Sunday, September 28, 2014
THIRTY-THREE DAYS THIRTY-SIX YEARS LATER
As I type this entry it is 7:00 A.M in Rome. Thirty-six years ago to the day, just a few hours ago, Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul the First, the Smiling Pope, was found dead in his bed after just thirty-three days.
Pope John Paul I was the first pope to abandon coronation and the triple tiera. He was the first pope to have a Papal Inauguration and the last pope to use the Sedia Gestatoria.
There are many better photos than the two I have chosen to post. These two most resonate with my memory of those days. I remember the beaming, contagious smile. Look at the ill fitting sleeves of the cassock! Even the smallest one was too big for his small frame I would read a few years later in an account of the events immediately after his election.
My cold hardened heart melts and my eyes water as I look at these images. I remember our phone ringing early that morning, and my mother waking me. Father Kelly wanted me at the church that morning to serve Mass for the repose of the soul of the Pope. As I entered the sacristy and prepared for Mass, I could see the frame of Father Kelly kneeling in the first pew on the (Gospel) side of the church with the large image of the Mother of Perpetual Help, praying his rosary and weeping. Father was in his mid sixties, typical of many Irish-American priests of his age, I had never seen him cry, not when I served his niece's wedding nor his own mother's funeral.
Many of the young men being ordained priests today have no memories of any Pope except John Paul II and Benedict XVI, nor the older form of the Mass (rattled off in twenty-five minuets with the only audible words being "...per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.") unless exposed to one of the rare "Indult Masses" growing up. America Magazine referred to Luciani as the Forgotten Pope, but I for one, will always remember.
If you want to get a glimpse inside the mind and heart of Pope John Paul I, pick up a copy of his book (written while Patriarch of Venice) titled Illustrissimi or "To the Illustrious Ones," a collection of letters to forty historical persons and fictional characters. It's one of the only texts available in English that can give you an idea of the person he was and the pontificate that might have been. I certain that Papa Luciani would be pleased with Pope Francis, especially considering his continued reform of Vatican finances.
The best way to close this post is with the words of the late Pope himself.
"We wish to continue in following up the legacy of the Second Vatican Council whose wise regulations have still to be led to their fulfillment, being careful that a push, generous perhaps, but unduly timed, does not detract from the content and meaning of the council, and on the other hand being careful and reined and timid efforts do not slow up the magnificent drive of renewal and of life."
Address to the crowd in St Peter's Square 27 August 1978
"We are the objects of undying love on the part of God. We know: he has always his eyes open on us, even when it seems to be dark. He is our father; even more he is our mother. He does not want to hurt us, He wants only to do good to us, to all of us. If children are ill, they have additional claim to be loved by their mother. And we too, if by chance we are sick with badness, on the wrong track, have yet another claim to be loved by the Lord."
Angelus, 10 September 1978
"The Church's main task is to divinize but this does not excuse her from the task of humanizing. I also voted for Gaudium et Spes. I was moved and enthusiastic when Populorum Progressio was published. I think that the Church's magisterium can never do too much to present and urge the solutions to the great problems of freedom, justice, peace and development, and the Catholic laity can never fight too hard to solve these problems."
General audience, 20 September 1978
And of course, his last General Audience 27 September 1978, one of the few times he spoke in English.