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The Great Virtue of Humility

Catechesis by Pope John Paul I on Virtues
General Audience, Wednesday 6 September 1978 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"On my right and on my left there are Cardinals and Bishops, my brothers in the episcopate. I am only their big/elder brother. My affectionate greeting to them and also to their dioceses.

Just a month ago, at Castelgandolfo,
Paul VI died, a great Pontiff, who rendered enormous services to the Church in 15 years. The effects are already partly seen now, but I believe that they will be seen especially in the future. Every Wednesday he came here and spoke to the people. In/At the 1977 Synod several bishops said: "Pope Paul's Wednesday discourses/speeches are a true catechesis adapted to the modern world". I will seek/try to imitate him, in the hope that I too will be able, in some way, to help people to become better. To be good, however, we need to be in place/right before God, before our neighbour and before ourselves. Before God, the right position is that of Abraham, who said: "I am only dust and ashes before you, O Lord!" We must feel small before God. When I say, "Lord I believe" I am not ashamed to feel like a child in front of/before my/his mother; one believes in one's mother; I believe in the Lord, in that which/what He has revealed to me. The commandments are a bit more difficult, sometimes much more/so difficult, to observe; but God gave them to us not on a whim/capriciously, not for his own interest, but uniquely/solely for our interest. Once a man went to buy a car from an agent, who made/gave him a speech: "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 man replied: "Oh, no, for your information, I can't stand even the smell of petrol, nor oil; in the tank I'll put champagne, which I like so much, and I'll oil the joints with jam." "Do what you like; but don't come to complain if you end up in a ditch, with your car!" The Lord has done something similar with us: he gave us this body, animated by an intelligent soul, a good will. He has said, "This machine is a good one, but treat it well."

Here are the commandments. Honour your father and mother, do not kill, do not get mad/be angry, be gentle, do not tell lies, do not steal... If we were able to observe the commandments, we would be better and the world would also be better. Then there is our neighbour... but our neighbour is at three levels: some are above us, some are at our level, some are below. Above (there) are our parents. The catechism said: respect them, love them, obey them. The Pope must inculcate/instil respect and obedience in children for their parents. They tell me/I am told that the choir-boys of Malta are here. Let one come here, please ... The choir-boys of Malta, who have served in St Peter's for a month. So, what is your name? — James! —James. And, tell me, have you ever been ill? — No. — Ah, never? — No. — Never been ill? — No. — Not even a fever/temperature? — No. — Oh, how lucky you are! But when a child is ill, who is it that brings him a little broth, some medicine? Isn't it the/his mother? So/That's it!. Then you grow up, and your mother becomes old, and you become a fine gentleman, and your poor mother will be in bed ill. So/That's it. And then who is it that will bring the mother a little milk and medicine? Who is it? — Me and my brothers. - Bravo/Well said! He and his brothers, he said. And this pleases me/I like this. Have you understood?

But it does not always happen. As bishop of Venice, I sometimes went to shelters/shelter houses. Once I found a sick elderly woman: "How are you Madam?" — "(Well/Beh), the food, it's good! Warmth? Heating? It's good." "So you are happy, Madam?" — "No" - she almost started crying. "But why are you crying?" — "My daughter-in-law, my son, never come to find/see me. I would like to see my grandchildren. Heat and food are not enough, there is a heart; it is necessary/we must also think about the heart of our elderly/old people. The Lord has said that parents must be respected and loved, even when they are old. And besides our parents, there is the State, there are (the) Superiors. May the Pope recommend obedience? Bossuet, who was a great bishop, wrote: "Where no one commands, everyone commands. Where everyone commands, no one commands any longer, but chaos." Sometimes something similar is also seen in this world. Thus/So let us respect those who are our superiors.Then there are our equals. And here, usually,
there are two virtues to observe: justice and charity. But charity is the soul of justice. We must love/wish well our neighbour, the Lord has recommended it so much. I always recommend not only great acts of charity, but little acts of charity/ones. I read in a book, written by the American Carnegie, entitled "The Art of Making Friends", this little episode: a lady had four men in the house: her husband, a brother, two grown­up sons. She alone had to do the shopping, (she) the washing and the ironing, (she) the cooking, (she) everything. One Sunday they come home. The table was prepared for lunch, but on the plate there was only a handful of hay. "Oh!" the others protest and say: "What! Hay!" And she says, "No, everything is prepared. Let me tell you: I change the food, I keep you clean, I do everything. Never, never once have you said: you have prepared us a good/nice lunch. But say something! I'm not made of stone." One works more willingly when one is recognized. These are (the) little acts of charity. In our home we all have someone, who is waiting for a compliment. There are the littlest amongst us, there are the children, the sick, even the sinners. I have been very close, as bishop, also/even to those who do not believe in God. I had/formed the idea that they often combat not God, but the mistaken idea they have of God. How much mercy there needs to be/it is necessary to have! And also/even those who are wrong/err.... We truly/really need to be in place with ourselves. I will limit myself to recommending one virtue so dear to the Lord: He said, "Learn from me for I/who am meek and humble of heart". I risk saying a mistake/making a blunder, but I will say it: the Lord loves humility so much that, sometimes, he permits grave/serious sins. Why? because those who have committed these sins, afterwards, repentant, remain humble. One does not feel like believing oneself half saint, half angel, when one knows one has committed grave/serious faults. The Lord recommended it so much: be humble. Even if you have done great things, say: "We are useless servants." Instead the tendency, in all of us, is rather the contrary: to show off. Lowly, lowly: it is the Christian virtue that concerns ourselves."

