Let’s hear it for the 60s!

On Tuesday, Feb. 22nd we will be reflecting upon the prophet Elijah as part of  our “Great stories of the Bible series” at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Massapequa, NY. The program begins at 7:30PM.

I wrote a letter to the Long Island Catholic, the newspaper for the Diocese of Rockville Center that was published this week. It’s my take on the essence of the religious education during that first ten years or so after the Vatican II Council – my formative years. 

For me, the experience was overwhelmingly positive.  Yet the  conventional wisdom of today seems to proclaim that too much of Catholic tradition was lost in the effort to “open up the windows of the Church” and that is why so many have left the Church or are barely hanging on.

The way I see it, the Council came along in the nick of time to offer a vision for a radical renewal of a Church that was tottering.  So much of essential Catholic doctrine , belief and practice had become so hidebound in Fuedalistic ways of thinking and governing that the Church was in danger of falling into fundamental and fatal irrelevance.  There’s a big difference between clearing out the rotted wood as one attempts to restore a building and destroying a sound foundation.  For awhile, however, the confusion of the construction site makes it difficult to discern the difference.

Here’s the letter: 

Editor:   I was happy to read about the impending publication of a teen catechism ( “Faith and New Works”,2/9/11).  Any project that has been entrusted to the wise and capable care of Cardinal Shonborn will certainly benefit the Church.


I also offer a positive witness to the catechesis which occurred in the Church during that ten year period following the close of the Council. While there is  truth in the Bishop’s condemnation of “psuedo-theologians” of this era, the catechesis I received during these formative years of my life impressed upon me five principles which have guided me ever since.. Specifically:

1) The Incarnation is the most beautiful and complete manifestation of God’s incomprehensible love for all human beings.

2) The sole reason for the Church’s existence is to be a living witness to this wonderful Truth to a desperately lonely world.

3) Any Catholic who refuses to proclaim this Truth, experienced in all its’ fullness in the celebration of the Eucharist, through a life committed to Service is a tremendous hypocrite.

4) “Being Church” is not just the business of the clergy but is the right and responsibility of each and every member of the faithful.  

5)  All that is good has a place in the Christian life. We should strive to be “Christian humanists” who are open to all of the beauty and wonder and wisdom of the world but who interpret it all through the mind of the risen Christ and thus can become agents of transformation.

 Were it not for the fine catechesis I received which embraced the best of the Old but also the best of the  New I would certainly not be  catechizing teen-agers at Holy Trinity High School. I would have ended up adrift among the vast multitudes of the unchurched.

Jim Philipps (3rd millenium pilgrim)


(I am a Catholic theologian and catechist with much experience in conducting retreats, parish days of recollection and adult faith formation classes in a variety of areas but most particularly the Scriptures. You can contact me at: jimphilipps@juno.com)

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