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On September 30, thanks to some generous parishioners, a permanent shrine to Blessed John XXIII, the Pope who called the Second Vatican Council, was established in the north aisle of the Cathedral.

Watch a wonderful 9-minute film on John XXIII
Read Father Ryan's homily about John XXIII
Album: Blessing of our new shrine
Album: Creation of our new shrine

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“In the daily exercise of our pastoral office, we sometimes have to listen, much to our regret, to voices of persons who, though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin. They say that our era, in comparison with past eras, is getting worse and they behave as though they had learned nothing from history, which is, nonetheless, the teacher of life… We feel we must disagree with these prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand.”
Toward Christian Unity, Opening Address at the Second Vatican Council, October 11, 1962

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“Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with the past, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us.” Toward Christian Unity

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The Council. God knows that I opened my small soul to this great inspiration with the utmost simplicity. Will he grant me enough time to finish it? May he be praised if he does not grant it. I shall see the happy conclusion from heaven, where I hope, and am even certain, Divine Mercy will allow me to enter.

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Pope John granted an audience to the Canadian bishops who had come to Rome for the Council. During its course he said to them: “Do you think that I brought you to Rome so that you should all sing the same psalm like monks in choir?”

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Once somebody asked Pope John what he would like to do after the Council had finished its labors. He replied, “Spend a whole day tilling the fields with my brothers!”

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A prelate of the Curia told the Pope: “It is absolutely impossible to open the Council in 1963.” Pope John replied: “Fine, we’ll open it in 1962!"

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What did John XXIII expect from the Council? “The Council?” he said as he moved toward the window and made a gesture as if to open it. “I expect a little fresh air from it… We must shake off the imperial dust that has accumulated on the throne of St. Peter since Constantine.

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A question was raised in a meeting I had with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tardini, which led on to a discussion about the way the world was plunged into so many grave anxieties and troubles… What should the Church do? Should Christ’s mystical barque simply drift along, tossed this way and that by the ebb and flow of the tides? Instead of issuing new warnings, shouldn’t she stand out as a beacon of light? What could that exemplary light be? Suddenly my soul was illumined by a great idea which came precisely at that moment and which I welcomed with ineffable confidence in the divine Teacher. And there sprang to my lips a word that was solemn and committing. My voice uttered it for the first time: a Council.

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On his election as Pope: “I remembered Jesus’ warning: ‘Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.’ Dazzled by the television lights, I could see nothing but an amorphous, swaying mass. I blessed Rome and the world as though I were a blind man. As I came away I thought of all the cameras and lights that from now on, at every moment, would be directed on me. And I said to myself: if you don’t remain a disciple of the gentle and humble Master, you’ll understand nothing even of temporal realities. Then you’ll really be blind."

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Give all, but without expectation or hope of recompense.

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Unity in necessary things, freedom in doubtful things,
charity in all things.

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Let us look at each other without mistrust, meet each other without fear, talk with each other without surrendering principles.

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Listen to everything, forget much, correct a little.

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If the Eternal Father says to me, ‘Roncalli, you need to be harsher and more strict at times,’ I will say, ‘Eternal Father, it is you who sent your Son to give me a bad example!’

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We all like to judge events from the vantage point of the handful of earth beneath our feet. This is a great illusion. We must take our view from the heights and courageously embrace the whole.

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In the first days of his pontificate, John XXIII received a letter from a twelve-year-old boy named Bruno. It read: “My dear Pope: I am undecided. I want to be a policeman or a Pope. What do you think?” The Pope replied: “My little Bruno. If you want my opinion, learn how to be a policeman, because that cannot be improvised. Anybody can be pope; the proof of this is that I have become one. If you ever should be in Rome, come to see me. I would be glad to talk all this over with you.”
Recounted in The Wit and Wisdom of Good Pope John

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During an audience, Pope John XXIII once said: “We will pray for you, for your families. And do you also pray for your Pope. For, to be frank, permit me to tell you that I wish to live a long time. I love life!”
Recounted in The Wit and Wisdom of Good Pope John

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Walking through the streets of Rome one day, Pope John heard a woman, taken aback by the Pope’s obesity, make the remark to her companion, “God, but he’s fat!” Pope John turned around and benignly observed: “But, Madame, you must know that the conclave is not exactly a beauty contest!”

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John XXIII detested solitude, particularly during meals. Although protocol required that a pope dine alone, he could not resign himself to the rule. “I look like a seminarian under punishment,” complained the Pope. “I have read the Gospel over carefully without finding a single passage which prescribes that one should eat alone. As we know, Jesus loved to eat in company.”

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During a visit to the Regina Coeli prison in Rome, the Pope requested that the inmates be allowed to leave their cells so that he might address them in the main courtyard of the prison. “I have come,” he said, “you have seen me. I have looked into your eyes, I have placed my heart alongside your hearts.” Among the prisoners who were allowed to approach the Pope, there were two murderers. One of them, after kissing the Pontiff’s ring, looked up at him with deep sadness on his face. “Are those words of hope you have given us meant for such a great sinner as I am?” In response the Pope bent over the convict and embraced him.

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An obsequious Italian journalist remained stubbornly on his knees while the Pope was giving him some instructions. “Get up now and sit in this chair,” the Pope asked. “Holy Father, I am quite comfortable on my knees. I am used to a position which I always took in the presence of your predecessors.” “It’s proper to pray on your knees, but not to work,” the Pope replied. “Get up and sit down.”

