I often talk about "my pope", that is, the pope in office when I was born. By that I also mean the pope who seems to have set the tone for my life as a Catholic. John certainly did that. I am blessed that so far, most of the popes of my lifetime have been beatified and/or canonized. That tells me that I have been blessed to live in a blessed time. But it all begins for me with John.
I was young when John XXIII died, and I must say that there are times of sadness for me in the way many of us have tried to live out his vision (especially that of Pacem in Terris); I watched as many fled the Church or divided within her over what (in both cases and in the overall scheme of Revelation) are truly trivial personal preferences. John threw open the windows not just to let in fresh air but to open the Church to the world, so that they could look in and see the beauty of Truth - but along with that joy I have experienced the bitterness, pain and misunderstanding borne of ignorance, selfishness, righteousness, judgment, and many other human foibles that so cloud that view to the Truth. By some, I am reminded of the Italians I lived among. They feared the opening of windows, worried about the disease that could enter them ("mal di fegato!"). This ignorance born of the devil accomplishes the opposite; keeping the windows closed does not keep disease out but locks it in.
I also feel the sadness of those who flung open the windows to throw the baby out with the bathwater; this hubris, also born of the devil, results in blocking the view to the Truth with their own bodies standing in the window.
John opened the windows to not just revitalize us but so that everyone who lived in a broken, hurting world could look into the Church and see its beauty and peace and come to live it themselves; to be saved from sin and death by the Truth.
John, with his boundless joy and humor, reminds us to see the beauty of and to live the unity and peace that comes from knowing Christ in his Church. Let us pray together with him today that we can accomplish our mission of evangelization - the bringing of the good news of God to the world. May we throw open the windows of our hearts to let the light of Christ shine out into the world for all to see, so that all may come to peace in Christ.
Today as We address Our first Encyclical Letter to the entire Catholic world, Our apostolic office clearly demands that We discuss three objectives—truth, unity, and peace—and indicate how they may be achieved and advanced in a spirit of charity. ...All the evils which poison men and nations and trouble so many hearts have a single cause and a single source: ignorance of the truth—and at times even more than ignorance, a contempt for truth and a reckless rejection of it. Thus arise all manner of errors, which enter the recesses of men's hearts and the bloodstream of human society as would a plague. These errors turn everything upside down: they menace individuals and society itself. And yet, God gave each of us an intellect capable of attaining natural truth. If we adhere to this truth, we adhere to God Himself, the author of truth, the lawgiver and ruler of our lives. But if we reject this truth, whether out of foolishness, neglect, or malice, we turn our backs on the highest good itself and on the very norm for right living. As We have said, it is possible for us to attain natural truth by virtue of our intellects. But all cannot do this easily; often their efforts will result in a mixture of truth and error. This is particularly the case in matters of religion and sound morals. Moreover, we cannot possibly attain those truths which exceed the capacity of nature and the grasp of reason, unless God enlightens and inspires us. This is why the word of God, "who dwells in light inaccessible," in His great love took pity on man's plight, "became flesh and dwelt among us," that He might "enlighten every man who comes into the world" and lead him not only to full and perfect truth, but to virtue and eternal happiness. All men, therefore, are bound to accept the teaching of the gospel. For if this is rejected, the very foundations of truth, goodness, and civilization are endangered. ...All men, therefore, private citizens as well as government officials, must love the truth sincerely if they are to attain that peace and harmony on which depends all real prosperity, public and private. ...Everyone realizes, of course, that God our Redeemer founded this society which was to endure to the end of time, for as Christ said, "Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world." For this intention He addressed ardent prayers to His Father: "That all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in Us." Surely this prayer was heard and granted because of His reverent submission. This is a comforting hope; it assures us that someday all the sheep who are not of this fold will want to return to it. Then, in the words of God our Savior, "there shall be one fold and one shepherd." This fond hope compelled Us to make public Our intention to hold an Ecumenical Council. Bishops from every part of the world will gather there to discuss serious religious topics. They will consider, in particular, the growth of the Catholic faith, the restoration of sound morals among the Christian flock, and appropriate adaptation of Church discipline to the needs and conditions of our times. This event will be a wonderful spectacle of truth, unity, and charity. For those who behold it but are not one with this Apostolic See, We hope that it will be a gentle invitation to seek and find that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed so ardently to His Father in heaven.
-- Ad Petri Cathedrm, 4, 6-8, 21, 60-62
Things to Think About