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Saint John XXIII and the Road to Vatican II


Italians come to ruin most generally in three ways: women, gambling and farming . . . as farmers, my family chose the slowest one.” ~ Saint John XXIII

Rarely are Saints depicted with so much as a hint of a smile in most photos, artwork, statues or even stain glass windows. But the images I chose for today’s Reflection capture the true essence of Saint John XXIII’s gentle compassion, sense of humor and kindness. The Church celebrates his Feast Day on October 11th.

When the College of Cardinals assembled in October of 1958 to select a predecessor to Pope Pius XII, a sublime and in my opinion soon-to-be canonized Pope in his own right who presided over the Papacy for nearly 19 years, they were in search of a caretaker, someone who would merely take the reigns and maintain the status quo. They decided on the 76 year old Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the fourth of fourteen children born to a family of sharecroppers who lived in a village in Lombardy, Italy.

Boy were they in for a surprise.

Pope John XXIII went on to usher in the Second Vatican Council, which sought to address relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world. The council, through the Holy See, was formally opened under the pontificate of Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962, the reason that his Feast Day is celebrated on that date. Vatican II was closed under Pope Paul VI on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, 1965. Saint John XXIII would ultimately succumb to stomach cancer prior to witnessing the 2nd Vatican Council come to fruition.

”Before everything else, fidelity to the Church. One, Holy, and Apostolic. Jesus did not found many churches, but instead one single Church.” This was Saint John XXIII’s mantra, and he reveled in the fullness and richness of the Catholic Faith and its beautiful traditions. He would pray and reflect upon all three Divine Mysteries of the Rosary each and every day, for his devotion to the Blessed Mother was unparalleled. Of this sacred practice he said “This is the Rosary of Mary, considered in its various elements, which are linked together in vocal prayer and woven into it as in a delicate and rich embroidery, full of spiritual warmth and beauty.” He would later go on to call the Rosary “the school for learning true Christian perfection.”

Let us seek Saint John XXIII’s intercession in prayer for everyone whom we encounter. When faced with change in our lives, voluntary or otherwise, let us pray that we may do so with the same grace, aplomb, and wisdom as Saint John XXIII. This was a man who clearly opened his heart, mind and soul to the workings of the Holy Spirit and in doing so, left a beautiful legacy in his wake, one that each and every one of us have the opportunity to cherish and savor through the celebration of the Holy Mass. “Do not walk though time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage,” he would often say. Ample evidence of Saint John XXIII’s fleeting but rousing passage through the Papacy will forever echo throughout the annals of the Catholic Church that he served so devoutly and loved so much.

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“Dear Saint John XXIII ~ your simplicity and meekness carried the scent of God and sparked in people's hearts the desire for goodness. You spoke often of the beauty of the family gathered around the table to share bread and faith: pray for us that once again true families would live in our homes. With outstretched hands you sowed hope, and you taught us to listen for God's footsteps as he prepares a new humanity: help us have a healthy optimism of defeating evil with good.” Pray for the whole world, which is still marked by tensions, wars and injustice. You tackled war by invoking dialogue and planting the seeds of love: pray for us so that we may be tireless sowers of peace. Oh St. John XXIII, from heaven's window, where we see you next to Mary, send God's blessing down upon us all.” ~ Amen



Father Ken Lasch on October 12, 2020:

I was a student in Rome during three of the four sessions of the Council and present for its conclusion on December 8, 1965. They were exciting times for the Church. Thanks to St John XXIII, the world was no longer looked upon as an enemy but as an opportunity to engage in dialogue in the pursuit of justice and human rights. His encyclicals are as relevant today as they were when written. Keep up the good work, Chuck. Father Lasch

nickrao on October 11, 2019:

Pope John the XXII was a great man and saint. Working at the direction of Pope Pius the XII he aided thousands of Jews with Baptismal documents that gave them safe passage to Isreal. Vatican II had high values but was sabotaged by the bad actors in Europe and the US.

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