Saturday, September 8, 2012

Angels in a truck and Vatican II

Had the neatest experience a few days ago. Still scratching my head, and still saying a little thank you prayer. Here`s the story. I am sitting in my car in a little town north of Kingston. I am between meetings, and am having my lunch at the edge of a park. This is my regular pattern on this particular consulting day. Listening to the radio in the car, eating my lunch, doing the crossword. For an hour. Go to start the car. Nothing. Had I left the ignition in the on `position for an hour, rather than 'accessories`? Difference is that the air conditioner would have been running on battery for an hour. Anyway, time is up. Have to get to the next meeting. Car won't start and I can see it is battery. I panic a bit. Have to phone CAA, call to the meeting people and tell them I will be late. I no sooner get the CAA card out of my wallet - not even time to start dialling - and a County Utilities truck pulls in behind me. Two workers going to have their lunch! Never happened before in many many times there. I hop out of my car, and ask, you wouldn't happen to have jumper cables would you? Answer is yes, and three minutes later my car is going, I am on my way, and I am only 5 minutes late for the meeting. Ok, you tell me .........
Vatican II. Lot of discussion happening these days, around the 50th anniversary of the great Council. The one that my generation were amazed and thrilled at. John XXIII's call to open the windows of the church and let fresh air and sunshine in. Those were heady days. We got the vernacular and we got the restoration of the permanent diaconate. We got an updated articulation of 'church', the people of God. Liturgies very quickly became interesting in a way they never had been - not because the mystery or theology of Eucharist had changed, but because we felt free to celebrate up close to the sacrament, intimately connected with the presence of Jesus in the Bread and Wine, in the Word, and in the people gathered there. The latter captured our imaginations and we became a whole new Eucharistic people.

So what happened? Rome subsequently pulled back. Some priests have said in our own day - 2012 - that Vatican II is destroying the Church. Rome missed an opportunity to further the language engagement in the liturgy and instead pulled us back as close to Latin as they could. And as recently as June 17 at the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Pope Benedict said by televised message that many in the Church were missing the true spirit of Vatican II by mistaking what we do in the liturgy, for the true intention of Vatican II which was to deepen our relationship with Christ. In other words, tone it down, get serious, get solemn.  There are those in Rome who would see a return to Latin as accomplishing that purpose directly. And at that point, Vatican II would be retracted for the average worshipping Catholic. Just saying.

But look at what has between happening. Vatican II is not going to be wiped out, it is just too good. It still speaks to the people of today and in doing so, preserves the mystery, the beauty of the Eucharist, and the sense of Christ's presence in the assembled people.
An recent article by Robert Blair Kaiser  quotes Jesuit Fr. John O'Malley, who says that Vatican II moved us to a new vision of the church:  

... from commands to invitations, from laws to ideals, from definition to mystery, from threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from monologue to dialogue, from ruling to service, from withdrawn to integrated, from vertical to horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from hostility to friendship, from rivalry to partnership, from suspicion to trust, from static to ongoing, from passive acceptance to active engagement, from fault finding to appreciation, from prescriptive to principled, from behavior modification to inner appropriation.

Sr. Joan Chittister, also commenting on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, wrote from the perspective of religious communities (she is a Benedictine sister). Here is a powerful excerpt that both picks up on Fr. O'Malley's hopeful tone, and gives a bit of a heads up to those who would continue to obstruct the renewal of Vatican II. Read between the lines: 

                The continuing task of Vatican II is to sharpen the edge of religious life again. What religious did for past generations, they must now do for the forgotten peoples of our own generation. A whole new global population must be carried beyond the limitations of their lives, become visible to those who see them not, be heard by those who are deaf to their tears.

The fresh breeze of Vatican II, the one that Pope John XXIII let in the open windows, is still blowing. It won't be stifled. If you are not involved in your parish, start now. Twenty and thirty-somethings, this is maybe especially for you. Read up on Vatican II and help carry it on. You will like what you find, I promise.