From 1901 to 1903 Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (the future St. John XXIII) studied at the Roman Seminary of the Apollinare. He did his military service, which he called the Babylonian Captivity, from November 1901 to November 1902.
The year 1903 was an important one for Roncalli. He was ordained a subdeacon on April 11 and a deacon on Dec. 18.
On Jan. 1, 1903, Roncalli consecrated the year to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He wrote, “I have seen the first dawn of a new year. I welcome it in the name of the Lord and I consecrate it to the loving Heart of Christ, that for me it may be a year really full of good works, my year of salvation, the year in which I shall at last make myself holy. Jesus, I am yours once more and forever.”
Roncalli had a great love for the Pope. On March 3 he wrote, “A day of triumph! Long live the Holy Father! Today in St. Peter’s my heart was overcome in that immense sea of love for the Pope; the whole world was represented there.
“During the solemn Mass I could only reassert, over the tomb of the apostles, my living, burning faith and my determination to work to the limit of my strength in the service of Jesus Christ, the Church, and the Pope. Holy Father, I am all yours. I present arms! Bless me so that I may become holy, worthy to be your son.”
In those days, lifelong commitments to celibacy and to praying the divine office (Liturgy of the Hours) were made at the subdiaconate ordination.
During the retreat, April 1-10, 1903, before his subdiaconate ordination, Roncalli wrote, “The holiness of the saints does not depend on anything sensational but on little things which seem but trifles in the eyes of the world. In this respect, Jesus Christ, in the first 30 years of His life, offers me a whole series of shining examples.”
“My great book, from which henceforth I must learn with greater care and love the lessons of divine wisdom, is the crucifix. I must make a habit of judging all human concerns and knowledge in the light of the principles of this great book.”
During the preparatory retreat for his ordination to the diaconate, Dec. 9-18, 1903, Roncalli contemplated the possibility of his soul falling into hell. He wrote, “Among the things I find impossible to conceive is this: the possibility of my soul one day falling into hell. I cannot think of this without being struck with terror.
“And yet there is a place there for me too. Were I to become lukewarm I should already be on the verge of the precipice; one sin could push me over, as might happen to any other poor sinner. Oh how wretched I am! This fear alone must keep me humble: I too might fall, and yet I hardly ever give it a thought.”
“My Lord, I say it once again: if only You will save me from that place, I am willing to do anything, even to let myself be trampled on like the dust of the high road. Burn me with the flame of Your love.”
Roncalli had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He desired to do everything in intimate union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
One of the first prayers that Roncalli had learned from his godfather was: “Sweet Heart of my Jesus, make me love You more and more.”