Fall of Communism in Poland, Church as ‘Perfect Society,’ Pope’s Visit to Detroit, and Vatican II

By Rev. Lawrence M. Ventline, D.Min.

For The Polish Weekly

It’s clear that Father Stan Ulman, of St. Mary of the Hills in Rochester Hills, Michigan, appreciates Vatican II.

“Today some people are frightened by the implications of Vatican II and are willing to exchange its promise for the surety they think existed before Vatican II.  This pursuit will give them neither.”

Yet, I wonder if some Catholics have even read the documents of Vatican II 50 years after its start. Their appreciation for the Council lacks if they have failed to take time to inform their faith. They hardly can speak for this historic Council without interpreting it unfairly, let alone applying it, a concern voiced by Pope Benedict XVI.

That sums up the ambiguity I sense among some today about fully celebrating Vatican II fifty years after its start fifty years ago this October, 1962.

A lack of enthusiasm to fully embrace this historic Council has me wondering.

When Ulman, among others, have been steered by a Vatican II vision all of the years of their ordained ministry, and, there is a sense now that pervades so many about it, how disappointed one must feel.

Yet, despite the “very confusing and liberating” feelings that emerged from this “momentous event when one’s world gets turned upside down” concludes Ulman, decades after the Council’s conclusion in 1965, Blessed John Paul II’s later visit to Poland “started the fall of communism,” yet, “I don’t think there was anything similar here,” pointing to the pope’s whirlwind visit  in 1987 to Hamtramck, Pontiac, and the Most Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit.

“I don’t sense a greater zeal for the Church or the faith because of that visit and would argue that a local pastor has a more significant and direct impact on people’s lives,” advised Ulman.  Although my own 22-month research shows that middle-school and high schools students did note that they would be different and serve the poor more because of the pope’s visit.

Karol Wojtyla was the brightest of the Polish bishops present at the Council, yet, he was attached to the Church as a ‘perfect society,’ beyond the term, ‘people of God,’ that connotes inclusion of all Catholics, along with morphing and reforming as pilgrims in a universal call to holiness together all the way to heaven, “unless one has other plans,” as the beloved Father Frank Skalski, would often say. However, nevertheless, Wojtyla did defend the model of Church as a communion since he wanted an active laity urging intra-ecclesial dialogue and an ecumenical thrust.

In Chicago, for example, in October, 1979,  John Paul II diverts from Pope John XXIII’s reason for the Council’s  “renewal” when he announced his intentions for a Council in 1959 months after elected pope. John Paul, however, concluded that the council was called “so that the sacred deposit of the faith should be more effectively guarded and taught.”

If the purpose was defensive and preserving the deposit of the faith from errors, Vatican II’s original intent of John XXIII seems different for John Paul II.

The Church is far far from the “perfect society” that John Paul II preferred over  the People of God model like a family around a table that gets messy with spilt milk.  After all, when perfect, what’s to grow, reform, or mend for that matter? Perhaps the ‘perfect society’ needs more explaining. That model seems so perfect a people we are not

When the pastoral pastor, Father Ulman was asked about how the Church can help prevent some of the epidemic violence around us today, he said:

 

“We are not good at preaching non-violence or altenate responses to violence, and, our culture trumps whatever we may say.”

“If we could live what we preach, learn to forgive, respect each person and deal justly, that may have an impact,” he added.

That would be something worth celebrating for sure! It’s a call to “full, active and conscious participation,” at Mass, Vatican II teaches in its very first of 16 documents, on liturgy in the vernacular, “the most visible thing to change, and very often, with much opposition or uncritical adaptation,” notes Ulman.

Being a Catholic is an active life, committed life.  How I wonder what this great Council still will unfold for the People of God who seem to hunger for more from leaders.

 

FROM FATHER STAN ULMAN:
“I only wish that I had paid closer attention to the Vatican Council while it was happening. Being in High School and College at the time, I related to those events academically but not personally. It was only later that I realized what a momentous event this was. It’s not every day that your world get’s turned upside down. Liturgy was the most visible thing to change and very often with much opposition or uncritical adaptation. But what was really changing was people’s understanding of themselves as Catholics, their understanding of the world and the role of faith, relationships with other Christians and non-Christians, the primacy of
conscience in moral decisions and the servant role of those in charge.
This was all very confusing and liberating. Today some people are frightened by the implications of Vatican II and are willing to exchange its promise for the surety they think existed before Vatican II. This pursuit will give them neither.

As for the Pope’s visit, that was an unheard of event. The Pope in Hamtramck! Who could have imagined. I gloried in the happening while asking myself the practical question “what will be the fruit of this visit”. It may be hard to measure this here in the US. In Poland we saw
that his visit started the fall of communism. I don’t think there was anything similar here. People have fond memories of JPII but I don’t sense a greater zeal for the Church or the faith because of that. I would argue that a local pastor has a more significant and direct impact on people’s lives. But I’m sure it fits somewhere in the grander scheme of things.
As to violence, Pope Paul VI’s words are just as true today – if you want peace, work for justice. We are not good at preaching non-violence or alternative response to violence and our culture trumps whatever we may say. If we could live what we preach, learn to forgive, respect each person and deal justly, that might have an impact.”

 

 

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