Pius XII – Allocution of January 8, 1940

January 3, 2013

At the start of the New year, a twofold gift has been given us by the Roman Patriciate and Nobility by their gathering around Us: the most appreciated gift of their presence and the gift of their filial best wishes, adornments, as a flower, of the testimonial of their traditional loyalty to the Holy See, which was proved anew, beloved Sons and Daughters, by the devout and eloquent words just pronounced by your distinguished representative, thus providing Us with a much desired opportunity to confirm and add to the high esteem in which the Apostolic See has always held your illustrious class and which it has never ceased to manifest openly.

The names of your forbears are indelibly etched in the annals of history.

The history of centuries past rings in such esteem. Among those presently gathered round Us, more than a few bear names that for centuries have been intertwined with the history of Rome and the Papacy, in days of light and of darkness, in joy and in sorrow, in glory and in humiliation, sustained by that intimate sentiment arising from the depths of a faith inherited with the blood of their ancestors, surviving all trials and storms, and always ready, in its passing deviations, to take the path back to the house of the Father. The splendor and greatness of the Eternal City reflects and refracts its rays over the families of the Roman Patriciate and Nobility. The names of your forbears are indelibly etched in the annals of a history whose events have in many respects played a great part in the origins and development of so many peoples of today’s civilized world. If indeed one cannot write the secular history of many nations and kingdoms and imperial crowns without mentioning Rome and her noble families, the names of the Roman Patriciate and Nobility recur even more often in the history of the Church of Christ, which rises to an even loftier greatness, surpassing every natural and political glory, in its visible Head, which, by the benign disposition of Providence, has his See on the banks of the Tiber.

Of your loyalty to the Roman pontificate and the continuity that honors you as the glorious appanage of your families, Our eyes can see around Us, in this chosen gathering, a living image in the simultaneous presence of three generations. In those of you whose brow is framed in white or silver, We hail the many merits gained in the long performance of duty, merits which you have brought here, like trophies of victory, to offer in homage to the only true Lord and Master, invisible and eternal. Yet most of you stand here before Us, bold with the flower of youth and the splendor of manliness, with that vigor of physical and moral energy that makes you ready and willing to devote your strength to the advancement and defense of every good cause. Our preference, however, goes to the serene and smiling innocence of the little children, the latest arrivals in this world, in whom the spirit of the Gospel allows us to see the fortunate first arrivals in the kingdom of God, and whose ingenuous candor, whose bright and vivid purity of gaze, an angelic reflection of the pureness of their souls, inspires Our love. They are innocent, and apparently defenseless, but in the charm of their ingenuousness, which pleases God no less than it pleases man, they conceal a weapon they already know how to use, like the young David with his sling: the tender weapon of prayer; while in the quiver of their still fragile but already free will, they keep a marvelous arrow, an unfailing, future instrument of victory: sacrifice.

For this panoply of the different ages of man, which We delight in recognizing in you, loyal custodians of chivalric traditions, We do not doubt, indeed We are certain, that the new Year will be good and happy in Christ Our Lord so long as you promptly receive it from the hands of Providence, though under the opaque veil in which the future has wrapped it, like one of those sealed envelopes, bearing an order for life’s holy and virtuous struggles, which the officer, on a mission of confidence, receives from his chief and must not open until he is on his way. Day by day, God, Who has allowed you to begin this New Year in His service, will reveal its secret to you; and you are aware that everything this still mysterious sequence of hours, days, and months will bring you shall come to pass only by the will and with the permission of that heavenly Father, whose providence and governance of the world never fails or falls short in His designs. Could We, however, hide from you the fact that the New Year and the new age that it begins will also bring occasions of conflict and struggle, and, We hope, of merit and victory as well? Do you not see how, because the law of evangelical love has been disregarded, denied, and outraged, wars are raging today in certain parts of the world—wars that Divine Mercy has thus far spared Italy—in which we have seen entire cities transformed into heaps of smoking ruins and bountiful plains turned into necropoles of battered corpses? Lonely on the deserted streets, in the shadow of a gloomy hope, peace wanders about, timidly; and in the wake of her footsteps, in the old and new world, her worried friends are looking for her, bent on bringing her back to the society of men by correct, solid, and lasting paths, and on preparing, in a brotherly effort of understanding, the arduous task of necessary reconstruction!

You shall make your inherited nobility more brilliant and lasting than ever.

In this work of reconstruction, you, dear Sons and Daughters, can play an important role. For if it is true that modern society revolts against the idea and the very name of a privileged class, it is no less true that, like ancient societies, this society cannot do without a class of industrious people who, by this very fact, belong to the ruling circles. It falls to you, therefore, to openly prove that you are and intend to be a wiling, active class. You have, moreover, well understood, and your children will understand and see even more clearly, that no one is allowed to avoid the original and universal law of work, however varied and multiple its intellectual and manual forms. Thus We are certain that in your magnanimous generosity you will know how to fulfill this sacred task no less courageously, no less nobly than you do your great obligations as Christians and gentlemen, being descended, as you are, from forebears whose industriousness is glorified and transmitted to our times by so many marmoreal coats of arms in the palaces of Rome and across the land of Italy.

There is, moreover, one privilege which neither time nor men will ever be able to take from you, if you yourselves do not agree to relinquish it, by becoming unworthy of it: that of being the best, the optimates, not so much by abundant wealth, sumptuous clothing, or opulent palaces, as by integrity of customs, uprightness in the religious and civil life; the privilege of being patricians, patricii, by the outstanding qualities of mind and heart; the privilege, finally, of being noble, nobiles, that is, men whose names are worthy of being known and whose actions deserve to be held up as examples to be emulated.

In acting and persevering in this manner, you shall make your inherited nobility more brilliant and lasting than ever; and from the tired hands of the elderly to the vigorous ones of the young shall pass the torch of virtue and action, the silent, calm light of golden sunsets that shall be reborn in new dawns with each new generation, with the radiance of a flame of generous and fruitful aspirations.

Such are, dear Sons and Daughters, the wishes we offer up to God for you, full of faithful hope, while imparting, as a pledge of the highest heavenly grace, to each and every one of you, to all your loved ones, and to all whom you bear in your minds and hearts, Our paternal Apostolic blessing.

Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di Sua Santità Pio XII (Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, January 8, 1940), pp. 471-474.



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