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The Word on Fire Vatican II Collection
A robust but readable journey into the true history and purpose of the Second Vatican Council, and a compelling call for an enthusiastic return to its texts today.
The Word on Fire Vatican II Collection
The Word on Fire Vatican II Collection
Published by the Word on Fire Institute
HARDCOVER  |  392 Pages  |  6" x 9"  |  Retail Price: $29.95  ONLY $23.96
Publisher: The Word on Fire Institute
HARDCOVER  |  388 Pages  |  6" x 9"
Publication Date: March 22, 2021
This beautiful collection features the four central documents that most fully articulate the vision of the council—Dei Verbum, Lumen Gentium, Sacrosanctum Concilium, and Gaudium et Spes—with illuminating commentary from the postconciliar popes and Bishop Robert Barron interspersed throughout.
Retail Price: $29.95
This beautiful collection features the four central documents that most fully articulate the vision of the council—Dei Verbum, Lumen Gentium, Sacrosanctum Concilium, and Gaudium et Spes—with illuminating commentary from the postconciliar popes and Bishop Robert Barron interspersed throughout.
Special Launch Deal: ONLY $23.96
(You Save 20% & Get Free U.S. Shipping!)
Questions? Need help placing your order?
Email us at sales@wordonfire.org or call 866-928-1237.
Special Launch Deal: ONLY $23.96
You Save 20% & Get Free U.S. Shipping!
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About the Book
The Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), a gathering of Catholic bishops from around the world, was one of the most significant cultural and ecclesiastical events of the twentieth century. Though practically everyone acknowledges its importance, Catholics have been debating its precise meaning and application for the past sixty years. On the one hand are “radical traditionalists” who claim that Vatican II has betrayed authentic Catholicism and produced disastrous consequences in the life of the Church; on the other, “progressives” who saw the council documents as a first step in the direction of a more radical reform of the Church, perpetuating the “spirit” of Vatican II. 

But even as many voices have argued about the council since the documents appeared in the mid-1960s, the documents of Vatican
II are still widely unread, and if they are read, often misunderstood. This groundbreaking new book from Word on Fire is designed to address that problem. 

The Word on Fire Vatican II Collection features the four central documents that most fully articulate the vision of the council—Dei Verbum, Lumen Gentium, Sacrosanctum Concilium, and Gaudium et Spes—with illuminating commentary from the postconciliar popes and Bishop Robert Barron interspersed throughout, along with beautifully carved linocut art. The collection also includes the opening address of Pope St. John XXIII, the closing address of Pope St. Paul VI, a foreword from Bishop Barron, an afterword from theologian Matthew Levering, and helpful appendices listing key terms and figures and answering frequently asked questions. The Word on Fire Vatican II Collection is a robust but readable journey into the true history and purpose of the Second Vatican Council, and a compelling call for an enthusiastic return to its texts today.
Understanding the Post-Vatican II Church
In this episode of the Word on Fire Show, Bishop Barron and Brandon Vogt talk about how to make sense of all the names, groups, and movements surrounding the Second Vatican Council. What are the key things to know, and how have they shaped today’s Catholic Church?
 Some Catholics in America today are increasingly vocal in their attacks on the Second Vatican Council—an ecumenical council of the Church summoned and presided over by the successor of Peter. How should we understand this disturbing trend?
In this video, Bishop Robert Barron traces the missionary purpose of Vatican II from the conciliar texts themselves, through the New Evangelization, and finally to the Magisterium of Pope Francis, whose influences situate him in a particular camp in this history.
5 Unique Features Of This Beautiful New Book
1. The four central documents of Vatican II, in a beautiful and easy-to-read format
2. A foreword from Bishop Robert Barron and an afterword from theologian Matthew Levering
3. Commentary from Pope St. Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis, as well as Bishop Robert Barron
4. Original linocut art, carved and hand-pressed on an antique cast iron book press, by Cory Mendenhall
5. A helpful appendix answering frequently asked questions about the council, including: What is Vatican II? Was Vatican II merely a “pastoral” council? And are Catholics free to ignore, disparage, or reject Vatican II?
Read the Foreword
By Bishop Robert Barron
The Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), a gathering of Catholic bishops from around the world under the headship of Pope St. John XXIII and then Pope St. Paul VI, was one of the most significant cultural and ecclesiastical events of the twentieth century. Though practically everyone acknowledges its importance, Catholics have been debating its precise meaning and application for the past sixty years.

As I write these words in the waning days of the year 2020, a fresh controversy has broken out, this time prompted by “traditionalists” who claim that Vatican II has betrayed authentic Catholicism and produced disastrous consequences in the life of the Church.

In the years that I was coming of age, the 1970s and 1980s, the argument was, largely, between advocates of a “hermeneutic of continuity” reading versus a “hermeneutic of rupture” interpretation of the council—which is to say, between those who appreciated Vatican II as a legitimate development of the teaching that preceded it, and those who saw the council as a real break with that tradition and a signal that something altogether new was emerging in the life of the Church.

To understand this rather complex set of positions and counterpositions, it is advisable to look, however briefly, at the council and its immediate aftermath.

The great and saintly pope who summoned this gathering of bishops saw the purpose of the council as fundamentally missionary. The Church of the early 1960s did not face major doctrinal questions, but many priests, bishops, scholars, and pastoral practitioners did indeed think that the Church’s regnant neo-scholastic theology, a rather dry, superficial version of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, was inadequate to the missionary task in the modern world. Thus, what the overwhelming majority of the theological experts and bishops at Vatican II opted for was an updating of the Church, but paradoxically, precisely through a recovery of the more lyrical language of the early Church Fathers and of the Scriptures. This change, they felt, would facilitate the process of bringing the light of Christ to the men and women of our time.

It is noteworthy that unlike almost all of the conciliar texts that came before, the documents of Vatican II are not pithy statements of belief or anathemas of heresies, but rather lengthy, meditative theological essays designed to persuade rather than to define or condemn. That this approach won the day at Vatican II is evident in the vote counts for the conciliar documents, almost all of which were passed with only a handful of negative votes out of over two thousand cast.

To be sure, there was a small group of vocal dissenters to the documents, bishops and theologians who preferred to stay within the confines of the standard neo-scholastic approach, but it is fair to say that they were clearly defeated at the council.

Now, the victorious party, within five years of the close of Vatican II, split into two camps, one more liberal and the other more conservative. The former, represented by such figures as Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Küng, and Gregory Baum, saw the documents of Vatican II as a first step in the direction of a more radical reform of the Church. They argued that the council was much more than the written texts that it produced; that it had, in fact, unleashed a spirit that should be allowed to blow through the Church, affecting its doctrines, practices, and institutional structures.

The latter group, represented by, among others, Joseph Ratzinger, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Karol Wojtyła, reacted against this liberal reading. In a famous essay from the early seventies, Ratzinger decried the desire to perpetuate an amorphous “spirit of the council.” In point of fact, he argued, the Church always turns with a kind of relief from a council, since such gatherings always represent a certain throwing of the Church into suspense. While the theologians and bishops gather to deliberate and discuss, as indeed they must from time to time, the Church is not focused on its basic work of worshiping God, evangelizing, and caring for the poor.

Once the council has completed its task and resolved whatever difficulties needed resolving, the Church returns with renewed enthusiasm and clarity to its mission. Therefore, the perpetuation of the spirit of Vatican II would be tantamount, Ratzinger concluded, to condemning the Church to a permanent state of indecision.

These two camps, corresponding more or less to the hermeneutic of rupture and hermeneutic of continuity approaches referenced above, have battled for the past roughly fifty years, but the latter school came to the fore due to the fact that two of its most distinguished representatives, Wojtyła and Ratzinger, both were elected to the office of Peter. Their papacies, expressed in numerous homilies, talks, encyclicals, and formal statements, stabilized the interpretation of Vatican II.

The radical traditionalists of the present moment represent an energetic comeback of the neo-scholastics who lost the day at Vatican II. They reject both the hermeneutic of continuity and the hermeneutic of rupture, preferring to see the entire Vatican II project as misbegotten from the beginning.

With this book, I am nailing my colors to the mast. I and Word on Fire stand firmly with Vatican II and hence against the radical traditionalists. And we stand firmly with the Wojtyła-Ratzinger interpretation of the council, and hence against the progressives. We are convinced that, even as many voices have argued about the council since the documents appeared in the mid-1960s, vanishingly few Catholics have actually read the texts themselves. This book is designed to address that problem. It includes the four “constitutions” of the council—which is to say, the essays that most fully articulate its purpose and ethos. But it also features a range of commentaries and explications of these marvelous documents, most drawn from the popes and bishops who provide a magisterial interpretation.

Many years ago, I heard a speaker remark that far too many people in the Church seem to want either Vatican I or Vatican III! That traditionalists and progressives still dominate much of the conversation today proves that his observation still has validity. I believe that the documents of Vatican II are still widely unread, and if they are read, often misunderstood. The needful thing, I am convinced, is a robust and enthusiastic reappropriation of the texts of Vatican II. I hope that this book represents a contribution to that project.
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