Thursday, May 13, 2004

Roncalli to the rescue

Digging through boxes and boxes of my old div school books here in NY, I started leafing through Good Pope John’s Journey of a Soul and came across this lovely reflection on the prudence that bishops should maintain before the “affairs of men” (like Kerry, Bush, et al).
Faith, hope and charity are the three stars of the episcopal glory. The Pope as the head and as an example, and the Bishops, all the Bishops of the Church, with him. The sublime work, holy and divine, which the Pope must do for the whole Church, and which the Bishops must do each in his own diocese, is to preach the Gospel and guide men to their eternal salvation, and all must take care not to let any other earthly business prevent or impede or disturb this primary task. The impediment may most easily arise from human judgments in the political sphere, which are diverse and contradictory according to the various ways of thinking and feeling. The Gospel is far above these opinions and parties, which agitate and disturb social life and all mankind. The Pope reads it and with his Bishops comments on it; and all, without trying to further any worldly interests, must inhabit that city of peace, undisturbed and blessed, whence descends the divine law which can rule in wisdom over the earthly city and the whole world.

In fact, this is what wise men expect from the Church, this and nothing else.

My conscience is tranquil about my conduct as newly elected Pope during first three years, and so my mind is at peace, and I beg the Lord always to help me to keep faith with this good beginning.

It is very important to insist that all the Bishops should act in the same way; may the Pope’s example be a lesson and an encouragement to them all. The Bishops are more exposed to the temptation of meddling immoderately in matter that are not their concern, and it is for this reason that the Pope must admonish them not to take part in any political or controversial question and not to declare for one section or faction rather than another. They are to preach to all alike, and in general terms, justice, charity, humility, meekness, gentleness and other evangelical virtues, courteously defending the rights of the Church when these are violated or compromised.

But at all times and especially just now, the Bishop must apply the balm of sweetness to the wounds of mankind. He must beware of making any rash judgment or uttering any abusive words about anyone, or letting himself be betrayed into flattery by threats, or in any way conniving with evil in the hope that by so doing he may be useful to someone; his manner must be grave, reserved and firm, while in his relations with others he must always be gentle and loving, yet at the same time always ready to point out what is good and what is evil, with the help of sacred doctrine but without any vehemence.

Any effort or intrigue of a purely human nature is worth very little in these questions of worldly interest.

Instead, he must with more assiduous and fervent prayer earnestly seek to promote divine worship among the faithful, with religious practices, frequent use of the sacraments, well taught and well administered, and about all he must encourage religious instruction because this also will help to solve problems of the merely temporal order, and do so much better than ordinary human measures can. This will draw down divine blessing on the people preserving them from many evils and recalling minds that have strayed from the right path. Help comes down from above: and heavenly light disperses the darkness.