I find my generation to be one of the most fortunate to be living right in this time period. We’re smack dab in the formative years of the Church after a major ecumenical council. But wait, 50 years is a long time, the formative years were the ones right after the council when everything was changing. Well, no, actually. Fifty years is nothing to a nearly 2,000-year-old institution. As a Church we’ve had 21 ecumenical councils, and it usually took 100 years or so for everyone to get on the same page after a council. Some much much longer, like the First Council of Nicaea where our creed as we know it was affirmed. The Arians (the heretics not the Nazi Germans) fought long and hard and even almost stamped out the Orthodox Faith, but luckily our buddy St. Athanasius stood contra mundi and ensured the correct faith would win out in the end. The Church would not be the same without him.
So here we are, in the 21st century, it’s been 50 short years after Vatican II and the Church is still kind of a mess. We’ve experienced the worst scandal ever to rock the priesthood with the sex abuses. The mass is in shambles as attendance plummets and parishes start doing weirder and weirder things in the mass to try to make it “relevant” to the people, even though they know the bishop would probably have good cause to tear his garments if he saw what was going on. We find ourselves roiling in our own concocted politics, in-fighting, and open dissent (historically known as heresy), meanwhile the outside world goes to town with it’s ever malicious comments and remarks, which then just boxes Catholic’s into a nice little package that you can understand in one phrase and move on with your life.
And yet, we’re the lucky generation. We’re at the crux, the point where God calls upon his saints to answer. We have the chance to fight the good fight against the odds and win like St. Athanasius. We can see the errors that occurred in the wake of the council and know to avoid them. We have a great new pope, Francis, who has called us to stop bickering amongst ourselves, and instead take the True Faith and go out to the world that desperately needs the Gospel message and evangelize it.
If we’re going to start somewhere in getting things right, I propose that we start at the “Spirit of the Vatican II.” That ambiguous phrase has been used for 50 years to justify anything and everything. “You’re saying I can’t have liturgical dancing? That’s not in the spirit of Vatican II!”
What was the “spirit of the council” anyway? Well, if it was anything other than theHoly Spirit, then we need to reject the council, because that means the council was not inspired by God, who the Church must always listen to. If it’s the Holy Spirit who was at work at the council, that doesn’t mean that he stopped working when the council concluded. It also doesn’t mean he wasn’t at work before the council either. The tendency to dismiss the Church pre-Vatican II as all bad, flawed, backwards, archaic, “not with the times” and the Church post-Vatican II as being totally fixed and good has done serious damage to our prayer lives, our Tradition and traditions, and our Church’s overall health. God is constantly at work among us, so we have to be constantly listening to him. That means we need to stop being so noisy, (especially at mass) and listen. How?
This blessed guy who’s soon to be sainted
A couple of suggestions of their writings would be Veritatis Splendor by JPII, Jesus of Nazareth, and Spirit of the Liturgy by Benedict XVI. If you don’t have the time or the will to read their works, then here’s the main take-away from it all. (Pope Francis says this too)
There is one God; the Father Almighty who created heaven and earth; Jesus Christ his only begotten Son, consubstantial with the Father, who for our sake became man, was crucified on the cross, was buried, and rose again on the third day, and ascended to heaven where he reigns with the Father; and the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. There is one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. There is one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. There is a resurrection, it is Jesus, death does not have the final say. There is a hope of the world to come which will surpass this one beyond our wildest dreams. Now go out, and spread this good news.