A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Blessed Pope John and Vatican Council II – a personal reflection

by Sr Mary Scanlon LCM

by Sr Mary Scanlon LCM

The background

Coincidences happen when God wants to remain anonymous. This very day, as I sit down to write this reflection, I learn that beloved Pope John XXIII will be canonized next year. Wonderful! I have several links to share with the reader: the first is that this year is the Golden Jubilee of Pacem in Terris, Pope John’s wonderful encyclical on peace, so his profile is again before us; the second is that I rejoiced in and grew spiritually through the inspiration of the Second Vatican Council Documents; and the third is that I have the honour and the joy of having been born on the same birth date as Blessed Pope John, 25th November. So, weaving together all the above threads, I believe it is high time I acknowledged his influence and inspiration in my life, second only to those of Mary of Nazareth and my founder Venerable Mary Potter.

Quantum leap changes

When the documents of the Council emerged onto the world stage, they proclaimed a whole new approach to our Christian life, and especially to our Religious Life. Come with me on this brief journey.

The journey

The Council called us to deeper awareness of and fidelity to our founding ideals which, for me as a Sister of the Little Company of Mary, resulted in a greater and more wonderful understanding of “fullness of life” as Mary Potter intended.

We were encouraged to engage with the world, not abandon it, and again that mandate had always been in the mind and heart of Mary Potter, and indeed was a way of life I had always lived.

We were permitted to know ourselves and be known by our Baptismal names rather than those of saints, often of the male gender.pacen in terris

And the crowning glory, we were able to have and hold, own and study, the Sacred Scriptures. As a lover of words and language, I was overjoyed. Etched in my indelible memory is the day in 1972 when I obtained my first Jerusalem Bible! As I held it, reverently opened it and gazed with awe and love at the beauty of its words and texts, I was aware of the tears flowing down my cheeks. I have never lost that awe and wonder, and relish my twice-daily Scripture Readings, the Trinity alive in the words on the pages.

This year, I have read and re-read Pacem in Terris, savouring again the wisdom of its sentiments and the aching appeal of its message for World Peace, which seems as far away as ever. I often pick up my Documents of Vatican II, and reflected recently that the copy is almost illegible from all the annotations I’ve made over the years.

I conclude this small tribute to a great and good man, Blessed Pope John XXIII, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, my beloved Guardian Angel, with a simple yet profound Thank You. I thank you for sharing your birth date with me; the world joins me in thanking you for your towering influence on its spiritual growth and holiness.


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