*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 22nd of June 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Even if you knew nothing of the religious life and thought of the Dominican Priest Yves Congar, you might know something about him from his activities during the two world wars- let’s tell those stories and then look at his life and work in the church.
Yves Congar was born in 1904 in the Sedan region of western France. In 1914 he was only 10 when his father was arrested and deported. His mother asked him to make a “summertime diary” to draw his attention away from the war. Little did she know that this diary would last for years and become a primary source for understanding the German occupation of French lands from a child's perspective.
Congar would go on to study at the Catholic Institute in Paris and the Dominican seminary at Saulchoir (which looks like “Saul” “chair” but pronounced like Soul-Schwa). He had served as a chaplain in the French Military in the 1920s, and with the outbreak of World War 2, he was conscripted into service. He was sent to command men at a fuel depot north of the Alsace- he arrived on the 25th of May in 1940, and by the 27th of May, he was taken captive. He would spend time at concentration camps in Colditz and Luebeck. He became something like an unofficial chaplain to Catholics and Protestants in the camps. He spent five years imprisoned and attempted many escapes. After being released in 45, he received the Croix De Guerre, the Escapees Medal, and was made a Knight of the French Legion of Honor.
His theological work stressed ecumenism and supported the worker-priest movement in France that helped Priests work side by side with the lower classes. He was suspected of being a liberal, and his superiors effectively exiled him to remote posts. In the 1950s, his books were banned, and he was barred from teaching. He wrote 16 books between 1937 and 1968, such as “Disunited Christians” and “True and False Reform.”
His reputation would be revived by Pope John XXIII, who invited Congar to serve as an advisor in the lead-up to the Second Vatican Council. He was also invited to the Second Vatican Council as an official Periti- that is, he gave theological counsel and assisted with writing the official documents. Quite a change from his banishment under the previous Pope.
He was further reconciled to his church in 1994 when Pope John Paul II named Yves Congar a Cardinal. By then, however, he had been dealing with sclerosis for decades had him in assisted living, and the title was largely ceremonial. Nonetheless, it showed how he had gone from suspect to embraced, even by the conservative Pope John Paul II.
He was a product of the 20th century and her wars but also a representative of the hopeful spirit in Europe after World War 2. His call for ecumenical rapprochement, reform, and ecclesiology (or Doctrine of the Church) was dictated by the Holy Spirit.
Yves Congar died on this the 22nd of June in 1995. Born in 1904, he was 91 years old.
The last word for today comes from the daily lectionary- from Luke and the story of the demon-possessed boy:
42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 22nd of June 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite Yves include Congar, Fashionista St. Laurent, and 90s rock band 6. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who wants to put my tender heart in a blender and watch it spin round to a beautiful oblivion. I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.