Jan 092017

If you are like most lay Catholic adults, your list of mysteries about Jesus and the Church you would like to understand might be similar to the one to the right. Probably understanding why was Vatican II called to be would not make your top 10 of Things to Understand,

However, according to our last three popes, having a working know of Vatican II should be a priority to us.

With the basic knowledge of how seemingly unrelated events led to the calling of Vatican II gives us a better understanding of the challenges of living a worthy Christian life in a world opposed to the Gospel.

What You Will Get From This Essay

Though Saint John Paul II said, “the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) was a great gift to the Church,” for various reasons few laity know much (positive) about its teachings.

Vatican II was a pastoral council called by the Holy Spirit to combat the heresies that developed since the Protestant Rebellion in 1517 and were compounded by The Enlightenment that began in 1715.

This essay is a brief introduction to those two events, along with the two general councils the Church called to combat them. These four events led to the calling of Vatican II, which affects how we live as Roman Catholic laity in the 21st century.

Recessional after Vatican II’s Opening Mass on October 11, 1962.

Saint John Paul II is somewhere in this photograph. He was a Vatican II Council Father (a bishop participating in the writing of the documents) due to his role as Archbishop of Kraków, Poland. He said the focus Vatican II was answering the question of what does it mean to be a faithful Catholic. 1

Each day we make the choice to live as faithful Roman Catholics Christians. To do this to its fullest, we should take advantage of understanding what this means and what God wants from us.

The documents of Vatican II give us a method of living this life to its fullest by applying Scripture and collective wisdom of the Church to better understanding what God wants from us.

Our Roadmap

While Saint Pope John XXIII said Vatican II was not needed according to the traditional reason to call a council, 2 there were several non-traditional reasons that prompted him — under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit — to call for Vatican II on January 25, 1959.

Click to open a larger version

The timeline to the right is our roadmap for this essay. It spans almost 25% of the history of the Church from the Protestant Rebellion in 1517 to the end of Modernity in 1970. The image shows the events and the people that led to the calling of Vatican II.

Click on page 2 below to continue.


  1. He talks about this in his book “Sources of Renewal
  2. 19 of the previous 20 councils had been called to address a specific issue affecting the Church. As we are going to see, the issue Vatican II was called to address was more pastoral in defining our role to meet the needs of a world much different than when the Council of Trent closed in 1565.