Pope Pius XII
Tradition tells us that when our immortal Predecessor, Leo the Great, courageously opposed Attila, when he invaded Italy, two Roman consuls stood by his side. When formidable hordes of Huns were besieging Paris, the holy virgin Genevieve, who was given to a life of continuous prayer and austere penance, cared for the souls and bodies of her fellow citizens with wondrous charity.
Theodolinda, Queen of the Lombards, zealously summoned her people to embrace the Christian religion. King Reccaredus of Spain endeavored to rescue his people from the Arian heresy and to lead them back to the true Faith. In France, there were not only bishops, such as Remigius of Rheims, Caesarius of Arles, Gregory of Tours, Eligius of Noyon and many others, who were eminent for virtue and apostolic zeal, but queens also can be found during that period who taught the truths of Christianity to the untutored masses and who gave food and shelter and renewed strength to the sick, the hungry and the victims of every human misfortune.
For example, Clotilda so influenced Clovis in favor of the Catholic religion that she had the great joy of bringing him into the true Church. Radegunda and Bathilda cared for the sick with supreme charity and even restored lepers to health. In England, Queen Bertha welcomed St. Augustine when he came to evangelize that nation and earnestly exhorted her husband Ethelbert to accept the teachings of the Gospel. No sooner had the Anglo-Saxons, of both high and low degree, men and women, young and old, embraced the Christian faith, than they were led as though by divine inspiration to unite themselves to this Apostolic See by the closest bonds of piety, fidelity and devotion.
In Germany, we witness the admirable spectacle of St. Boniface and his companions traversing those regions in their apostolic journeys and making them fruitful by their generous labors. The sons and daughters of that valiant and noble land felt inspired to offer their efficient collaboration to monks, priests and Bishops in order that the light of the Gospel might be daily more widely diffused throughout those vast regions and that Christian doctrine and Christian virtue might ever make greater advances and reap a rich harvest of souls.
Thus in every age, thanks to the tireless labors of the clergy and also to the cooperation of the laity, the Catholic Church has not only advanced its spiritual kingdom, but has also led nations to increased social prosperity. Everybody knows the social reforms of St. Elizabeth in Hungary, of St. Ferdinand in Castile and of St.
Louis IX in France. By their holy lives and zealous labors they brought about salutary improvement in the different classes of society by instituting reforms, by spreading the true faith everywhere, by valiantly defending the Church and above all by their personal example. Nor are We unaware of the excellent merits of the guilds during the Middle Ages. In these guilds artisans and skilled workers of both sexes were enrolled, who, notwithstanding the fact that they lived in the world, kept their eyes fixed upon the sublime ideal of evangelical perfection.
Not only did they eagerly pursue this ideal, but together with the clergy they exerted every effort to bring all others to do the same. The same conditions which prevailed in the early days of the Church are still to be found in many areas which have been evangelized by missionaries; or at least their peoples suffer disadvantages which had to be left to a future generation to face and remedy.
For that reason it is imperative that the laity should in great numbers enter the serried ranks of Catholic action, and thus cooperate generously, earnestly and diligently with the Hierarchy in promoting the apostolate. The work of catechists is assuredly necessary and we wish to give them due praise; yet no less necessary is the industry and skill of those who out of pure charity are ready to help gratuitously the ministers of God in the performance of their duties. We therefore desire that there be everywhere erected.
In the erection and constitution of these organizations, let character, virtue and zeal be preferred to numbers. It is to be borne in mind that nothing is more efficacious in winning for missionaries the confidence of fathers and mothers than devoted care bestowed upon their children. If the minds of the young are moulded to Christian truth and their characters fashioned according to Christian virtue, they will enrich and bring distinction to not only their families but also their communities.
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It not rarely happens that if the life of a Christian community be in any way remiss or lax, they succeed in restoring it to its pristine vigor. Although it is clear that Catholic Action should exercise its influence primarily in promoting the works of the apostolate, its members are not prevented from joining other organizations whose purpose is to reform social and political life according to the principles and teaching of the Gospel; in fact, their participation not only as citizens, but as Catholics also, is a right which they possess and a duty to which they are bound.
Since young men, and those especially who have had the advantage of a classical and liberal education, will direct the course of the future, no one can be blind to the supreme importance of devoting the best of care to elementary schools, high schools and colleges.
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Therefore, with paternal solicitude We exhort superiors of missions to spare neither labor nor expense in proportion to their means in vigorously promoting this phase of missionary activity. The utility of schools for the young lies especially in this that they establish advantageous relationships between the missionaries and pagans of every class, and above all, they more easily influence the docile minds of the young to understand, appreciate and embrace Catholic doctrine.
As we all know, the educated youth of today will form the governments of tomorrow and the masses will follow their leadership and guidance. The Apostle of the Gentiles propounded the sublime wisdom of the Gospel before a learned audience when in the Areopagus of Athens he proclaimed the unknown God. Even though this method does not make many converts outright to the teaching of our Divine Redeemer, still there will be many who, as they contemplate the supernatural beauty of this religion and the charity of its disciples, will feel its benign influence.
Schools and colleges are moreover especially helpful in refuting the errors which now especially are daily infecting more and more nonCatholic and communist activities and which are being openly and overtly instilled into the minds especially of youth. An equally useful service is the dissemination of timely publications. It is scarcely necessary for Us to dwell at length on this point, for everyone knows how effectively newspapers, magazines and reviews can be employed either to present truth and virtue in their proper light and inculcate them deeply upon men, or to expose fallacies masquerading under the guise of truth, or to refute certain false opinions which are hostile to religion, or which do great spiritual harm by distorted presentation of vexed social questions.
