On January 25, 1959, Pope St. John XXIII announced his intention to convoke an Ecumenical Council. St. Josemaria Escriva welcomed the news with great hope and asked members of Opus Dei to offer their daily Mass, five decades of the Rosary every day, some mortifications, and other acts of piety, so that the Holy Spirit would give light to the Pope and his collaborators.
When Cardinal Tardini requested help, Msgr. Josemaria sent the names of twelve members of Opus Dei from whom the cardinal could choose to serve on the preparatory commissions.
With his spiritual sons serving at the commissions, Msgr. Josemaria was left with a lot of extra work. He said, “It doesn’t matter, my sons, it’s what the Holy Father wants. We must always serve the Church as the Church wants to be served.”
Msgr. Josemaria followed closely the progress of the Second Vatican Council. He met with many Council Fathers and many of them sought his advice.
Msgr. Josemaria was very unhappy with the media’s coverage of the Council. Many reports had little or no sense of the supernatural, but interpreted the debates at the Council as a series of clashes between the progressives and the fundamentalists. Some reporters even promoted opinions and ideologies condemned by the Church.
In his letters to members of Opus Dei, Msgr. Josemaria lamented some people in the Church childishly sought to change customs and institutions just for the sake of changing them. He said, “They are dazzled by the progress of the modern world, and, without grasping the deep values or the best signs of the times, they embark on a feverish race that brings harm to their souls, sterility to their endeavours, and an ironic smile to the lips of the enemies of the Church or the state.”
Msgr. Josemaria was very happy with the official approved documents of Vatican II . He said, “One of my greatest joys was to see the Second Vatican Council so clearly proclaim the divine vocation of the laity. Without any boasting, I would say that as far as our spirit is concerned the Council has not meant an invitation to change, but, on the contrary, has confirmed what, with the grace of God, we have been living and teaching for so many years.”
The universal call to holiness and the universal call to mission are the teachings of Msgr. Josemaria confirmed by the Second Vatican Council. However, the years after the Council were difficult times. There were many arbitrary and questionable interpretations of the Council documents, people justifying their claims by appealing to the so-called “spirit of Vatican II”.
Msgr. Josemaria shared his sadness with his spiritual children: ” I am suffering very much, my children. We are living in a time of madness. Millions of souls are confused. There is great danger that, in practice, the Sacraments will be emptied of their content — all of them, including even Baptism — and that the very commandments of God’s law will lose their meaning for consciences. You know very well that the Church will not die, because our Lord promised that it would not, and his word is infallible. Nonetheless, I have to say that things are going very badly, and I would not be a good pastor if I didn’t tell you. Many times I prefer to keep you from suffering and bear the pain alone.”
Msgr. Josemaria knew that time of trial was also a time to pray. In 1970 he had thousands of rosary beads purchased, and gave them out to people, asking them to pray for the Church. In April of 1970, he prayed at the Marian shrines of Fatima and Torreciudad. In May, he prayed at the shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico.