Tag Archives: Pope Paul VI

Transfiguration of the Lord

TransfigurationFor an instant on the summit of Tabor, Christ unveils the splendor of his divinity, manifesting to his chosen witnesses what he really is: the Son of God, “the radiance of the glory of the Father and the imprint of his substance”; but he also makes visible the transcendent destiny of our human nature, which he took on to save us as something likewise destined, because it is redeemed by his sacrifice of irrevocable love, that we too might participate in fullness of life in the “fellowship of the saints in light.” That body, transfigured before the astonished eyes of the apostles, is the body of Christ our brother, but it’s also that of our body called to glory; the light which floods inside of it is and will be our inheritance and our splendor. We are called to share that glory because we are “partakers of the divine nature.” An incomparable lot awaits us if we have honored our Christian vocation: if we have lived in the logical consequences of word and deed what the responsibilities of our Baptism demand of us.

Blessed Paul VI
Excerpt, Angelus address for 6 August 1978, only to never deliver it –he died that day.

Blessed Paul VI

Paul VI with tiaraAfter two weeks of meetings on the family and marriage, Pope Francis offered Mass at which he beatified the Venerable Servant of God Pope Paul VI. whom he called a “great Pope,” a “courageous Christian” and a “tireless apostle.”

This action of the Pope’s means that several of the 20th century popes have been raised to the altar: John Paul II, Paul VI, John XXIII, Pius X. We ought to keep in mind that John Paul I and Pius XII have their causes for sainthood being studied, too.

The emeritus pope Benedict XVI was present for the Mass.

Here are the relevant paragraphs of Pope Francis’ homily at Mass that pertain to the beatification:

On this day of the Beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: “by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society” (Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo).

When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks!  Thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI!  Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!

In his personal notes, the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour” (P. Macchi, Paolo VI nella sua parola, Brescia, 2001, pp. 120-121).  In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.

Paul VI truly “rendered to God what is God’s” by devoting his whole life to the “sacred, solemn and grave task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ” (Homily for the Rite of Coronation: Insegnamenti I, 1963, p. 26), loving the Church and leading her so that she might be “a loving mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation” (Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam, Prologue).

President Kennedy and Pope Paul VI in 1963

President John F. Kennedy and Pope Paul VI (1963)

Letter of Father Pedro Arrupe on Humanae vitae

Today is the 45th anniversary of the Servant of God Father Pedro Arrupe’s letter to the Society of Jesus on the Servant of God Pope Paul VI’s teaching, Humanae vitae. This is the first time I’ve seen this letter and it portrays the Jesuit’s in a different light, one that is unexpected and consistent with what we know to be the mind of Saint Ignatius and the Church. Without a doubt, Father Arrupe wrote a beautiful letter, too bad it was buried for so long.

Epistula A.R.P.N. Generalis ad omnem Societatem occasione Litterarum Encyclicarum “Humanae vitae.” Acta Romana Societatis Iesu.  Vol. XV, Fasc. II, anno 1968

Dear Fathers and Brothers,  Pax Christi

We are all aware of the response given to the most recent encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae vitae, about the problems raised by the question of contraception.  While manycompletely accept the teaching of the encyclical, a number of the clergy, religious and laity violently reject it in a way that no one in the Society can think of sharing.  Yet, because the opposition to the encyclical has become widespread in some places, I wish to delay no longer before calling to mind once more our duty as Jesuits. With regard to the successor of Peter, the only response for us is an attitude of obedience which is at once loving, firm, open and truly creative.  I do not say that this is necessarily painless and easy.

In fact, on various grounds and because of particular competence, some of us may experience certain reservations and difficulties.  A sincere desire to be truly loyal does not rule out problems, as the Pope himself says.  A teaching such as the one he presents merits assent not simply because of the reasons he offers, but also, and above all, because of the charism which enables him to present it.  Guided by the authentic word of the Pope- a word that need not be infallible to be highly respected – every Jesuit owes it to himself, by reason of his vocation, to do everything possible to penetrate, and to help others penetrate, into the thought which may not have been his own previously; however, as he goes beyond the evidence available to him personally, he finds or will find a solid foundation for it.

To obey, therefore, is not to stop thinking, to parrot the encyclical word for word in a servile manner.  On the contrary, it is to commit oneself to study it as profoundly as possible so as to discover for one self and to show others the meaning of an intervention judged necessary by the Holy Father.

Once we have correctly grasped the meaning of the encyclical, let us not remain passive.  Let us not be afraid to rectify our teaching, if need be, while at the same time explaining why we are doing so.  Let us develop our teaching as profoundly as possible rather than restrict it.  Let is strive for a better pastoral theology of the family and of the young people.  We must not forget that our present world, for all its amazing scientific conquests, is sadly lacking a true sense of God and is in danger of deceiving itself completely.  We must see what is demanded of us as Jesuits.  Let us collaborate with others in centers of the basic research on man, where the specific data of Christian revelation can be brought together with the genuine achievements of the human sciences and thus achieve the happy results that can be legitimately anticipated.  In all this work of sympathy, intelligence, and love, let us always be enlightened by the Gospel and by the living tradition of the Church.  Let us never abandon the papal teaching we have just received.  Rather, we must continually seek to integrate it into an ever-widening anthropology.  The present crisis makes clear this urgent need.

In so fulfilling our mission as Jesuits, which is to make the thought of the Church understood and loved, we can help the laity, who themselves have much to bring to the problems touched on in the encyclical, and who rely on us for a deep understanding of their points of view. [“atque nostram expectant cooperationem pro intimiore penetratione magisterii Pauli VI.”]

