In the last 28 articles, since December, we have been looking at St. Francis de Sales’s An Introduction to the Devout Life. Those articles can be reviewed on my personal website: http://www.fatheranthonyho.com.
Starting this week, we are going to be looking at the life of a new saint who was greatly influenced by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. This new saint, canonized on April 27, is Pope Saint John XXIII.
In 1903, the seminarian Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (the future John XXIII) wrote the following prophetic entry in his diary for the Feast of St. Francis de Sales:
“Today was a perfect feast; I spent it in the company of St. Francis de Sales, my gentlest of saints. What a magnificent figure of a man, priest, and bishop! If I were like him, I would not mind even if they made me Pope!
“I love to let my thoughts dwell on him, on his goodness and on his teaching. I have read his life so many times! His counsels are so acceptable to my heart. By the light of his example I feel more inclined towards humility, gentleness and calm.
“My life, so the Lord tells me, must be a perfect copy of that of St. Francis de Sales if I wish it to bear good fruit. Nothing extraordinary in me or in my behaviour, except my way of doing ordinary things: ‘all ordinary things but done in no ordinary way.’
“A great, a burning love for Jesus Christ and his Church: unalterable serenity of mind, wonderful gentleness with my fellow men, that is all.”
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born on November 25, 1881, in the tiny village of Sotto il Monte in Italy. He was baptized on the same day by the parish priest in the church of Santa Maria.
He received first Communion in 1888 at the young age of 7 and was confirmed the following year. From 1892 to 1895 he was a student at the minor seminary of Bergamo. He studied at the major seminary from 1895 to 1900. His dairy, Journal of a Soul, began in 1896 and finished in 1962, months before his death on June 3, 1963.
Regarding his spiritual diaries, St. John XXIII said to his secretary, “My soul is in these pages…. You may publish them after my death. They will do some good to souls who feel drawn toward the priesthood and more intimate union with God.”
As a major seminarian at Bergamo, Roncalli made resolutions during spiritual exercises. Here are some of the resolutions he made in 1896:
I resolve and promise never to approach the holy sacraments out of mere habit or with indifference, and never to spend less than a quarter of an hour in my preparation.
My sole object in studying will be to work for the greater glory of God, the honour of the Church, and the salvation of souls, and not for my own honour, not in order to be cleverer than all the others; and I will always remind myself that God will ask me to render an account of that talent also which I have wasted in merely acquiring glory for myself.
I promise and I vow to Our Lady, who will always be my dearest Mother, to guard myself most scrupulously as far as lies in my power from any thought or act to which I might give consent, which might cast so much as a shadow over the heavenly virtue of holy purity.
I will so behave that all my doings may be in accordance with the oft-repeated maxim of St. Ignatius Loyola: “To the greater glory of God.”