On October the 14th, forty years after his death, Pope Paul VI (1978 – 2018) will be canonised by Pope Francis.
Paul VI is particularly dear to the Brothers, because of a series of things that link him to our religious family. His friendship with the Brothers began in the late 1920s, when he collaborated with Brother Alessandro Alessandrini in the organisation of short retreats for young Catholics. These included young people from the Italian Catholic Universities Federation, for which Montini was the Ecclesiastical Assistant. The meetings took place in Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls, and Monsignor G.B. Montini usually provided the input, although they were often addressed by Dom Ildefonso Schuster, Abbot of Saint Paul’s, and by Basillo Pompili, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome.
Another connection was referred to by Pope Paul VI himself on the occasion of his visit to our Istituto Pio IX on the Aventine Hill on March the 3rd 1965. “For four years, from 1928 to 1932, I lived close to this school in the Via delle Terme Deciane. Every morning, I celebrated Mass in the nearby church of St. Prisca, but I used to come and say Mass and preach in your chapel on particular feast days and Sundays. Those were the days of Brother Ugo, who was a teacher and a magician, because he elicited such wonderful music from the voices of your choir, with a quality that would not be out of place on the best stages of the world. So I am grateful to the Institute for the rich impressions and the fine memories they gave me.”
He then turned in the direction of the Brothers and said, “The Vicar of Christ wishes to give his greetings, blessing and support to these deserving and well loved religious in their vocation from God, which is a difficult one, because it calls for sacrifice every day and every hour. You should know that the Church loves you and esteems and appreciates the importance of your sacrifice and generosity. Persevere in this regal service that you are giving to God and to the Church.”
Among the many other occasions when Paul VI spoke publicly about the Brothers and showed his admiration and esteem for them, we can cite the following.
On June the 8th 1966, he received the members of the General Chapter in Audience and said the following to them among many other things:
“ […] Dear Sons, you are highly qualified specialists – I would almost say technicians – of Christian education. The Church is grateful for the great service you render. But the very esteem it has for you leads it to expect that, in these days after the Council, you will be the first to seek out, to study, to assimilate and to put into pratice the Council’s Declaration ‘Gravissimum educationis momentum’, solemnly promulgated by us on October the 28th 1965 […].”
On August the 12th 1970, during a General Audience, he turned to the Brothers attending the Lasallian Regional Assembly of Italy and spoke as follows.
“My first greeting is to the group of Brothers of the Christian schools who are attending a course in spirituality in the nearby Albano Laziale. […] There is no need for us to eulogise on your mission in the schools, because you are more convinced of it than we are. See how great it is, how modern and how providential. See how many sacrifices it calls for. It might appear that it is the simplest thing in the world to become a teacher … But anyone who wants to do it in the spirit of St Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, will have to work on themselves. You have to be masters not only of others but also masters of yourselves. In other words, you must have a spirituality that enriches you and gives you the power to give your school the value of a mission […].”
In the following year, on August the 18th 1971, in Castel Gandolfo, he spoke as follows to the Brothers of the 2nd Lasallian Regional Assembly of Italy.
“[…] You are people who have made teaching your mission. You are dedicated to the school and have left all, even the priesthood, preferring to remain Brothers as lay people consecrated to the Lord, so as to have no other concern except to attend to young people, teaching them, initiating them into the sciences, the arts and into Christian living. It is a great thing, a very great thing! We thank you for the contribution you are making to Christian education. We admire your dedication and hope that your numbers will increase. God bless you all.”
On August the 8th 1972, he spoke once again to the Brothers in the 3rd Lasallian Regional Assembly of Italy.
“[…] Carissimi, people call you that because you are icons of affection, and rightly so! Be aware how dear you are to us and how great a friendship we feel towards your Institute and the great esteem we have for you. It is our great desire and hope that you will continue faithful in that school tradition which you embody. You are all blessed and therefore confirmed in your vocation, which is so humble and yet so great, so beautiful, so modern, so alive, so necessary for the Church.”
On July the 18th 1973, the Holy Father gave an exhortation to the Italian Brothers.
“[…] The Pope knows how much good you are doing and all that you are achieving in the Church. So we welcome you with great appreciation, great recognition, and we offer you our fervent good wishes in your work. […] Be faithful to the Church and to your vocation!”
Pope Paul VI was perhaps less popular than his predecessor John XXIII or his successor John Paul II, but now he is joining their company in the splendor of the glory of the saints.
“In reference to this great pontiff, Pope Francis recently declared, “When talking in the sight of God about this courageous Christian, this indefatigable apostle, we can only utter, sincerely and simply the one important word: Thanks!”
Br. Rodolfo Meoli, FSC
Postulator General Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
Rome – Italy