The Wisdom of John Paul I

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“In many cases…abortion does not free the woman so much as it frees her partner, whether he be her husband or not, from nuisances and irritations, allowing him to give free rein to his sexual desires without assuming the obligations involved: it is a retrocession rather than an advance for women with regard to men.”


“In America there are university courses in advertising; they teach how to exploit the psychology of consumers.”

“…the frantic race for creature comforts, the exaggerated, mad use of unnecessary things, has compromised the indispensable things: pure air and water, silence, inner peace, rest.”


“…those who are higher attract us, we want to overtake them, putting our equals below us and leaving those below still farther behind.”

“We would like to shine, to be in first place, through recognition, advancement, promotions. Nothing wrong with that, so long as it is a matter of healthy emulation, of moderate and reasonable desires, which stimulate one to work, to see. But if it becomes a kind of illness? If, to get ahead, we trample others underfoot with acts of injustice, with denigration?”


“Unfortunately, the news almost swamps us with its frequency and abundance. It doesn’t give us time to reflect: we are so constantly amazed that gradually we lose our capacity for being surprised at anything, and we don’t enjoy even beautiful things.”

“Beauty…is a gift of God…”


“When I was a young student it so happened that the instructor in canon law, reaching the canons of the Codex which explain the duties of cardinals, patriarchs, and bishops said, ‘These are rather exceptional things, we’ll skip them; if one of you by any chance should reach such an office, you can study this on your own!’ And so it was that, becoming bishop and patriarch, I had to start from zero.”

“…I may have irked my readers. Some will have found me romantic, ingenuous, and out of date…others will have broken off their reading as soon as they caught a whiff of ‘moralism’. One of the many risks of my job.”

“… there are various kinds of bishop. Some…resemble eagles, soaring in masterly documents…others are nightingales, singing the praises of the Lord in a wondrous way; others are poor wrens who on the lowest branch of the ecclesiastical tree, attempt to express some notion on very vast subjects…I…belong to the last category.”


“…the Gospel surpasses all books.”

“In reality, the first book of religion that children read is the parents themselves.”

“Love books, you will be in contact with the great men of the past…”


“I have often asked myself: Why did the Lord so often expound the loftiest truths at the table? Perhaps because at mealtime people lay aside all hauteur and assume a calm, modest, relaxed attitude. At table, cares and disturbances are few or none; people sit there without a polemical spirit, ready to welcome, friendly.”


“Capitalism, to be in order, according to the teaching of the Church, should be profoundly modified. The wealth produced is good; provided that the heart does not become too attached to it, that it can be shared among as many people as possible, and that it no longer creates the serious inequities of today. Earnings are good only if achieved through the right means, that is, without sacrificing the dignity of any human being. Competition can also be good, provided it does not degenerate into fierce fighting, with no holds barred. The Church, after the example of Christ, must love all, but must surround the poor and the more unfortunate with its preferential love.”


“Today censorship is gone…If only a bit of self-censorship were functioning…people have the newspapers they deserve.”


“…no form of charity should be neglected or underestimated.”

“Joy can become exquisite charity, if communicated to others…”

“…to feel solidarity with brothers fighting to defend their rights, is also Christian charity. Not much noticed, but no less precious for that.”

“Public or social charity can…be ordinary.”


“…it is certain that Christ existed, that the Apostles saw Him dead and then resurrected.”


“…humans, Christians, have a hard time changing!”

“The Christian should be characterized by an effort to see things in the best light…Christian means happy man, spreader of happiness.”


“…Christ feared divisions and laid a solid foundation for unity…Foreseeing divisions among the Twelve and their successors, He wanted one of them to act as head or as oldest brother, and He said to Peter: ‘Feed my lambs,’ ‘confirm your brothers.’ So the remedy is there: it is enough for the faithful, the priests, religious, bishops, to gather around the pope: no one will break up the Church.”

“…you must not believe I am a pessimist. The business of seeing charismata everywhere is, I hope, a passing fad. For that matter, I well know that the authentic gifts of the Spirit have always been accompanied by abuses and false gifts; nevertheless, the Church has gone ahead.”

“…unite…fidelity to God with trust in the true values of modern civilization and in the perpetual youth of the Church.”

“…there is contempt for what the Magisterium of the Church teaches, because someone wants to replace old things with new ones.”

“In the social and economic field, the Church also finds difficulties in making its contribution…The faithful, who are also citizens, must themselves act in unions, politics, in commercial enterprise according to the inspiration of their religious faith.”

“…the Church is going through a process of internal renovation and of dialogue with external forces…But it is a hard job. On the right, they shout impiety and sacrilege every time an old ritual is abandoned for a new one. On the left, vice versa, novelty is indiscriminately hailed for the sake of novelty, the whole edifice of the past is merrily dismantled…”

“Made up of sinners, in fact, the Church is perforce also a sinner…”

“…The Church is the people of God, community before it is hierarchy. Founding it, Christ had first in His thoughts the people, the souls to be saved. To serve the people He wanted Apostles and bishops endowed with special powers. To keep the bishops united, He wanted the pope. Pope and bishops are therefore not above, but within and at the service of the people of God.”

