Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bl. Pope John XXIII and the convening of Vatican II

I can't help but share how exciting it was today to read something inspiring for the very first time. What I read today for the first time, as I gear up for the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, is Bl. Pope John XXIII's Humanae salutis. Humanae salutis is the name of the Apostolic Consitiution promulgated on Christmas Day 1961 formally announcing that he was convening the twenty-first (at least by Catholic reckoning) Ecumenical Council. His first public announcement that he was convoking an Ecumenical Council was in 1959 on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. He made this first pronouncement in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, in the presence of seventeen curial cardinals. The reaction, according to those who were present was, understandably, silence.

My source for reading this document in English is the website Conciliaria, which my brother, Deacon Eric Stoltz, recently launched, albeit softly. Humanae salutis is not available in English on the Holy See's official website. It is available, however, in Latin, Italian, Spanish, and Portugese. The English translation was done by the Rev. Joseph Komonchak, a great theologian and someone who has been very kind to me personally. It is not too much to say that during his many years at the Catholic University of America he has been a teacher and mentor to very many current Church leaders and scholars.

In Good Pope John's formal announcement one hears many precursors to his address to open the Council. For example, after fleshing out the rapid spread of what he called "militant atheism," he observed,
While distrustful souls see nothing but darkness falling upon the face of the earth, we prefer to restate our confidence in our Savior, who has not left the world he redeemed.


Indeed, making our own Jesus’ recommendation that we learn to discern “the signs of the times” (Mt 16:4), it seems to us that we can make out, in the midst of so much darkness, more than a few indications that enable us to have hope for the fate of the Church and of humanity. The successive bloody wars of our times, the spiritual ruins caused by many ideologies, and the fruits of so many bitter experiences have not been without useful lessons. Scientific progress itself, which has given man the ability to create catastrophic implements for his own destruction, has raised anxious questions; it has forced human beings to become thoughtful, more aware of their own limitations, desirous of peace, alert to the importance of spiritual values; it has accelerated that progress o closer collaboration and of mutual integration of individuals, classes and nations toward which, even amid a thousand uncertainties, the human family seems already to be moving. All this facilitates, no doubt, the Church’s apostolate, since many people who in the past did not realize the importance of her mission are today, taught by experience, more disposed to welcome her teachings
He ended his pronouncement by calling upon the prayers of the faithful and provided a prayer to pray, which is worthy of praying again as we observe the 50th Anniversary of this Divinely-appointed event in the Church's history-

"Renew your wonders in our time, as though in a new Pentecost, and grant that Holy Church,
united in unanimous and intense prayer around Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and guided by Peter,
may spread the Kingdom of the divine Savior, a Kingdom of truth, of justice, of love, and of peace. Amen."

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