I admire people whose lives have made a difference.
Abraham Lincoln, who used his position as President of the United States to abolish slavery.
William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament in England, who had become a Christian, fought for the abolition of the slave trade also.
John Newton converted from being a captain of the slave ships to saving the slaves and in so doing, because of his conversion, wrote the song, Amazing Grace that has lasted all these centuries. It writes a story of Grace. A story of Gods mercy. Grace and Mercy for all of our lives.
Then I came across a book and the title made me look twice. ‘A Journal of a Soul.’ Who’s been journaling? I’ve always journaled myself. My thoughts, my life at the time written down. My words mingled with Gods word – the scriptures, what God seemed to be saying to me. Meditating upon everything in my life at that particular point in time. I was surprised whose book it was. Whose journals had been published. Pope John 23rd.
In the beginning, it gave a short history of his life. That inspired me. But as I ventured more into reading his actual journals. Oh my, what a godly man!
His name was Angelo Roncalli and he was one of thirteen children.He was prone from a young age to be religious. After becoming a priest, he cared very much for the people. He believed in the equality of people and when he was appointed Apostolic Delegate to Turkey, he used his office to help the Jewish underground saving thousands of refugees in Europe. During the Holocaust in World War 2, he saved many refugees from the Nazis.
His motto as a bishop was obedience and peace. “I’m sincerely ready to stay here until I die, if obedience wants it. I let others waste their time dreaming about what might happen to me…the idea that one would be better off somewhere else is an illusion.”
He journaled and reflected on his life and his relationship with his God every day.What a lesson we can learn from him.It was not as much the historical interest but was more the spiritual value of what he wrote that inspired me.
It showed the simple piety of his youth, even in the face of his increasing authority and power. It is piety as described by Father James Martin O.J. of humility, obedience and a reliance on God.
In 1925 as he became a bishop, he writes “I have not sought or desired this new ministry: The Lord has chosen me, making it so clear that it is His will that it would be a grave sin for me to refuse. So, it will be for him to cover up my feelings and supply my insufficiencies.”
Oh Wow. He felt incapable of taking on this role as Bishop. How did he feel when he was elected pope?
We sometimes think people in authority or in high positions that have an ability to have influence must have it all together. Often that is not the case. Yes, they have gifts and abilities, but also often feel Woah, how did I get here?Sound familiar to some of you?
In 1947, after three years as nuncio, he wrote: ” the sense of my unworthiness keeps me good company, it makes me put all my trust in God.” This gives me hope in my journey with God. For Father Roncalli had to trust in God and believed in His faithfulness. His heart is reflected in his words. And so, do we.
Pope John XXIII himself felt unworthy, not able, but if God wills it, then God will supply him all that he needs. After becoming pope and being carried on the portable papal throne, he said to an aide,” the secret of life is to let oneself be carried by God and so carry Him to others.”
The constant thread through his journals is his humility and reliance on God, to be carried by God’s will and love.
He called the Second Vatican Council. A means of spiritual renewal for the Church and to unify Christians that had been separated from the Church and to see Jews as brothers and sisters under the same God. He brought about many reforms in the Church.He brought English (the language of the day) into the Mass, and the priest became more personal and understandable. Participation was encouraged in new ways with new possibilities. He was a man way ahead of his time. As the shepherd of the Church trying to bring unity, love, grace and mercy to ALL.
In 1962, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and during this time he shared with a friend, “the secret of my ministry is in that crucifix you see opposite my bed. It’s there so I can see it in my first waking moment and before going to bed. It’s there also so that I can talk to my Saviour during the long evening hours… They say that Christ died for all. No one is excluded from his love, his forgiveness.”
A Jesuit friend of Father James Martin was in a taxi on 3 June 1963. When he heard Pope John XXIII had died, the tearful taxi driver said, “I’m not a Catholic, but he was our pope too.” Quite apt that he was known as the Good Pope.
He made a difference in people’s lives. Do we do that? Are we even open to see the good in all people? All are created by God. All on a journey.
His book title could be our title too – ‘A journal (of the journey) of a soul.’