To the King David

 

The funerals of my pride

 

 Illustrious sovereign, and also poet and musician,

 

People see you under thousand different aspects. For centuries, artists have been representing you sometimes with a sitar, or with the sling as opposing to Goliat, or with the sceptre on the throne, or in the grotto of Engaddi, at the moment of cutting Saul' s mantle.

 

Boys admire the fight you had with Goliat and your enterprises as a brave and generous leader.

 

Liturgy remembers you, mainly, as Christ' s ancestor.

 

The Bible introduces the different components of your personality: poet and musician; brilliant captain; prudent king, implied - oh, not always happily - in women affaires and in harem intrigues with the consequent family tragedies; and, however, friend of God thanks to the distinguished mercy that kept you always conscious of your smallness before God. 

 

This last characteristic is particularly likeable for me and it cheers me when I find it, for example, in the brief psalm 130, written by you.

You say in that psalm: Lord, my heart does not become arrogant. I try to follow your step, but, unfortunately, I have to be limited to request: Lord, I wish that my heart does not run after thoughts of proud...! 

 

Too much little for a Bishop, you will say. I understand it, but the truth is that one hundred times I have celebrated the funerals of my pride, thinking on having buried it two meters under the ground with so much requiescat, and one hundred times I have seen it rise again more awakened than before: I have realized that I still disliked critics, that praises, on the contrary, flattered me, that I was worried about the others opinion on me.

 

When they make me a compliment, I need to be compared with the donkey that led Christ the day of the Palms. And I tell myself: How would they have laughed at the donkey if, when listening to the crowd applause, it had become arrogant and had begun - ass like it was - thanking right, left and centre with reverences as a prima donna ! Don' t make a fool of yourself like that...!

 

However, when critics arrive, I need to put me in the situation of Br. Cristoforo of Manzoni who, when he was target of ironies and mockeries, keeps calm by saying to himself: "Brother, remember you are not here for yourself"

 

The same Br. Cristoforo, in another context, "going two steps back, putting the right hand over the hip, he raises the left one with the forefinger pointing at Don Rodrigo". And he stares at him with inflamed eyes. This gesture pleases very much to Christians of nowadays, who demand "prophecies", clamorous accusation, "inflamed eyes", "fulminating lightings", Napoleon' s style.

 

I like much more the way you write, king David: "my eyes have not been altered". I would like to be able to feel like Francis of Sales when he wrote: "If an enemy removed my right eye, I would smile him with the left one; if he took me out both eyes, I still would have kept my heart to love him".

 

Your psalm continues: "I am running neither in search of great things nor in too much high things for me". Very noble position if it is compared with which Don Abbondio said: "Men are like this: they always wish to ascend, always to ascend". Unfortunately, I am afraid Don Abbondio was right: we tend to reach to those who are above us, to push our equal ones downwards, and to sink still more those who are underneath.

 

And we? We tend to excel, to rise by means of honours, promotions and appointments. It is not wrong if it is a healthy emulation, moderate and reasonable wishes, that stimulate work and research.

 

But if it becomes a kind of disease? What happens if, to go ahead, we trample on others by means of injustice and defamation? If, always to progress, we are gathered in "flocks", with the thinnest pretexts, but in fact to close the passage to other "flocks", provided even with more "advanced" appetites?

 

And then, for which satisfactions? One is the impression positions cause from the distance, before being obtained, and another one is what they produce closely, after having been obtained. It was very well said by one who was crazier than you, but also poet like you: Jacopone of Todi. When he heard his brother Pier of Morone had been elected as a Pope, he wrote:

 

 

What are you going to do Pier of Morone...?

If you do not know how to defend yourself well

you will sing a bad song !

 

 

I often say to me in the middle of the worries of the episcopal ministry: "Now, dear, you are singing the bad song of Jacopone!" You also said it in psalm 51 "against evil tongues". Those, according to your opinion, are "like sharpened knives" that, instead of beard, they cut the good reputation. 

 

Well. But, once the knife is used, just a short time later, the beard begins growing spontaneous and flowery. Also the honour humiliated and the fame broken into pieces grow again. That' s why sometimes it is prudent to shut up, to be patient: opportunely everything comes spontaneously back to its place!

 

***

 

To be optimist, in spite of everything. It is this what you mean when writing: "Like boy of breast in his mother' s arms..., like this inside me it is my soul". The confidence in God must be the axis of our thoughts and our actions. Although we look at it, in fact, the main personages of our life are two: God and us.

 

Looking at these two, we will always see goodness in God and misery in us. We will see the divine goodness well ready towards our misery, and to our misery like an object of the divine goodness. The judgments of men remain a little out of the game: they can cure neither a guilty conscience nor hurt a right conscience.

 

Your optimism, at the end of the little psalm, explodes in a shout of joy: I put myself in Lord's hands, since now and for ever. When I read you, you certainly do not seem a scared one for me, but a brave one, a strong man, who empties his soul from confidence in himself to fill it with the confidence and the power of God.

 

Humility, in other words, runs together with magnanimity. To be good is something great and beautiful, but difficult and arduous. So that the spirit does not aspire to great things of an excessive size, here it is humility. So that it is not become frightened before difficulties, here it is magnanimity.

 

I think about Saint Paul: scorns, lashes, pressures, do not get depressed this magnanimous one; ecstasies, revelations, applauses do not raise this humble one. Humble when he writes: "I am the smallest of the apostles". Magnanimous and ready to face any risk when he declares: "All I can in who comforts me". Humble, but when it is the moment and the place he knows how to fight: "Are they Jewish? So I am... Are they ministers of Christ? I say madnesses, more I am that". He puts himself below everybody, but in his obligations he does not let himself fold by anything or by anybody.

 

The waves throw the ship in which he travels against the reefs; the snakes bite him; pagans, Jews, false Christians expel and persecute him; he is whipped with twigs and thrown to the jail, it is made him die every day, they think they have frightened him, annihilated, and he returns to appear fresh and full of vigour to assure us: "I am convinced that neither death nor life..., neither the present nor the future, neither the height nor the depth, no other creature, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus".

 

It is the exit door of Christian humility. This does not end at the pusillanimity, but at the courage, at the enterprising work and at the abandonment in God!

 

 

February 1972

 

 

 

 

* DAVID , King of Israel from approximately 1010 a.C. The Bible presents the different faces of his personality: musician and poet; brilliant soldier, prudent king, implied in women affaires and, nevertheless, friend of God and model of sincere repentance, thanks to the distinguished mercy that kept him conscious of his smallness.

 

 

 

GCM 2002