Hence We warmly commend those Bishops who interest themselves in the widest possible distribution of printed works of this sort which have been carefully edited. Though much has already been done in this regard, much remains to be done. We also wish at this point to pay the highest tribute of praise to the care taken of the sick, the infirm and affflicted of every kind; We mean hospitals, leprosaria, dispensaries and homes for the aged and for maternity cases, and orphanages. These are to Our eyes the fairest flowers of missionary endeavor; they give us as it were a vision of the Divine Redeemer Himself, who "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed.
Such outstanding works of charity are undoubtedly of the highest efficacy in preparing the souls of non-Christians and in drawing them to the Faith and to the practice of Christianity; besides, Our Lord said to His Apostles: "Into what city soever you enter, and they receive you,. However, the Brothers and nuns who feel that they are called to undertake such work must, before leaving their own country, acquire the professional training and knowledge which are today required in these matters.
We know that there are nuns with full professional qualifications who have earned well merited recognition by the special study of loathsome diseases, such as leprosy, and by discovering remedies for them. These and all other missionaries who are giving their service so generously in leper hospitals, have Our paternal blessing, and their exalted charity compels Our admiration and praise. With regard to medicine and surgery, however, it will certainly be advisable to enlist the services also of laymen, provided not only that they have taken the necessary degrees for this work, and are willing to leave their homeland in order to help the missionaries, but also that in the matter of faith and morals they leave nothing to be desired.
Passing now to another aspect of the subject which is of no less importance, We wish to speak of social reforms demanded by justice and charity. Whilst the propaganda of communism, today so widespread, is readily deceiving the minds of the simple and untutored, We seem to hear an echo of those words of the Divine Saviour: "I have compassion on the multitude.
It is imperative to keep all nations free from those pernicious errors, or, in case they are already tainted with them, to set them free from these inimical doctrines which represent the enjoyment of this world as the unique goal to be attained by men in this mortal life. At the same time, by subjecting everything to state ownership and control, they reduce the dignity of the human person almost to zero. It is imperative to proclaim in private and in public that we are all exiles making our way to our immortal home; and are destined to eternal happiness, to which truth and virtue must lead us.
Christ is the only real defender of human justice, the only true consoler of the human misery that in this life is unavoidable. He alone points out to us that haven of peace, justice, and everlasting happiness which all of us, redeemed by His blood, are to gain after our earthly pilgrimage is finished. However, it is the duty of all, as far as possible, to mitigate the distress, sweeten the sorrow and relieve the anguish of their brethren during this life.
Charity indeed can remedy to a certain extent many unjust social conditions. But that is not enough. For in the first place there must be justice which should prevail and be put into practice. Apropos of this, We might cite Our words to the College of Cardinals and the Bishops at Christmas time, "The Church has condemned the various forms of Marxist Socialism; and she condemns them again today, because it is her permanent right and duty to safeguard men from fallacious arguments and subversive influence that jeopardize their eternal salvation. But the Church cannot ignore or overlook the fact that the worker, in his efforts to better his lot, is opposed by a machinery which is not only not in accordance with nature, but is at variance with God's plan and with the purpose He had in creating the goods of the earth.
In spite of the fact that the ways they followed are false and to be condemned, what Christian, and especially what priest, could remain deaf to the heartfelt cries that call for justice and a spirit of brotherly collaboration in a world made by a just God? Such silence would be culpable and unjustifiable before God, and contrary to the inspired teaching of the Apostle, who, while he inculcates the need of resolution in the fight against error, also knows that we must be full of sympathy for those who err, and give due consideration to their arguments, encourage and help them.
The dignity of the human person then, speaking generally, requires as a natural foundation of life the right to the use of the goods of the earth. To this right corresponds the fundamental obligation to grant private ownership of property, if possible, to all. Positive legislation, regulating private ownership may change and more or less restrict its use.
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But if legislation is to play its part in the pacification of the community, it must see to it that the worker, who is or will be the father of a family, is not condemned to an economic dependence and servitude which is irreconcilable with his rights as a person. Indeed, under the pressure of a State which dominates all and controls the whole field of public and private life, even going into the realm of personal opinions, projects and beliefs, the loss of liberty is so great that still more serious consequences can follow, as experience proves.
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To you, Venerable Brethren, who labor so well in the Catholic Mission fields, is given the task of carefully putting these ideals and aims into practice. Ever keeping in mind special circumstances and varying conditions of time and place, take counsel together in your Bishops' meetings, in your synods and other gatherings, and strive by all possible means to establish those social welfare associations, organizations and societies which the present time and the modern mind seem to demand. Your pastoral office certainly requires this, lest the flock entrusted to you be led astray from the right path by passion and by new errors disguised as truth and justice.
In this task let the missionaries who are your able cooperators, distinguish themselves in promoting this apostolate. Thus they can be sure that it will not be said to them: "The children of this world are wiser. In former times the vast missionary field was not limited within the set confines of various ecclesiastical territories, nor was it entrusted to different religious institutes to be worked along with a growing.
This, as all know, generally obtains today.
It even sometimes happens that some mission territories are entrusted to the members of a particular province of a religious institute. We see the utility of this, of course, since by this method the organization of Catholic missions is conveniently facilitated. This arrangement, however, may give rise to serious inconveniences, which must be remedied as far as possible. Our predecessors have touched this point in the letters, which We have already referred to. In this matter they have laid down wise norms.
We repeat them here and ratify them, paternally exhorting you "to accept and comply with them religiously in keeping with your well known zeal for religion and the salvation of souls. In those territories which the Apostolic See has entrusted to your zeal to be won to Christ our Lord, it sometimes happens, since they are often very extensive, that the number of missionaries each of you has from his own religious institute is far less than what is needed.