You understand well that it is the spirit of the Constitutions which inspires me as I write these words.  For, as the Constitutions tell us in substance, each member of the Society must remember that his personal manner of serving God is realized through a faithful obedience to the Roman pontiff.  That is why I am certain that today too, the Society is able to show itself worthy of four centuries of complete fidelity to the Holy See.

It certainly cannot be said that the Second Vatican Council has changed all this.  The Council itself speaks formally of “this religious submission of will and of mind,” which “must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra.  That is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence and the judgments made by him sincerely adhered to according to his manifest mind and will” (Lumen Gentium, n.25).

Nor can it be said that the Pope was speaking of matters that do not involve our faith, since the essence of his teaching directly concerns the human and divine dignity of man and of love.  In the enormous crisis of growth which envelops the whole world, the Pope himself has been what the entire Church must be, and Vatican II affirmed, “both a sign and a safeguard of the transcendence of the human person” (Gaudium et Spes, n.76).  For this reason the service we as Jesuits owe to the Holy Father and to the Church is at the same time a service we owe to humanity itself.

In my awareness of our obvious duty as Jesuits I could say much more, particularly at this time which seems to me crucial for the Church. Difficult times are times made for the Society, not to seek its own glory, but to show its fidelity.  This is why I am certain that all of you will understand my words.  As for those for whom the encyclical presents  personal problems of conscience, I wish to assure them that for that very reason I am keeping them in my affection and prayers.

May St. Ignatius help each of us to become, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, more Ignatian than ever.  May he obtain for us the understanding that our legitimate desire to be totally present to this world demands of us an ever-increasing fidelity in the service of the Church, the Spouse of Christ and the Mother of all mankind.

I commend myself to the prayers of all of you.

Rome, 15 August 1968.
Most devotedly in Christ,

Pedro Arrupe
Praep. Gen. Soc. Iesu.

[This English translation was transcribed by Fr. Joseph Carola, S.J., from the article “Father Arrupe: ‘Think with the church’,” which appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, September 18th, 1968, p. 7]

Pope Paul VI remembered for a faith that is open

The Venerable Servant of God Pope Paul VI died on this day in 1978, the Feast of the Transfiguration. He was the Roman Pontiff for 15 years. Notable in his pontificate were several events: the closing of the Second Vatican Council, the erection of the created a Secretariat for non-Christians, later renamed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the publication of 7 encyclicals including the most contentious of the 20th century, Humane Vitae, the mutual lifting of the ex communications between Rome and Constantinople (Patriarch Athenagoras) and the meeting with Pope Shenouda III (of Egypt) resolving Christological differences, the meeting with Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury, plus he held 6 consistories that created 143 cardinals. The reform of the sacred Liturgy is likely the one enduring bone of contention that gets lots of people riled up to this day.

It must be said in my opinion, not all the problems that Paul faced were of his making. Society was haywire which adversely affected the Church in all quadrants.

Back in June the Vatican newspaper published a translation of a homily likely never read in English by many Americans given to honor the deceased Pontiff by the cardinal-archbishop of Munich, Joseph Ratzinger.

In a homily given by Joseph Ratzinger recalling Pope Paul VI, he said, “the transfiguration promised by the faith as the transformation of man is above all a journey of purification, a journey of suffering. Paul VI accepted his papal service increasingly as a transformation of faith in suffering. The last words of the Risen Lord to Peter, after constituting him as the Shepherd of his flock, were: “when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18).  It was a reference to the cross awaiting Peter  at the end of his journey. It was, in general, a reference to the nature of this service. Paul VI let himself be lead more and more where as a human being he did not want to go alone. More and more the pontificate meant for him wearing the cloth of another, being nailed to the cross. (…) He gave new value to authority as service, bearing it as suffering. He took no pleasure in power, in position, in a successful career; and it was precisely because of this, his dutiful authority – ‘they will lead you where you do not want to go’ – became great and credible. Paul VI  carried out his service by faith. From this derived  both his firmness and his willingness to compromise. For both he was criticized, and some comments after his death were even in bad taste.  But today a Pope who  isn’t criticized  would be failing to carry out his duty to this age.  Paul VI resisted the intense scrutiny of the media, the powers of the day. He could do this because he didn’t consider success and approval the measure of truth and faith, but rather his conscience.

Those who met him in his last years were able to experience directly his extraordinary transformation in faith, its transfiguring power. One could see how much the man, who by his nature was an intellectual, surrendered himself day after day to Christ, how he let himself be changed, transformed, purified by him, and  how this made him ever more free, ever more profound, good, perceptive and simple.

Faith is a death, but it is also a metamorphosis for entering into authentic life, towards transfiguration. In Pope Paul one could see all this. Faith gave him courage. Faith gave him goodness. And in him it was also clear that a faith of conviction is not closed but open. In the end, our memory will treasure the image of a man who held out his hands. He was the first Pope to have travelled to all the continents, fixing in this way an itinerary of the Spirit, which began in Jerusalem, the centre of meeting and of parting of the three great monotheistic religions; then his journey to the United Nations, to Geneva, his meeting with humanity’s greatest non-monotheistic religious cultures, India, and his pilgrimage to the people who suffer in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia. Faith holds out its hands. Its sign is not a fist, but an open hand”.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
1978 homily for Pope Paul VI
L’Osservatore Romano
21 June 2013

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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