“A Beautiful Work of the Holy Spirit”


Chelsea - beach cross2

Man likes to be in control, especially of  the Holy Spirit. Of course, most of us would deny trying to box in the Almighty, because we realize how ridiculous this sounds.  Yet, because we really do not like to change, we end up resisting even God.  We like our comfort zone. We especially don’t like the rug ripped from under us and that approach is usually how God must snag our attention.

The Holy Spirit is not stagnant. He is not the God of the past, but God of the present,  alive, a dynamic powerhouse seeking to heal, transform and draw us ever closer to His heart.

This week I was wondering why so many Traditionalists are against Vatican II, labelling all the popes which came after as illegitimate and even heretics, especially Pope Francis. When I researched the question, an insightful homily popped up by Pope Francis from May 29, 2013. He called our resistance to change “being stubborn; this is called wanting to tame the Holy Spirit, this is called becoming fools and slow of heart.” The pope points to Traditionalists who resist changes, but even worse, to Modernists who twist the teachings of Vatican II to suit their own purposes, entrenching  Traditionalists even further.

What a conundrum!

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Benedict also praised the council for its teachings on the interpretation of Scripture, religious freedom and relations with non-Christian religions. He lamented what he described as widespread distortions of the council’s teachings which upset Traditionalists, blaming the “council of the media” as being responsible for “many calamities, so many problems, so much misery.”  He explained further, “Vatican II can be properly understood only in continuity with the church’s millennial traditions, not as a radical break with the past.”

Preaching on St. Stephen’s words before his martyrdom, Pope Francis addressed those who resist, twist, or ignore the impetus of the Second Vatican Council, which he described as “a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit”.  He applied St. Stephen’s words to those who resist change, “You stiff-necked people…you always resist the Holy Spirit.”  Again on the road to Emmaus, it was Christ who lamented, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”  

“The followers of  Christ are slow to grasp and respond to the will of God, we fail to trust Christ completely, we do not wish to be moved by the Holy Spirit in new and surprising ways.

He also rebuked the scribes and Pharisees of today, those who  set themselves against the Holy Spirit’s work through the acts of the Council. Those who resist change impede authentic Catholic renewal by denying the validity or appropriateness of the Conciliar texts. The Traditionalist, those who claim to be more Catholic than the pope or council, call the council illegitimate  and stand on ceremony, fossilifying the Church’s pre-Vatican II culture in accordance with their own comfortable piety.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.(Mt 23:29-33)

Traditionalists ignore the contemporary Magisterium, replacing it with the spirit of some earlier age. However, Modernists are also to blame, because they use theology for their own convenience, twisting the legacy of the Council  and ignoring the Magisterium. The real Conciliar texts are a great gift of the Holy Spirit for authentic Catholic renewal. Pope Francis rebukes both groups, because the  Council was  a wholly legitimate and continuous growth or development of the Church, which everyone is bound to accept and act upon.The very same points were made by Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Every pope since the Council has insisted upon its faithful implementation.

Finally, I have an inkling of what Pope Francis….and the Holy Spirit…. are up against.

Father forgive us for trying to control you; grant us humble and contrite spirits so we may follow your lead.


Photography by Chelsea Zimmerman

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33 thoughts on ““A Beautiful Work of the Holy Spirit””

  1. What an outstanding article! The same kind of attitude has taken place in the Protestant churches – with I’m right and the new way is wrong. This may have a root in the sin of Pride. The “new” church evangelicals go too far the other way. This is one of the many reasons I sooo appreciate the Catholic Church, including Pope Francis. I think he is right on target. Thanks again Melanie.

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  3. Nicely said.

    You know me, Melanie: I’m one of those bi-formal EF-OF Catholics. If anything, it’s actually my love of the EF that makes me grin at a lot of what Pope Francis says. The reason for that is that the EF is very obviously Christocentric. And with Pope Francis (as with Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II), it’s All Jesus All The Time.

    Here’s the thing about the Mass, period, whether one “prefers” the EF or the OF: is it, and our love of it, ultimately about Jesus Christ?

    Heck, it had better be.

    1. melanie jean juneau

      Well put as always. No one slandered Pope Francis on this article but on another site in Defense of Pope Francis, a quarter of the comments are negative ones from Traditionalists.They do not stop to think about poor translations or the media twisting the truth

    2. Since much of what Pope Francis says that Traditionalists think are in criticism of them can also just as easily apply to their Modernist opponents, why do they always have to assume that they’re being singled out?

      A lot of what he says can just as easily apply to any one of us, too: in the “twelve diseases in the Church” address he gave to the Curia, how many of those apply just as much to any and all of us? And since we know we’re all sinners, why is this news?

    3. melanie jean juneau

      Jean Vanier( founder of L’Arche) said, “You can be right. You can be dead right and bring death to all those around you. SOME Traditionalists are so sure they are right that they are offended if any faults in their beliefs or culture are pointed out.

