On Thursday, my Rector suggested at Evening Prayer that we commemorate Pope John XXIII, the anniversary of whose death in 1963 is on June 3. John’s short pontificate was a critical formative experience of my late teens and early twenties. My undergraduate years (1959-63, if you really want to know) coincided with the preparations for the Second Vatican Council and the first two plenary sessions. It was an exciting time to be a Roman Catholic. With so much change in the air, many of my generation hoped that those elements of Catholicism which were frankly intellectually embarrassing would be quietly allowed to fade away. It didn’t happen, or at least it happened with very limited results in some places.
John taught us to lay aside fear and be free. He gave us the courage to see that adventurousness in spiritual matters was a gift of the Spirit, not perverse rebelliousness or lack of faith. Unhappily, the springtime which he announced was not followed by summer, but by a return to winter under his successors.