The Spirit of Vatican II ($3.95)
Six-Week Series for Small Church Communities
Synopsis and Sample Questions
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Each “Gathered In His Name” meeting guide includes the prayers, commentaries, and reflection questions for a six-week series of meetings. The Spirit of Vatican II runs 40 pages in 8-1/2x11 paperback format. Each participant would need his/her own booklet.
The meetings are designed as two-hour sessions, with the first 90 minutes for welcome/gathering time, opening prayer, two commentaries with reflection questions, Gospel reading and discussion, ideas for "Connecting Faith and Life" that are related to the meeting’s topic, and a closing prayer. The last 30 minutes would be reserved for socializing and treats. The commentaries are meant to be read aloud, and the small church community is encouraged to break into smaller groups of two or three to answer the reflection questions.
Meeting Summaries for The Spirit of Vatican II
Meeting One: "The Pope Speaks"
In 1958, Angelo Roncalli is elected as a “compromise candidate,” takes the name of John XXIII, and soon calls for an ecumenical council which begins in October, 1962. At the end of the first session, Cardinal Suenens proposes the Bishops focus their work around a vision of the church. Overview of the work of the Council, death of John XXIII and re-convening of the Council by Pope Paul VI. Commentary on why it’s important to study the Council.
Sample reflection question: “Share a story of a family gathering that produced a renewed sense of closeness or that had results that far exceeded your expectations.”
Meeting Two: “How Do We Pray?”
Overview of the first document passed by the Council, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Dec. 4, 1963), with its statement that “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the church is directed… also the source from which all its power flows.” The renewed focus on Scripture in liturgies; renewal and simplification of the Mass and sacramental rites; reform of the liturgical calendar; guidelines in art, architecture, and music; establishment of liturgy commissions. The hope that lay Catholics would take “that full, conscious and active part in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which Christian people…have a right and to which they are bound by reason of their Baptism." The emphasis on lay involvement, the assertion that some parts of the liturgies are eternal and others may be updated and renewed. Commentary on why this Constitution is important today and the importance of lay involvement in parish life.
Sample reflection question: “If you are involved in some lay ministry, what difference has it made in your life of faith or your love of the Mass? Do different ministries affect your faith life in different ways?”
Meeting Three: The Foundations of Our Faith
Overview of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. Opening prayer: first verses of the Gospel of John. A brief look at the church’s attitude to reading the Scriptures prior to Vatican II. Pope John XXIII’s intervention to allow the Bishops to rewrite this document. Chapter-by-chapter summary of the Constitution. Access to the Scriptures should be widely available; all the preaching of the church should be nourished by Scripture. Effects of this Constitution include the flowering of Catholic Biblical scholarship; homilies that “break open the word” of the Gospel and other readings, and the popularity of Scripture study groups.
Sample reflection question: “What is your favorite book of the Bible? Why? Share a time when you turned to the Bible for help.”
Meeting Four: “Who Is the Church? Part One”
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church is the Council’s masterpiece: “a look at what the church means, what brings it life and how it can share its life with the whole world.” Its opening words are filled with images of light and hope. This meeting summarizes and pulls essential quotes from the first four chapters of the Constitution. The church is a sacrament. It is the people of God. The Eucharistic sacrifice is the “source and summit” of the Christian life. Parents are called to be the first teachers of their children in the “domestic church.” The people of God have a mission: to carry light and peace to everyone. The role of the Bishops. The importance and dignity of the laity, who are urged to “make the church present and fruitful” in places where only they can go. The “common dignity” of clergy and laity. Lay people must help each other to holiness.
Sample reflection question: “How do you think the church is ‘present and fruitful’ today? How is it not? What does making the church ‘present and fruitful’ mean in your own life right now?”
Meeting Five: “Who Is the Church? Part Two”
Summary of Chapters Five through Eight of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The call to holiness. The call for the development of the whole human person in religious communities. The beautiful symbol of the “pilgrim church.” The importance of Mary as one who points the way to Jesus. Summary of why “the Catholic church has not been the same since Vatican II.” This masterpiece of the Council is a blueprint, but the church is still under construction as clergy and laity work toward a place of “unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race.”
Sample reflection question: “What Vatican II image of the church speaks to you today – the church as sacrament? The domestic church? The pilgrim church? The people of God? Another statement on the church?”
Meeting Six: Joy and Hope
On the last working day of Vatican II, Dec. 7, 1965, the Bishops passed one of the Council’s four most important documents. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World is a statement of the church’s love and concern for the world and everyone in it, reflected in its opening words, “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor and afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.” The commentary focuses on the beauty, depth, and continuing challenge of this document: “the sublime dignity of the human person,” the need for global solidarity, the critical work of the laity, and (in the second half of the Constitution), far-sighted discussions of the larger issues of war, economic justice, marriage and family, and life. The meeting concludes with a summary of the major contributions of Vatican II: renewal of the church, ecumensim, new respect and roles for the laity, collegiality, and a spirit of hope.
Sample reflection question: “What helps you move toward a ‘living and mature’ faith?”