Anecdotes and Testimonies of Pope Luciani
- From "Humilitas" 1988 - 1989
" The Vatican has the walls of glass"
Memories from a Priest mate. " The old mates from the seminary have
maintained between them relationships of cordial friendship. Every anniversary
there was also a meeting and it was possible to see them joined for a moment of
prayer and festivity. " During the last years, or we went to Venice, in
Patriarchy, or the Card. Luciani we came to us. The 40th Anniversary of
Mass, October 7, 1975, we have celebrated it just here at St. Giustina. In one
of these gatherings, don Constante, and, this time, without the tone joker who
characterized him, prophesied him the Pontificate. Card. Luciani was limited to
smile and to shake the head. Also when he has been elected Pope, the tradition
of the reunion could not get lost. To arrange a meeting I had done it by myself,
telephoning to the Pope who had answered me in person. It was also fixed a date.
But Ė John Paul I told me - this time I cannot invite you for lunch. Here it
is not used like that and, as you know, the Vatican has the walls of glass".
Seated in front of everybody
It always happens like this to me : in church seated in front of everybody,
under a canopy... they always make me speak, while I would have pleasure to
listen to my Priestsí preach... always the first places... If I am not careful
I are exposed to pride; I receive many signs of courtesy, with honorific titles...
my goodness is easily exaggerated; a preach hardly passable is considered as a
masterpiece of eloquence... I run the risk of considering it myself ... Oietti
escapes outside quite with the affirmation that pride is an eminently "
ecclesiastic quality "... Typical the case of Pope Alexander III who, to
the Barbarossa knelt down at his feet and whispering : " Not tibi sed Petro
"! , he specifies high and clearly: " Et mihi Et Petro "! Instead,
I must have sympathy for the psalm 130. When I find it, at the Vespers of
Wednesday, I make festivity for it, because it is short and it gives me advises
and affections for a humble life ".
are reflections from Bishop Luciani, often manifested to high voice when he is
arriving to the parishes and looking at " the festivity for him ", the
honor with which he was surrounded and the esteem and sympathy with which he was
A very crowded railway station
Patriarch arrives to the station for greeting the sick who left to Lourdes.
" The day of the departure, we saw him arriving at the station more than an
hour before the departure of the train. Besides of the departing travelers,
there were friends and relatives who came to greet us.
left to the imagination how many people there were in the penthouse of the
station. He greeted everybody, singularly, spending time with the staff, the
sick and the organizers. For all he had his sweet smile and words of
encouragement; he told many people to be unpleased of not being able to
accompany us and he asked a Hail Maria. The secretary, don Diego, stayed himself
at the entrance of the station and he followed with attention the movements of
the Patriarch who passed smiling from a small group to the other, from a head to
the other of the plenty sidewalk. In a moment, I noticed the arrival of a
particular sick woman: a girl with a long blond hair, 30 years, nearly blind,
shaking and relegated in wheelchair for sclerosis in plaques. Nearly two months
before, a nurse of the Venice Lido hospital was married her. The husband had
generously entrusted her, regretting not to accompany her for work reasons. I
wanted that the Cardinal met her. Then I went to the other head of the sidewalk
asking him to follow me. Road making, people continued to stop him. Then I took
his hand and forcing the way through the friends, I succeeded to arrive to our
little wife that was radiant of happiness, because she could finally meet the
Patriarch and because she was waiting for the pilgrimage. During the way, I had
explained him the case. When I introduced her to him, while holding her hands,
he told her words of encouragement : " May the Madonna comfort to you
", but immediately she answered : " If you knew, Eminence, She is
doing it so much ! ". We looked at each other, amazed, and my eyes were
filled up of tears. He asked me then how many sick we carried with us. I
answered that 150 who were recovered at the hospitals, others, also much more
serious, they would have lodged in the hotel. He asked how many times I had been
in Lourdes. " It is the fifth time " - I answered. " Oh, he
replied, better than me that I have been only four times ". Few minutes
from the departure, he went up the train and with a loudspeaker he repeated to
everybody his touched greet and good wishes. " What touches me - said, and
the voice shook him indeed - is that this is a pilgrimage of workers for workers
days after returning, we still were at his home. He came to us happy and smiling,
for the postcards that he had already received and making congratulations
because he had known
that it had been a beautiful pilgrimage, indeed ".
Receiving ball hits over the cassock
Belluno. " I remember in 1956, we boys, had invented a little newspaper, in
which it was written the facts (very important for us !) that happened in the
quarter. And, between " the purchasers ", generous, there was just don
Albino, who when he went out from the curia, he put his hand with some ten of
Liras and received our paper. Memories, undoubtedly, that today acquire a
specific importance, considering don Albino became Pope. If his cassock could
speak (he never reacted to our impertinences while we played football in front
of the Dome, leaded by the verger Isidoro and supported sometimes by don Sergio)
should tell us about the numerous " hits ", absorbed in silence and
cancelled by don Albinoís hand, patient, who cleaned up the cassock here where
the dust of the ball was obvious. For us it was normal".
