10/17/2021 – Pope John Paul I

Today is the birthday of Albino Luciano, Pope John Paul I, who will soon become “blessed”.

We didn’t really have a chance to get to know this pope very well as he died one month after his election. To learn of his love of the rosary we must listen to his teachings as the Patriarch of Venice.

“What would happen if during a meeting of Catholics someone asked you ladies and gentlemen to show the contents of your briefcases or handbags? One would certainly find combs, mirrors, lipsticks, purses, wallets, cigarette lighters and other objects more or less useful. But how many rosaries?…

Non practising friends once asked Windthorst, a German statesman, to show them his beads.

It was a joke : one of them had taken the rosary beads from his left pocket. Windthorst, not finding it in his left pocket plunged his hand into his right pocket and his face brightened. He always carried a second rosary! The great musician Christophe Gluck, used to withdraw for a few minutes during receptions in Vienna to recite the rosary. Whenever Blessed Contardo Ferrini, professor at the University of Pavia, went out to dinner he would invite his hosts to recite the rosary with him.

Saint Bernadette said that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her wearing a rosary beads on her arm and she asked Bernadette if she had her beads too and if she and the other two children would like to pray the rosary.

Why did I start with these examples? Because some people criticise the rosary. They say it is a childish prayer, superstitious, not good enough for adult Christians. Or, it is an automatic prayer, a mere monotonous and boring repetition of the Hail Mary. Or again : it is not for our day, today we can do better: read the Bible for example which compared to the rosary is like good flour compared to bran!

Allow me to offer you a couple of impressions on this matter as a pastor of souls.

Second impression. When we speak of “adult Christians” in prayer, at times we exaggerate. Personally when I speak tête-à-tête with God or with the Blessed Virgin Mary, more than an adult I prefer to think of myself as a child. The mitre, skullcap and ring disappear; I give a holiday to the adult and the bishop and also to heavy burdens, sober and pondered, and let myself go with the spontaneous tenderness of a child in front of his papá or mamma.

To be – at least for half an hour – before God as I truly am with my wretchedness and also with the best of myself: to feel rising from the depths of my being the child of other days who wants to talk and chat with the Lord and love him and who sometimes feels the need to cry that he may be granted mercy, all this helps me to pray. The rosary, a simple and easy prayer, helps me to be at times a child again and of this I am not in the least ashamed.

The rosary a prayer of repetition ? Père de Foucauld used to say : “Love is expressed in a few words, always the same, repeated time and time again “. (homily October 1973, 4th centenary of the Feast of the Rosary)

P.S. The latest edition of Totus Tuus has a special focus on St Joseph, as we continue to celebrate his special year.

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