.- Denverâs Archbishop Charles Chaput opened a new lecture series being sponsored by the Archdiocese to a packed house last evening as he reflected on the role and meaning of councils in the Church and the world and the unique vocation of bishops. Archbishop Chaputâs timely lecture comes as the Church prepares to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council later this fall.
Speaking on the uniqueness of the Christian vocation, the Archbishop said that, âA man born of a Jewish mother is Jewish by virtue of his birth. He may be very religious, or lukewarm, or an atheist. But heâs still, in real sense, a Jew.â
âBeing Catholicâ, he said, âis a very different kind of experience. Baptism is necessary to being a Catholic. But itâs not enough as we grow in age. As Catholics, we become defined by what we believe, how we worship, and how actively we live our faith in public and in private.â
âItâs not possibleâ, Archbishop Chaput continued, âto be what some people call a âculturalâ Catholic. Catholic culture comes from an active Catholic faith. Unless we truly believe and practice our faith, âCatholic cultureâ is just a dead skin of nostalgia and comfortable habits.â
Councils and the culture
The Archbishop recalled that in its history, the Church has held 21 different ecumenical councils, which are important not just for the Church, but for the whole world.
He summarized the common marks of an ecumenical council saying: âAll are either called or confirmed by the Pope. All involve bishops and other persons entitled to vote from around the world. And all become part of the content of our faith once the Holy Father approves the results.â
On this, he quoted Blessed Pope John XXIII, who said that all âecumenical councils, whenever they are assembled, are a solemn celebration of the union of Christ and His Church, and hence lead to the universal radiation of truth.â
The Archbishop went on to discuss the importance of the Second Vatican Council, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of itâs close this fall, saying that âall of us have been shaped by itâ, and it will âprobably continue to shape Catholics for decades to come.â
Summarizing the main aim of the council, he said that, âthe Church in 1945 and the Church in 2005 has exactly the same goal: the proclamation of the Lord Jesus Christ for the conversion and salvation of the world, through the truth of the Catholic faith. The methods and structures may differ. The mission hasnât changed.â
On this point, he explained the nature of the Church--a body composed of human beings, but aimed and focused on something higher.
âWhen people say, âwe are the Church,ââ the Archbishop stressed, âof course thatâs trueâ¦
But a âcommunity of faithâ or a âcommunity of the faithfulâ implies that thereâs Someone and something we have the duty to be faithful to. We donât invent the Catholic faith. Nor do we own it. We receive it; we live it in community; we witness it to others; and we pass it on fully -- as good stewards -- to our children. Thatâs what life in the Church means.â
Citing the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, Archbishop Chaput laid out a vision of what the Church truly is, and truly ought to be in the world--all the way from the roles of laity up to that of priests and the bishops.
Fathers of souls
The Archbishop closed his talk by touching on the vocation of bishops within the Church, a role which Vatican II says is âa call to serve rather than a call to power.â
âBishopsâ, he said, âhave the same need for redemption as the people to whom they belong. The only difference is that God will hold bishops even more accountable because of the leadership to which He ordained them, and because of the graces of office that theyâve received.â
Archbishop Chaput described this vision, borrowing from the wisdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch, as he said: âEvery bishop is a successor to the apostles and a pastor of souls. Every bishop has the duty to safeguard the liturgical life of the local Church.â
âEvery bishopâ, he continued, âmust proclaim the Gospel and teach the true Catholic faith in his diocese. Every bishop should give an example of personal sanctity in charity, humility and simplicity of life. Every bishop should help the poor and suffering. Every bishop has the obligation to sanctify, encourage, correct and govern the local People of God.â
âAbove all,â he said, âevery bishop needs to do these things with fatherly love and fraternal charity, because the Church is a family of faith. Itâs not a political party or an impersonal institution. Itâs a family â a family of faithâ¦A good father will do almost anything, and bear almost anything, to keep his daughter or son in the family.â
In a time in which many criticize and many more misunderstand the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Chaput said that, ultimately, âwhether history judges Vatican II as a success or a failure finally depends on us -- bishops, clergy, religious and laypeople alike â and how zealously we live our faith; how deeply we believe; and how much apostolic courage we show to an unbelieving world that urgently needs Jesus Christ.â