Secret of Pope John's patience
AA COLLECTION of Pope John's notes for short addresses, jotted down by Mgr. Capovilla "while travelling by plane or by rail", during the Pope's lifetime has now appeared as The Heart and Mind of John XXIII (Corgi, 5s.). So, as Henri DanielRops points out in a foreword, the book does not claim to be an exhaustive study, or even a full portrait.
In any case, Mgr. Capovilla's deeply ingrained loyalty and discretion permits only the most restrained and respectful account of the man whom he served as private secretary in Venice (195358) and in Rome (1958-63).
He is a Venetian, and fully understands Pope John's pride in his family, and in the sturdy virtues they had inherited from their ancestors who lived for centuries in the rugged Valle Imagna before they came down to the fertile plains around Sotto it Monte.
Another point he emphasises is Angelo Roncalli's lively sense of the Holy Spirit at work in history, and still "moving over the face of the waters".
He quotes from a speech made at Pentecost in 1935 in Istanbul: "The first Christian Pentecost undoubtedly marked the most decisive point of departure between ancient and modern civilisations. But just as the ancient world, the world of Homer and Julius Caesar, has not yet finished dying. so Christian civilisation, so the Church of Jesus, has not yet finished being born." Mgr. Capovilla suspects that the idea of a Second Vatican Council may have first come to Mgr. Roncalli in those early years in Bergamo, when he was absorbed in historical research concerning St. Charles Borromeo and the ecclesiastical historian Cardinal Baronius.
This sense of history goes far to explain Pope John's robust optimism, which drew its strength from his awareness of the long road already covered and the still longer road that lies ahead. Here too lay the secret of his patience.
He remembered Turkey, where "the ancient dioceses were ,Ince as numerous as the stars a the sky" and where "now everything has disappeared".
His secretary tells us that he was never ruffled, even when "new documents were thrust under his eyes while he ate his lunch".
"If he ever heard a bitter word, a look of bewilderment came over his face, like a child's when he first hears a strange sound. He would then answer pattiently, trying not to shame but to mitigate the impulsive anger he had witnessed."
The illustrations are by another Venetian, Manzie whom both men loved. They were preparatory sketches for a portrait, and they show a very tired old man who knew that death was "perhaps very near, certainly not far away".
At the end of the book is a complete and extremely useful chronology of his life and apostolic work.
Dorothy M. White
Reviews in brief of books in the recent lists
A thought-provoking insight into the Bible's view of God is God and His Image by Fribourg scholar Dominique Barthelemy, O.P. (Chapman, 30s.). Makes a helpful link-up between the outlooks of both Old and New Testaments.
The second edition of Karl Rahner's Theological Investigations (Darton, Longman and Todd, 55s.) goes far to achieve the author's purpose "to confirm young theologians in the conviction that Catholic theology has no reason to rest on its laurels . . that it can and must advance, and in such a way that it remains true to its own laws and its tradition". Essential reading for those interested in the Church of the 20th century,
A Dublin symposium on Vatican H's attitude to non-Catholic Churches and religions is Vatican II on Ecumenism edited by Michael Adams (Scepter Books, 10s. 6d.). Confines itself to principles rathcr than practical methods. has a valuable LatinEnglish version of the Decree on Ecumenism at the end.
Aspects of the Church, the first of Fr. Heinrich Fries' books to appear in English (Gill, Its. 6d.) is a theologian's frank look at Church structures in the age of Vatican II written for theologians. On the other hand the chapter "Aspects of the Church Today" is extremely direct and illuminating.
Malcolm X Speaks (Ed. George Breitman, Seeker and Warburg, 30s.). Selected speeches and writings of the American Black Muslim leader from 1963-65, that is, up to the time just before his death. Hard-hitting, intelligent, nearly always interesting, though it must have sounded better than it reads.
Introducing the Old Testament (Frederick Moriarty, Si., Burns Oates, new paperback edition, 21s.). American scholar's digest of recent insights into background under which Old Testament books were written. Uses more than half its space on the Prophets. This is the book's strength.
God's Word Today (Marcel van Caster, S.J., Geoffrey Chapman, 12s. 6d.). Blueprint for a modem religious instruction programme by a pioneer of the new catechetical movement, who is also professor at Lumen Vitae, Louvain. Strong on prophetic role of the catechist.
The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Doctrine (Matthew Black, University of London Athlone Press, 5s.). A scholar's lecture to scholars on an important recent addition to our knowledge of the most formative years of Christianity.
The Council Reconsidered (Louis McRedmond, Gill and Son, Dublin, 12s. 6d.). Irish Independent representative at the fourth session of Vatican II adds another volume to the existing heap of Council memoirs. Also gives fair lay comment on clerical theological pronouncements made in and around St. Peter's at the time.
An Epistle of Comfort (131. Robert Southwell, ed. Margaret Waugh, Burns Oates, 30s.). Comparable to St. Thomas More's Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation, and written in a possibly even more mellifluous prose, Bl. Robert's book recalls what it was like to be outlawed for being a Catholic.
The Evolution of Man (Bernard Ryan, F.S.C., Sands, 30s.). A Catholic "evolution without tears". Assumes that theologians who admit possibility of polygenism are wrong. Useful for upper-form teaching provided it is not handed out as the final Catholic word on this subject.
The Grail Breviary Psalter (Geoffrey Chapman. 8s. 6d.). The 150 Psalms (Grail translation) are arranged in the order of the Roman Breviary. For a book that will be used every day the paper is very poor.
The New Liturgical Constitution (by Angelus A. De Marco, 0.F.M., Mercier Press, 7s. 6d.), An alphabetical analysis of the new Constitution, allowing information to be located quickly and easily.
Russia—Notes on a Course for Secondary Schools (P. D. Whitting, The Historical Association, 3s. 6d.). Deftly manages a vast, complex subject, with many practical suggestions to make history live. Useful for any teacher who feels the need to make pupils aware of world events rather than just concentrate on petting them through G.C.E.