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Father Muench Says...

The Council - not just a bit of nostalgia

November 28, 2012

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Recently I received an email from a friend about his memories of the Second Vatican Council. He wrote, “I appreciate your NCC columns recalling the enthusiasm and excitement which you had during the time of Vatican II.  They were heady days for all of us in the Church and have done so much to define our faith lives ever since.”
Many people have spoken to me in the past few weeks about the columns and the Second Vatican Council.  They remember the Council and how much it influenced their lives. 

However, I have noticed that some seem to think of the Council as a bit of nostalgia.  It is important for me to emphasize for all to hear that the Council was not some isolated moment in time. The Second Vatican Council was the beginning of a new day for the Catholic Church.  The decrees of every Ecumenical Council are official teaching.  So, that moment of the Council continues, that moment continues! 

The Council Fathers worked  very hard together to prepare and promulgate this new groundwork for the Catholic Church for our time and for the ages.

In calling for the Council, Pope John XXIII  used the word “aggiornamento.”  This word means an update, a call to the Holy Spirit to bring to the Church a spirit of change and open mindedness as the Church brings itself to a new time and age. 

The documents of the Council not only analyze the teachings of the Church again  but they also challenge the Catholic Church to come alive in the Spirit, bringing the message of Our Savior and Our Church to the world.
In the Spirit of “aggiornamento” there were some liturgical changes and other calls for renewal.  However, the interesting thing about the Second Vatican Council was that many of the things it called for came from the earliest days of the Church.

Here is just one example: The Council speaks of the Church as the “People of God.” The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) says this: “For those who believe in Christ, who are reborn, not from a corruptible seed, but from one incorruptible one through the word of the living God, not from flesh, but from water and the Holy Spirit, are finally established as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…’ who in times past were not a people, but now are the People of God.”

“People of God” – one people united in the Holy Spirit. Laity and clergy united together to bring the message of Jesus to the world and to unite as one people in prayer and worship of the Lord. 

A few weeks ago the Church celebrated the Feast of St. Leo the Great, a Pope of the fifth century. The reading at Matins that day was from the writings of St. Leo. In these writings, he emphasized ideas that called on the people of the Church to recognize their unity in the sight of God. 

St. Leo writes this: “For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests – all spirited and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and all sharers in the office of priesthood.”

So, please understand that as we continue to reread and look into the documents of the Second Vatican Council, we are looking at the hopes and dreams of the Council for our Church today  and how well we have incorporated the message of that Council into the life of today’s Church.
This week I would like to close with a personal memory of two of my classmates, two friends who were ordained priests with me on May 16, 1959, at St. Mary’s Cathedral.  Msgr. Bernard Christman and Father Paul Oehler died during the past month.

There is a rather special bond that unites priests ordained together on the same day. We became friends and brothers in our ministry as priests.  These two are the first of my classmates from the Diocese of Ogdensburg to die.

It is a time for memories and for a renewal of the hope that I have preached often at funerals that I have celebrated.  It is a time to celebrate – two of my priest friends and classmates have moved along to the Lord. 
I offer a prayer of gratitude for their presence in my life and for the gifts that they shared with the people of the Diocese of Ogdensburg. 

Thank you, Lord – please accept into your peace my friends and bring them to a place of happiness with you.

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