One of the great challenges of the Second Vatican Council is its reception in the spiritual life of Catholic Christians. The council documents of this pastoral council contain both biblical and theological depth which are necessary and implicit in the reception process whereby the intent and the goals of the council take flesh in the life of Christians. The saints are models of spirituality. They have lived the gospel, their life is rooted in the sacraments and they live “in Christ”. Just as Jesus is the incarnation of the Word of God, so the saint has become one mind and heart with Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, priest, prophet and king.
Who is Jesus?
Cradle Catholics pray to God, to Jesus and to the saints. They soon get to know the difference and the kind of response they can expect from God. He is the creator of the universe and Father of all human beings. Mary and the saints are in heaven. Mary holds a special place among the saints because she is the mother of God incarnate in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The saints are our friends; they can assist us in difficult and distressing times. They share our joys and pray for us. The Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary and devotion to the saints are the staples of our daily prayer.
It has taken a while for us to understand that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. He is the Son of God and the Son of Mary. He calls us friends and invites us to ask so that we may receive, seek and find, knock so the door may be open for us. Like our mothers, Mary is our mother; she loves us and prays for us. We may or may not have studied philosophy and theology. We know, however, that great minds have studied these subjects which give a foundation to our understanding of what the Bible and our church teach us.
We know the importance of devotion or spirituality because it gives strength and continuity to our effort to know God, worship him, and keep his commandments. Our adult life as Catholic Christians is enriched by our spirituality. It is a part of our culture, of our world view, and of our daily living.
Jesus is the head of the church. Christology and ecclesiology are intimately related. A Catholic Christian is baptized into Jesus Christ. He or she becomes a member of Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, the mystical body of Christ. Vatican II made us all aware that the presence of Christ in the bible, sacraments and church, is the center and summit of our Christian life and mission. Ecumenism is a spirituality because it is a search for the way in which Christians and their churches can become one in Christ. It is also how we can fulfill his prayer that all may be one so that the world may believe. The prayer of Jesus is that the world may believe that the Father sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to save the world from sin and death. That is at the very heart of what we believe and hope for as Catholic Christians. We share this faith with all those who believe and are baptized in Jesus Christ.
Ecumenical and Eucharistic
My love for ecumenism, the ministry for the unity of Christians, stems from the experience that in working for Christian unity, I am drawing ever closer to Jesus Christ. This does not mean that I have become a mystic. It means that through my doubts and struggles, my fears and joys, I am able to know and believe that Jesus Christ is pleased to help me to understand the profound link between the Eucharist, the presence of Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, and the head of the Church which is the body of Christ. This is the insight of the decree on ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) in #8 that ecumenical spirituality draws us ever closer to Christ, and thus we are united with all those who belong to Christ through faith and sacraments.
Peter Julian Eymard
St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868) was canonized at the end of the first session of Vatican II on December 9, 1962. The Blessed Sacrament Fathers and Brothers, which he founded, believe his canonization was a “sign of the times”, and the affirmation of his extraordinary love of Jesus in the Eucharist. He centered his whole life and being on Jesus in the Eucharist and developed a spirituality for his congregation, for the church and for the world. His long retreat in Rome (January-March 1865) during which he took stock of his life and relationship to Jesus Christ, made him understand that communion in Christ is at the very heart of a spirituality flowing from and leading to the person of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Theologians of Vatican II rediscovered the centrality of communion theology (koinonia), that the church is a communion with Christ in the church and with God. The gift of self by which Eymard responded to Christ’s self- giving in the Eucharist is a perennial spirituality and one for the whole church and for all time. Eymard is truly a man for all seasons.
If the Eucharist makes the church and the Church makes the Eucharist, it is worth our while to see the intimate relation between the Eucharist and ecumenism. A spirituality that finds its center in the person of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, risen and glorified in heaven and earth, is a spirituality that finds its fulfillment in the desire to realize the goal of the ecumenical movement in the unity of the church and its celebration in a sharing of the Eucharistic table.