After my first Mass over the tomb of St. Peter I found the hands of the Holy Father Pius X laid on my head in a blessing full of good augury for me and for the priestly life I was just entering upon; and after more than half a century (fifty-seven years precisely) here are my own hands extended in a blessing to the Catholics, and not only of the Catholics, of the whole world, in a gesture of universal fatherhood. I am successor to this same Pius X who has been proclaimed a saint, and I am still living in the same priestly service as he, his predecessors and his successors, all place like St. Peter at the head of the same Church of Christ, one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic. (August 10, 1961, during a retreat at Castel Gandolfo)
I am sure that this deeply-felt connection between Blessed John and St. Pius X may come as a shock first to those who still cling to the fantasy of Blessed John being a closeted “progressive”, who, if he were alive today, would bless every scheme concocted by Hans Küng, Sr. Joan Chittister, John Curran and others. I assure you there’s no proof whatever of such inclination on any of Blessed John’s published works that I am aware of that his aggiornamiento included that kind of “reformation” and renewal. On the contrary, we can see that Blessed John was very conscious about who he was as Pope, his paternal mission not only to Catholics but to the whole world, and his duty to the Church professed in the Nicene Creed: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Moreover, he sees his connection to St. Pius X as a living connection, for Blessed John received ordination from the holy Pope, but in that he was also his successor in the Chair of Peter.The connection proves to my mind that Blessed John was a Pope who exercised an “hermeneutic of continuity” and that his words and acts must be interpreted by this “hermeneutic”. He didn’t set out to reformulate the Church along strange patterns, but to reaffirm her in a dialogue with the modern world and the exercise of a new evangelization.
The Bl. John XXIII – St. Pius X connection will probably unsettled those so-called Catholics who believe that the See of Peter has been vacant since 1958, when Bl. John started his pontificate and others who are in or outside of the Catholic Church who belittle Bl. John’s pontificate for a variety of reasons. Blessed John’s firm self-consciousness of who he was as a priest, bishop, and pope flies in the face of those who enjoy concocting false reasons aimed at delegitimizing him. If one were to weigh these “reasons” against the consciousness of Blessed John and the cardinals who elected him, we’ll see these reasons crumbling before the mere, simple facts. What were these facts? Pretty much the ones that “progressives” will find quite disagreeable: that Bl. John saw himself pretty much as a Successor of Peter and all the others, specially of the man who was Pope when he was ordained a priest, and that he conceive the Church in terms of the Nicene Creed and not in terms of other, modernistic reformulations.
No, Blessed John XXIII was not a modernist by any definition. He says so right in this journal. But that will be the subject of a future post.