Feast of St. Paul VI (September 26)   5 comments

Above:  St. Paul VI 

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT PAUL VI (SEPTEMBER 26, 1897-AUGUST 6, 1978)

Bishop of Rome

Born Giovanni Battista Montini

This post, as of the drafting and publication of this post, is slightly anticipatory.  Documentation tells us that Pope Benedict XVI declared Paul VI a Venearble in 2012 and that Pope Francis beatified Montini in 2014.  According to news reports, Pope Francis is set to canonize Paul VI on October 14, 2018.  Given that fact, plus the reality that, for me, differences among Venerables, Blesseds, and full Saints are purely semantic, I choose to proceed with calling the deceased Supreme Pontiff St. Paul VI, although he will remain a Blessed Paul VI for about one more month.

The feast day for St. Paul VI is September 26, the anniversary of his birth.  Usually a saint’s feast day falls on the anniversary of his or her death, but that date, for Montini, is the Feast of the Transfiguration.

Giovanni Battista Montini, born in Concescio, Italy, on September 26, 1897, came from a devout family.  His father was an attorney and a member of parliament.  Montini, devoted to his mother, became a priest on May 29, 1920.  Graduate studies in Rome ensued.

Montini’s star rose quickly in the Church.  In 1922 he joined the Vatican Secretariat of State.  He, the Nuncio to Poland from May to November 1923, resigned for health reasons.  On July 8, 1931, our saint became a domestic prelate to the Holy See.  Montini, assistant to Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) from December 13, 1937, worked closely with Pacelli/Pius XII until 1954.

Montini must have severely offended the Holy Father, for Pius XII exiled our saint to Milan.  On November 1, 1954, Montini began his duties as the Archbishop of Milan, far from being a plumb assignment.  In Milan, Montini was the “workers’ archbishop,” winning the approval of disaffected industrial workers.  He presided over an archdiocese still recovering from World War II.  Furthermore, Montini’s ecumenism became evident when he conducted dialogues with a group of Anglicans–a revolutionary practice prior to the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).

In 1958 Pope St. John XXIII succeeded the late Pius XII.  On December 5, 1958, St. John XXIII made Montini a Cardinal.  (Five years prior our saint had declined a similar offer from Pius XII, who had never repeated the offer.)  Cardinal Montini and St. John XXIII were two of the primary shapers of Vatican II.  St. John XXIII died in June 1963.  The conclave elected Cardinal Montini to succeed him; our saint became Pope Paul VI.  He presided over the final sessions of Vatican II.

St. Paul VI was doctrinally conservative and socially radical.  That has been a combination common in Christian history.  Many of the English Tractarians, for example, were open about their Christian Socialism.  Actual Jewish and Christian orthodoxy has, by definition, been conservative.  It has also challenged entrenched social structures and institutions, ended chattel slavery in much of the world, condemned the economic exploitation of the poor by the rich, championed labor unions, and opposed racial segregation.

If one is to understand the legacy of St. Paul VI, one must grasp the combination of theological orthodoxy and social and political radicalism.  What, for example, is more theologically orthodox and, sadly, socially and politically radical than the Golden Rule?

Life in the Roman Catholic Church since 1965 has been, depending on one’s perspective, either too liberal or too conservative.  St. Paul VI, who met with Archbishops of Canterbury Michael Ramsey (in 1966) and Donald Coggan (in 1977) and, in 1965, with Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras, lifted the mutual anathemas dating to 1054, angered many traditionalists.  St. Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (1967), which condemned the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the Third World and committed the Church to addressing that problem constructively, was consistent with the Law, the Prophets, Jesus, and Pope Leo XIIIHumanae Vitae (1968), which maintained the condemnation of artificial contraception, has been controversial from day one.  The decision to sell the papal tiara and give the proceeds to help the poor was at least a good gesture.  St. Paul VI sought to balance innovation and the integrity of ecclesiastical teaching.  The extent to which he succeeded has never ceased to be a topic of disagreement.

St. Paul VI, aged 80 years, died on August 6, 1978.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK J. MURPHY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISCUS CH’OE KYONG-HWAN, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR, 1839; SAINTS LAWRENCE MARY JOSEPH IMBERT, PIERRE PHILIBERT MAUBANT, AND JACQUES HONORÉ CHASTÁN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS, MISSIONARIES TO KOREA, AND MARTYRS, 1839; SAINT PAUL CHONG HASANG, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1839; AND SAINTS CECILIA YU SOSA AND JUNG HYE, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1839

THE FEAST OF KASPAR BIENEMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOSIAH IRONS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS DAUGHTER, GENEVIEVE MARY IRONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

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O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant St. Paul VI

to be a bishop in your Church and to feed your flock:

Give abundantly to all bishops the gifts of your Holy Spirit,

that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 719

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5 responses to “Feast of St. Paul VI (September 26)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Leo XIII (July 20) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: World Day of Peace (January 1) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  3. I saw Pope Paul at the Vatican when I was younger. He did a lot of good! I loved it when he left his car for Mother Teresa in India!

  4. Pingback: Feast of Leon Bloy, Jacques Maritain, and Raissa Maritain (November 4) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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