How a dancing evening was nearly ruined
It was December 31st , 1958. The last evening of the year I had already bought
up, with a mate, with whom I had decided to celebrate the new year. For this, I
had asked " the 600 " to my father to go to the party.
about 9.00PM, the telephone rang at home. It was don Albino Luciani, who asked
my father the courtesy of accompanying him to Mel, I ignored the reason. My
father answered affirmatively. The only one condition placed to me was providing
the transfer for don Albino before going to the party. I must admit that, in
that moment, the petition seemed to be atrocious and cruel for me. But why this
don Albino chose just the last evening of the year to visit a Priest mate ?
Strange things ... Priests matters, I thought. However I was forced to accept.
it snowed like, exactly, happened once. At 9.00PM, I went to the seminary,
dressed in party clothes (I had to dance, hadnít I ?), I rang the door-bell
and a second after, don Albino went out. He got on the car, with a smile,
apologizing a lot for the inconvenience that brought to me. " But why do
you want to go to Mel at this time and with this snow ? ", I asked him.
I am going to give the Last Sacraments to the parish Priest, as much as I am his
Bishop ". He said that with a nature that I remained interdicted. I didnít
know anything about his nomination (that it was 5 days before in Rome,
consecrated by Pope John XXIII) and besides (blessed soul innocence of then
young people), he hadnít the skullcap, he was lacking of the episcopal ring.
It was enough to remember Msgr. Muccin and the judgment was instantaneous.
" It is my first official action as a Bishop Ė Msgr. Luciani still told
me - because Mel belongs to the diocese of Vittorio Veneto, from which I am the
Shepherd. I cannot renounce. Even if it is the last day of the year ".
During the travel, with a snow that fell more and more dense, thinking about my
next evening party, I asked him if he needed much time to fulfill his mission.
He answered, always smiling and understanding my state of mind, that everything
depended from the Providence. This blessed Providence, I thought, so unexpected
to be called in cause when I had other things to do ! We reached Mel at about
10.0PM. He entered the parish house. Me, too. Fifteen minutes has passed, then
half an hour. I was shaking for the delay and because I couldnít advise the
girl. Very often, I inquired how were the things proceeding. The housekeeper
answered me: " the Bishop prays, prays ! ". At a certain point, at
about 11.0PM, I did not resist any more. I asked her "... don Albino "
to be called . " Monsignor, in what point we are? I would have a certain
hurry... " I burst. The youthful egoism, that also makes the mercy to
be forgotten and makes it incapable of realizing of particular situations,
did not provoke in Bishop Luciani the just and comprehensible reaction, of anger,
but an understanding and patient attitude, that later it was eloquent for me
more than a preach. Then he told me: " Italo, I understand to have stolen
to you precious time for your appointment. Your friend even is in sorrow. Here
my task still is not ended. You also leave again, calmly, because I have the
possibility to sleep here in the parish house. Tomorrow I will come back in some
way ". He gave me his best wishes of good morning and good fun. Concluding
then: " and not to regret about the Providence ! At the right moment It
knows how to make it feel ". And he smiled, assuming a so human and
paternal expression, that remained in my memory for all night long. Also while I
was dancing or drinking orange soft drink ".
" If I hadnít been admitted in the Seminary, I should be like everybody, also worse"
expressions and the gestures of humility of don Albino, since the first moment,
didnít like to many persons. Neither to me, the first times I have heard them,
seemed to be exaggerated: " We are little poor ", " we are good
for nothing ", " if the Lord does not put a hand on my head Iíd do a
bad job ", " if I hadnít been admitted in the seminary, I should be
like everybody, also worse except in the blasphemy ", etc... etc... But
after that I have heard his motivations and, first of all, after that I have had
the way to observe his behavior for several years, very far away from every
desire or handling in order to make career and always ready, in case it was
necessary, also to make a bad impression, I was convinced he was sincere. And I
think that his humility was founded on two pillars: from a part, the conscience
of having a non common abilities, from the other, a spiritual experience of the
" greatness of our nothing before God ". But this, it canít explain
enough how could he accept the Episcopate, at first, and afterwards, the
Pontificate. It must necessary to add a great spirit of availability and
confidence in the Providence, to which he was entrusted through obedience.
Speaking about career, the concepts expressed during the speech made at Belluno
Cathedral after his nomination as Bishop of Vittorio Veneto, remained impressed
on me : " When one grows in authority is like when a football ball is
inflated; at first, nobody looks at it, then, everybody considers to have the
right to kick it ".
the other one expressed during the same circumstance: " When one has an
authority, he becomes a porter. Every morning, there is someone gets up and says
: " Today I will go and meet him and download my problem, my difficulties
on him ". This, (to take charge of the weights of others) was his program
and perhaps it was his death ".
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