Next up for beatification: Paul VI, the “Hamlet Pope”

Pope Paul VI (Photo: PA). Accessed at CatholicHerald.co.uk, May 18, 2014.

Pope Paul VI (Photo: PA). Accessed at CatholicHerald.co.uk, May 18, 2014.

In my heart, I maintain a very special category of person. I call these people “Popes I Would Like to Have a Beer With.” I’ve already written about one of them, Pius XI.

But while I am charmed by the blustery, scholarly Pius, I feel a deeper kinship–indeed a brotherhood–with Paul VI, one of the two Vatican II popes. His life and mine have followed parallel tracks.

We were both extremely shy kids who talked like we had swallowed the dictionary. We both came to prefer cats to dogs, to loathe the telephone, and to have the same bad knee (the right one). We would both feel caught in some way between “new church” and “old church.”

In our youth, we both edited student publications. (Mine was called The Megaphone. His was called The Slingshot.) We both puzzled over whether to pursue a journalistic vocation or some sort of religious one. We both struggled with major decisions, period. How do you explain to people not just all the things that can go wrong, but your ability to see all of them at once? I know what it’s like. So did he.

Suffice it to say he is somebody I think about a lot. And now I will think about him even more. Pope Francis recently announced his intent to beatify Paul VI–make him a “blessed,” one step below saint–on October 19, 2014, exactly one week before my thirty-first birthday.  Continue reading

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After him came the modern popes

Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the death of Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, Pope Pius XI. It is the sort of thing only I would pay attention to.

I am an unusual member of the church justice movement. I consider dead popes my dear friends, even as I laser-critique the two popes who are living.

When one of my theology professors remarked that Pius XI would have been a fun pope to have a beer with, I enthusiastically agreed. In fact, I exceeded his sentiment. I thought Pius would have been a really fun pope for me to have a beer with.

Ratti as a child was called “the little old man.” He worked his way through an algebra book “for fun.” He was not unlike me, who memorized all two-hundred-plus popes at age eleven “for fun.”

Meanwhile, as a former library clerk and an erstwhile cataloger for a special collection, I appreciate that Ratti was a longtime librarian and archivist. Nay, more: he was a paleographer, a scholar of “old writing.” And I share his instinctive, unquestioning esteem for crabbed Greek letters inked onto delicate parchment, for Latin sentences chiseled into silent stone.

Pius wouldn’t like my blog, but he would be enthusiastic about blogging. He was the pope who hurled the church into the communications age by founding Vatican Radio. Its first broadcast featured his modest utterance: “Listen, heavens, while I speak; earth, hear the words that I am saying.” (He was quoting Deuteronomy 32.) Pius also lectured a group of nuns on the many glories of the telephone.

Continue reading