Feast of St. John XXIII (June 3)   11 comments

Above:  St. John XXIII

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOHN XXIII (NOVEMBER 25, 1881-JUNE 3, 1963)

Bishop of Rome

Born Angelo Giovanni Roncalli

Lutheran feast day = June 3

Episcopal and Canadian Anglican feast day = June 4

Roman Catholic feast day = October 11 (formerly June 3)

Pope St. John XXIII began the process of opening the proverbial windows of the Roman Catholic Church and became perhaps the most influential Vicar of Christ in the twentieth century.  He was certainly a breath of fresh air.

Angelo Giovanni Roncalli came from humble origins.  He, born at Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo, Italy, on November 25, 1881, was the third of thirteen children.  His parents were peasant farmers.  Our saint studied at the village school then at Bergamo.  Next he attended the St. Apollinare Institute, Rome, on scholarship, from 1901 to 1904, graduating with the Doctor of Theology degree.

The young priest became an academic and a scholar.  From 1905 to 1914 Roncalli served as the Secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo.  During that time our saint also lectured in ecclesiastical history at the diocesan seminary.  He, drafted during World War I, was a hospital orderly then a chaplain in the Italian army.  In 1921 Pope Benedict XV named Roncalli the national director of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.  Our saint found time to write historical monographs on various ecclesiastical topics, including a multi-volume work on St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584), completed in 1958.

From 1925 to 1953 Roncalli was a diplomat.  He served as the apostolic visitor (1925-1931) then apostolic delegate (1931-1934) to Bulgaria then the apostolic delegate (1934-1944) to Turkey and Greece.  In Eastern Europe our saint established friendly relations with Eastern Orthodox bishops.  During the Nazi occupation of Greece (1941-1944) Roncalli worked to prevent the deportation of Jews.  As the nuncio to France (1944-1953) our saint had to deal with the political aftermath of World War II.  When the government of Charles de Gaulle wanted the Church to remove thirty-three bishops suspected of being Vichy collaborators, he dismissed only three.  The nuncio found most of the evidence against the thirty-three bishops unsatisfactory.  He told de Gaulle:

What I have here is mostly newspaper clippings and gossip.  These are not evidence in any system of justice.  If you can’t supply something more concrete, I am afraid that any action against these men would be discreditable both to me and the justice of France.

–Quoted in Orlando Strunk, Jr., In Faith and Love (Nashville, TN:  Graded Press, 1968), pages 90-91

Our saint also supported the worker-priest movement, of which the Vatican was dubious.  Roncalli, elevated to the College of Cardinals on June 12, 1953, became the Patriarch of Venice three days later.

Pope Pius XII died in early October 1958.  At the end of the month the College of Cardinals elected Roncalli to fill the vacancy.  The 78-year-old Supreme Pontiff was no caretaker Pope.  At his enthronement St. John XXIII announced that he, most of all, wanted to be a good shepherd.  During the next few years our saint made changes in the Roman Catholic Church.  He expanded the College of Cardinals from a maximum of 70 members and expanded it to 87, while increasing its international diversity, by the end of 1962.  St. John XXIII started the revision of canon law and opened the first session of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II, 1962-1965), which Pope Paul VI completed.  Our saint also revived the papal custom of visiting prisoners or patients at Christmas.  Furthermore, St. John XXIII, not a prisoner of the Vatican, as some of his predecessors had been, earned the respect of John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, both of whom he advised to act cautiously during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Some of St. John XXIII’s most impressive achievements were in the field of ecumenism.  In 1960 he established the Secretariat for Christian Unity.  That year he also made history by receiving Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The following year our saint sent official greetings to Athenagoras I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and dispatched observers to the gathering of the World Council of Churches.  The Supreme Pontiff, who greeted Jewish visitors by saying,

I am Joseph, your brother!,

excised from the liturgy for Good Friday the words offensive to Jews.

Good Pope John, aged 81 years, died on June 3, 1963.

Pope John Paul II declared our saint a Venerable in 1999 then a Blessed the following year.  Pope Francis canonized Roncalli in 2013.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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Lord of all truth and peace, you raised up your bishop John to be a servant

of the servants of God and gave him wisdom to call for the work of renewing your Church:

Grant that, following his example, we may reach out to other Christians to clasp them with the love of your Son,

and labor throughout the nations of the world to kindle a desire for justice and peace;

through Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Joel 2:26-29

Psalm 50:1-6

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 407

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