Pope John XXIII

A young religious maturing

Although I generally manage to keep him at arm’s length, the ‘natural man’ still makes himself felt at times in certain hellish dreams in which I find myself entangled unawares.  In short, I am still the same, a great proud sinner.  What a humbling thought!

And to think that God still bears with me and seems not to notice my sins.  How can I disappoint Him?  Why am I not carried away by the desire to love Him and make Him love me?  The most Holy Virgin of Sorrows weeps because Jesus is not loved but sinned against: perhaps I too make Him weep.  Oh console yourself, Mary, preserve ever alive in me the most burning desire to love your Son and enable me, as far as lies within my power, to soothe your bitter sorrows by drawing souls to Jesus and you.  To obtain your help, I dedicate to you all my actions tomorrow.  Purify them, give them that perfection they so much need, and let the rosary be said at least once as I have never said it yet.

–Angelo Roncalli as a young seminarian, future Pope John XXIII ‘Journal of a Soul’



“O Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I would like to be filled with love for You; keep me closely united with You, may my heart be near to Yours. I want to be to You like the apostle John. O Mary of the Rosary, keep me recollected when I say these prayers of yours; bind me forever, with your rosary, to Jesus of the Blessed Sacrament. Blessed be Jesus, my love..” — Pope John XXIII



Learning of the life of Angelo Roncalli, I am watching a wonderful movie ‘The Good Pope: Pope John XXIII’. The complete immersion within the Church washes over as a cleansing stream of a dream. A little boy committed to becoming a priest, leaving his farming family of many simple siblings and loving parents, ventures to the seminary where he excels in his studies. He walks alone. The romance endures, yet complexities emerge; politics, modernism and the concerns of elevating man; war and souls standing upon a precipice. The intentions of a little boy could never anticipate the world, yet innocence and love prevail within the presence of God. Angelo desired only to return to those he loved, his family and country folk, to return as a priest. God’s call was greater, pulling from the womb of tenant farmers—peasants, a brilliant rustic child, whose mind was only surpassed by his heart. At the age of seventy-six, after a full life as a loved priest, moving through intense political times, remaining devoted to the reality of all men possessing the image and likeness Christ, Angelo is authenticated as Papa. As the Pope, he would guide the Church into Vatican II, navigating all for the salvation of souls. Words as the leader of the Universal Church: ‘The Church should be a garden illuminated by God.’

Modern era Popes

Leo XIII (1878-1903)
St. Pius X (1903-14)
Benedict XV (1914-22)
Pius XI (1922-39)
Pius XII (1939-58)
St. John XXIII (1958-63)
Paul VI (1963-78)
John Paul I (1978)
St. John Paul II (1978-2005)
Benedict XVI (2005-2013)
Francis (2013—)


Working within distractions

Last night and the night before I could not write a thing, because of a violent toothache. Although this gave me the chance to suffer something for Jesus, it also took up too much of my thoughts.

If I had a little peace of mind, tomorrow I should have to submit to those penalties which I laid down for myself, since I have not satisfactorily carried out those two most important practices of piety; the visit and the rosary.

And then, to tell the truth, I might just as well not be taking part in this Novena, I am doing it so badly.

So, more devotion is needed; not great and extraordinary achievements but great perfection in everyday matters and above all union with Jesus, and Mary ever in my thoughts…. ‘Journal of a Soul’ Pope John XXIII

Young Pope John XXIII


Proper religious formation

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the future John XXIII, was born in Sotto il Monte (Bergamo) the 25th of November 1881, the fourth one out of thirteen brothers and sisters and first male in the family. The Roncalli family have a good fame because of their religiosity and the children were educated on the family example: rosary and evening prayers all together, love accompanied the hard work of the fields and helped in the family core. But an exception was made for Angelo Giuseppe: given his deep passion for the study , he could go on studying, first in private, in the care of the Carvico parish priest and then, as an external student, at the Celana College, managing to finish his elementary studies and to do his first studies of the Latin language, so much so, that in the fall of the 1893 , when he was 12 , he could enter the Bergamo Seminary and admitted to the third class of the superior studies. The vocation to the priesthood was natural in the boy and when he was Pontiff , he said. ” that he never doubted that that was his life”, that is, to become a priest.  –website Papa Giovanni

