Vatican II: Unfinished Business – Panel Discussion
Bishop Geoffrey Robinson
When numbers of bishops come together, they are at ease with discussion of pastoral issues, but much less comfortable with discussion of profound theological issues. This is true whether we are speaking of a meeting of the Australian bishops in Conference or of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, and I believe it was true also of the Second Vatican Council.
The Council opened up perspectives, raised questions, indicated directions and made many beautiful and inspiring pastoral statements, but it frequently did not give the clear theological foundation on which to plan confidently for the Church of the future. All too often a tension between very different theological positions was part of the Council’s treatment of a topic. This was certainly true of the Council’s treatment of collegiality, conscience and marriage, among others. It is one of the major reasons why we must entitle this forum “Vatican II: Unfinished Business.”
It is important to understand that these tensions were present in the Council itself and in the documents it produced. Opposing groups within the Church can quote different statements to support their own positions. It is not surprising, therefore, that these tensions are still with us.
Despite this, I am an optimist about the final outcome of the Council. In large part my optimism comes from the least likely source imaginable, the crisis concerning sexual abuse of minors that has engulfed the Church.
It is my hope that, somewhere around the year 2100, an historian will be able to look back and say that serious change took place in the Catholic Church in the hundred years between 1960 and 2060. At first it was the Second Vatican Council that caused changes in most aspects of the Church’s life and had a quite profound effect on the way Catholic people lived their lives. Eventually, however, the changes of the Council seemed to come to a stop and go no further. It was then, in the twenty-first century, the historian will say, that the issue of sexual abuse forced further change. Serious change in an organisation as large and ancient as the Catholic Church requires an immense energy and it was the issue of sexual abuse alone that had that level of energy, for it was this issue that finally caused vast numbers of Catholic people around the world to rise up and say, “This is not good enough. There must be change.”
And so, our future historian might report, a further series of profound changes came over the Church in the first half of the twenty-first century. They were mainly in the two areas of sex and power. They did not come without fierce opposition, but the energy for change arising from sexual abuse was so great that eventually they did come.
Human development came to be put beside spiritual development and the two began to walk hand in hand. What was spiritually healthy and what was psychologically healthy began to shed light on each other. Sexuality was distinguished from sex, spirit and matter were reunited and joy in every aspect of God’s creation began to spread. The gifts of women came to be better appreciated. Power came to be seen as service, as Jesus had intended, and collaboration and empowerment became daily more common.
It is extremely unlikely that our historian will be able to report that everything became as perfect as this, but I hope that she will be able to report serious progress.
In bringing about these changes, I am not calling for a revolution or battles in the street in front of cathedrals. The issue of abuse is complex and sensitive, and it does not allow of instant and sweeping solutions. (Will you allow me to repeat that sentence: The issue of abuse is complex and sensitive, and it does not allow of instant and sweeping solutions). The whole Church must work together. But the immense energy for change that sexual abuse has aroused must not be lost. It must grow stronger, and it must be harnessed and used effectively.
Permit me to give a few examples. I would like to see a massive request from the Catholic people of the whole world to the Pope, asking him to put in motion a serious study of any and all factors within the Church that might foster a climate of abuse or contribute to the covering up of abuse. I would like to see an insistence that obligatory celibacy, attitudes to sex and sexuality and all the ways in which power is understood and exercised within the Church at every level be part of this study. I would, however, want a truly serious and scientific study, far deeper than anything I have so far seen in newspapers or heard around a table.
As a second example, I would like to see a massive request/demand that the collegiality of which the Vatican Council spoke, be used to the full in responding to this crisis. If collegiality is not fully used in an issue so important, so down-to-earth and so crucial to the effectiveness of the Church, then the Vatican Council is truly unfinished business. It does not involve any dogmas of faith, so there is no reason not to respect the needs and values of each culture. This surely means the Vatican listening to the needs of each country and not imposing the “foreign” solutions they have imposed, eg. establishing a statute of limitations of ten years for bringing forward an accusation of abuse or insisting that all cases must be heard by a tribunal consisting solely of priests and referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
As a third example, I would like to see the 32 diocesan bishops and 150 leaders of religious institutes in Australia give up some of their independence for the sake of all of us acting as one on this issue. However, I realise that in the Catholic Church people treasure any independence they do have, and are slow to surrender it. I also know that before the Council bishops rode roughshod over the rights of religious, especially women religious, so some religious can today be resistant to any suggestion that comes from a bishop. As I said, the issues can be complex and sensitive.
