Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekly Bookworm: Vatican II

I admit it; most people, even devout Catholics, do not generally go around reading the documents of Vatican II. The Council's bishops, however, intended for the entire Catholic family, and even for non-Catholics and non-Christians, to carefully peruse the sixteen documents they so meticulously prepared with the intention of setting the Church's faith before the world in a way that is accessible to modern people. These documents are meant to be read, to be studied, to be pondered, and, yes, even to be enjoyed.

Granted, Vatican II's documents are not necessarily easy reading, even though they are written in modern and relatively non-technical language. Vast amounts of meaning are packed into each paragraph, and readers must be prepared to devote some time to re-reading and reflection if they intend to truly understand the Council's message. The benefits, though, are definitely worth the effort.

All of the Vatican II documents are available online at the Vatican's website. I would suggest that readers begin with Dei Verbum, the Council's Constitution on Divine Revelation, and then move on to Lumen Gentium, the Constitution on the Church. Lay people should also take a close look at Apostolicam Actuositatem, the Council's decree on the apostolate of the laity. The riches in these three are enough to keep readers busy for quite some time before they move on to the other excellent documents Vatican II has to offer.

Pope John XXIII wanted Vatican II to be a new Pentecost for the Catholic Church, but it cannot be so if Catholics don't read and meditate on the actual content of the Council, which is found in its documents. If Catholics approach these texts with open minds and open hearts and then live out the faith they find therein, Pope John XXIII's dream will come true.

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