The council is 'a special grace' for the Church
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
Caption: Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, holds up a book containing the documents of the Second Vatican Council. He gave a talk about the council at St. Mary's Church Oct. 16. Nathan Rumohr / The B.C. Catholic.
The Second Vatican Council was "a special grace," for the Church, said Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, as he gave a talk at St. Mary's Church in Vancouver Oct. 16.
"In the whole history of the Church there have been only 21 ecumenical councils, and in the last nearly 500 years only three: The Council of Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II," Archbishop Miller said. "You can see this was a special grace for our day."
The archbishop's lecture, that focused on the history of Vatican II and four of its documents, was hosted by the Mysteria Lucis Chapter of the Order of Preachers, a group for laity.
Archbishop Miller said the world was shocked by the announcement of the council by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1959.
He added the Pope's desire for another council was an inspiration. "'The idea came to me like a flash of heavenly light,'" the archbishop said, quoting the "Good Pope."
When the council opened, Oct. 11, 1962, Archbishop Miller was a Grade 12 student in Ottawa. He remembered many Catholics had had high hopes for the council.
Pope John, he noted, hoped the council would reveal Catholic truth to the world and be "a tremendous force for good."
The archbishop addressed some of the council's theological detractors, who looked at the council's documents as a "floor plan." He said they believed that, like the floor plan for a house, the documents could be ripped up or corrected.
He also focused on the council's four constitutions: Sacrosanctum Concilium, on the Sacred Liturgy; Gaudium et Spes on the Church in the Modern World; Lumen Gentium, on the Church; and Dei Verbum, on Divine Revelation.
Sacrosantum Concilium led to many changes in the way the Mass was said. Archbishop Miller said the council Fathers took advantage of a "new theological appreciation of the Liturgy" that had appeared in France and Germany in the 1920s or '30s. This is when the idea of celebrating the Mass in the vernacular started to be discussed.
Most Catholics did not understand Latin, Archbishop Miller said, and some priests did not either. He said the laity participated in the Mass in a very inactive way. He recalled that his grandparents would pray the rosary or read a prayer book.
The archbishop said Lumen Gentium also looked at the Church. He said one of the important teachings of the constitution was the "universal call to holiness."
"Sometimes, mistakenly of course, it was thought the call to holiness was reserved for a small group of people: the religious nuns and brothers, and priests," Archbishop Miller said. "This document makes clear there is no outsourcing to the universal call to holiness. Each and every person according to his or her state of life is called to a life of sanctity."
Father Pierre Leblond, OP, pastor of St. Mary's, echoed the archbishop's comments on the importance of the universal call to holiness.
"It has already started, with all the requests for spiritual directors," he said, "and the renewal of Biblical studies that is happening throughout the diocese."
"I think (Archbishop Miller's talk) was uplifting because there are some people who think the Church doesn't support Vatican II anymore and it is moving back," commented Father Leblond. He was 15 at the time of the council's opening.
"I found the Mass was boring, so Vatican II came at the right time to awaken me to the beauty of the Scripture, the tradition, and the new understanding of liturgy," he said.