The Captain Saga: Illusrtissimi Letters from John Paul I

Pope John Paul I addressing his first audience
Saint John Paul II

The funny thing about planning is that never fully turnsout exactly how you planned.  I intended, to post and publish this little article yesterday however, God had different plans as I came to the realization that the Church is having its first celebration of the feast day of John Paul II.

So it is only fitting that I will be examining his predecessor and name maker. His story is an intrigue to many, and the media has framed out various conspiracies concerning who he was and his death. However, the purpose of this article is not any feeding for conspiracy. It is rather for understanding his pragmatic view of life in loving God and how to accept or role as well as ourselves in God’s plan. By thoroughly examining part of his life, his Letter to Saint Francis De Sales and parallel that it shared with a vision of Saint John Bosco we might better understand John Paul I and that Life is always worth living.

For those who do not know of John Paul II’s predecessor, a little background Albino Luciani (Known later as Pope John Paul I) was a born on 17 October 1912 in the town of Forno di Canle in the Dolomite Alps northeastern area within the Kingdom of Italy. He had great promise, was Ordained a priest 1935  he started off serving as curate in his native area. Later became a professor at Belluno seminary teaching dogmatics, moral theology, canon law, and sacred art. He was also considered by most, a skilled writer and communicator. In December of 1958, he was appointed as a bishop and later cardinal. During which his time then as a bishop he wrote a series of letters to various famous characters of history and fiction called Illustrissimi.  He was elected as Pope on 26 August 1978 and on 29 September 1978, 33 days into his papacy he died.

Though John Paul I, was beloved by those in the Church he did not have any desire to be Pope. He mentioned in privately that if he were elected he would refuse the request. He was not eager for the position being filled by himself, however when push came to shove, he was humble enough to fill it if the Holy Spirit asked him. When he was requested to be the New Bishop of Rome, he said, “May God forgive you for what you have done.” He accepted the position, they then asked for his new Name as Pope, and answered, “John Paul the first.” Cardinal Wojtyla must have thought that name as well was chosen, and, in fact, he loved it (Evert, 56). Interestingly enough John Paul confided to his brother later on that he did not originally think of John Paul, but rather “Pius XIII.” Nevertheless, John Paul named himself after his two previous predecessors. As Jason, Everts books noted that the two had led a new Era within the Church.

His first week in the papacy is a curious point in which truly had some noteworthy points. This of course beginning with a Church historian noted to him he could not be called the “ John Paul ‘the first’” as this title could not have been granted until the second had been elect (Evert, 56). His answer may be mind blowing, but it was this “My name is John Paul the first. I will be here only a short time . The second is coming. (56)” It was also during that time that he had addressed his first audience that some Mexican journalist made mention that they could not wait for his visit to Mexico (56). Upon accepting a gift from Mexican press that he told the secretary to give it to his successor as “he would travel to Puebla.” (56). Not long before his death he also told his secretary that  Paul VI had pointed out Cardinal Wojtyła as “his successor” and because of this he would have to leave a short while (56).

In his Illustrissimi his Letter to Saint Francis De Sales titled On the Ship of God is among the most seriously written letters in light of his Papacy and attitude. In order for man to achieve his ultimate excellence of self, one’s inner life must perfected in love, and the only in which could ever achieve this is by loving God. Which in other words, follow the first and foremost emphasized commandment amoung other is the 1st.

Saint Francis DeSales The message of the letter was about the coming into the vocation of God should be done willfully with great love, however, short the time you have it. He addressed to De Sales:

“According to you, the man who loves God must board a ship of God, determined to accept the course set by His commandments, by the guidance of those who represent Him, and by the situation and circumstances of Life that He permits.”  seeing these two quote does shed light on how John Paul attitude reflected becoming Pope. He might have not had the desire to become Pope. But when he did, He did take the reigns of vocation with this love in his heart.

“We must not weep too much in giving up rank, job, office, when its term ends or when it is asked back.” Again revealing his saddness on leaving Office, which upon further reflection, I feel it is the most sutiable point in loving God when you are called to a position that you want and need to give up in moving on. In fact this is the most revealing piont when expressing to the world a herioc virtue that is carried out by love. We either need to give in to a new calling or give ourselves up to recieve the next mission.

He describes this various ways two, in particular, we should hold to for ourselves and to him. The first is reflective description of Our Madonna handing her only son Jesus to Simeon versus the selfish nun,

“ideal of loving God lived in the midst of the world: these men and these women should have wings to fly toward God with loving prayer; … Let them  not have “grim faces,” but smiling ones, knowing that they are heading for the happy house of the lord.” This was in so many ways and very much the resulting on that cause for his nickname the the Smiling Pope. When we embrace the ission with a smiling face and laugh the danger as it comes closer we change our enemies stance. We become if you will a type of Rocky Balboa.

Unlike most of the letters, he had written. The letter was published just a year before Pope Paul VI would make him a cardinal. In it is he makes very difficult points of both life and ironically a point that reflected a bit of his papacy.

One must seriously wonder if this, man knew of his death was to come so soon? If this was the case, he must have a look at death with a smile because for being in office for such a short time span he somehow gained the name ‘Il Sorriso di, Dio’ (Italian for The Smiling Pope). Regardless of his full knowledge of his oncoming earlier works before him becoming pope my shed more light on his attitude with his papacy.