Future pope before the turn of the twentieth century


A religious youth in formation

First of all, I (Pope John XXIII as a sixteen-year-old seminary student in 1897) am profoundly convinced that holy purity comes as a grace from God, and without this grace I am incapable of it, and so in this matter I will start on the sure foundation of humility, distrusting myself and placing all my confidence in God and most Holy Mary. Therefore, every day I will pray to the Lord for the virtue of holy purity, and I will pray to Him with particular fervor at holy communion, since it is in the Eucharist that he offers me the ‘grain that shall make the young men flourish, and new wine for the maidens’. I will have a tender love for the Queen of Virgins. I will always offer the Hour of Prime of the Little Office, the first Hail Mary of the Angelus and the first decade of the rosary for the acquiring and preserving of holy purity. I will also ask Joseph, Mary’s most chaste spouse, to help me, addressing to him twice a day the prayer ‘O Guardian of Virgins’, and I will cultivate a devotion to the three saintly youths (Aloysius Gonzaga, Stanislaus Kostka, and John Berchmans) I have mentioned, whose purity I will try to copy in my own life. –‘Journal of a Soul’ Pope John XXIII


Higher living

I am reading ‘Journal of a Soul‘ a tremendous autobiography by Pope John XXIII. The pope, who I did not know much about, starts his journaling at the age of fifteen in 1896.  During his time in the seminary, the ‘Little Rules’, a guide for the most serious students at the Bergamo seminary, is published in the appendix.  I found the prescriptions for daily living interesting.

At all times:

1. Have a special love for your companions, and this mutual love must come from God and tend to God.

2. Pray to the Lord for one another, especially in any particular need, and for this purpose offer a communion for your companions every month.

3. Correct one another’s guilts, and let him who is corrected say three Hail Marys for his corrector.

4. Each must choose a corrector from among companions.

5. It will be an excellent thing for you to write letters to one another during the holidays, encouraging perseverance in doing good, especially when making a Novena.

6. NO one shall lay his hands on another. DO not use the intimate •tu’ when speaking with one another and do not use dialect words or, worse,
immodest expressions; if you hear these used by others go away, showing that you will not take any part in such conversation.

7. Evil companions must be shunned like vipers, especially those who criticize virtue, good men and good example, subjecting them to ridicule.

8. Be very much on your guard against human respect. Do not refrain from doing good, or indulge in evil because of any human respect or consideration.

9. Have a great love for that virtue which sheds a luster on all life and especially on that of ecclesiastics. the guiding star of the priesthood: purity. Therefore, you must set a guard over your senses, and especially over your eyes, shun the company and of corrupt youths, and avoid idleness.

10. No books must be read that have the slightest taint of immodesty; in fact, before reading any book be sure that it is approved of by your director, especially if it is a book of poetry.

11. Do not attend public spectacles, or fairs, or listen to profane speeches, or go to luxurious parties. Do not sing love songs.

12. To guard the virtue of purity you must have a great love for Mary most holy, and in her honour say three Hail Marys for yourself and your companions, offering them to her and begging her for this virtue.

13. Fast for the principal feasts of Mary, and have a great devotion also to your Guardian Angel and to St Aloysius Gonzaga, in whose honour you will observe the six Sundays and three days of special prayer before his feast.

14. Your chief devotion will be for the Blessed Sacrament: therefore great recollection in church, especially when there is Exposition. Receive the Blessed Sacrament as often as you can, with the best possible dispositions and devotion, and with a prolonged thanksgiving. Visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament frequently. rejoicing to keep him company.

15. Dress according to the regulations: without any variation or display, taking no notice of anything that may be said about this, and remembering that •all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

16. When you attend services in church always wear your cassock.

17. Always be assiduous at these functions, behaving very devoutly. By so doing you will prove in yourself the truth of that saying: ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”