Vatican II and a “debt to the Holy Spirit”

Vatican II and a "debt to the Holy Spirit"
“The Second Vatican Council was a great gift from God” –
Pope John Paul II attended all of the sessions of the Second Vatican Council; in he speaks of the council primarily in terms of it being a gift from God and a corresponding debt we owe to the Holy Spirit. Pay it forward. For while his European confreres may have worried about the intra-Church politics, Wojtyla was just glad to be there, given the communist oppression and restrictions he experienced in Poland: “I had the particular fortune of being able to take part in the Council from the first day to the last. This was in no way to be taken for granted, since the Communist authorities in my country considered the trip to Rome a privilege and entirely under their control. If, then, under such  circumstances I was given the opportunity to participate in the Council from the beginning to the  end, it can rightly be judged a special gift from God.” 

His book Sources of Renewal was written, he says, to repay the debt to the Holy Spirit for the council. In that book Wojtyla explained that the council was to deepen the Catholic awareness, or consciousness, of the faith; it was to renew our fundamental outlook and attitudes. Indeed, John Paul II makes the interesting observation that the tendentious interpretations of , using a priori categories of optimism and pessimism (or left and right), simply reflect the skewed and limited predispositions of the people using them: “In a certain sense the Council already found them in the world and even in the  Church.” John Paul II is suggesting here that we  must be formed anew, not hardened in our prior attitudes or ideas about the future tasks of the Church: “the Council contained something of Pentecost — it set the  bishops of the world, and hence the whole Church, upon the paths that needed to be taken at the end  of the second millennium.” Huddled against the modern world, the Church experienced a sending forth by the Holy Spirit. And Wojtyla was soon to lead the mission into the new millenium.

Wojtyla also called the Council the “seminary of the Holy Spirit,” for he was formed and was taught much during his years with the men at the Council. The , the hallmark of John Paul II’s pontificate, “originated at the Second Vatican Council.” 

In the subsequent chapter, entitled “A Dialogue of Salvation,” he reiterates the theme of avoiding the polarizing complaints and look to the splendor of truth and our responsibility to the work of the Holy Spirit: “This style and this spirit will be remembered as the essential truth about the Council, not the  controversies between “liberals” and “conservatives”-controversies seen in political, not religious,  terms-to which some people wanted to reduce the whole Council. In this spirit the Second Vatican Council will continue to be a challenge for all Churches and a duty for each person for a long time to come.” In other words, it is up to the faithful to put a hand on the plough and open new furrows in the world for the seeds of the faith. Now is the time!

We find ourselves faced with a new reality. The world, tired of ideology, is opening itself to the truth. The time has come when the splendor of this truth  (veritatis splendor) has begun anew to illuminate the darkness of human existence. Even if it is too  early to judge, if we consider how much has been accomplished and how much is being  accomplished, it is clear that the Council will not remain a dead letter.  The Spirit who spoke through the Second Vatican Council did not speak in vain. The experience of these years allows us to glimpse the possibility of  a new openness toward God’s truth, a truth the Church must preach “in season and out of season” (cf. 2 Tm 4:2). Every minister of the Gospel must be thankful and feel constantly indebted to the Holy Spirit for the gift of the Council. It will take many years and many generations to pay off this debt.

We find ourselves in debt to Blessed John Paul II and the Holy Spirit. 


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