This week is the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope John XXIII, a man who came from humble origins, rose up the ranks of the Church, but never lost his humility and, throughout his life, remained open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Pope John was beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. In this Year of Faith, celebrating the Second Vatican Council which Pope John inaugurated, his life and ministry provide a beautiful meditation on sanctity in action.
Although not a Benedictine, Pope John possessed some characteristic Benedictine qualities, notably the quality of humility. Humility is at the heart of the Rule of Saint Benedict. Benedict’s humility is about authenticity: knowing who we are, and understanding that, with all our flaws, God loves us unconditionally. It’s also about realizing that, although we’re not perfect, God can still work through us in our daily lives.
Realizing that God loved him unconditionally, John was able to take that one step further and see that God loves each of us in the selfsame way. He is quoted as saying: "We were all made in God's image, and thus, we are all Godly alike." We share a common humanity and are loved infinitely by God in that humanity.
Blessed Pope John XXIII, was a man who lived authentically and compassionately, rooted in faith and never forgetting his humanity. He saw his most sacred duty as being the shepherd to all people of good will. He loved. That meant he didn’t just utter words about loving, he loved people practically in his everyday dealings with them, visiting the sick, the imprisoned and the marginalized. In other words, he lived the Gospel. Whatever he achieved flowed from his capacity to love and to allow God to work through him. Let’s pray for the humility to love as Pope John loved.
Karen Rose, OSB