Friday, 20 November 2009

The Voice of... Pope Leo XIII (Part I)

On 3rd December, 1880, the feast of St. Francis Xavier, S.J., Pope Leo XIII issued his Encyclical Sancta Dei Civitas to all the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops of the Catholic World regarding Mission Societies.

If I may interject a personal prejudice here, I would thoroughly recomment the Encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII to everyone of every rank, degree, condition, state or age for spiritual reading. They are models of style and form and, in my opinion, unsurpassed for the clarity and comprehensiveness of their content, coupled with a brevity that is as delightful as it is wonderful. Sadly, but too few examples will be included on this blog, restricted as I am by the theme of 'The Holy Year for Priests' but the devout reader cannot fail to be impressed by the sheer variety of subjects. The Encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII are, without reservation or qualification, my favourite spiritual reading. Herewith an extract from Sancta Dei Civitas:

"7. On the other hand many and grave necessities weigh upon and oppress the Apostolic missions, since the number of sacred laborers decreases every day, nor do We find that as many or as zealous missionaries replace those whom death has carried off, whom age has enfeebled, or whom work has broken down. For We see Religious communities, whence a large number of missionaries came forth, dissolved by iniquitous laws, the clergy torn away from the altar and obliged to undergo military service, and the goods of both orders of clergy almost everywhere put up to sale and proscribed."

"8. In the meanwhile new routes have been opened, in consequence of more complete exploration of places and populations, towards countries hitherto accounted impracticable; numerous expeditions of the soldiers of Christ have been formed, and new stations have been established; and thus many laborers are now wanted to devote themselves to these missions, and contribute seasonable help. We pass over in silence the difficulties and obstacles arising from contradictions. For it often occurs that deceivers, sowing error, simulate the Apostles of Christ, and, being abundantly furnished with human resources, interfere with the ministry of Catholic priests, or creep in after their departure, or raise pulpit against pulpit, thinking it sufficient to render the way of salvation doubtful to the persons who hear the word of God interpreted in different ways. Would that their artifices had no success! This is certainly to be regretted, that even those who are disgusted with such teachers, or have never met with them, and who desire the pure light of truth, should often have no man at hand to instruct them in wholesome doctrine and to bring them into the bosom of the Church."

"9. Truly the little ones ask for bread, and there is none to break it to them; the regions are white for the harvest, and the harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few and will soon, perhaps, be fewer still."

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