Wednesday, Sept. 6, 1978
John Paul I invited up a member of the Maltese boys choir for a little chat today during the pope’s first general audience:
—Well, what is your name?
—James. And listen, have you ever been ill?
—Never been ill?
—Not even a temperature?
—Oh, how lucky you are! But when a child is ill, who brings him a little broth, some medicine? Isn’t it his mother? That’s it. Afterwards you grow up, and your mother gets old; you become a fine gentleman, and your mother, poor thing, will be in bed, ill. That’s it. Well, who will bring the mother a little milk and medicine? Who will?
—My brothers and I.
—Well said! “His brothers and he,” he said. I like that. Did you understand? But it does not always happen.
The pope went on to remind us that the fourth commandment (“Honor your father and mother“) is not commandment given just for young children:
As Bishop of Venice, I sometimes went to homes. Once I found an elderly woman, sick.
—How are you?
—Well, the food is all right!
—Are you warm? Is there heating?
—So you are content?
—”No” She almost began to cry.
—But why are you crying?
—My daughter-in-law, my son, never comes to see me. I would like to see my grandchildren.
Heat and food are not enough, there is the heart; we must think of the heart of our old people. The Lord said that parents must be respected and loved, even when they are old.
The pope also offered a lighthearted illustration of how all the commandments are intended by God for our greater freedom and happiness:
Once a man went to buy a motorcar from the agent. The latter talked to him plainly: “Look here, it’s a good car; mind that you treat it well: premium petrol in the tank, and for the joints, oil the good stuff.” But the other replied: “Oh, no, for your information, I can’t stand even the smell of petrol, nor oil; I’ll put champagne, which I like so much, in the tank and I’ll oil the joints with jam” “Do what you like: but don’t come and complain if you end up in a ditch with your car!”
The Holy Father also retold a story from Dale Carnegie, greeted those attending the Seventh International Congress of the Organ Transplant Society this week in Rome, and encouraged people to pray for the success of the Middle East peace talks begun today between the rulers of Egypt, Israel, and the United States at Camp David in Maryland.