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  5. SnowCherryBlossoms

    Wonderful, wonderful! I wish people would trust Jesus when He said the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church. I can’t understand why people think He would leave us without a Pope!? I’ve really loved all 3 Popes in my own life time 🙂 God Bless you.

    1. melanie jean juneau

      Good Insight- many people’s negative reactions to Vatican II and Pope Francis, in particular, are fear-based. To quote John Paul II, “BE NOT AFRAID!”

    2. SnowCherryBlossoms

      Yes, I notice this, but I think he is a wonderful Pope. He just approaches issue in a different way.

    3. melanie jean juneau

      agreed- Pope Francis speaks blunt words from the heart and in the Holy Spirit. I met a well-known minister who met with the pope in Rome( the pope is building bridges). This non-Catholic was in awe, calling Pope Francis the holiest man he had ever met

    4. Besides, never underestimate the ability for a Catholic to discover from their love of one particular Pope that they love all the others, too.

      I was rather indifferent to the Pope, period, until Benedict XVI. But it was the way Benedict spoke to me that allowed me to rediscover John Paul II, and then Leo XIII, Pius XII, and Paul VI. It’s what allowed me to ultimately love Pope Francis.

      Any difficulty at first was due to my own hang-ups: I’d just come back to the Church three years before Benedict stepped down. Just as I’d come to love Benedict, the faith, both forms of the Mass, Church’s teaching about the “hard stuff,” and the Church at all, Benedict was leaving. But ultimately, this is about Christ, and His promise that the Holy Spirit guide us.

    5. melanie jean juneau

      You examined your own reactions, rather than simply attack the pope. Many traditionalists simply look for a slip-up and pounce on sensational headlines in the press. The press loves drama, One commentator pointed out that it is only in English-speaking countries where there is so much dissent because of poor translations. Another wonderful article says he is Spanish and does not speak in analogies but idioms which cannot be taken literally.

    6. I hadn’t heard of that observation– that only in English-speaking countries is there so much dissent, or at least so much noise, due to poor translations. But I’m not surprised. Literal translations from pretty much any Romance language to English don’t work well.

    7. melanie jean juneau

      One article suggested he quick releases are machine translations which are shoddy, Furthermore, he “smells a rat” involved in translations when he looks at who does them- they have been removed from the curia

    8. Perhaps a lot of folks don’t realize that the Pope is not a President, a Prime Minister, or a Monarch, and tend to view the office in wholly secular terms: with the event of a new Pope, they expect “regime change,” and not, well, Papal tag-teaming.

      There is a certain continuity with regard to the charism of the Successor of St. Peter: the Pope always knows Who Jesus Christ is (“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for no flesh and blood could’ve revealed that to you except My Father in Heaven…”). He is the Vicar of Christ, not the People’s Supreme Representative, and every Pope will bring both his considerable gifts as well as his frailty to the office.

    9. SnowCherryBlossoms

      I think you are right, people seem to think of the Church and government politics as all the same thing with the same rules.

    10. Well, someone upon seeing me bless myself asked me whether I was Catholic. When I answered in the affirmative, the person then attempted to speculate on where I was on the political spectrum.

      The answer that I gave at the time was that Catholicism is “more conservative than you think and more liberal than you think depending on the issue,” but now, I’d revise that answer to say that Catholicism doesn’t think in those categories– they’re too narrow! 😉

    11. SnowCherryBlossoms

      It’s hard to put Catholics in a box! I look at the 12 disciples and how completely different they all were…much like us today!

    12. Hey, don’t stop there: look at the Communion of Saints– all radically different, and yet what they all have in common is love of God above all things.

  6. This reminds me of my last two years of parochial school and some of the following in Catholic high
    school. We kiddos, mired in the throes of what had just taken place (Vat 2) could not fathom why
    the good sisters of Notre Dame and St Joseph wore either a smile or frown on their faces. We were
    agog that some of them actually ranted to their class how this would be the downfall of the church.
    Needless to say it went over our pubescent heads whose only focus was either recess or dismissal.

    1. melanie jean juneau

      smiling- This is uch an amusing memory.I can only imagine how upsetting Vatican II was 50 years ago, since it still upsets the Church. ( I have been a Catholic for 40 years)

  7. WOW, you must be called A LOT of names. You speak the truth! Do you still have a good relationship with your blood brothers and sisters, your Pastor and Church family?

    1. melanie jean juneau

      I am on good terms with my family and Church because there is part of me, part of all of us, which resists the Holy Spirit. We are all sinners, in all need of constant redeeming and transforming by God

    2. I am very happy for you, most obedient Catholics who would write an article like this would not be received well by their Parish Priest, etc. I know from experience.

    3. melanie jean juneau

      I am grieved to hear a PARISH priest admit to not supporting Vatican II. I have not actually spoken of the council in depth since my classes, and spiritual direction 40 years ago at the Jesuit College I attended

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