Last night I attended a wonderful lecture by the Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia, Justin Cardinal Rigali. He spoke about the Second Vatican Council in a very engaging way, from the point of view of someone who was there to assist the bishops.
Cardinal Rigali pointed several times to a speech by Pope John XXIII that is worth reading in its entirety, and he especially emphasized this paragraph:
What is needed at the present time is a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith, without forfeiting that accuracy and precision in its presentation which characterized the proceedings of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council. What is needed, and what everyone imbued with a truly Christian, Catholic and apostolic spirit craves today, is that this doctrine shall be more widely known, more deeply understood, and more penetrating in its effects on men’s moral lives. What is needed is that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which the faithful owe obedience, be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms…
The paragraph goes on to speak of the Church’s pastoral approach to the teaching.
The lecture was part of a series for the Year of Faith at the National Shrine in Washington DC.
I think it’s especially helpful to hear about the Council from those who were there, particularly when, as Cardinal Rigali did, they constantly point to the documents as the perpetual record of the Council. The reminiscences help this aspect of our fascinating history come alive, and the documents are the teaching.