Keys to the Council: Unlocking the Teaching of
Publisher: Liturgical Press, 2012
Paperback: 224 pages
As the church marks the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, too few Catholics have an adequate grasp of what the council contributed to the life of the church. The problem is understandable. The Second Vatican Council produced, by far, more document pages than any other council. Consequently, any attempt to master its core teachings can be daunting. There is a danger of missing the forest for the trees. With this in mind, Keys to the Council identifies twenty key conciliar passages, central texts that help us appreciate the vision of the council fathers. Each chapter places the given passage in its larger historical context, explores its fundamental meaning and significance, and finally considers its larger significance for the life of the church today. Chapters include exploration of Sacrosanctum Concilium’s demand for full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy; Lumen Gentium’s eucharistic ecclesiology; Gaudium et Spes’s vision of marriage as an intimate partnership of life and love; Nostra Aetate’s approach to non-Christian religions; and more.
Keys to the Council is the best book reviewed here. If you have time only to read one book, I highly recommend this one.
What makes this book so valuable is that it truly does what it sets out to do, namely, to unlock the teaching of Vatican II for any interested reader with 20 key conciliar passages each clothed in a brief, fact-filled, historically accurate, and theologically sound chapter.
The significance of the council to the reader’s life today, and how it might be best applied in his or her encounter with the world, is an important part of the book and provides an opportunity for reflection for the thoughtful reader.
This very readable and important book offers the data as well as a history of interpretation and reception that can re-enliven the hope of those who lived at the time of this graced event. But perhaps even more importantly, it can inspire a new generation of Catholics to embrace the Council’s vision and appreciate the gift that it continues to be for the Church of the twenty-first century.
Richard Gaillardetz and Catherine Clifford are both recognized practicing theologians. They have written a very useful book which might well be used as a text for undergraduate theology courses or for adult education or discussion groups composed of men and women who are eager to acquire a balanced understanding of the Second Vatican Council because they have heard that it was one of the major events in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Keys to the Council provides a cogent, constructive, and insightful overview of the themes of Vatican II that continue to shape the church fifty years after the council. Richard Gaillardetz and Catherine Clifford have crafted a text that promotes a renewed engagement with the council’s documents, particularly those teachings that highlight the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit within the church and its activity in the world. Well-grounded in Scripture and history, nuanced in its claims, and hope-filled, this book is both a faithful echo of Vatican II and a significant contribution to the ongoing reception of the council.
—Richard Lennan, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
In looking toward the 50th Anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, Richard Gaillardetz and Catherine Clifford have offered an excellent resource for both undergraduate courses and serious adult study groups that are looking for keys to understanding the documents that flowed from that magisterial font of ecclesial self understanding. They have carefully mined the Council documents to present just twenty pivotal teaching passages. With each text they give brief historical and textual context for the passage, the theological implications of the teaching and its practical reception in the intervening years. Sidebars with excellent definitions enhance the book’s overall usefulness. Since the Holy Father has asked all Catholics to participate in a Year of Faith with special attention to the Vatican II documents this excellent analytical resource will prove to be invaluable for those who want to take this task seriously. … Keys to the Council opens up not only the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, but also its place within the last century of theological renewal. Through crisp and insightful commentary, the authors offer an inspiring reminder of all that the council achieved.
—Edward P. Hahnenberg, author of A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II and Awakening Vocation: A Theology of Christian Call