Reflections on Vatican II by Msgr. Larry Beeson from the Diocese of Des Moines

31 Dec


On January 15th and 17th John Gaffney, director of Evangelization and Catechesis, and Msgr. Larry Beeson, who was present at the Second Vatican Council, will present some ideas about the Second Vatican Council to the CLADD group.  The Rich Soil Blog on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 will feature a slideshow of the opening ceremony to the Council and pictures from a typical day.  The upcoming CLADD sessions will show case a short clip showing Msgr. Beeson at the Council and also a slide show of some pictures from the Council.  He will be display of some of the documents that were used at the Council and some sample ballots.  Following the presentation will be a short opportunity for CLADD participants to share among themselves on the Second Vatican Council.

The question arises, “Why should we review the Second Vatican Council in this year of faith?  What difference did it make? Have the hopes that were raised in the Council been realized?”

The answer to these questions and many others is that the way we experience Church today is not the same as it was 50 years ago.  Studying the documents of the Second Vatican Council helps us to understand this perspective with a view towards the future.

To begin with it is important to read the documents the way they were written.  The documents themselves were not a treatise composed by professional theologians but rather included the observations by Bishops that were heads of Diocese throughout the world.  Professional theologians had a part to play in their composition but their main thrust came from those in active ministry.

Pope John XXIII wanted the Council to be a Pastoral Council rather than one defining doctrines.  The main objective was to read the signs of the times.  The choice of topics to be discussed and their practical outcomes came from the Bishops themselves working with the Pope.  Reading the documents you can receive the same spirit that inspired them.

Some of the concepts that are operative in the church today came right out of the Council.  We become so used to them that we don’t often reflect upon the fact that there was a time when the church was very different.

The following are some examples:

  • The liturgy today is very different than it was before the Council.  If you were able to take advantage of the workshop by Abbot Marcel Rooney you heard a wonderful explanation of just how this took place.
  • Today we speak of the Church as the “People of God.”  Positions that were formerly held by priests and religious are now staffed capably by lay people, e.g. principals of schools, hospital administrators, Diocesan Directors and staff. Because of the Universal Call to Holiness we look at the various states of life in a different light.  We are all striving to become holy in whatever state of life we find ourselves. Holiness is not just for priests and religious persons.
  • The Council reinstituted the Permanent Diaconate in the Church.  Today many of the roles in the Church are carried out by Deacons. They provide essential work in the Diocese today.

You can draw many comparisons yourselves.  There is practically no aspect of the Church that was not affected.

Msgr. Larry Beeson is a retired priest of the Diocese of Des Moines.  Msgr. Beeson was present at the Second Vatican Council as a young priest.  He has been a pastor at many parishes around the diocese as well as the Vicar General of the Diocese of Des Moines.


Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Second Vatican Council, Year of Faith


2 responses to “Reflections on Vatican II by Msgr. Larry Beeson from the Diocese of Des Moines

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  2. Patricia Noreau

    July 17, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    Msgr. Beeson, thank you for sharing these incredibly interesting and revealing photos into something I never imagined I’d be able to see! Prior to seeing these photos my idea of the Second Vatican Council was strictly related to doctrine and it’s implications to the Church, either realized or yet to be realized.

    You’ve added the human dimension of the The Council for me to expand my thoughts…” to whom was the “revelation” of change made?” The Church… of course, but specifically, it was made to the holder of that ticket…the name next to Des Moines, Ia.!

    November 18th, 2015 marks fifty years for Dei verbum, a foundational document. Perhaps this calls for an encore presentation of your reflections on the Second Vatican Council?!
    Please reserve my ticket today!
    May God bless and keep you Msgr. Beeson, you are truly a gift to us.


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