Re-embracing the vision of Vatican II

Clare Condon SGS

It is time again to open the windows afresh and engage in meaningful ways with the world, writes Clare Condon SGS.

BY Clare Condon SGS*

Over the past week, media stories have focussed on three recent fiftieth anniversaries: the Bathurst 1000 car race (October 6-7), the release of the first Beatles’ record, Love Me Do (October 5) and the beginning of the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church (October 11). Indeed, these are three very different events whose influence on contemporary society varies greatly.

Many of us ‘oldies’ might ask: where was I in 1962? What influences have any of these events had on my life?

In 1962 I was a brash teenager. I did not know about the Bathurst 1000; it held no interest for me. As a member of a committed Catholic family, I knew that things were slowly changing in the Church and that the local bishop seemed to be away from the diocese for an extended period. But the Second Vatican Council didn’t raise much interest for me then either. That interest came later in life.

But The Beatles? That was another question. Like many other teenagers, I was captivated and enthralled when, in 1963, they came to Australia and later, when Love Me Do hit the top of the record charts on February 14, 1964.

Reflecting recently on the impact of The Beatles, Sydney Morning Herald journalist, Mark Sawyer, said: “‘Youth’ did not exist as anything like the sociological phenomenon it became after The Beatles broke through with US audiences… [in] 1964”. They became an international force for change among youth across the Western world. The pop music story, its vitality, and its medium of communication which followed The Beatles, influenced and changed adolescence irreversibly and continues to do so. Love Me Do also epitomised a youth seeking unbridled freedom and love as the ‘60s sexual revolution burst onto the scene.

As much as The Beatles influenced my life back then, there was another call to love which gnawed at my heart and led me to join religious life as a Sister of the Good Samaritan. I joined the Sisters as the Vatican Council closed and implementation followed the buzz word aggiornamento – “renew”. There was vibrancy in the Church as it emerged from some 400 years of ‘separation’ from the world as Pope John XXIII called for the windows to be opened and for fresh air to circulate through the corridors of the worldwide Church.

So, 50 years on, it was the Second Vatican Council that influenced my life more than any other event of 1962. I have been formed theologically and spiritually by the theologians and writers of Vatican II: Rahner, Schillebeeckx, Congar, Suenens and Haring, to name a few. For me, they have been compulsory reading because it is they, with others, who have opened up the Church and its theology to dialogue with a world in need of love and peace.

The Second Vatican Council called the Catholic Church to return to Scripture, especially the Gospels, as the foundation of its members’ lives. The message of the Gospels is none other than the love of God and of neighbour. It demands that I extend myself beyond self to a transcendent love, because I know I am unconditionally loved by the God of Jesus Christ. The Church in all its complexities often forgets this core calling, that everything we do or believe is based on this message of mystical love of God – a personal God who invites us into intimate union. Such intimacy with God can be found in the ancient practice of lectio divina, the prayerful and reflective reading of Sacred Scripture.

As bishops and others gather in Rome to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican II by attending a Synod of Bishops on Evangelisation, I hope and pray they may find new ways of invigorating the vision of Vatican II so that the Church can speak to the youth of today with an authentic and credible enthusiasm for the love of God and of neighbour as the basis for a life to be lived to the full.

Sadly, it seems The Beatles have had a much greater influence than the Church on the life of young people. The institution of the Church has become old and tired and too internally focussed. It is time again to open the windows afresh and engage in meaningful ways with the world so that the love of God and one another might again be at the heart of all that the Church is and does.

* Clare Condon SGS is the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict.

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The Good Oil, October 16, 2012. If you would like to republish this article, please contact the editor.

4 Responses to “Re-embracing the vision of Vatican II”

  1. V Martin says:

    Great article. Clare, Vatican II and the Beatles all got it right – “All you need is love”.

  2. Yes, the 60’s were an exciting time! Spiritual/theological books had exciting titles with equally refreshing contents. To name a couple: F.X.Durwell – In the Redeeming Christ and Schillebeecks – Christ, the Sacrament of Encounter with God. Bob Dylan’s, Blowin’ in the Wind lyrics, Martin Luther King’s speech, I have a dream, generated expectation and hope. May the Spirit blowin’ in the wind, keep hope alive in church and society. Marie sgs

  3. Garry Everett says:

    Thanks Clare. What a trifecta!
    Aggiormamento captures it all. Once again some Bishops are gathered to consider a “newe evangelization. You say the Church has become “old and tired”. I think other suitable descriptors might include: overly-defensive; bewildered (by the rate and manner of social change); withdrawn ( from the world of which itis a part); uncertain ( hence seeking the “new”)
    There is a anthropological axiom which states “The new is elsewhere”. This would be a good strting point for the Synod. The new evangelizatin will not be found going back to the past. Like the youth of today, the Bishops should be “on the net”, exploring beyond the current boundaries, charting a way forward in multiple partnerships with religious, laity, other Chruistian Churches, other Faiths; the secular world.
    Sounds like Vat111. I hope we don’t have to hold our breath!!!

  4. B Kennedy says:

    Dear Clare. I share your hopes and dreams but find the reality sooo depressing – the child abuse avoidance issues here in Victoria, the treatment of +Bill Morris, unjust and manufactured in anyones language. the treatment of Elizabeth Johnson last year, the treatment of the ICWR wich is still to be handled and the continuing patriarchy etc. Rediscovery of an intimate union with a loving God is the good news.

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