...Shortly after he was elected...the Archbishop of Liverpool and a rather gray, austere man who'd been a career cleric...told me at dinner that he was absolutely entranced by the election of Wojtyla. And I said, "Why does he impress you so much?" And he said they had sat together on the proprietary commission for the bishops in the early 1970. And a number of meetings had been in Rome in the winter and the weather was terrible. And...it was rather austere, a meeting of people who didn't really know each other very well from different countries.
And the key figure was Wojtyla. And he would tramp into the meetings, always just before they started, and on one occasion, he marched in (he walked all the way from wherever it was in Rome he was staying), and his cassock and his feet and his socks were sopping wet, skirted up his sock, took his shoes and socks off, squeezed the water from the socks and hung them on the radiator and he said, "Gentlemen, should we get down to business?" And they were just so entranced by a bishop with balls. You know, a man who was rugged and the energy and the lack of self importance. And so people suddenly felt here was somebody who wasn't tired, somebody who had vigor who was absolutely sure of himself. He could take his socks off in public.
It is a sign of our times, not his, that it is very difficult to find a online video of Pope Paul VI in English that is not accusing him of rank heresy or betraying the true Mass.
The only video about the man that I was able to find was in Italian. This one is entitled "Paulus VI: the forgotten Pope. It is nice to be see him early in his pontificate, the first Pope to travel to the Holy Land, to speak at the UN, etc. There are fascinating pictures of the conclave that elected him, of the heat overwhelming the crowds outside the Vatican during the conclave, of his early popularity.
By contrast, this film of the early days of John XXIII's pontificate shows him visiting and spontaneously speaking to prison inmates. A passionate demonstration broke out when he asked the men to write home and tell their families that the Pope was praying for them.
Watch his very expressive hands and gestures, eye contact, ready smile, rapid speech. You quickly understand why he captured the imagination - he almost seems like your favorite grandfather.
As Fr. Michael Sweeney, my co-founder, was quick to point out, John XXIII was actually very conservative in his spirituality and theology - much more so than John Paul II. It was his personal warmth, down-to-earth simplicity, and humor that made him seem so different from Pius XII.
This is a 10 minute video entitled "The Last Years of Pius XII (1951 - 1958). Try to ignore the melodramatic commentary and the charmingly idiosyncratic English subtitles and focus on the Pope's voice and gestures. Very dramatic. He reminds me of Fulton Sheen who sometimes used similar gestures.
The Pope of the missing encyclical which was apparently written to denounce Nazism and anti-semitism - but Pope Pius XI died before it could be promulgated.
This video contains fascinating footage of the last year of his pontificate: a list of his "firsts" (apparently he was a ground-breaker like John XXIII and John Paul II): images of the great flood that covered Rome in 1938, of Italy under Mussolini, and Pius's death in 1939.
I've had the quixotic idea (inspired by New Advent's link to a video of John XXIII) to post as many video's of the popes of the last century as I can find online with the hope that by being able to see their gestures, to hear their voice, we will be able to grasp something of the man as he appeared to those about him. To see them as something other than figures in our own debates.
Watch this extraordinary footage of Pope Leo XIII in 1896. He is 86 years old and frail. It was Pope Leo whom 15 year old Therese Martin begged to allow her to enter Carmel.
Then listen to Pope Leo chanting in this first audio recording of a Pope's voice made in the year of his death: 1903.
It is fascinating to see what images are available on line for which Pope and the commentary that accompanies them. It says so much about how our debates of the past 40 years have used and "spun" different Popes. Which is why I prefer to turn off the volume and just observe their gestures which reveal something of the man.
I haven't been able to find a video of Pius X although this is a nice still.
The film Bella (which I had not seen)has been the center of a huge buzz in the Catholic blogosphere where I won't be adding to here except to say that I loved this excerpt from Robert Ebert's review(thumbs up!)
