Miya Yamanouchi, an empowerment counsellor, said: “Don’t use your past history as an excuse to be miserable. Use your past as a testament to show the world just how far you have come.”
Reading the testament of Saint Paul VI, who was canonised, together with Blessed Oscar Romero, Francesco Spinelli, Vincenzo Roman, Maria Caterina Kasper, Nazaria Ignazia di Santa Teresa di Gesù and Nunzio Sulprizio, on Sunday 14 October 2018, at St Peter’s Square, I came to Yamanouchi’s conclusion. Yes! The Testament of Saint Paul VI clearly shows how far he has come. Supported, of course, by God’s constant grace, as evidenced by so many people who came at his aid during his lifetime.
Pope Montini was well aware that death was at his life’s doorstep. He confesses: “I am fixing my gaze on the mystery of death and of what follows thereafter, in the light of Christ which alone sheds a light upon it”. Having said that the Holy Father greatly acknowledges what St Paul teaches in his letter to the Romans: O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1Cor 15:55-57). Thus writes Paul VI: “I thank the conqueror of death for having dispelled the darkness and revealed the light thereof” (no.1).
Although, at times misunderstood, in his testament Paul VI regards his earthly life as a precious gift from the Lord to him. That is why he felt duty-bound to thank God for it. “I deem it my duty to exalt the gift, the good fortune, the beauty, the destiny of this same fleeting existence: Lord, I thank thee for having called me into life” (no. 1). Moreover, the Pope thanks the Father for “making me a Christian, for having regenerated and destined me to the fullness of life” (no.1).
Deeply realizing the immense grace of having been given human and divine life, through the Christian vocation, Paul VI feels the need of thanking all those who greatly help him to live humanly and Christianly.
“Likewise, I feel obliged to thank and to bless those who were the means of conveying to me the gifts of life received from thee O Lord: those who brought me into life (Oh! blessed be my most worthy parents!), those who educated me, loved me, did good to me, helped me, surrounded me with good examples, with care, affection, trust, goodness, kindness, friendship, fidelity and deference. I look with gratitude on the natural and spiritual relationships which have given origin, assistance, support, significance to my humble existence: how many gifts, how many beautiful and noble things, how much hope have I received in this world!” (No. 1).
Furthermore, the Holy Father thanks the Lord for his calling as a priest, bishop and Pope. “How can I worthily praise thy goodness, O Lord, for the fact that as soon as I entered this world, I was introduced into the ineffable world of the Catholic Church? For having been called and initiated into the priesthood of Christ? For having had the joy and the mission of serving souls, brothers, the young, the poor, the people of God? And for having had the unmerited honour of being a minister of holy Church, especially at Rome, near the Pope, then later at Milan as Archbishop in the See, for me too elevated and venerable, of Saints Ambrose and Charles, and finally in this supreme, formidable and most Holy See of St Peter? I shall sing forever the mercies of the Lord”. All this led him to exclaim: “I feel the Church all around me” (no. 1).
The Church’s closeness encouraged this great Pope to die poor. “I wish to die poor and thus to facilitate everything in this regard” (no. 4). And, again, he stressed: “As regards my tomb: I would like to be buried in the earth with a simple stone to indicate the place and invite a prayer of Christian piety. No monument for me” (no. 5).
“Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my Spirit”. With this powerful phrase of total abandonment in God, Saint Paul VI concluded his Testament to demonstrate, to you and me, how far did he come!