Today, October 11, is the Feast of Pope St. John XXIII.
I have two favorite stories of St. John XXIII:
When the Vatican was planning an addition to the papal apartments, the architect planning the addition passed the plans to Pope John for his consideration. On receiving them back, he saw the the Holy Father had written on the plans, “We are not angels.” At first confused, the architect looked over the plans, only to realize that he had neglected to include any bathroom facilities!
When Pope John was visiting a prison in Rome, all of the prisoners lined up, eager to meet the Holy Father. Only one remained in his cell, facing the wall, refusing even to acknowledge Pope John’s presence. When asked what the man had been imprisoned for, Pope John was told that the man had killed his wife. Pope John approached the man and said, “I have never had a wife. But, if I had, I might have killed her.” At that, the man turned to the pontiff and embraced him, weeping. What did Pope John mean? He meant that, there but for the grace of God, go I. The wall that separates you from me is not really a wall, but a thin line. Had my circumstances been different, I might be where you are. But, wherever we are, God’s mercy is there to heal us.
Finally, of course, there is the response Pope John gave when asked by a journalist, “Holy Father, how many people work at the Vatican?” Pope John replied, “About half!”
“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, blessed be the Immaculate Virgin Mary.” Pope St. John XXIII
Pope St. John, pray for us!
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.