On this beautiful feast of Pentecost, we affirm that the Holy Spirit is alive in the Church. Diverse Spirit-given gifts flourish in Christian communities across the globe. Today we Catholics are privileged to live in a renewed Church, in a unique age of “a new Pentecost”! Recall that just last year the Church rejoiced as she observed the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII in 1962. Vatican II was only the 21st ecumenical council in the Church’s entire history.
A Spirit-inspired Pope. Pope John XXIII, canonized a saint by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014, composed a prayer that the Council might be “a new Pentecost.” His intentions for Vatican II became clear: spiritual renewal of the Church, pastoral updating (aggiornamento), and the promotion of Christian unity. Many people were surprised that this “caretaker” pope (he was already 77 years old) would undertake such an enormous project.
Vatican II extended through four sessions (1962-1965), bringing together some 2,500 bishops (12 Maryknoll bishops participated). The Council produced 16 documents which capture its message of renewal for both the Church and the world. Pope Francis continually promotes the Second Vatican Council and its dynamic vision of the Church.
Invoking Heavenly Assistance. On Pentecost 1959 John XXIII established a preparatory commission; then on Pentecost 1960 he announced the structure of the preparatory period. The Council formally opened on October 11, 1962, but exactly one week earlier on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi (October 4), the pope observed a “day of prayer for the Council.” He also made a pilgrimage to Loreto and Assisi to implore Mary, “the first star of the Council,” and Saint Francis to intercede for this “great ecumenical meeting awaited by all.”
In Assisi John XXIII compared Vatican II with Pentecost; he prayed that the bishops would enter “the Council hall of Saint Peter’s Basilica as the Apostles and the first disciples of Jesus entered into the Cenacle [Upper Room].”
Implementing the Council. When the first session of the Council concluded (December 8, 1962), Pope John spoke of his desire that “the acts of the Ecumenical Council meet with the generous and loyal response of the faithful.” Indeed, the acceptance and continual implementation of Vatican II by everyone—clergy and lay faithful alike—remain urgent tasks today—60+ years after Saint John XXIII announced his launch of “a new Pentecost.”
According to the Spirit-inspired vision of John XXIII, when ordinary Catholics—you and I—fully accept the renewal of Vatican II, then and only then “will dawn that new Pentecost which is the object of our yearning—a Pentecost that will increase the Church’s wealth of spiritual strength and extend her maternal influence and saving power to every sphere of human endeavor.” The words of today’s Gospel remain alive and urgent for us: “Receive the Holy Spirit…. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” We continually pray: “Come, Holy Spirit.” “Veni, Sancte Spiritus.”
James H. Kroeger, M.M.
Spirit of the living God
Who hovered above
the waters of Creation
and who descended on the Virgin Mary
making her the Ark of the New Covenant,
and who descended on the Apostles
thus birthing the Church,
and who transforms bread and wine
into the Body and Blood of Christ
at every Eucharist every day,
fall afresh on us who gather
in Christ’s name and at his command.
Renew our hearts and minds that we
might in turn renew your Church
all the better to bring the gospel
of Jesus Christ to every person on earth.
Purge every stain of sin from us
that nothing might mar the image and
likeness of God in which every person
Lead us, O Spirit of the living God,
where you would have us go
to those most in need of your truth,
grace and peace.
Help us remain true to the laws of Christ
and heal the wounds of division that separate
all the Christian Churches from one another that together
we might enter God’s kingdom here and in the world to come.
Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.