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 Rome.
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.
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