WIT AND WISDOM
Archbishop Angelo Roncalli (later, Pope Saint John XXIII, 1881 - 1963), had a keen sense of humour, even while holding positions of authority. His humour, openness, generosity, warmth and wisdom, made many people love him and call him, ‘Good Pope John’. He was Canonized on 27 April 2014.
Before becoming the Pope, he had served as Apostolic Nuncio to France. In the course of the meal during a banquet, he offered an apple to his neighbour, a woman in a dramatically low-cut gown. “Do take it, Madame, please do,” he urged in his typically genial way. “It was only after Eve ate the apple that she became aware of how little she had on.”
Another time, he greeted a lean and ascetic-looking visitor with a sigh and the comment: “We will both have to say a prayer to God, beseeching him to remove half my excess fat to give it to you!”
“How many people work at the Vatican?” a reporter asked Pope St. John XXIII. “Oh, no more than half of them,” the Pope replied with a wink.
When a cardinal complained to Pope John that a rise in Vatican salaries meant a particular worker, an usher, earned as much as the cardinal, the pope remarked: "That usher has 10 children; I hope a cardinal doesn't have any."
On another occasion, a prelate of the Curia of Vatican told Pope St. John XXIII that it would be “absolutely impossible” to open the Second Vatican Council by 1963. “Fine, we’ll open it in 1962,” Pope John answered. And they did it.
When asked what he expected from the Council, he moved towards the window and made a gesture as if to open it and said that he expected a little fresh air from the Council. “We must shake off the imperial dust that has accumulated on the throne of St. Peter since Constantine” he added.
Visiting a hospital, he asked a boy what he wanted to be when he grew up. The boy said, “Either a policeman or a Pope.” "I would go in for the police if I were you," the Pope said. "Anyone can become a Pope; look at me!"
One evening, Pope St. John XXIII went to visit a friend at the hospital of the Holy Spirit. In a flutter, the mother superior in charge of the hospital introduced herself, “Most Holy Father, I am the superior of the Holy Spirit!” To which Pope John replied, “Well, I must say you’re lucky. What a job! I’m only the Vicar of Christ, just the servant of the servants of God!”
Pope St. John XXIII struck the same humorous note on Christmas Day in 1959, when he visited Rome’s Regina Coeli prison. He told the inmates that he came as their brother—and confided that one of his relatives had served a sentence for poaching. Pope John radiated so much goodness and sincerity that there was not a dry eye in the place by the time he finished speaking.
On another occasion, one prisoner refused to see him. Learning that the man had murdered his wife, Pope John persuaded the guard to let him enter the inmate’s cell. Then he opened a hearty conversation with these words: “You know, I’ve never been married. But if I had married, I too might have killed my wife.”
When reminded that by protocol the Pope has to dine alone, he complained that if he dined alone, he would appear like a seminarian under punishment. He said, “I have read the Gospel over carefully without finding a single passage which prescribes that one should eat alone. As we know, Jesus loved to eat in company.”
Once, the Pope remarked, “Men are like wine - some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.”
On another occasion, he said, “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.”
© By: Prof. Dr. Babu Philip, Former Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India, Prof. Mrs. Rajamma Babu, Former Professor, St. Dominic's College, Kanjirappally and Leo. S. John and Neil John, Maniparambil, Alfeen Public School, Kanjirappally, Kerala, India. For more moral stories, parables and anecdotes for students, catechists, teachers and preachers, kindly visit our web-sites:
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