The Pope who pleaded for the reparation of sins

Tolerance is indifference;

those who believe want others to believe.

We are intolerant

(Domenico Giuliotti)

The Encyclicals of Pope Pius XI (1857–1939) are wonderful. They have direct, clear language, they are very clear and have the great privilege of being short. In a few pages they say everything. Today the Papal Encyclicals are complicated, long, verbose, probably hardly anyone reads them. And it cannot be said that the Encyclicals of the Popes of the past are outdated, because they are ordinary Magisterium of the Church, therefore they have a perennial value.

Reading the Encicliche of the aforementioned Pope, I came across a document that speaks of the reparation of sins. It is the Miserentissimus Redemptor (Merciful Redeemer), from 1928.

The Pope then felt that he turned to Christianity, to bishops and to his faithful, addressing a theme that seems decidedly out of fashion today, that of the reparation of sins. Yet it is a central topic of spiritual life. Jesus came into the world not to fix things, not to heal all the sick (if he had done so, he would have done so), not to enrich the poor (if he had this mission, he would have done so), but to take away the sins of the world (so he did). It is John the Baptist who, first, presents him to the world by immediately identifying Jesus with his mission: “Here is the Lamb of God, here is the One who takes away the sins of the world”. Point.

The Good News (the Gospel) that Jesus asks the disciples to spread consists precisely in this: “Go all over the world and proclaim the forgiveness of sins”.

The Church has been put into the world to continue the work of the Redeemer, since the Church is the Body of Christ. The Corps participates for the same purposes as the Chief. Just as in the human body the feet, pancreas and little finger participate in the same life as body one, whose actions are decided and determined by the head (the brain and the will), so the Church can only live the same life as the risen Jesus. And Jesus’ life is to continue, generation by generation, the remission of sins, through the sacraments, life in the Holy Spirit, penance, charity. Yes, because the Church has always known it: what really matters is the life of Heaven, where thieves do not burglar and moth does not consume, and true happiness is living in Grace.

Pope Pius XI, as a good universal Pastor, knew this well, and in 1928 he reminded his Church of its primary duty. Only God can put sins back, so only in the Church is there salvation. Lapalissian.

The tone of the Encyclical is clear, linear, consoling. The situation of the time is noted:“In our time we have come to deny the sovereignty of Christ the Lord and to openly declare war on the Church by promulgating popular laws and motionscontrary to the divine and natural right” (n.10). However, we Christians cannot only deplore the negative situation: we have the power to combine our sacrifices and restorative acts with those of the Lord Jesus, the only mediator between God and men. And if we can do that, we have to do it:It is true that christ’s copious redemption has abundantly forgiven us for all sins, but by virtue of that admirable disposition of divine Wisdom that what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings must be completed in our flesh (Col 1:24), we can, indeed, add to the praises and satisfactions that Christ in the name of sinners paid to God, even our praises and satisfactions‘ (No 16).

In practice, what should Christians do? The Pope is clear: “The more perfectly our oblation and sacrifice will conform to the Lord’s sacrifice – which he does to us by immoding our own love and our passions and crucing the flesh with the kind of crucifixion that the Apostle Paul speaks of – the more scriptious will be the fruits of propitiation and atonement that we will reap for ourselves and for others‘ (No 18).

The Encyclical then ends with a prayer that the Supreme Pontiff asks to be recited by all Christianity on the day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and which is called: “Act of reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus”. There is no space here to bring back all the text, but it can be easily found on the internet. The prayer written by Pope Pius XI is wonderful. It should be recited by everyone on their knees and lived to the deep roots of our being.

This is to be Christian: to collaborate so that the world may become more beautiful through the reparation of sins and so that so many brothers distant from God may also obtain the gift of eternal salvation through conversion.

Is this not what Our Lady asked of the three little shepherds of Fatima in 1917? In his first apparition (13 May) he asked the children: “Do you want to offer you to God to endure all the sorrows that He will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins with which he is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” The three immediately said yes. And they did it for real. But, more seriously, what the Holy Virgin said on 19 August: “Many souls go to Hell because there are no one who sacrifices and prays for them”. Of course, there is a personal responsibility for those who damn each other eternally, but there is also a responsibility on the part of those who can do and do nothing. Fatima’s message is clear: if there were more people who prayed and sacrificed, fewer brothers and sisters would end up in Hell. The three little shepherds then understood their Christian life in one sense: to pray and sacrifice themselves to wrest souls from eternal damnation. I had learned this not from any teacher, but from the Mother of God, who knew the Catechism and the true existential peripheries very well.

Pius XI, along the same lines, realized that the need of the world and of the Church was above all this. Nothing new: the life of the saints of all times testifies to how the zeal for the salvation of souls was the only serious and concrete objective of the Church’s action and of all pastoral plans: to personally offer every sacrifice and prayer in union with christ’s Sacrifice in order to be divinely effective in this short passage on earth. The great oriental monks, St Francis of Assisi, the heroic and canonized mothers, the martyrs, until our time, with the holy Curé of Ars, Massimiliano Maria Kolbe, Rolando Rivi… everybody, everybody understood this perfectly.

A few years ago the Holy Year of Mercy was called. Excellent thing, but it was not preceded or followed by a holy year of penance. It would have been better to recall and awaken all the baptized to this heroic task that they have towards the world: to die crucified (in all senses, beginning with ourselves in our daily lives, as Pius XI asked very concretely) to free as many souls as possible from evil. We have this power! God gave it to us by virtue of Baptism and confirms it to us with Confirmation and the Eucharist! Instead it seems that after the holy year of Mercy nothing has changed, if not for the worse.

How beautiful it would be if our Bishops fasted, prayed, sacrificed themselves to the point of blood, giving everyone the example of what it means to be Christian, thus making the power that the children of God have sparkle!


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