A. What is it?
>> “Gaudium et Spes” is one of the four Major Constitutions of the Second Vatican Council.
>> It was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on Dec 7, 1965 – the day the Council ended.
>> The title “Gaudium et Spes” is a Latin phrase which means “The Joys and Hopes”
>> It is the longest of all the documents of Vatican II
B. What does it speak of?
>> The chief focus of “Gaudium et Spes” is on how the Church is to seek to provide meaningful answers to the questions people have about life.
The following are the major highlights of this important document of Vatican II
Introduction: The Situation of Men in the Modern World
>> Traditions and values are being lost. Moral conflicts are escalating as a result of a false way of living, and people’s moral conscience is playing less role. Oppression and neglect for the poor is escalating.
>> The world is capable of acts that uplift life and acts that destroy life. There is an addiction to material things. Yet, there are many who desire to know what the purpose of life is.
>> “Gaudium et Spes”, addressing all people of the world, confidently proclaims that Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, is the answer to all the perplexing questions that plague humankind today
Part I: The Church and Man’s Calling:
>> To be a human and Christian today is to read the signs of the times, seek common values and proclaim Jesus Christ.
I. The Dignity of the Human Person: The dignity of being human, stems from being created in God’s image. There is a law of love written in our hearts – an inner voice that calls us to love God and humanity. In following Jesus, we learn to love in such a way that our truest self is revealed.
II. The Community of Mankind: God creates humans to be together. Human community reflects Trinitarian community. We must learn to love and respect those who think differently than us. Each of us is responsible to fulfill the call to live justly, and to walk in love always.
III. Man’s Activity throughout the World: A person is truly valued by “who they are”, not by “what they do”. Whatever is done to promote justice and dignity is infinitely more valuable than what is technologically created. The hope of the world rests in love.
IV. The Role of the Church in the Modern World: The Church is the sign of the presence of God. The Church exists because of God’s love for us. The Church’s greatest responsibility and challenge is to promote and attain unity. We need to enter into honest discussion with mutual love and respect. Christ was, is, and always will be the Center of the Church. A concise Ecclesiology of the Church as “leaven” in the world is manifested.
Part II: Some Problems of Special Urgency
I. Fostering the Nobility of Marriage and the Family: Society is harmed by polygamy, divorce, free-love, excessive self-love, and improper use of birth control. Sacramental married life is a covenantal love of man and woman, created by God. Love in marriage is Divinely Ordained and is expressed through holy sex and lived out, in raising a family. All life comes from God and is therefore, Sacred.
II. The Proper Development of Culture: Growth in natural human and social science, as well as communications and technology, provide a means to change culture positively and negatively. The Church must remain faithful to its Traditions and be responsive to its universal mission.
III. Economic and Social Life: There is more than enough available to the world to provide for the needs of humanity. A just world seeks to provide opportunity for all to grow intellectually and morally. The concept of work also implies, how we can serve one another.
IV The Life of the Political Community: Authority must function as a moral force and not as a tyranny. The truest duty, politically, is to oppose injustice, oppression, and intolerance. The work of the Church is to preach the Faith and teach social doctrines. The Church has the right and responsibility to pass moral judgments on society when the salvation of souls is at stake.
V The Fostering of Peace and the Promotion of a Community of Nations: Peace is not the absence of war. Peace is directly relevant to people’s ability to love. Peace requires sincere respect for others and an effort to see that the basic human needs of others is met. Peace flows from Christ. Peace is not possible where these exist: injustice, economic inequality, thirst for power, or disregard for human life.
C. Pointers for Reflections
1. “Gaudium et Spes” appeals to all people to not be afraid of seeking to find the “true meaning of life”
>> We are often lost in the uncertainties, worries and cares of the world. The Document calls to “go deeper” and thus live a meaningful and purposeful life
>> This meaning is to find its fullness in a “Life in Christ” – Who is “the Key, the Censer and the End of all of human history” (GS, 10).
2. The Church is called to be a sign of unity
>> Today an honest and critical analysis of the Church can make us to confess that there a lot of factors of disunity: language, rite, social-status, caste, region etc
>> We are challenged to resolve these differences – despite the mighty challenge before us – so that we can truly witness ourselves as “The One Body of Christ!”
D. What virtues/points can we pick up from “Gaudium et Spes” for this Season of Lent?
1. Discovering Jesus as the “Greatest Meaning of our Life” and thus like the disciples have the “Eureka-shout” – “We have found the Messiah!” (Jn 2: 41)
2. Be a person who fosters unity and facilitates reconciliation
E. Tips to practice these virtues
1. Make an honest examination of life and draw a list of the priorities of our life; and thus check if God tops the list.
>> If not, what we need to do to have “First things First” – God as the Most Important Person and Goal of my life
2. Everyday make an “Examination of Conscience” and have the courage to forgive and be reconciled with those to whom we are not in good terms.
May this Lent and the familiarity with the Second Vatican Council Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World “Gaudium et Spes” help us to grow in our acclamation: “Eureka – I have found the Lord”
God Bless! Live Jesus!
The Full Text of Gaudium et Spes can be found at: