition of the Church his Son established.
You can read all the documents of the council at the Vatican website.