To Pray Like Blessed John XXIII, in Youth and Old Age

On a Fall day in the year 1898, an almost 17 year old future Pope wrote the following in his journal,

I have a great need of recollection and concentration, and of reminding myself very often of the resolutions I make from time to time. Also, in everything I do, I must behave like a boy, the boy I really am, and not try to pass myself off as a serious philosopher and a man of importance. It is my natural inclination to do that—this is what I am made of: pride! For the rest, I must in all things resign myself to the will of God, bearing with patience and without irritability the misfortunes God sends me in my own family, such as the illness of my little brother Giovanni.

Let us pray, let us pray always about everything, and may all be done according to the will of God, to his honor and glory.

Yes, ‘to the greater glory of God!’ Amen.

And over sixty years later, in August of the year 1961, as Prince of the whole priesthood of Christ,

O Jesus, here I am before you. You are suffering and dying for me, old as I am now and drawing near the end of my service and my life. Hold me closely, and near to your heart, letting mine beat with yours. I love to feel myself bound forever to you with a gold chain, woven of lovely, delicate links.

The first link: the justice which obliges me to find God wherever I turn.

The second link: the providence and goodness which will guide my feet.

The third link: love for my neighbor, unwearying and most patient.

The fourth link: the sacrifice that must always be my lot, and that I will and must welcome at all times.

The fifth link: the glory that Jesus promises me in this life and in eternity.

O crucified Jesus, ‘my love and my mercy now and forever.’ ‘Father, if thou are willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done (Luke 22:42).’

The little way of self examination, striving for humility, and simple prayer, is seen throughout the entries of Pope John XXIII’s Journal of a Soul. I find it comforting to know that he frankly admitted his weaknesses throughout his days, and cast them all at the feet of Jesus.

I must do the same.

And something else I noticed while reading his journal is that he refers often to the scriptures and seems to have taken a shine to the book of Sirach. Seeing this prompted me to examine Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus) a little more in depth and now I am reading it along with my children.

I’m overjoyed by this. My children? Not so much. Ah, well…it’s Lent, after all. Better to read it with me by their sides than to never have read it at all.

Oboedientia et pax

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