I was born in the same month and year that John XXIII announced the convocation of the Second Vatican Council. In 1967, my family moved and joined a parish that bore his name. At the time, we gathered in a school gym for mass while the church was being constructed. The church was built and owned in partnership with an Anglican congregation. At the time I didn`t realize the significance of this ecumenical venture. We attended the laying of the cornerstone which read `That they may be one`. The parish is now Blessed John XXIII.
For me, a visit to St. Peter`s Basilica always includes a moment with the man who announced to the world that it was time to open wide the windows of the Church, so that the Holy Spirit could blow freely. After the beatification of John XXIII in 2000, his incorrupt body was transferred to the main level of St. Peter`s under the altar of St. Jerome. He lies peacefully in a glass coffin, looking much smaller than the jolly, round fellow portrayed in photographs. The few pews in front of the altar are always full, and there is a steady stream of pilgrims filing past to get a closer look.
The vision of Vatican II continues to be challenged. To some, those opened windows were a grace of God. To others, they were an experiment gone bad. In the presence of the body of the man who started it all, a prayer is raised….that they may be one.