Yes, under the old (would progressive Catholics say "dismal"?) calendar, Ordinary Time was only a few weeks in and already the Church drew the eyes of the faithful toward the passion of Christ. The green changed to purple.
I was glad for the reminder that Lent is coming because it got me thinking about what I want to read for the season. And, since I happened to be doing a little organizing of my papal documents at the same time, I readily found just the thing. Pope Leo XIII's little book, The Practice of Humility. He was still known as Joachim Cardinal Pecci, Bishop of Perugia, when he wrote it. The work was directed to seminarians, but all of us are in training for the devout life, so how beneficial such a work can be for everyone! And it also turns my thoughts to Pope John Paul I, the "smiling pope" who served for only 33 years -- one day for every year in the life of Christ. His motto was a single world: humilitas. He left behind a humble collection of writings. Among his few general audiences he left these words:
I will just recommend one virtue so dear to the Lord. He said, "Learn from me who am meek and humble of heart." … Even if you have done great things, say: ‘We are useless servants.’ Alternatively, the tendency in all of us is rather the contrary: to show off....We must feel small before God....I am not ashamed to feel like a child before his mother; one believes in one’s mother; I believe in the Lord, in what he has revealed to me.Perhaps I'll also read Pope John Paul I's letters, Illustissimi, and his sermons and other writings collected in A Passionate Adventure. As I thought about that, I read one letter in Illustrissimi. I could have picked the letter to St. Bernard or to St. Francis de Sales or Therese of Lisieux or even G.K. Chesterton. But the one that caught my eye was his letter to Pinnochio titled When You. Get a Crush on Someone. What a tender picture of the boy growing into manhood with all the challenges of the journey. Only a humble, childlike heart could be so astute in recognizing the challenges of childhood through the little wooden puppet, Pinnochio.
We live in a time of tremendous pride, particularly among some of our shepherds. What kind of pride must clerics labor under who think they have the authority (not to mention the intelligence) to defy the faith of our fathers? How many think they are smarter than Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Teresa Avila, and all the other saints put together? Oh...and smarter than Jesus who had the audacity to say, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." How old fashioned! Didn't Jesus know that the first rule of accompaniment is to assure a person that all his choices find favor with God?
I pray to grow in humility this Lent by studying (and asking the intercession) of Pope Leo, a man I revere and Pope John Paul I, a man I hardly know. It seems to me that our beloved Church would be better off if Pope Leo XIII rather than all the post Vatican II popes, had been canonized.
Really...think about that.
Every pope since Vatican II except John Paul I who served for only 33 days (who was declared Venerable by Francis in 2017) has been canonized -- except the living ones. I doubt if Francis will be hot to canonize Benedict if he dies first, but no doubt the German bishops will eagerly put forward the cause for Francis while he's on his deathbed. But isn't canonization of Vatican II what they really want despite all its confusion and ambiguity?
I did an internet search on Vatican II and humility. The only thing I could find was in the document on the priesthood, Presbyterorum Ordinis, which I haven't read. It links obedience and humility. Sad to say, the first thing that came to mind when I read that was a memory about communist strategy. The communists, it said, planned to undermine the faith using clerics' obedience to their bishops. When you consider how many evil members of the hierarchy have silenced and persecuted priests using obedience (I could name quite a few), well, my reading of the document, if I choose to do so, may be a bit jaded.
Perhaps I should keep it simple and stick to Leo's work on humility and Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ. That would certainly be more than enough for fruitful meditation.
At any rate, my eyes are firmly fixed on Ash Wednesday which is less than two weeks away.
Who will your mentor be during the penitential season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving?