Pope John XXIII voiced a desire for a council January 27, 1959. "The first person to be surprised was myself."
- November, 1960: first meetings of the preparatory commissions, all headed by Cardinals from the Curia. Their traditionalist, formulaic proposals were rejected by the bishops.
- August-September, 1961: building of the Berlin Wall (torn down December, 1989).
- December 25, 1961: Announcement of the date of the Opening Session of Vatican II.
- The Council had four sessions: 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965. John XXIII, "parish priest of the world," died after the first session; Paul VI finished the Council, died in 1978; John Paul I was elected, but died after one month in office; then came John Paul II.
- Vatican II was the 21st ecumenical council of the Catholic Church (not counting Acts 15).
- References to the documents are given by abbreviation and paragraph number.
Prayer for the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council
O divine Spirit, sent by the Father in the Name of Jesus, give your aid and infallible guidance to your Church and pour out on the Ecumenical Council the fullness of your gifts.
O gentle Teacher and Consoler, enlighten the hearts of our prelates who, eagerly responding to the call of the supreme Roman Pontiff, will gather here in solemn conclave.
May this Council produce abundant fruits: may the light and power of the Gospel be more widely diffused in human society; may new vigor be imparted to the Catholic religion and its missionary function; may we all acquire a more profound knowledge of the Church's doctrine and a wholesome increase of Christian morality.
O gentle Guest of our souls, confirm our minds in truth and dispose our hearts to obedience, that the deliberations of the Council may find us generous consent and prompt obedience.
We pray to you again for the lambs who are no longer part of the one fold of Jesus Christ, that they too, who still glory in the name of Christians, may at last be reunited under one Shepherd.
Renew in our own days your miracles as of a second Pentecost; and grant that Holy Church, reunited in one prayer, more fervent than before, around Mary the Mother of Jesus, and under the leadership of Peter, may extend the kingdom of the divine Savior, a kingdom of truth, justice, love and peace.
Modified version of John XXIII's prayer
O divine Spirit, sent by the Father in the Name of Jesus,
give your aid and infallible guidance to your Church
and pour out ... the fullness of your gifts [on Your People].
O gentle Teacher and Consoler,
enlighten the hearts of [the ordained
that they may serve your People with wisdom and love].
- May [the teachings of the Second Vatican Council] produce abundant fruits:
may the light and power of the Gospel be more widely diffused in human society;
may new vigor be imparted to the Catholic religion and its missionary function;
may we all acquire a more profound knowledge of the Church's doctrine
and a wholesome increase of Christian morality.
O gentle Guest of our souls, confirm our minds in truth
and dispose our hearts to obedience,
that the [lessons taught by] the Council may find [in] us
generous consent and prompt obedience.
- We pray to you again for the lambs who are no longer part of the one fold of Jesus Christ,
that they too, who still glory in the name of Christians,
may at last be reunited under one Shepherd.
Renew in our own days your miracles as of a second Pentecost;
and grant that Holy Church, reunited in one prayer,
more fervent than before, around Mary the Mother of Jesus,
and under the leadership of Peter,
may extend the kingdom of the divine Savior,
a kingdom of truth, justice, love and peace.
Documents of Vatican II
Pope John XXIII convoked the Council on 25 December 1961 in "Humanae Salutis."
The Latin titles of the documents are the first words of the text.
I've provided rudimentary translations of the Latin title under the English title. "Joy and Hope" is so much more expressive than "The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World."
There are four constitutions, nine decrees, and three declarations. The two dogmatic constitutions are the most solemn of the documents. The Constitution on the Liturgy is primarily concerned with discipline, not doctrine. The "Pastoral Constitution" is addressed to the whole world and is, I think, intended to apply the doctrines of the Church to the current situation more than it is intended to define them.
The decrees set norms for various aspects of the life of the Church.
The declarations are something like "position papers," explaining where the Church stands with respect to some aspects of the world around us (secular educational system, non-Christian religions, religious freedom in the socio-political sphere).
