Thursday, June 29, 2006

St.'s Peter and Paul

The Coronation of Paul VI.

June 30 marks the forty third anniversary of the Papal coronation of Pope Paul VI, the last pope to accept this ritual. Very few Catholics realize that Paul VI also initiated the crucifix crosier that became so identified with John Paul II. When he adopted this crosier it immediately suggested to me that the Holy Father chose to emmulate the Apostle St. Paul when he wrote, "I came among you preaching Christ crucified, and Him alone." (Please excuse my 'free-base' quotes of Sacred Scripture.) Paul VI became at that time the most widely traveled pontiff in modern history, only to be outdone by his successor JPII. Paul VI closed the Vatican Council and proceeded upon a pontificate of evangelization. Sadly, under his reign all hell broke loose in the Church and he suffered much as a result, doing his best to avoid schism and splintering within the Church. He has been gravely criticized since.

I for one always thought he was a saint. I once referred to him as 'great' in a conversation with a couple of rather intellectual and holy priests. One priest immediaately corrected me with anecdotes of his weaknesses and omissions. I silently accepted the correction however, knowing in my heart that I was speaking of his personal sanctity. To this day I wonder if we may criticize or judge the Supreme Pontiff.

Everyone knows his truly great, as well as prophetic encyclical "Humanae Vitae" which penetrated like a sword through the heart of western culture. This encyclical could possibly be said to have caused something of a 'spiritual' schism of sorts amongst some of the so-called faithful, although no one ever has cited it as such, referring to those who opposed it as dissenting Catholics. As we all know, they remain with us in abundance today.

The Holy father was not immune to assasination attempts, the most notable in the Phillipines when a man armed with a knife nearly attacked him. At one point in his pontificate an ex-seminarian or priest? - if I remember correctly - probably a homosexual activist, accused him of homosexuality. There had been a news clip of the Holy Father decrying the slander on television wherein his voice broke with emotion, denouncing the slanderous accusation. "The Holy Father will have much to suffer." (Our Lady's prophecy at Fatima.) Pope Paul surely did suffer. Physically, morally, and spiritually. He had nearly crippling arthritis, making it difficult for him to walk in his later years. He resorted to the use of the sedan chair carried by attendants (pictured above at his coronation ceremony) when celebrating liturgical functions at St. Peter's and elsewhere in Rome.

The very last two Masses of his that I had the privlege to attend were for today's feast of St. Peter and Paul, and for tomorrow's memorial of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. He looked frail and needed a great deal of assistance. I knew he would not live much longer. A year or so later, he was dead. In my mind he was a great Pope, a holy Pope. I do not have the intellectual acumen, the ecclesiastical sophistication, nor the moral or spiritual superiority to say otherwise. His dark eyes looked at me once as he was being carried into St. Peter's, blessing the crowd, and I was certain when our eyes met that he looked into my soul - how many people say things like that? - yet for me it was an inestimable grace. I love him and I love the Pope!

St.'s Peter and Paul, pray for us!


  1. Don Marco2:41 PM

    In 1975 I was in Rome on pilgrimage. I remember seeing a suffering Paul VI in a General Audience in the Nervi Hall. His message was simple but penetrated my heart deeply: "Amate la Chiesa," he said. Then he repeated, "Amate la Chiesa," adding, "Pregate per la Chiesa." Love, the Church. Love the Church. Pray for the Church. I took those words as a kind personal spiritual legacy to me although he addressed them to an audience hall full of pilgrims.

  2. A Pope is much like a President in that he gets blamed for much and credited with little. For Paul VI, anything that is seen as "bad" in the Church today as a result of Vatican II is often considered his fault because the Council was on his watch. However, the Pope too has his "Congress." Cardinals and Bishops exert their influence and wield their power and leave it all at the Pope's doorstep. "Pray for the Church" - and include the Holy Father, whoever he may be.


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