The former Archbishop of St. Louis and current Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali worked at the Vaticanís Secretariat of State under Popes Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II. He was present in Rome for the first two sessions (in 1962 and 1963) of the Second Vatican Council, which ended in 1965.
Pope Blessed John XXIII opened the Council on October 11, 1962, but did not live to see its conclusion. Upon his election, Pope Paul VI saw the conclusion of the Council, implemented its various decrees and led the Church until 1978. Cardinal Rigali was an English translator for Pope Paul and came to know him well; Rigali could be called a Vatican insider.
Cardinal Rigali begins this book by saying that Vatican II was, quoting Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, ďall about Jesus Christ.Ē He also ends the book with the name of Jesus. This work was written after his presentation of reflections on Vatican II on the Catholic television network, EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network). After an introduction that summarizes the history of the Second Vatican Council, Rigali presents a summary discussion of the various documents and decrees produced by the Council. His reflections are chapter by chapter on the documents of the Council, with some chapters containing a great deal of discussion or commentary while other chapters are merely mentioned and described.
Regardless of depth, most of the presentations are lively and not dry. Rigali addresses not only events that followed the Council but also those which preceded it, such as what previous popes before John XXIII had done leading to the Council - Pope Pius XIIís encyclicals on liturgy and scripture, for example, and Leo XIIIís famous encyclical Rerum Novarum, which had a major impact on the moral teaching of the Council.
The documents discussed comprise sixteen chapters:
As evidenced by the listing of the various subjects, the Second Vatican Council discussed and ultimately wrote about as many aspects of the Church as possible. Cardinal Rigali quotes Pope John: the Council was called ďto renew [the Churchís] faith, to reflect on her unity, to promote the sanctification of her members, the diffusion of divine truth, and the consolidation of her structures.Ē Pope John wanted the Faith to be presented in a more fruitful way. As Cardinal Rigali says, the Council wanted to speak about Jesus to the modern world.
- The Church: The Light of the Nations (Lumen Gentium)
- The Sacred Liturgy: The Official Prayer of the Church (Sacrosantum Concilium)
- Gaudium et Spes: Joy and Hope in the Modern World
- The Instruments of Social Communication: Communicating Godís Love (Inter Mirifica)
- The Eastern Churches: East and West, Together in the Church
- Ecumenism: Toward the Unity of All Christís Followers
- The Church and Non-Christian Religions: Respect for All Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate)
- Divine Revelation: The Word of God
- Religious Freedom: The Dignity of Being Free (Dignitatis humanae)
- Bishops: Called to Be Living Signs of Jesus Christ
- Priests: Set Apart in the Midst of Godís People
- Priestly Formation: For Faithfulness and Service (Optatam Totius)
- Religious: Inseparable from the Churchís Life and Holiness
- The Laity: Called to Sanctify the World (Apostolicam Actuositatem)
- Missionary Activity of the Church: Christís Mission Prolonged, the Plan of God fulfilled
- Christian Education: Communicating Christ (Gravissimum Educationis)
The Council dealt with many aspects of the Church. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II wrote encyclicals, decrees and other documents that took the Councilís intentions further in a more tangible way. The Popes also called synods of bishops after the Council concluded that the bishops needed to meet and discuss topics with the Pope and with each other. Many synods have been held since the Council ended in 1965, most recently under Pope Benedict XVI.
This is a great introduction to the Documents of Vatican II and very worthwhile for both Catholics and non-Catholics to read. Those getting ready to study the documents of the Council may wish first to read this book. The reader will pick up on how strong Cardinal Rigaliís faith is; his reflections show tremendous passion. This book is highly recommended.