Nevertheless, my thesis is simple. The Second Vatican Council was the greatest event in the Church in my lifetime. It has inspired my life over the last forty years. But because its theology was frequently far from clear, it is unfinished business, and two of the areas that absolutely demand further work are sex and power. For these two issues the crisis of sexual abuse alone gives the enormous energy that is needed for further change to occur. We should respond to the crisis of abuse for its own sake and the sake of the victims, but we should also seek to use its energy creatively, sensitively and intelligently in order to take further the unfinished business of the Council.
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson is auxiliary bishop of Sydney.)
Robert Fitzgerald AM
Tonight, we come not to remember Vatican II, for to do so would be to look back at a historical event. Rather, we come to celebrate the ongoing spirit unleashed by Vatican II which is present with us today and into the future, and to accept the challenges it imposes on each of us.
I am reminded of a quote by Paolo Totaro, the Foundation Chair of the Ethnic Affairs Commission, NSW when he wrote over twenty years ago, “for us multiculturalism had to do with basic freedoms and with the right to be equally treated regardless of the culture one was born in, or had chosen. It was neither a point of arrival, nor of departure. It was but one moment in the tortuous passage towards a more civilised humanity, where a moral code of compassion and inclusion would operate and inform the laws of the state.”
These words ring true for me in relation to Vatican II. Vatican II was neither a point of arrival, nor of departure. It was but one moment in the tortuous passage or journey of the life of our Church. But what a moment! And what a legacy! It was a moment that lives with us today as fully as it did in 1962, yet it remains a moment that is incomplete.
Archbishop John Quinn spoke of the Second Vatican Council called by Pope John XXIII as “in the best sense a revolution, setting the Church on a new trajectory, profoundly touching all aspects of her life.”
Using the metaphors of opening the windows and letting new light in, he said “it enabled the Church to see her own internal life in a new way, its strengths and weaknesses, its fidelities and infidelities… to look out and see beyond itself, to see the world with its joys and hopes, its promise, its contradictions, its torments and its tragedies.”
The original document of the Council entitled “Sacrosanctum Concilium”, spelt out the goals of the Council, “It is the intention of this holy council to improve the standard of daily Christian living among Catholics; to adapt those structures which are subject to change so as to better meet the needs of our time; to encourage whatever can contribute to the union of all who believe in Christ; and to strengthen whatever serves to call all people into the embrace of the Church.”
Archbishop Rembert Weakland said “These were vastly inspiring aims, they involved a pastoral thrust; they implied updating the institutions of the Church, bringing them into the twentieth century; they demanded ecumenism and a quest for unity; they saw a new evangelisation. These were fresh and embracing aims.”
In each of these four areas we were and are called to a new way of looking at, and seeing our Church and ourselves.
A new way of looking at Church
Without doubt, the most fundamental call of the Council was to see the Church genuinely as a pilgrim people, a People of God. So often the term People of God was used to describe the communion, or communio, among all God’s people, that is Church.
This notion of the People of God creates the basis on which the concept of collegiality amongst bishops is founded. It is central to the reality that we all share equally in the responsibility for the Church itself. Indeed, we are all equal in the tasks of maintaining, enriching and enlivening the Church and equally responsible for the leadership of our Church. Our equality is born out of the gift of baptism and reaffirmed in the gift of confirmation. It is not given or bestowed by men but by God through these sacraments.
Pope John Paul II in the Apostolic Exhortation “Eccelsia in Oceania” published in November 2001 said, “…complemented and illustrated in the understanding of the Church as the People of God and the community of disciples. Church as communion recognises the basic equality of all Christ’s faithful – lay, religious and ordained. The communion is shaped and enlivened by the Holy Spirit’s gifts of offices and charisms.”
Today the great unfinished business for Church is to truly embrace these truths that the Church is the People of God, with shared responsibility for and shared leadership of our Church and to create the structures to enable this to be a lived reality not idle rhetoric.
