...I was told that the Second Vatican Council was "all a dreadful mistake" "didn't achieve anything worthwhile" etc etc, and I suspect too many - especially young - people are still being told that. But it's just not true. This weekend, attending at Maryvale a series of lectures on the Church, I realised again the huge importance of Lumen Gentium and its profound perspective on the reality of the Church. Instead of presenting the Church as a sort of super-society, a structure with rules, this offers much more profound understanding of the Church, all richly connected with Christ.
I hadn't fully grasped the significance of 19th century history - when Garibaldi's army helped to ensure a swift ending to the First Vatican Council, there was much that was left undone - and many years, and two world wars, later, the Second Vatican Council took on the task with a renewed understanding of its urgency. We are only now, fifty years on again, able to see that - like all great Councils of the Church - the full significance of what it discovered and taught has an immense importance over and beyond what its actual participants imagined.
Maryvale is a wonderful place at which to study. You are woken in the morning by the sound of the Brigettine sisters singing their morning office in the chapel. Mass follows - academics, students, sisters, everyone, together filling the chapel, priests concelebrating, an atmosphere of great devotion. Then we say the morning Office together, after which comes breakfast and then lectures begin. The old house, large and rambling, always seems to yield up new secrets - this time I found that I could get to the lecture room speedily through a tiny slip of a corridor I hadn't even known existed, connecting one section of the house with another, near what was once Bl. John Henry Newman's room. Outside, rain lashed down but we were snug and at meals crowds of students chattered and nattered in the pleasant refectory over plates of pasta and sausages. The only grim thing is the coffee, but I always bring my own(and share it with anyone and everyone who happens to be at my table)so that problem is solved.
The library is full of good things, the grounds, rain-washed but agreeable summoned me for some fresh air under rustling trees. On Sunday morning we listened to the Gospel about the paralysed man being lifted down through the roof: an image of how it's the faith and support of others, and not neccesarily our own, that can bring us to Christ. A rich sense of being part of the universal Church, the timelessness of the Eucharist, of the Church, of God, a strong unity with the Holy Father in Rome. The Church: Lumen Gentium.