by J.J. Ziegler
July 1, 1962, news of a joint U.S.-Mexican statement against
totalitarianism topped the nation’s headlines. “The Music Man” was
playing in theaters, and Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You” was
America’s most popular song.
And Blessed John XXIII issued Paenitentiam Agere (“To Do Penance”), his seventh encyclical letter.
penance for one’s sins is a first step toward obtaining forgiveness and
winning eternal salvation,” the pope began. “That is the clear and
explicit teaching of Christ, and no one can fail to see how justified
and how right the Catholic Church has always been in constantly
insisting on this. She is the spokesman for her divine Redeemer. No
individual Christian can grow in perfection, nor can Christianity gain
in vigor, except it be on the basis of penance.”
Pope John issued
the encyclical three months before the opening of the Second Vatican
Council, which he hoped would “give all possible impetus to the spread
of Christianity,” lead to a “renewal of Christian life” and
“refurbishing of Christian morality,” and inspire souls “to truth and
virtue, to the worship of God both in private and in public, to a
disciplined life and to missionary zeal.”
When Jesus began his
public ministry, the pope noted, “He did not begin by revealing the
principal truths of the faith. First, he insisted that the soul must
repent of every trace of sin that could render it impervious to the
message of eternal salvation.” Similarly, the pope believed Catholics
needed to do penance and pray in the months preceding the council in
order for it to bear fruit.
“We were made aware that the success
of the Council depended upon the participation of all Catholics, at
least in their prayers, penances and sacrifices,” recalled Bishop Thomas
Doran, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1961 and led the Diocese
of Rockford, Ill., from 1994 until March 2012.
“Prayers for the
success of the council were greatly encouraged, and I think people took
that request seriously,” added Bishop William Skylstad, the former
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who was ordained
in 1960 and served as bishop of Spokane, Wash., from 1990 to 2010.
Read the remainder of the article from OSV Newsweekly.