"If I were in the habit of criticizing other critics, which I am not, I would quote Robert Koehler of Variety, who writes: "Nina, however, could easily have been to work on time, since her delay was due to her buying and using a home pregnancy test -- something she rationally would have done after her shift was over." Uh-huh. And if Mr. Koehler feared he was pregnant, which would he do first? Buy and use a home pregnancy test, or review "Bella"? I don't trust a review written by some guy who's wondering if he's pregnant."
One of the things that has long fascinated me is the astonishing creativity released in people's lives when 1) they open themselves to God's grace and 2) they begin to recognize and exercise the charisms they have been given for the sake of others.
The saints have always manifested a remarkable level of creativity. For instance, St. Vincent de Paul started what is now known as the International Association of Charity (AIC). Begun in 1617, AIC is the oldest lay association of women volunteers in the world.
St. Vincent encouraged the spread of the "Charities" not only in France, but gradually, also in Italy and Poland thus creating an international association. In a desire for unity in this new foundation, St. Vincent drafted common rules, to find the best possible ways to help the destitute, based on the imitation of Jesus Christ, on evangelical love that goes beyond borders, and on organization and creativity.
As Dorothy Sayers (quoting A.D. Lindsey)observed "The difference between ordinary people and saints is not that saints fulfill the plain duties that ordinary men neglect. The things saints do have not usually occurred to ordinary people at all . . .'Gracious' conduct is somehow like the work of an artist. It need imagination and spontaneity. It is not a choice between presented alternatives but the creation of something new."
We might even call them "apostolic entrepreneurs".
What is an entrepreneur? The classic business entrepreneur is someone who creates value by offering a product or service in order to obtain certain profit.
A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Whereas business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in profit and return, social entrepreneurs assess their success in terms of the impact they have on society.
For instance, Mary Cunningham Agee is the founder of the wonderful Nurturing Network, through which 48,000 volunteers have assisted 19,000 women in crisis pregnancies to find alternatives to abortion. Cunningham describes herself as a social entrepreneur.
What about the possibility of "apostolic entrepreneurs"? Men and women called by Christ to take risks and create new alternatives for the sake of the Kingdom of God: in the inner life of the Church, in relationships, in the arts, in institution-building, in the family, in the academic world, the sciences, social services, business, or government.
As lay apostles called to apply the Gospel to the challenges and needs of our time, creativity and entrepreneurial vision and skills are especially critical. I'm hoping to blog some more on this topic as time permits this week.
A fascinating glimpse of Vietnamese Catholicism as practiced in Florida can be found by watching this brief video about a new church. The tabernacle is a giant drum (which apparently has great resonance in Vietnamese culture) on the wall behind the altar with the names of 118 Vietnamese martyrs engraved upon it.
I'm grateful to Alex Vitus of the CL School of Community in Seattle for mentioning that Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, the national leader for Communion & Liberation, will be coming to the West Coast at the end of this month.
The Portland CL School of Community is also hosting Msgr. Albacete and Gregory Wolfe for a evening of discussion on November 28 (the day before the Seattle event) at the Billy Frank Jr. Conference Center at the Ecotrust Building, 1st Floor, 721 NW 9th Avenue in Portland. Doors open at 6:30, with the program starting at 7pm.
The topic will be "Wounded by Beauty". Msgr. Albacete and Prof. Wolfe will explore the transcendent aspects of beauty, which is more than mere aesthetics. Through art and nature, beauty touches the heart and helps us to reach out to reality, and at its height it wields the power to recall each one of us to our ultimate destiny in Christ. Msgr. Albacete will also likely delve into and develop the insights in his book, God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity.
FYI, Msgr. Albacete is a New York Times columnist and a co-founder of the John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC. Gregory Wolfe is the editor and publisher of Image Journal and Writer in Residence as well as the Director of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University.
If you'd like more information, leave a comment and I'll get back to you. As our friend Mark Shea in Seattle says, don't miss it if you can!
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