October 10, 2016

Optional Memorial of Saint John XXIII, "Il Papa Buono"

St. John XXIII
October 11th, is the optional memorial of Saint John XXIII, (1881-1963) the 20th century Italian pope known for convening the Second Vatican Council. He reigned as pontiff from October 28, 1958 until his death. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born in the village of Sotto il Monte, Italy, on November 25, 1881. He was the fourth in a family of 14, the eldest son, of parents, Giovanni and Marianna Giulia Roncalli. The family labored as peasant farmers. Of his beginnings he remarked, "Born poor, but of honored and humble people, I am particularly proud to die poor."

Roncalli credited his godfather, Zaverio, for providing his first and most fundamental religious instruction. His pious home life and the local parish instilled in him a fervent love of God and the Church.

At 8, Roncalli received his first Communion and Confirmation. He entered the Bergamo seminary in 1892, where he began the practice of making spiritual notes. These, which he continued in one form or another until the end of his life, were gathered together and published in the Journal of a Soul. In 1896, the spiritual director of his seminary enrolled him in the Secular Franciscan Order. The following year, he vowed to live its Rule. From 1901 to 1905, he attended the Pontifical Roman Seminary. In 1904, he earned his doctorate in theology and was ordained a priest in the Church of Santa Maria in Rome's Piazza del Popolo.

During World War I, Roncalli was conscripted into the Royal Italian Army. As a sergeant in the medical corps, he became a chaplain to wounded soldiers. At the war's end, he opened a "Student House" that ministered to the spiritual needs of young people. After his discharge in early 1919, Roncalli was appointed spiritual director of the Pontifical Roman Seminary. In this capacity, Roncalli won esteem.

At the behest of Pope Benedict XV, in 1921, he was called to the service of the Holy See. Benedict XV named him president of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Four years later, he was named Apostolic Visitator in Bulgaria, raising him to the episcopate with the titular Diocese of Areopolis. For his episcopal motto he chose Oboedientia et Pax, (Obedience and Peace) which would be his guiding credo for the remainder of his life.

On March 19, 1925, Roncalli was ordained Bishop and granted the title Apostolic Delegate, a position he held for a decade. In 1935, he was named Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and Greece. His dedicated ministry and respectful dialogue with Orthodox and Muslims became a hallmark of his tenure. In December 1944, Pope Pius XII appointed him Papal Nuncio to France.

Pope Pius XII made Roncalli a Cardinal in 1953. Upon the former's death, Pope John XXIII was elected on October 28, 1958 at age 77. Most expected him to be a caretaker Pope, however, he surprised the world when he summoned the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). His Holiness did not live to see the council's completion, but died June 3, 1963, four-and-a-half years after his election. Pope John was beloved for his evident warmth and kindness. Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in September 2000. On April 27, 2014, he was canonized by Pope Francis along with Saint John Paul II. Dear Saint John XXIII, you loved the world with its light and darkness, and you believed that peace is possible: help us to be instruments of peace. Pray that we not limit ourselves to cursing the darkness, but that we manifest God everywhere and always, in the name of Christ the Lord.

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