|Abbr||Latin title||English title||V2|
|SC||Sacrosanctum Concilium||Constitution on Sacred Liturgy
"This most sacred council"
|IM||Inter Mirifica||Decree on the Means of Social Communication
"Among the wonders"
|LG||Lumen Gentium||Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
"Light of the World"
|OE||Orientalium Ecclesiarum||Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches
|UR||Unitatis Redintegratio||Decree on Ecumenism
"Restoration of unity"
|CD||Christus Dominus||Decree on Pastoral Office of Bishops
"Christ, the Lord"
|PC||Perfectae Caritatis||Decree on Renewal of Religious Life
|OT||Optatam Totius||Decree on the Training of Priests
"The desired [renovation] of the whole [church]"
|GE||Gravissimum Educationis||Declaration on Christian Education
"How important education is"
|NA||Nostra aetate||Declaration on Non-Christian Religions
"In our time"
|DV||Dei Verbum||Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation
"The Word of God"
|AA||Apostolicum Actuositatem||Decree on Apostolate of Lay People
|DH||Dignitatis Humanae||Declaration on Religious Liberty
"The dignity of the human person"
|GD||Ad Gentes Divinitus||Decree on Church's Missionary Activity
"To the nations"
|PO||Presbyterorum Ordinis||Decree on Ministry & Life of Priests
"The order of priests"
|GS||Gaudium et Spes||Pastoral Constitution: Church in the Modern World
"Joy and Hope"
Before and After Vatican II
|Before Vatican II||After Vatican II|
|Catholics had to fast from meat on Fridays in memory of Jesus' death on the Cross.||Catholics are supposed to choose some self-sacrificial act on Fridays in memory of Jesus' death on the Cross.|
|Catholics had to fast from food and drink from midnight until after they received Communion.||Catholics are supposed to fast for one hour before receiving Communion.|
|The Mass was said in Latin (except for the Kyrie, which was in Greek).||The Mass is said in local languages.|
|The Mass was performed by the priest, servers, and choir. People could follow along in their Missals or else pray privately while things happened at the altar.||The Mass is supposed to involve the whole congregation.|
|The high altar, tabernacle, and sanctuary were set apart from the rest of the church by a fence (the "altar rail"). Only ministers could enter the sacred space.||The fences have been taken down, the tabernacle has been hidden from view during the Mass, the altar is treated as a dining-room table, and everybody parties together.|
|The spirituality of the Church emphasized that each Mass was a Holy Sacrifice that partook of the nature of Jesus' self-sacrifice on the Cross.||The language and practice of the Church tends to focus on the idea that we are sharing a meal. The Mass is both a holocaust and a feast.|
|The priest celebrated Mass facing in the same direction as the congregation (toward the tabernacle, toward the rising sun, toward God, the Father).||The priest celebrates Mass facing the people, the way the host at a dinner party faces the guests at the table or the way an MC faces the audience on a late-night variety show.|
|People took Communion so rarely that the Church made the rule of "Easter duty," forcing all Catholics to go to Communion (after examining their consciences and going to Confession) at least once a year. Only priests could distribute communion. All received Communion on the tongue.||People take Communion very frequently, but go to Confession very infrequently. (Many non-Catholics, lapsed Catholics, and excommunicated Catholics go to Communion in spite of the Church's prohibitions.) Lay people help distribute communion. People may receive Communion in the hand.|
|The Church was seen as the House of God. People genuflected (knelt briefly on one knee) to the tabernacle and were silent before and after Mass. The custom was to kneel and pray privately when people first arrived in order to prepare for Mass. Women had to cover their heads.||The Church is seen as a place of fellowship. People socialize before Mass, during the Kiss of Peace, and after Mass. The only people who genuflect now are football players in the end zone. Gum chewing in Church is rising at an alarming rate.|
|No Saturday evening Masses.||The Jewish day begins and ends at sundown; based on this tradition, the Church authorized "vigil Masses" on Saturday.|
|There was a culture of mutual condemnation between Catholics and Protestants.||There is supposed to be an awareness that Catholics and Protestants are united to Jesus and therefore to each other through the things we have in common: faith, hope, love; Scriptures; Baptism; the one Lord, Jesus Christ.|
|Annulments were very rare. An annulment is a declaration that no bond was formed by God despite the outward correctness of a marriage celebration.||Annulments have become common in the U.S. New psychological grounds have been developed for declaring the original relationship "null and void."|
|All priests generally taught the same doctrine concerning faith and morals.||Many priests and catechists have told people to do "whatever their conscience tells them is right" [neo-gnosticism]. This lamentable misinterpretation of the Catholic Doctrine of Conscience is a form of Moral Relativism.|
|It was considered an honor to be a priest or a religious.||It is considered shameful to be a priest or a religious.|
|Priests and religious (both male and female) wore distinctive clothing (habits) and lived in walled enclosures (cloisters).||Priests and religious try to blend in with the culture so that they will not seem to be so different from other people. Their clothing now says, "I'm only human."|
|Diaconate (one of the three Holy Orders) was just a brief part of the process of becoming a priest. Candidates for the priesthood would serve as deacons for a few weeks at most.||The permanent diaconate has been restored. The Church ordains married men to be deacons. If his wife dies, the deacon must remain celibate.|
|Nothing but Italian popes from 1523 to 1978 (455 years!).||Election of first Polish pope in 1978.|
|No funeral service or Catholic burial could be given to people who committed suicide.||Funerals and burials are now allowed in the hope that God has some way to save their souls at the moment of death.|
|Children were required to memorize the catechism, a formal list of Church doctrines.||Children are encouraged to "be nice" to everybody. Doctrine tends to be reduced to BOMFOG: The Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God.|