To newly weds

"La presenza di sposi novelli commuove particolarmente, perché la famiglia è una grande cosa. Io una volta ho scritto un articolo sul giornale e mi sono permesso di scherzare, citando Montaigne, uno scrittore francese, il quale diceva: « Il matrimonio è come una gabbia: quelli che son fuori, fanno di tutto per entrare, quelli che son dentro fan di tutto per uscire ». No no no. Però, però alcuni giorni dopo mi è capitata una lettera di un vecchio Provveditore agli studi, che aveva scritto libri e mi ha rimproverato dicendo: « Eccellenza, ha fatto male a citare Montaigne, io e mia moglie ci siamo uniti da 60 anni ed ogni giorno è come il primo giorno ». Anzi, mi ha citato un altro poeta francese, in francese, ma io lo dico in italiano: ti amo ogni giorno di più: oggi molto più di ieri, ma molto meno di domani. E faccio l'augurio che, a voi, succeda la stessa cosa."

To Participants in the Seventh International Congress of the Organ Transplant Society

"We owe a special greeting to members of the Seventh International Congress of the Organ Transplant Society . We are very touched by your visit, which is a homage to the Pope, and particularly by your desire to throw light on and to study more deeply the serious human and moral problems at stake in the researches or in the surgical technique which are your lot. We encourage you, in this field, to request the help of Catholic friends, expert in theology and in morality and with a thorough knowledge of your problems, possessing a sound knowledge of Catholic doctrine and a deeply human understanding.

We are content today to express to you our congratulations and our trust, for the immense work that you put in the service of human life in order to prolong it in better conditions. The whole problem is to act with respect for the person and for one's neighbours, whether it is a question of donors of organs or beneficiaries, and never to transform man into an object of experiment. There is respect for his body, there is also respect for his spirit. We pray to God, the Author of life, to inspire you and assist you in these magnificent and formidable responsibilities. May he bless you, with all your dear ones!

Now, if you permit, I should like to invite you to join with me in prayer for an intention that I have much at heart. You have learned from the press, from television, that today at Camp David an important meeting begins between the rulers of Egypt, Israel and the United States, in the hope of finding a solution to the conflict in the Middle East. This conflict, which for more than thirty years has been continued on the land of Jesus, has already caused so many victims, so much suffering, both among the Arabs and the Israeli. Like an evil malady it has infected the neigbouring countries. Think of the Lebanon, a martyred Lebanon, upset by the repercussions of this crisis. For this, then, I should like to pray together with you for the success of the Camp David meeting: that these talks may pave the way towards a full and just peace. Just: that is, to the satisfaction of all the parties in the conflict. Full: without leaving any problem unresolved; the problem of the people of Palestine, the security of Israel, the Holy City of Jerusalem. Let us ask the Lord to enlighten those responsible for all the peoples concerned, so that they may be far-seeing and courageous in taking the decisions that should bring serenity and peace to the Holy Land and to the whole world of the East."