Our Story of the Second Vatican Council

Of the many amazing, shocking, wonderful or terrible events that occurred during the past Century, events that affected millions of lives and even changed the course of history, the Second Vatican Council certainly ranks as one of the most significant.  The world had never, nor has it since, seen this large a gathering of the world’s Catholic bishops, intent on changing the course and culture of the Church.  Editors at Time magazine went so far as to speculate that history may some day declare the Council to be the single most important event of the 20th century.  October 11, 2012 marked the beginning of the Council’s fifty year anniversary, which will continue until December 11, 2015.  Many Catholic churches, schools and organizations throughout the world are recognizing and celebrating the phenomenon that was, and is, the Second Vatican Council.
On September 8, 2013, the Retreat and Conference Center at Bon Secours will host an afternoon event highlighting elements of the Second Vatican Council, named Open Windows Festival.  The name Open Windows Festival comes from the answer supposedly given by Blessed Pope John XXIII when asked why he wished to hold an ecumenical council.  He is reported to have thrown open a window and said, “I want to throw open the windows of the Church, so that we can see out, and the people can see in.”
The festival is an outgrowth of a coalition of faithful individuals committed to the Church. The Coalition’s mission is:
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Church’s council by helping…
…The older generation to remember and renew the Dream…
…The present generation to learn and live the Vision…
 …Future generations to preserve and perpetuate the Legacy…
 …of the Mystery that was, is and will always be the SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL. (cf.Joel 3:1-2)
 The Open Windows Festival will begin with registration at 12:30 in the afternoon and feature two internationally recognized speakers, Sr. Simone Campbell and Dr. Massimo Faggioli, speaking on topics related to Vatican II. Dr. Faggioli will host a book signing following his presentation.  Video interviews, featuring Father Robert Albright; Father Joe Gallagher, SJ; and Father John O’Malley, SJ; who attended or were directly impacted by Vatican II, will be shown.  The afternoon will end with Mass featuring Father Ray East, a nationally recognized liturgist, as homilist and presider.  The liturgy will include music by composers influenced by Vatican II, liturgical dance, and “full, conscious and active participation” by all those gathered.
While only time will tell if the editors at Time magazine were correct, we can say with certainty that, of the 16 documents that were approved between 1962 and 1965, none has affected the Catholic faithful more directly than Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy).  This was the first document to be approved by the world’s bishops and, some believe, set the tone for the 15 to follow.  In addition to returning sacred scripture to its rightful place in the Eucharistic celebration, this constitution called for a return to the ancient sources, adaptation to local circumstances and cultures, empowerment of local priests and bishops, and full and active participation of the Body of Christ.  In his recent book, True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium, Dr. Faggioli argues that the interconnections between the liturgical constitution and the whole achievement of Vatican II must emerge, if we want to understand the impact of the council on global Catholicism.
 One of the last, and more controversial, documents to be approved by the bishops assembled at the council was Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World).  This document delineates the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding humanity’s relationship to society, especially in reference to economics, poverty, social justice, culture, science and technology.  Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, knows first-hand the problems facing society’s most vulnerable, and has worked over thirty years to live out the gospel message articulated in Gaudium et Spes.  Her talk is certain to be inspiring.
 I experienced many of the changes brought about by Vatican II as a teenager and young adult.  Did I know much about the Council?  Sadly, no!  Not until its 50 year anniversary did I become aware of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.  By reading the documents and the comments of surviving participants, I am just now finding out what this monumental event was and is about.  I invite you to do the same by attending this excellent festival.
                                                                                                                                                                                        By: Russell Jenkins, Steering Committee Member