On Oct. 11 we’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council. It’s a great time for Catholics to commit themselves more to coming up to speed on the core teachings of the church to which we belong.
Many of us come to our posts as leaders – at home, at work, in our parishes and in the many roles we have in our communities — by crooked paths. Driving a car requires that one pass tests and get a license. Becoming a parent or a CEO happens in more fluid ways. Sometimes we are qualified, sometimes we are not. Nearly always, when it comes to fulfilling important leadership roles, we find ourselves having to do a lot of on-the-job learning.
For those who want to develop as S3 Jesus-like Leaders consistent with the Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus, it helps to have a rudimentary understanding of what our church teaches about what it means to be a baptized Catholic adult.
Unfortunately, many of us are getting by relying on what we learned in Catholic schools or religious education classes ending somewhere between eighth and twelfth grade, and whatever else we may have gleaned from the pulpit in the ensuing years.
I’d like to humbly submit that if we want to be good leaders consistent with the Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus, we should strive to do better than to just “get by” when it comes to knowing the teachings of our Catholic faith.
By the way, many who reject participation in the church also do so on the basis of what they were taught in grade or high school. I heard a Catholic bishop comment on that once. “It’s no great wonder they reject the religious education of their youth. We all reject our eighth grade understanding of economics too,” he said. “The difference is that we come to develop an adult understanding of economics, but with religion many of us never bother to fill in the gaps.”
One relatively quick, easy, cheap and painless way to develop an adult understanding of our church — and our place in it as adults — is to read the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
If you don’t think you have the time to do that, why not resolve to read just one? If that’s your choice, I would heartily recommend that you choose Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
After you finish that, revisit your decision to read just one document. Perhaps you will see the value of reading some more. In that case, I suggest you turn to Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, an important document which will help you understand how Catholics should interpret the Bible and what role it should play in our faith formation. (If you’ve ever wondered how you can believe in both evolution and the truth of the Bible, you’ve come to the right place here.)
If you’re turned off by Latin, don’t let the titles intimidate you. The documents are straight forward and easy to read.
There are other council documents on a host of topics, including communications (Inter Mirifica), ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) and the church in the modern world (Gadium et Spes). Most are relatively brief — much shorter than the popular novels you may be devouring in your free time.
I think if you decide to read one of them, it’s likely you will choose to read more. I think the more, the better. But I’ll leave that decision to you.
It’s time you learn I’ve saved the best for last. You can get your copy of Lumen Gentium— or any of the other documents — absolutely free on the Vatican website.
Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute