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Father Muench Says...

Reflections on the anniversary day

October 31, 2012

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I am writing this column on October 11, the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council – a very important day in my life and in the life of the Church.  Today is also the day that Pope Benedict XVI has chosen as the beginning of the Year of Faith. This is a year to remember and celebrate the Second Vatican Council   and, also, a time for all to renew and strengthen our faith. It’s a time for a new and widespread evangelization, reaching out in a special way to Catholics who have left the Church.  At this time, the second largest religious group in our country is former Catholics.  May this be the year when we can reach and invite them back.

I have been using these columns to remember and celebrate the Second Vatican Council.  I have noticed in the weeks approaching the celebration of the anniversary of the beginning of the Council a flood of books and magazine articles remembering the Council and commenting on the present effects of the Council.  So I have had lots to read lately helping me to better my understanding of the Council and its effect. These excellent theologians have broadened my knowledge and understanding of just what happened 50 years ago what effect the Council has today.

This week, I would like to share with you what I learned from an article by Ladislas Orsy written in this week’s America Magazine.  Father Orsy is a Jesuit priest who is on the faculty of thee Georgetown University Law Center.  He was personally involved in the Council as a periti, an expert advisor to a Bishop.  His article begins with a positive and hope filled note: “The Second Vatican Council lives.”  He goes on to urge the Church to remain open to the Spirit, the Spirit that so touched the Second Vatican Council that the Church may do the work of the Spirit – to continue the Council’s work.  He urges the study of the documents of the Second Vatican Council during this Year of Faith that all, especially the young, may read and understand the message of the Council. Father Orsy sees the message of the Council still “full of restless energy.”  His hope is that this energy will explode in God’s own appropriate time.

I find a great deal of hope from Father Orsy – I want to join him in spirit. I have a great deal of hope and confidence in the message and recommendations of the Second Vatican Council. The Bishops of the Council, the Council Fathers, demonstrated that the Holy Spirit was alive in our Church and in faith, I believe that the Holy Spirit is still alive in and well in our Church.

I worry that some of this Spirit, some of the Council’s message is being lost. Many do not know or understand or have forgotten the wisdom of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. It is for this reason that I accepted the challenge of reviewing with you those documents of this great Council.

So I will continue each week to delve back with you into the discussions and recommendations of the Council.  I feel they are important – I don’t want them lost or undermined. 

The Council formed and enriched my life as a young priest and showed me the way to exercise my ministry. My hope is that I can share that spirit with you.

In his article in America, Father Orsy challenges the Church and me to make the Council’s work flourish and expand.  He reminds us that Pope John XXIII called the Council a new Pentecost – a new descent of the Holy Spirit – a new opportunity for us as the Catholic Church to become enthusiastic Christians.

So, he urges us to promote the right environment for healthy development by a new and stronger trust in the Spirit in the Church.  He further reminds us that truth reveals itself best through conversations within the community that is the Church; debates can only take place in an atmosphere of freedom.

I want to add here that I believe the great challenge of the Spirit of the Second Vatican Council is in the participation of the laity – the non-ordained baptized. This is their time – you, lay men and women, can make the difference – you must challenge the Church to become alive in this new evangelization.  This Year of Faith is a perfect time for lay men and women of faith to transform their Catholic Church by asking for a new and alive Catholic Church.

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