When he convened the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago this month, Pope John XXIII sought to open the doors and windows of the Church so that we could look out to the world and so that those in the world could look in on us.
“When the cardinals of the Holy Roman Church chose me,” Pope John once said, “everyone was convinced that I would be a provisional and transitional pope. Yet here I am . . . with an immense program of work in front of me to be carried out before the eyes of the whole world.”
The decision to convene the Council came as a surprise to John XXIII himself. As he testified numerous times, the idea came to him as a revelation from the Holy Spirit. As he prayed and looked at the world, John sensed that the Spirit wanted to blow fresh winds of renewal upon the Church and the world. He felt that a spirit of negativity had settled on the Church, and he was convinced that the “habit of thinking ill of everything and everyone” had to be confronted and changed.
Rather than look at the world as a battleground of good versus evil, John XXIII saw it as an immense flock of sheep and himself as its universal shepherd, leading them home to the Lord. With a shepherd’s heart, he longed to reach out to everyone, especially those who were suffering or oppressed. All the changes and reforms that the Council initiated, both under John and under his successor Paul VI, had one single goal: that the Church would become a powerful light to the world.
A Year of Faith. Today I can imagine John XXIII still looking at the Church with hope and optimism. I can hear him telling us that we may be facing new problems in this era but that the Church is used to problems. They have always been with us. I can also imagine Pope John telling us not to give up hope. I can hear him reminding us that the Holy Spirit is still at work, renewing us, binding us closer together, and drawing us closer to God.
To commemorate this fiftieth anniversary, Pope Benedict XVI has declared October 11, 2012, to November 24, 2013, a “Year of Faith.” In his apostolic letter announcing this special year, the Holy Father calls us both to deepen our faith and to commit ourselves to proclaiming that faith to a world that is waiting to hear the good news. To help us accomplish just that, we decided to write four lead articles this month instead of three. The first two will help us grow in our faith. The second two will link the Year of Faith to the spirit of Vatican II.
During this Year of Faith, let’s open the doors and windows of our hearts. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to renew our hearts and deepen our faith so that we can become a bright light to the world. May God bless you all.
Joe Difato, Publisher | Email the Publisher