cover image The Spirit of Vatican II: A History of Catholic Reform in America

The Spirit of Vatican II: A History of Catholic Reform in America

Colleen McDannell, Basic, $27.50 (336p) ISBN 978-0-465-04480-1

With the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) approaching, debates are flaring over just what happened at what was a signature event of the 20th century for both the Catholic Church and the world. The current debate is a struggle to define the meaning of the past and thus chart the church's course in the future. But McDannell (Heaven: A History) shifts the spotlight from Rome to America, covering the impact of the council and its reforms there in deeply researched but lively social history that uses the affecting story of her own mother as the narrative thread. McDannell sketches the state of American Catholicism on the eve of the council, during those fateful three years, and then in the turbulent aftermath when Catholics struggled to assimilate the changes. Finally, she looks at what the council has wrought and is buoyed by the transformation. This is indispensable history for today's Catholics—and others—to learn, and McDannell has told the tale well and with a depth and context that places the council in time and space, but also acknowledges a conciliar spirit that blows where it will. (Mar.)