In seeking a new way of looking at the Church, the Council acknowledged that there was room for legitimate diversity in our Church. The Church is indeed a communion of communities, a communion of local Churches. Yes, a universal Church, but a Church that is made up of a wide range of diverse, lively, enriching and yes, sometimes troublesome, communities. This legitimate diversity however continues to be a source of strain and struggle not because of the diversity, but the unwillingness of many to accept its legitimacy. We should, however, be encouraged by Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Ut Unim Sint published in 1995 when he was speaking of the Church’s quest for Christian unity, “Legitimate diversity is in no way opposed to the Church’s unity, but rather enhances her splendour and contributes greatly to the fulfilment of her mission.”
Yet there are many in Church that struggle and rail against such diversity.
There are those that continue to question the doctrines of collegiality and subsidiarity. I suspect that they question the very notion that we are all equal members of the People of God.
I am reminded of one of the Gospels of St Luke. In this particular Gospel, the story of Zacchaeus, Jesus is invited into the home of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was to many unclean and unworthy of offering such hospitality. The Gospel is one of welcome and acceptance. It is one of hospitality offered and received. But it is also a story that reminds us of “the others” who stood by, criticised and condemned this act of hospitality.
Brendan Byrne, in a reflection on that Gospel said, “alongside Jesus and the other principal character, there was a third party: a ‘they’ who observe and comment the third group invariably has difficulty with what is going on. They reject the exchange of hospitality, they mutter and they murmur.”
In our Church there are those that mutter and murmur about the tide of change that flooded forth from Vatican II. Just let us look at one element – that of collegiality.
Joseph Dunn in his text “No Lions in the Hierarchy” says “After Vatican II, for a brief moment, the doctrine of collegiality looked as if it might be taken with real seriousness, and expressed in structures like the synod which would actively encourage participation, openness and genuine communication. What has happened to that inspiring vision?”
He goes on to quote Edmund Hill who put the matter bluntly in his text Ministry and Authority, “the proposers and supporters of collegiality were naïve to hand over its implementation to its most committed opponents, who being anything but naïve have done their best to neutralise it ever since.”
They that “mutter and murmur” have often gone beyond simply commenting.
But, we can seek to complete the work of Vatican II by continuing to assert that we are indeed an equal people, in genuine communion with each other, the lay, the religious and the ordained, sharing in the joys and struggles, the leadership and the fellowship of our Church.
This is not an idle discussion for it sits at the heart of how the Church sees itself and how the Church must structure itself to bring this communion to reality. It is about claiming and shaping our shared leadership of the Church. This is our unfinished challenge. In our local Church how do we embrace these notions of shared leadership and responsibility?
Locating the Church within the world
Pope John XXIII in his Encyclical Gaudem et Spes and the documents of the Vatican II clearly sought to articulate the mission of the Church within the world. It is a social mission. It recognises the human person as the centre of the world and it seeks to bring the Church into close dialogue with all human persons and their experiences.
Put in another way, it is to bring the human experience into constant dialogue with the Christian event, as so elegantly expressed by David Tacey. Our Church’s role is to be a strong and articulate voice in the world. Leaders of our Church need to continue to own, to believe in, to preach and to advocate the social teachings of our Church. Since the time of Rerum Novarum, for over a hundred years, our Church has been such a voice in the world. That challenge remains ongoing business. As Pope John Paul II in his recent Apostolic letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte” (At the beginning of the new millennium) compels us to get close to those who suffer in the real world. He says, “Now is the time for a new creativity and charity, not only by ensuring that help is effective but also by getting close to those who suffer so that the hand that helps is seen not as a humiliating hand out but as a sharing between brothers and sisters.”
Fr Peter Maher in a recent article in The Mix says that we must respond “with raw honesty and integrity” and unencumbered in our quest to be part of or to be in dialogue with the world.
First, however, we must be a Church that acknowledges its wrong doings, by seeking the truth, accepting its guilt, expressing its sorrow and rejoicing in the reconciliation. It must never defend the indefensible or excuse the inexcusable.
Our Church cannot afford to be removed from the world nor arrogant in its encounters. Humbly engaged it must be, in order to bring the Kingdom alive today, in our world.
How do we in Australia bring the human experience into dialogue with the Christian event? What are the hallmarks of our encounters with the world?
Just as Vatican II is unfinished business, so too in our land are the issues of poverty, reconciliation, the fair treatment of asylum seekers, and the inclusion of the most vulnerable. These issues are our issues.
