Thursday, Sept. 7, 1978
Today John Paul I gave an address to the priests of Rome, the native clergy of his new diocese, emphasizing the necessity of prayerful mediation for priests to remain “habitually united with God.”
At Milan station I once saw a porter, who, with his head resting on a sack of coal propped against a pillar, was sound asleep… Trains left whistling and arrived with clanking wheels the loudspeakers continually boomed out announcements; people came and went in confusion and noise, but he—sleeping on—seemed to be saying: “Do what you like, but I need to be quiet.” We priests should do something similar: around us there is continual movement and talking, of persons, newspapers, radio and television. With priestly moderation and discipline we must say: “Beyond certain limits, for me, who am a priest of the Lord, you do not exist. I must take a little silence for my soul. I detach myself from you to be united with my God.”
Not only priests, but all of us, must assert our need for daily quiet time in prayer with God. We cannot bless others if disconnected from the source of all blessings. As St. Francis de Sales said, “Everyone of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy— then we need an hour.” John Paul himself quoted some of this saint’s wisdom:
St. Francis of Sales wrote: “There is no vocation that does not have its troubles, its vexations, its disgust. Apart from those who are fully resigned to God’s will, each of us would like to change his own condition with that of others. Those who are bishops wish they were not; those who are married wish they were not, and those who are not married wish that they were. Where does this general restlessness of spirits come from, if not from a certain allergy that we have towards constraint and from a spirit that is not good, which make us suppose that others are better off than we are?”
Therefore, let all of us—bishops, priests, and laypeople—not imagine that the grass greener elsewhere, but labor joyfully in our section of the vineyard.
In Vittorio Vento, the 46-year-old bishop [Albino Luciani] was confronted by a financial scandal involving two priests who had piled up debts and overdrawn checking accounts. Luciani summoned all the 400 priests in the diocese and spoke to them about the need for the church to be poor. Then, he paid the two priests’ debts out of diocesan income. Luciani kept in constant contact with the parishes in the diocese, sometimes riding a bicycle for his “pastoral” visits.
After 11 years in Vittorio Veneto, Pope Paul named Luciani patriarch of Venice, one of Italy’s most prestigious episcopal posts.