Session 1: Cultivating the Wisdom of Vatican II

How do we cultivate the wisdom of Vatican II today? How can we keep its spirit alive? The 60th anniversary of the council calls us to reclaim the Spirit-filled renewal the Council set in motion and to envision its evolving future in our lives and world.

Wisely the Council recognizes that baptism calls every Christian to holiness and to live the mission of Jesus in the world.

Wisely the Council empowers full, active, conscious participation in the liturgy.

Wisely the Council affirms that Christian Tradition makes progress in the world not only through the teaching of the bishops who succeed the apostles but through the prayer and pondering in our hearts of every believer and through our experience of spiritual realities (Dei Verbum #8).

Wisely the Council insists, “The joys and sorrows, griefs and anxieties of the people of this age, especially the poor and afflicted, are the joys and sorrow, griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” (Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes #1).

Church officials often label our world today as secular; indeed it is no longer holy and Roman as Europe was in medieval Christendom. Although political leaders ask God to bless America repeatedly in our public discourse, we value separation of Church and state in the United States. In our world 68% of the nations are democracies, while the Church preserves its monarchial structure.

Throughout the 28-year papacy of John Paul II, the Church grew increasingly centralized, curtailing the collegiality among bishops that Vatican II envisioned. Today Pope Francis leads the Church into a global, synodal process that is seeking input from dioceses and church groups throughout the world to identify issues and changes the Church must face. Pope Francis wants a Church that reaches out to people who are poor and is reclaiming the vision of Vatican II, a Church more open to lay leadership.

The pray, pay, and obey Catholics of the 1950s have evolved into active, participating Catholics today. Since the Council ended on December 8, 1965, two generations have learned new science, critical thinking, and Catholic social teaching in our schools and universities. Many bring these skills and insights to serve our parish communities, to live the gospels, and continue Jesus’ mission in the world. Many have become “nones,” those no longer affiliating with the Catholic Church over multiple issues critical today.

In the U.S. we citizens work to give all people voice and rights; we elect our leaders; we participate in making policy and governance. As Vatican II taught us, we are the Church, the People of God, the Body of Christ in the world. The Holy Spirit lives, breathes, and speaks in us as in our bishops.


  • What does the Second Vatican Council stand for in my experience?
  • Why am I staying in the Church, or why am I leaving? What tests me?
  • When I talk about the Church, who am I talking about? Do I include myself?
  • Where do I meet God in my life?
  • What are my longings? What stays alive in these longings?
  • What do I do for myself to stay awake to God’s presence within me, beyond me, among us?
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