Lent 2024 Vatican II Study

For Lent 2024 I did a study of Vatican II focusing on these works:

Overall I stuck to the plan and it was great to dive deeper into these documents. I read Volume 2 Declarations and Decrees first to only bring one book while traveling, and actually ended up enjoying this the most, apart from Dei Verbum. Though note the text is smaller in volume 1 so page counts are not comparable. I also ended up not re-reading A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II and instead used Holy Week to reflect take some notes.

Overall impressions:

  • The Declarations and Decrees of the council are hit or miss, but overall I really enjoyed these and found them interested because I had not been exposed to them much before. Gravissimum educationis, Optatum totius, and Apostolicam actuositatem had sections which were especially relevant to me. Some others were clearly dated.
  • The Constitutions continue to challenge me. I struggled with Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et spes, in part for their length, focus, and language. Deeper study is needed to master these. Sacrosanctum concilium is the most fascinating to read and compare to its implementation and recovery. Dei Verbum is by far my favorite document from the Council.
  • Sources of Renewal was challenge for me. Wojtyła in general is challenging for me to read given his circularity and indirectness. This would perhaps be better approached with some more distance from the documents, as the extensive citations were off-putting to me after having just read through them.
  • To Sanctify the World is a helpful guide for reading the Council in context. He gives helpful historical and political background, focuses on understanding through the lens of John XXIII's intention and the John Paul/Benedict interpretation, and continually returns to the Christocentric message of the Countil.

To have a more fruitful study, I focused on the following questions with the documents, some notes on each of which follow:

  1. Personal Implementation: What teachings or recommendations of the council can be more fully incorporated into our family life as the domestic church, or into our parish?
  2. "Spirit" vs Text: How do the teachings of the conciliar documents compare with the so-called "spirit of the council"?
  3. Protestants: How would a typical American Protestant feel reading these documents? What would they find challenging or off-putting vs what would they find compelling?
  4. Deuterocanon: How does the council use and reference the Deuterocanonical Books?

Personal Implementation

  • IM: "For a proper choice demands that they fully favor those presentations that are outstanding for their moral goodness, their knowledge and their artistic or technical merit. They ought, however, to void those that may be a cause or occasion of spiritual harm to themselves...Parents should remember that they have a most serious duty to guard carefully lest shows, publications and other things of this sort, which may be morally harmful, enter their homes or affect their children under other circumstances." (9-10)
  • Family is the initial seminary (OT 2)
  • They should especially make missionary activity their own by giving material or even personal assistance. (AA 10)
  • AA 11 on family
  • AA 13 on preaching to neighbors
  • living by example in AG
    • "Their main duty, whether they are men or women, is the witness which they are bound to bear to Christ by their life and works" (AG 21)
    • "Since the whole Church is missionary, and the work of evangelization is a basic duty of the People of God, this sacred synod invites all to a deep interior renewal; so that, having a vivid awareness of their own responsibility for spreading the Gospel, they may do their share in missionary work among the nations." (AG 35)


  • "No Christian community, however, is built up unless it has its basis and center in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist" (PO 6)

"Spirit" vs Text

  • NA "urges all to forget the past", corrected by Benedict as "lessons of the past"
  • DH: "In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience." (3)
  • "recognize the signs of the times" (UR 4)


  • Opening address: all the formal "we/Us"
  • Opening address: "There is also a unity of prayer and ardent longing prompting Christians separated from this Apostolic See to aspire to union with us."
  • GE 11: "dialogue with our separated brethren"
  • UR 3: "we believe them to be deficient in some respects"
  • UR 6: "Christ summons the Church to continual reformation as the sojourns here on earth. The Church is always in need of this, in so far as she is an institution of men here on earth."
  • "planting the church" in AG 5


This question was sparked by recently reading Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger. I decided to document and visualize all the scriptural citations in the Vatican II documents, which are published here: Vatican II Scripture Citations

Vatican II cites the Deuterocanon with a similar weighted frequency as the Protocanon, including the books of Wisdom (5), Sirach (4), Tobit (1), 2 Maccabees (1), and Baruch (1). The books of Judith, Esther, and 1 Maccabees were not cited, nor were 19 books of the Protocanon. But the vast majority of Vatican II citations are from the New Testament. The Old Testament—whether Protocanonical or Deuterocanonical—is not a major focus.

Created: 2024-02-02-Fri
Updated: 2024-06-07-Fri