“The joys and hopes” – Gaudium et Spes (Vatican II) begins its 50th year – How does the church based on a document two thousand years old, relate that past to the present?” There are two joyful authoritative answers to that “Gaudium et Spes” and “Evangelii Gaudium”.
I am what some have referred to as a “Vatican II priest”! (Pope Francis is among those in this group!) I was actually privileged to attend the Second Vatican Council on the day before this document passed. (I was a guest/advisor of a Vincentian Bishop.) This document has had a profound effect on me and the last 50 years. So perhaps it is not surprising that I take note of the fact that the seminal church document of this age, Gaudium et Spes is in its 5oth year, as I am in celebrating priesthood.
Gaudium et Spes is the longest document of Vatican II…and consequently the document few people today have read it in its entirely.
In many ways it was a response to the question “How does the church based on a document two thousand years old, relate that past to the present?”
It begins “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.”
Pope Francis, himself a Vatican II priest, today has offered his vision of the response to this question. Francis revives one of the most important tools for engagement with the world “the reading of the Signs of the Times”.
There has been much talk of the “spirit of Vatican II” as well as the “spirit of Francis”. As we enter this 50th year of the document that shaped the Church in complex ways I suggest finding to time to review these two documents.
The website of the Congregation of the Mission offered various ways to become familiar with Pope Francis’ vision if one has 60 seconds, 5 minutes or longer.