Sunday, September 28, 2008


On this 30th anniversary of the death of the short-reigned "Smiling Pope," B16 recalled John Paul I at today's Angelus:
Pope Luciani, said Benedict XVI, “chose Saint Carlo Borromeo’s Episcopal motto—Humilitas— as his own, a word that sums up that which is essential in Christian life and which indicates the virtue needed by those in the Church who are called to the service of authority.”

“In one of the four general audiences held during his brief pontificate he said among other things and in that very informal way of his: ‘I will just recommend one virtue so dear to the Lord. He said, ‘Learn from me who am meek and humble of heart.’ [. . .] Even if you have done great things, say: ‘We are useless servants.’” He noted: ‘On the contrary the tendency in all of us, is rather the contrary: to show off.’” Thus humility can be considered as his spiritual testament.

Thanks to this virtue of his, only 33 days were necessary for Pope Luciani to enter people’s hearts. In his speeches he used examples taken from real life, from his own family memories and from the wisdom of ordinary folks. His simplicity was a tool to formulate solid and vivid teachings which he enhanced by frequent quotes from Church and secular writers that he could recall thanks to an exceptional memory and a vast culture. He was a catechist without equal, following in the footsteps of Saint Pius X, his compatriot and predecessor on the chair of Saint Mark and then Saint Peter. “We must feel small before God,” he said during that same audience. “I am not ashamed to feel like a child before his mother,” he added; “one believes in one's mother; I believe in the Lord, in what he has revealed to me. These words show the strength of his faith. As we thank God for having given him to the Church and the world, let us cherish his example and commit ourselves to the same humility that made him able to speak to one and all, especially to the little ones and the so-called “far away”.
A shooting star on the world stage who publicly admitted to being "confused" by his election, the complete texts of Papa Luciani's days on Peter's chair -- most notably his General Audiences -- are available in English. (The first of the four Wednesday talks provides the backstory to the shot at right.)

Most of them given in his unscripted, folksy style -- among others he drew from were Jules Verne and Dale Carnegie -- they make for quite the read.