Pius XII: Allocution of January 5, 1941

December 31, 2012

Adoration of the Magi by Giotto

A cause for deep, paternal joy in Our heart is granted Us, dear Sons and Daughters, by your welcome gathering around Us at the start of the New Year, a year no less fraught with fearful horizons than the one just passed. Here you have come to present to us your filial good wishes through your excellent spokesman, whose devout and lofty expressions give your concordant and consenting presence a regard and affection that are especially dear to Us. In the Roman Patriciate and Nobility We see and love an array of sons and daughters whose pride lies in the hereditary bond and loyalty to the Church and the Roman Pontiff, whose love for the Vicar of Christ arises from the deep root of faith and does not diminish with the passing of the years and the vicissitudes of the ages and of men. In your midst We feel more Roman by custom, by the air we have breathed and still breathe, by the very sky, the very sun, the very banks of the Tiber, on which Our cradle was laid, by that soil that is sacred down to the remotest bowels of the earth, whence Rome draws for her children auspices of an eternity in Heaven.

Although it is true that Christ Our Lord chose, for the comfort of the poor, to come into the world bereft of everything and to grow up in a family of simple laborers, He nevertheless wished to honor with His Birth the noblest, most illustrious of the lines of Israel, the House of David itself.

Genealogy of Christ in the Book of Kells

Therefore, loyal to the spirit of Him whose Vicars they are, the Supreme Pontiffs have always held in high consideration the Roman Patriciate and Nobility, whose sentiments of unalterable devotion to this Apostolic See are the most precious part of the heritage they have received from their forebears and will pass on to their children.

The nature of this great and mysterious thing that is heredity—the passing on through a bloodline, perpetuated from generation to generation, of a rich ensemble of material and spiritual assets, the continuity of a single physical and moral type from father to son, the tradition that unites members of one same family across the centuries—the true nature of this heredity can undoubtably be distorted by materialistic theories. But one can, and must also, consider this reality enormously important in the fullness of its human and supernatural truth.

One certainly cannot deny the existence of a material substratum in the transmission of hereditary characteristics; to be surprised at this one would have to forget the intimate union of our soul with our body, and in what great measure our most spiritual activities are themselves dependent upon our physical temperament. For this reason Christian morality never forgets to remind parents of the great responsibilities resting on their shoulders in this regard.

Yet of greater import still is spiritual heredity, which is transmitted not so much through these mysterious bonds of material generation as by the permanent action of that privileged environment that is the family, with the slow and profound formation of souls in the atmosphere of a hearth rich in high intellectual, moral, and especially Christian traditions, with the mutual influence of those dwelling under one same roof, an influence whose beneficial effects endure well beyond the years of childhood and youth, all the way to the end of a long life, in those elect souls who are able to meld within themselves the treasures of a precious heredity with the addition of their own merits and experiences.

Such is the most prized patrimony of all, which, illuminated by a solid faith and enlivened by a strong and loyal practice of Christian life in all its demands, will raise, refine, and enrich the souls of your children.

But, like every rich patrimony, this one brings with it some very strict duties, all the more strict as this patrimony is rich. There are two above all:

1) the duty not to squander such treasures, to pass them on whole, indeed increased, if possible, to those who will come after you; to resist, therefore, the temptation to see in them merely the means to a life of greater ease, pleasure, distinction and refinement;

2) the duty not to reserve these assets for yourselves alone, but to let them generously benefit those who have been less favored by Providence.

A woman giving alms.

The nobility of beneficence and virtue, dear Sons and Daughters, was itself conquered by your ancestors, and bearing witness to this are the monuments and houses, the hospices, asylums, and hospitals of Rome, where their names and their memory bespeak their provident and vigilant kindness to the needy and unfortunate. We are well aware that in the Patriciate and the Roman Nobility this glory and challenge to do good, inasmuch as they have been in a position to do good, has not been lacking. Yet at this present, painful hour, in which the sky is troubled by watchful, suspicious nights, your spirit, while maintaining a noble seriousness, indeed a lifestyle of austerity that excludes all trifles and frivolous pleasures, which for every genteel heart are incompatible with the spectacle of so much suffering, feels all the more keenly the urge for charitable works impelling you to increase and multiply the merits you have already achieved in the alleviation of human misery and poverty. How many opportunities the New Year, with its new trials and events, will bring you, opportunities to do good not only within the walls of your homes, but also without! How many new fields of aid and succor! How many secret tears to dry! How many sorrows to allay! How much physical and moral distress to relieve!

Whatever be the course of the year just begun is the secret and decision of God, wise and provident, Who governs and guides the progress of His church and the human race toward that end where His mercy and justice shall triumph. Yet Our yearning, Our prayer, Our wish is for just and lasting peace and the ordered tranquility of the world; a peace that would gladden all peoples and all nations; a peace that, bringing smiles back to all faces, would awaken in all hearts a hymn of the highest praise and gratitude to the God of peace whom we adore in the cradle of Bethlehem.

Painting by Christina Robertson

Duchess Maria of Leuchtenberg with her four older children

In this Our desire, beloved Sons and Daughters, there is also a wish for a year not ill-fated but happy for all of you, whose welcome presence offers Us an image of every human age, advancing under God’s protection along the path of life, and making private and public virtues the highest commendation of its steps. To the elderly, custodians of noble family traditions and lights of wise experience for the young; to the fathers and mothers, teachers and exemplars of virtue for their sons and daughters; to the young as they grow up pure, healthy, and industrious, in the holy fear of the Lord, to the hopes of the family and of our beloved country; to the little ones, who dream of their future undertakings in the gestures and games of their childhood; and to all of you who savor and participate in the joy and sharing of family life, We offer Our paternal and heartfelt best wishes in response to the yearnings of each and every one of you, male and female, as you remember that all our longings are ever weighed and examined by God on the scales of our greater good, on which what we ask often has less weight than what He grants.

Such is the prayer which, at the start of this new year, behind whose impenetrable veils the heavenly Providence Who dominates with love over the universe and the world of human events reigns, rules, and operates, We offer up to the Lord for you, invoking an abundance of heavenly favors for you, while, trusting in the immensity of God’s goodness, We give to each and every one of you, to your loved ones, and to those you bear in your minds and hearts, Our paternal Apostolic blessing.

Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di Sua Santità Pio XII (Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, January 5, 1941), pp. 363-366.




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