Christian unity – a great quest
One of the most extraordinary aspects of the Second Vatican Council was its call for the Church to re-engage with other religions in the quest for Christian unity. It is a call today re-expressed in the encyclical of Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint. Archbishop Quinn talks about this document and its challenges as another “revolution”.
His Holiness calls for the whole Church to be engaged in a re-examination of the Church’s quest for Christian unity, and in an extraordinary way, the very role of the primacy. Pope John Paul II says, “I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility… above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian communities and heeding the request made to me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.”
This is indeed a great challenge. How have we responded? I fear with silence and indifference.
In Novo Millennio Ineunte he restates the need for a relationship of openness and dialogue with the followers of other religions.
If the business of Vatican II is to be truly finished then we must re-embrace the quest for Christian unity with renewed enthusiasm. It is only then that we will really see a true revolution in the Church, the way that it sees itself and its structures and institutions. Just imagine the moment when the first Church is embraced by or embraces the Catholic Church. Imagine that moment and all that it will mean!
Pope John Paul II goes on to say, “in accordance with the hope expressed by Pope Paul VI our declared purpose is to re-establish together full unity in legitimate diversity.” A diversity that will strengthen the life and mission of the Church itself. And will forever change it!
How strong is our commitment to Christian unity in our local Church and are we ready for what it will mean?
Religious freedom – a personal search
For many, one of the most significant consequences of the Council was the shift from the forcing of religious beliefs to one that acknowledges the need for an informed yet free individual conscience. It was a dramatic shift in increasing the personal responsibility of each of us. It was a call for a deeper, more challenging spirituality. It is one that has placed greater onus on each member of the Church, to develop an intimate relationship with our God. In recent papers Fr Michael Whelan has talked about the difference between knowing God (gnonai) and having knowledge of Him (gnoseos). Without doubt Vatican II called us to know our God and not simply have a remote understanding or knowledge of Him. Yet, in no way did this shift diminish the need for community, nor did it undermine the teachings of the Church, but rather encouraged the absorption by each individual of these teachings and embrace true community in order to forge a new relationship with each other and with our God.
The unfinished business for the Church is to embrace this message in a very special way. It is also at the heart of our new evangelisation – to go out to those that have walked away from the Church, to acknowledge where they are, to walk with them and to journey with them. But where to should we journey? For me, it is to the Christian event – the birth, the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Fr Cyril Hally, a Columban Priest, some years ago wrote, “there is one mission – the building of a kingdom which is not the same as the consolidation and expansion of the Church. We do not pray ‘thy Church come’ but ‘thy kingdom come’. The Church must reflect gospel teachings of Jesus Christ in order that it can bring the Kingdom.”
As Church, we must never lose sight of our mission, that is to bring the Kingdom alive in the hearts and lives of all people, to allow people to forge a deep yet demanding encounter with God. Church facilitates, not hinders this process, or at least it should!
Signs of the times – a hopeful agenda
Pope John XXIII first used the expression “signs of the times” in his encyclical Pacem in Terris. Throughout the Council this term was used over and over again. The call was not only to read the signs of the times, in a complex and changing world, but also to find signs of the spirit alive in our world. We must indeed be a people of great optimism and great hope. There are signs of the spirit at work here tonight, throughout the Church and in the world at large.
It was once said, “there are also signs of the living spirit amongst us. We know that God loves us now, no less than God loved previous generations of believers.”
Do we believe that he would abandon us today? Do we believe that he loves us less than he loved those that came before the Council? Of course not!
We must believe in that hope. We must believe that the signs of the spirit are at work today, in our life, and in our world. He calls on us to go out into the deep, reminding us of the words of Jesus when speaking from Simon’s boat; he invited the Apostles “to put out into the deep”. The work of Vatican II can only be accomplished if we are prepared to put out into the deep. To take the risks, but to do so in the hope that comes from the Gospel message.
Pope John Paul II in Novo Millennio Ineunte says, “let us go forward in hope; a new millennium is opening; before the Church lies a vast ocean upon which we shall venture, relying on the help of Christ.” He goes on, “that the Son of God… is at work even today, we need discerning eyes to see this and, above all a generous heart to become instruments of his work.”
Let us not forfeit the hope of Vatican II but be inspired by it, guided by it and liberated by it.