There have been some strange prophetic points that have been noted in his papacy a and because it is the very first time that we can celebrate John Paul II Feast Day I thought I might share some thought that had crossed my mind. The first point is some words he had shared at the beginning and end of a short-lived papacy. The second the shall be a mentioning of a vision of John Bosco, the founder of the Salesians (an order that admires Francis De Sales). It is to me very strange that John Paul would write such a letter to one his favorite Saints as I am convinced.

The vision of John Basco made out of sequences of a dreams “Try to picture yourselves with me on the seashore, or, better still, on an outlying cliff with no other land in sight. The vast expanse of water is covered with a formidable array of ships in battle formation, prows fitted with sharp spear-like beaks capable of breaking through any defense. All are heavily armed with cannons, incendiary bombs, and firearms of all sorts – even books – and are heading toward one large ship, mightier than them all. As they try to close in, they try to ram it, set it afire, and cripple it as much as possible.

This stately vessel is shielded by a flotilla escort. Winds and waves are with the enemy. In this midst of this endless sea, two solid columns, short distance apart, soar high into the sky: one is surmounted by a statue of the Immaculate Virgin at whose feet a large inscription reads: Help of Christians; the other, far loftier and sturdier, supports a [Communion] Host of proportionate size and bears beneath it the inscription Salvation of believers.

“The flagship commander – the Roman Pontiff [the Pope]- seeing the enemy’s fury and his auxiliary ships very grave predicament, summons his captains to a conference. However, as they discuss their strategy, a furious storm breaks out, and they must return to their ships. When the storm abates, the Pope again summons his captains as the flagship keeps on its course. But the storm rages again. Standing at the helm, the Pope strains every muscle to steer his ship between the two columns from whose summits hang many anchors and strong hooks linked to chains.

“The entire enemy fleet closes in to intercept and sink the flagship at all costs. They bombard it with everything they have: books and pamphlets, incendiary bombs, firearms, cannons. The battle rages ever more furious. Beaked prows ram the flagship again and again, but to no avail, as, unscathed and undaunted, it keeps on its course. At times a formidable ram splinters a gaping hole into its hull, but, immediately, a breeze from the two columns instantly seals the gash.

“Meanwhile, enemy cannons blow up, firearms and beaks fall to pieces, ships crack up and sink to the bottom. In blind fury, the enemy takes to hand-to-hand combat, cursing and blaspheming. Suddenly the Pope falls, seriously wounded. He is instantly helped up but, struck down a second time, dies. A shout of victory rises from the enemy and wild rejoicing sweeps their ships. But no sooner is the Pope dead than another takes his place. The captains of the auxiliary ships elected him so quickly that the news of the Pope’s death coincides with that of his successor’s election. The enemy’s self-assurance wanes.

Click to go to source for picture.

Breaking through all resistance, the new Pope steers his ship safely between the two columns and moors it to the two columns; first to the one surmounted by the Host, and then to the other, topped by the statue of the Virgin. At this point something unexpected happens. The enemy ships panic and disperse, colliding with and scuttling each other. Some auxiliary ships that had gallantly fought alongside their flagship are the first to tie up at the two columns.

The vicar of Christ has arrived. Four holy figures in this are John Bosco, Mary, The Host, and Pope. Click for the source picture

Many others, which had fearfully kept far away from the fight, stand still, cautiously waiting until the wrecked enemy ships vanish under the waves. Then, they too head for the two columns, tie up at the swinging hooks and ride safe and tranquil beside their flagship. A great calm now covers the sea.”

Some have brought up how this may symbolize John Paul I and followed by II, simply becuase loking at What John Paul contributedwith Mary and Jesus. It may not be doubtful

One cannot escape that strange of all these event being apparently distinct yet so connected.? It seems so subtle and unnoticeable, but maybe that is exactly what it is. If you wanted to see a strange connection to no further than this one. Albino Luciani had a great admiration for Francis De Sales. It does come to wonder if he came across it and it he at all thought of it as soon as he had been selected as the New Pontiff of the Church. I by no mean think that God would overlap the freedom of Man willing toward himself. But more think of the connection that Church has the Holy Spirit has revealed within the Church. And John Paul the II had much to offer the Church as well as the World. That ranged from Breaking the Chains of Communism, to his revered teaching on Theology of the Body, to the updating of the Rosary Luminous Mystery that is as it were being celebrated today His very first Feast Day.

Evert, Jason, and Mario Enzler. “Cardinal Wojtyła.” Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves. Lakewood: Totus Tuus and Lighthouse Catholic Media, 2014. Print.

Luciani, Albino. Ilustimini; letters from Pope John Paul i. Tr from Italian by William Weaver Little, 1978. Print

Filz, Gretchen. “The Prophetic Vision of St. John Bosco: The Two Columns.” The Catholic Company. N/A, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

E. M. Brown, Ed., Dreams, Visions and Prophecies of Don Bosco, (Don Bosco Publications, New Rochelle, 1986); Sexton, Dominic Savio, Schoolboy Saint.


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