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John XXIII recounted that in the first months of his pontificate, he often awoke during the night, thinking himself still a cardinal and worried over a difficult decision to be made. At these times, he would say to himself, “I’ll talk it over with the Pope.” Then he would remember where he was. “But I’m the Pope!” he would say to himself. After which he would conclude: “Well, I’ll talk it over with Our Lord!”

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“What did I feel upon learning that I had been elected Pope? Much emotion, to be sure, and a host of anxieties. But also the same sensation as a baby in swaddling clothes, because the cassock which they had slipped over me was very tight and I felt as though I were wrapped up like a mummy.”

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When, following his election as Pope, he was carried on the sedia gestatoria for the first time on November 4, 1958, John XXIII recalled a time in his childhood when he was carried on his father’s shoulders: “Once again I am being carried, carried aloft by my sons. More than seventy years ago I was carried on the shoulders of my father at Ponte San Pietro. The secret of everything is to let oneself be carried by God, and so to carry him to others.”

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As Nuncio in Bulgaria, Roncalli once said: “This morning, I must receive cardinals, princes, and important representatives of the government. But in the afternoon, I want to spend a few minutes with some ordinary people who have no other title save their dignity as human beings and children of God.”

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Fifty years ago this week, First Lady Jackie Kennedy made a visit to Pope John XXIII. “It is reported that in preparation for her visit, John asked his secretary how he should address her. The secretary told him he could call her either ‘Mrs. Kennedy’ or ‘Madame.’ The pope tried the options out loud to decide which seemed best: ‘Mrs. Kennedy. Madame. Mrs. Kennedy…’ Then the doors were opened and she was announced. As she entered, John smiled, opened his arms wide and exclaimed ‘Jacqueline!’”
(Source: www.conciliaria.com)

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Angelo Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, wrote of turning sixty: “Sixty years old! It is the most beautiful age! Good health, in addition good sense, a happy disposition to see things more clearly, with kindness, optimism, and trust.”

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Angelo Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, served for many years as a Vatican diplomat in Bulgaria and later in France. He once said: “In order to be a good diplomat, there are only two possible solutions: either one must be as mute as a mole, or garrulous to the point where one’s proposals lose importance. Given the fact that I am an Italian, I prefer the second method.”

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Roncalli was the first to joke about his weight.On meeting the French historian Daniel-Rops while serving as Apostolic Nuncio in Paris, he said, “Ah, cher monsieur Daniel-Rops, we will both have to say a prayer to God, beseeching Him to remove half the excess fat which I have and to give it to you!” On another occasion, after attending a meeting at the French Academy, he said, “It’s a beautiful, most impressive place. One hears beautiful things there. Unfortunately, the seats are large enough only for a demi-nuncio.”

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On his mentor, Bishop Radini-Tedeschi of Bergamo: “He was the polar star of my priesthood. His soul was more disposed to note merits than to exaggerate faults. He treated everybody with the greatest deference. He spoke with incomparable pleasantness, seasoning his conversation with unexpected witticisms. He was not authoritarian. He wanted all those around him to contribute their energies to the apostolate and to assume their proper responsibilities. He was discreet. One remarked a depth of inexhaustible gaiety in his soul.”

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Roncalli's first experience as a public speaker—a talk on the Immaculate Conception in a Roman parish shortly after his ordination—"was a disaster. I mixed up quotations from the Old and the New Testaments. I confused St. Alphonsus with St. Bernard. I mistook writings of the Fathers for writings of the prophets. A fiasco. I was so ashamed."

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“The sense of my smallness and of my nothingness has always been my good companion, keeping me humble and content and granting me the joy of consecrating myself as best I can to the uninterrupted exercise of obedience and charity. I come from humble beginnings, and I was raised in a restraining, blessed poverty whose needs are few and which assures the growth of the highest and noblest virtues, and prepares one for the great ascents of life.”

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Angelo went off to minor seminary at the early age of 10. But many years later he wrote to his parents, “Ever since I left home, towards the age of ten, I have read many books and learned many things that you could not have taught me. But what I learned from you remains the most precious and important, and it sustains and gives life to the many other things I learned later in so many years of study and teaching.”

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Young Angelo greatly admired Father Rebuzzini, his parish priest. Decades later he could still recite the counsel attributed to St. Bernard which hung on the wall of the priest’s study: “Peace within the cell; fierce warfare without. Hear all; believe a few; honor all. Do not believe everything you hear; do not judge everything you see; do not do everything you can; do not give everything you have; do not say everything you know. Pray, read, withdraw, be silent, be at peace.”

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Angelo’s first memory of childhood was of a pilgrimage to a local shrine, the Madonna delle Caneve. By the time his pregnant mother arrived at the shrine on foot, carrying her two youngest and leading the other three, aged 4, 5, and 6, the church was full and they could not get inside. But that did not deter Marianna, who lifted the children up one after the other to look through the window. “My mother lifted me up,” Angelo recalled, “and said, ‘Look, Angelino, look how beautiful the Madonna is. I have consecrated you wholly to her.’”

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Blessed Pope John XXIII was born Angelo Roncalli on November 25, 1881, in Sotto il Monte, a village of 1200 inhabitants at the foot of the Alps. The Roncallis had lived there since 1429. The house where Angelo was born was called the “palazzo” but it was not much like a palace: the large family shared the ground floor with their cows. “We were poor but happy with our lot and confident in the help of Providence…. When a beggar appeared at the door of our kitchen, there was always room for him, and my mother would hasten to seat this stranger alongside us.”
Corinna Laughlin, Director of Liturgy

 

 

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