Let us not listen to those who mutter and murmur, nor allow them to distract us from the great unfinished challenges that are our shared responsibility.
Let us go out into the deep with confidence and courage in the knowledge that God loves us no less than those who came before us.
Let us be the signs of the spirit at work in today’s world, not simply spectators in search of other signs.
Let us live the Moment, let us finish the business!
Dunn, Joseph, No Lions in the Hierarchy, Columbia Press, Dublin, 1999
Quinn, John R, The Reform of the Papacy, Herder and Herder, New York, 1999
Maher, Peter, The Mix 2002, Catalyst for Renewal
Weakland, Archbishop Rembert, Faith and the Human Enterprise, Orbis Books, USA, 1992
Whelan, Michael, Recovering the Mystical Heart of the Christian Faith, ACLRI Hobart, 2002
(Robert Fitzgerald AM is currently Community Services Commissioner in New South Wales; he is a member of the National Competition Council. He holds degrees in law and commerce from the University of NSW and an honorary doctorate from Australian Catholic University.)
Michael Whelan SM
YOU ARE A LINK IN A CHAIN
We can usefully think of the “unfinished business” of the Second Vatican Council in terms of three interrelated challenges:
Firstly, there is the challenge to re-think;
Secondly, there is the challenge to re-form;
Thirdly, there is the challenge to re-new.
None of these challenges can be pursued independently of the other two; all are inextricably bound together.
1. The First Challenge: Re-thinking
I recently went on the Internet and typed “google.com”; I asked “Google” to search for the words “cor ad cor loquitur” – “heart speaks to heart”, the motto of Venerable John Henry Newman. In .1 of a second, it gave me 605 web sites where I could find that Latin phrase used. This reminds me of how much things have changed over the past forty years since the Council began.
The human reality I inhabit today is very different from the one I inhabited – along with the Catholics and others of my generation – back in 1962. In particular, I can, do and must think differently about things. I have different perceptions and expectations about what is possible and what is necessary; I ask different questions of myself and my world. I think differently about myself as a human being, as a male, as a Christian, as a Catholic, as a priest.
I have no doubt that the Spirit of God is to be found in the midst of this process. We must take the initiative in this re-thinking, therefore, and forge a vigorous conversation in which we deliberately facilitate the emergence of truth, no matter what it costs us. And it will cost us. But it will also liberate us. Paradoxically, this conversation, so oriented towards an unfolding present and a future still out of sight, must also be deeply conscious of the past – it demands a re-discovery of the riches of the authentic Gospel tradition and an attentiveness to the experience of the Church and the lessons learned down through the ages.
In the work of re-thinking we might even discover that it is possible to think with your stomach as well as your head, that rationalism has brought mixed blessings, that imagination has been diminished and that there are ways of thinking, found in the great mystics, that will liberate us beyond belief.
Our re-thinking may at times mean new language, new concepts, new names, or thinking in new ways about old language, old concepts and old names. Part of our re-thinking demands, for example, that we clarify what we mean by words like “tradition” and “magisterium” and “infallibility”; that we return to the Gospels with a keen desire to hear them afresh; that we think anew about the Incarnation and what is actually on offer through the mystery of God enfleshed in our world.
2. The second challenge: Re-forming
When I went to the seminary at the beginning of 1965 – a few months before the Council ended – I participated in a little ritual of reception. Together with the other eleven postulants-to-be, carrying a folded soutane, a surplice with lace trim and a biretta, all neatly arranged and held out in front of me, I processed into the chapel, where the seminary faculty had gathered with the student body – about 50 all together. We and our new garb were blessed; we left the chapel and returned, clad in that new garb – including the biretta. I could spend some time speaking of the barely subdued hilarity that accompanied that little ceremony. However, my point is simply this: On that day in February 1965, I was part of a form of Christian living – manifest in the particular clothing, ritual, custom, church architecture and so on – that was already beginning to change. I suspect no one knew at that time just how much change was already underway. Again, as with the challenge to take the initiative of re-thinking, we must also take the initiative and engage in an intelligent process of re-forming. If we do not take the initiative, we will not only miss the opportunity of being part of something liberating and life-giving, something we can happily bequeath to the coming generations, but we will run a grave risk of simply becoming victims of the whole process of change and perhaps making others victim of it also.
