Our readings today tell us that God has good use for our
civic leaders. In the First Reading, God spoke well of Cyrus II, king of
Persia. God says he inspired Cyrus to conquer Babylon, freeing the people of
Israel after their seventy ears of captivity. In the Gospel Jesus told us to give to Caesar what is
properly his. As a Democrat, I interpret Our Lord’s sayings as meaning we
should honor President Obama, but my Republican friends would rather that I
change the subject. So let’s talk about the Synod being held by 250 bishops in
Pope Francis convened the Synod to discuss matters that
interfere with traditional modes of Catholic family life. Without promising any
change in our actual rulings, both the Pope and the bishops are telling us we
must lighten up.
Speaking of people in illegal relationships, Pope Francis,
without promising to legalize such relationships, asks us to respect the genuine
love that may well be present in such unions. Then, with the bishops it is significant
that at their coffee bars they are frequently saying they feel like they are
attending Vatican II.
That kind of remark sets my mind to wandering far off,
settling on two French priests who contributed greatly to the spirit of Vatican
II. Let me tell you about them.
When Pope John XXIII was still just Archbishop Roncalli he
was Rome’s Apostolic Delegate to France. In that role, in 1950 he carried out
orders from the Holy Office that had him forbidding Father Yves Congar and
Father Henri de Lubac to teach or to publish their books.
One of Congar’s books, A Divided Christendom pointed
out that baptized Christians all belong
to one church. The other book True and False Church Reform called for a
loosening up of the Curia’s hold on the Church. With De Lubac’s publications
the book the Curia particularly objected to was The Supernatural. It was
a volume that pointed out that the ancient church said that unbaptized babies go to heaven.
Although Roncalli, carrying out orders, banned those two
from teaching and preaching, he greatly admired them; and after becoming Pope John
XXIII he called them to Rome as special Theologians to his Vatican II. Then,
those two, on arriving in Rome for the council, found that their books had been
eagerly read by the bishops through Central and South America.
Independent of each other Lubac and Congar had translated whole
library shelves of early Greek and Latin Christian teachings, When they at last
came together they adopted the motto Resourcement,
holding that for teachings to be truly Christian they need to rooted in the
teaching of the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church.
Both de Lubac and Congar had heroic lives that added luster
to their teachings. The older of the two, Henri de Lucac was a foot soldier who
was severely wounded defending Paris against the Kaiser’s troops in World War
One. Then, during World War II he evaded many Gustapo traps while publishing an
Underground paper that cried out against the treatment of the Jews.
With Congar, in World War One when the Kaiser’s troops took
over his town, carrying off his father, his mother set a ten-year-old Yves to
writing an illustrated daily journal. From age thirty-seven he was afflicted
with a hardening of the arteries that had him dragging one leg through his remaining
fifty-four years. Congar, as a chaplain with French troops at the opening of
World War Two, was taken to five years of Nazi imprisonment. The French
Government awarded its Croix de Guerre for bravery to each of them.