2 November 2012
A Chapter and A Jubilee.
As we work through our Chapter sessions in communities and clusters, focussing on the three questions handed on to us from Chapter 2012, we could easily forget that there is the bigger reality of Church out there of which we are a part. This came home to me very strongly last week as I listened to the many and richly varied contributions to a Conference at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, entitled: Religion and the Public Good. It marked the golden jubilee of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on 11 October 1962.
There were ten speakers, only one of whom was a woman but the content re-awakened hope, joy, excitement, trust in the ever-patient love of God and a sense of gratitude for the richness of the treasure hidden in those documents and their groundedness in Gospel. From the gentle and very moving words of Emeritus Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, on how he tried to respond to the teachings of Vat. 11 by being ecumenical in ministry, to those of journalist Mary Kenny and her thoughts on Church, religion and religious in Ireland from the nineteen sixties to the present, urging confidence in who we are. Bishop Noel Treanor outlined how deeply rooted the foundations of the European Union are in the social teachings of the Church. The Popes since John XX111 have all drawn heavily on Vatican 11 teaching – but I’m not sure that I was always listening. The documents of Vatican II were brought to life at this Conference and the richness of their message struck me anew.
Also striking for me was how much there was in common with our own reflections as congregation and province at this time. The ‘we’ that is congregation – and the ‘I’ that is part of that - must surely be part of the ‘we’ that is Church lest, self-absorbed and centred on our own small world, an amnesia that ignores the public good overtakes us. A few points from the Conference stay with me: ‘The Church stands amidst the anxieties of our age’. ‘How do we focus on what matters?’. ‘Growing in understanding of the gift of truth entrusted to the ‘we’ of Church in every time and culture’. ‘The dignity of the human person is central to wellbeing’. ‘How can authority be exercised in a new way?’ ‘The Council offers a theology of creation’. ‘Instead of our looking for God, it is God who is looking for us’. ‘In a new time what new riches await discovery?’
In conjunction with the Conference there was also the launch of Bishop Donal Murray’s recent book appropriately entitled: Keeping Open the Door of Faith: The Legacy of Vatican 11. In the Introduction he quotes Blessed John Paul 11 who referred to Vatican II as ‘this great gift of the Spirit to the Church at the end of the second millennium’. It is a short (124p.) and very readable book, in which he shares his reflections on five themes linked to the Council documents: communion, mission, role of the lay faithful, the human person and faith. It is very authentic in its reflections on current realities of parish, the concept of mission in Ireland to-day, child sexual abuse, communications, climate change, faith and the life of society, the flood of information that is sometimes overwhelming, the phenomenon of globalisation – and many more issues. All are contextualised in apt quotes and references to conciliar and post conciliar documents. It is certainly a book for this time.
Canice Hanrahan rsm