So many of the forms of the Catholic Church we had inherited as we came into the middle of the twentieth century, had more to say about the demands of past eras than they had to say about the demands of the twentieth century, let alone the demands of the Gospel as such. And, although much has been re-formed over the past forty years – not always happily or well and not always unhappily or badly – much still has to be re-formed.
And in this re-forming process we might get some surprises. We might discover some ancient forms – such as meditation and lectio divina – that have a wonderful richness, perfectly suited to our time. We might also appreciate as never before that – with institutions as with human beings – dying is part of living and the changing of forms is part of God’s plan.
It is critical that this process of re-forming be allied to the process of re-thinking. And there is one particular thing that worries me in this regard. It is the phenomenon of reductionism. Reductionism manifests itself in varying ways, but it is always an attempt to reduce reality to manageable proportions, and thus bypass, ignore or actually dismiss the subtleties, complexities, ambiguities and paradoxes that make reality so rich, so life-giving, so incomprehensible and so enchanting. The following three examples of reductionism are common enough, sometimes more or less implied, sometimes more or less explicitly stated:
Firstly, there is a reductionism that sees the teaching authority of the Church largely or simply in terms of the prerogatives of the Pope and the Roman Curia – particularly the Roman Curia. This form of reductionism, for example, tends to have little regard for the authority of the bishops gathered in synod, or the bishop in his own diocese; it also tends to have little regard for such key concepts as “communion”, “collegiality” and “subsidiarity”;
Secondly, from time to time I hear it proposed that “anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s opinion”. This form of reductionism, for example, tends to have little regard for the authentic tradition or scholarship, and implies a certain arbitrariness, as if there were no deposit of faith or no objective truth;
Thirdly, there is a reductionism that sees the challenge for the Church primarily in terms of structural change and political forces. This form of reductionism, for example, tends to have little regard for the power of the Spirit in it all, sometimes working in the strangest and most unlikely people, events or things; this kind of reductionism also tends to run ahead of grace.
We are all vulnerable to the temptations of reductionism. It promises security; it allays our anxieties by creating the illusion of control. But we must never forget that reductionism is more an expression of anxiety than faith. What is demanded of us is a deliberate movement towards surrender and abandonment. We would do well to turn to those mystics I mentioned earlier to learn more about this.
3. The third challenge: Re-newing
The most crucial part of the “unfinished business” is what I am calling the challenge of re-newing. You and I, individually and communally, must become new people. The real work is not going to happen out there unless there is real work happening in here, in the hearts and minds of each of us. This is the intensely communal and personal work of conversion of heart and mind (cf Romans 12:2), the daily submitting to the power of the Spirit of God that we might become a new creation (cf John 1:13 and 3:3 etc; 2Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), conformed to Christ (cf Romans 8:29; Philippians 3:21; 1Peter 1:14-16). It is also the work of facing what must be faced in ourselves, of being willing to address with compassionate honesty the most fundamental of all questions: “What’s going on?” More particularly: “What’s going on with/in me?”
No amount of re-thinking and re-forming will do us any good if there is no conversion of life underpinning it, manifested in it and flowing out of it. Or, to put it another way, all our re-thinking and re-forming must be also and at the same time re-newing. And so, the re-thinking then becomes an effective opening to the Spirit of God, not just a change of ideas or personal agenda or still less simply the abandoning of old thought patterns; and the re-forming then becomes a process in which we allow the Spirit of God to lead us where we must go, not just a problem-solving program or a series of political manoeuvres.
4. Concluding Remarks
Not everyone is going to be a leader in re-thinking or re-forming, though we must all be open to both and seek to respond to the challenges there to the best of our ability. However, everyone is a leader in the work of re-newing. No other human being has quite the journey of conversion that you have, and therefore no other human being has quite the same gift to bring to the life of the Church. You alone can lead us along that way.
I referred at the beginning of this presentation to Cardinal Newman’s motto, one which we would do well to meditate on at this time – “cor ad cor loquitur”. I shall conclude with a few words from one of Cardinal Newman’s prayers, words that I would encourage you to take to heart as they describe beautifully and simply our Christian vocation, especially in this time of “unfinished business”: “I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.”
(Father Michael Whelan PhD is a Marist priest: he is the Director of the Aquinas Academy and the editor of the MIX, the journal of Catalyst for Renewal.)