The Holy Father Speaks in the Court of San Damaso
( Originally Published 1907 )
What a charming scene greets our eyes ! A crowd of people fill the space in front of a decorated platform prepared for the Pope and his retinue. The Noble Guards stand about the throne, ecclesiastics and nobles are at each side, and the Pope in his white skull-cap speaks to all with simplicity and fervor. The place has witnessed many interesting scenes, but none more impressive and suggestive. Its explanation will give to you a still clearer idea of this Pope. He came from the common people, his parents were peasants, and his brothers and sisters still follow humble avocations. His rise was in the natural order of his calling, from curate to pastor, then to the See of Mantua as bishop, and finally to the dignified and eminent position of Cardinal and Patriarch of Venice. He knew nothing of courts or of diplomacy. All he knew was the preaching of the gospel to the people. When it came time to choose a successor to Leo XIII, a majority of the Cardinals decided that the next Pope should be a man who had gone through the routine of the ministry rather than a man who had gone through the routine of court and diplomatic service. They came to this decision for a very simple reason. Diplomacy had done its best and failed to achieve very much, while the time devoted to it was taken from the more necessary and congenial work of looking after dioceses, that is, the administrative units of the Church. These were in need of a closer union and a stricter supervision from the Pope. Therefore was the Cardinal of Venice chosen, the son of a peasant, a worker among the people, a lover of the little ones of the earth ; and here you see him now at his old work of preaching the gospel of Christ to the simple children of the faith. They have been invited specially through parish priests of the city. What a demand there is for invitations ! At the special audiences, and at the general audiences, the Pope ad-dresses a few sentences to the visitors; but here he gives an entire sermon. The Pope evidently wishes to set the example for his pastors all over the world, to make known that no position, however high, excuses the priest from his chief duties, and that no new circumstances can ever abolish the command of Christ: "Go, preach the Gospel to every creature."
Never had a priest such devout and attentive listeners. It is one of the most thrilling scenes in the world. Even those whose faith is of another order, marvel at the impression made. upon them by a scene with which they seem to have nothing in common, except from the picturesque point of view. This is the very point Pius X would make if he were asked why he took the trouble to preach his little sermon : so many would get a new and true view of the beauty and dignity of preaching Christ at all times, and in particular the men whose office it is to spread the tidings of salvation.
We may now get a closer view of the Noble Guards, whom we saw standing about the Pope. Our next position is marked 18 on the map, and it will place us not far from the Pope's apartments, in a loggia at the east side of the Court, directly opposite the one from which we have just been looking.