“…the hierarchy has in the past been wanting and can also be wanting now.”


“Will the soul become spoiled again after Confession? It is quite likely. To keep it clean now, however, can do nothing but good, because Confession not only removes the dust of sins, but instills a special strength to avoid them and reinforces our friendship with God.”

“…even devout souls prove to be a bit allergic to frequent Confession and devotion.”


“The opinions of fellowmen should be kept somewhat at a distance: they cannot heal a guilty conscience nor can they wound an upright conscience.”


“…our conversation reveals us as we are and that in it we must try to say something useful, interesting, and pleasant, without sermons, without poses, without highfalutin, arcane words.”

“To converse is one thing; it is another thing to chatter mindlessly…”

“Jesus…found solace in conversation…”

“The clarity of what I say increases the clarity of what I think.”

“…in conversing, I am enriched.”

“Conversation makes loneliness cease.”

“The agreeable nature of the person conversing with me is a consolation.”

“Conversation…brings us close to others and gives us a deep sense of ourselves; it rests us from our labors, distracts us from our worries, develops our personality, refreshes our thoughts.”


“Humanist culture…today is obscured by the sciences dealing with the world and with man; these prevail in the era of the atom and of technology.”


“Dialogue…must…be effected with goodwill on both sides. The bishops must not listen only to themselves…let the faithful speak…always with truth, strength, and prudence, with reverence and charity.”

“…not even dialogue will work like a magic wand that heals everything, resolving and putting in order. Dialogue is useful insofar as those who participate in it have faith in it and observe its just rules.”


“…dogmatists…consider the tip of their own nose the hub of the universe.”


“After parents come the elementary school teachers as catechists.”

“…parents are becoming co-responsible inside the school…But are all of them prepared to deal with scholastic problems? And will they be capable of letting themselves be guided solely by their children’s interests(?)”

“…in the past the schools exaggerated on the side of rote learning.”

“Attention to the weaker members of the class is a fine and positive thing. But it can be achieved still without losing a certain amount of competitiveness. School is preparation for life, which is made up of inequalities.”

“…if one does not benefit from others’ teaching, one loses a great deal of time in seeking truths that are already known. It is not possible always to make original discoveries…”

“The words that today…are extremely fashionable are: group work, ‘open classroom’ school, socially and democratically directed, enriched with assemblies and demonstrations…Not that is all bad.”


“…elderly people…need understanding and encouragement.”


“Do not throw away faith! Ten thousand difficulties…do not yet make up one doubt.”

“…today, you preserve only as much faith as you defend.”

“In the journey toward autonomy…you…will perhaps come up against a tough obstacle: the problem of faith.”

“…the journey of faith proves to be…a journey at times difficult, at times dramatic, and always mysterious.”

“Faith in God must be the mainspring of our thoughts, and of our actions.”


“Freedom? Yes, of course, but it doesn’t consist of doing everything you please, rather of being able to do what must be done!”

“There is the cult of freedom…this is absolute independence.”


“…the hard moments ahead of us can be useful: on the one hand they stimulate new research and new avenues of progress; on the other, they recall the limits of all earthly things and the duty to place our supreme hopes only above.”


“If some have received the gift of art, of celebrity and wealth, they have, if anything, a deeper obligation to show their gratitude to God through a good life.”


“God — who should fill our life — has…become a distant star…People believe they are religious because they go to church; but outside of church they want to lead the same life as many others, marked by small or big deceits, acts of injustice, sins against charity…”

“The mercy of God dispels fears, solves many problems.”

“God…has…become a very distant star…”

“In the presence of an infinite and omnipotent God, we must accept being very small…we…would like autonomy, honors, independence for ourselves, and we don’t want to be dependent, meek, patient.  “

“True music is reconciliation with God, as we abandon the twisted, broad, and spacious road that leads to perdition. On this road all the human passions gallop by, riding those horses of the Apocalypse that are called desire and greed, never sated with pleasures, money, honors. He who walks on this road cannot be well.”

“Let us apply ourselves to what God asks of us according to our condition.”

“If you take away God, what remains, what does mankind become?”

“The greater the responsibility, the greater the need of God’s help.”

“…we will always see goodness in God and wretchedness in ourselves. We will see divine goodness well disposed toward our wretchedness.”


“…we must…accept the temperament handed down to us by our parents, though improving it and trying, through our efforts, to mold it into a good character.”

“…to be good one must struggle…holiness is the fruit of conquest and of victories won day by day…”


“…many people…consider fraud and deceit as a proof of intelligence and skill in business.”

“…the life of public men is difficult at times without recourse to some sly practices.”


“We find ourselves…(s)ubject to many temptations, tests, and sufferings, we seem defeated; with the Lord’s grace we will be victors!”

“How wrong are those who do not have hope! Judas made a great mistake the day he sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver, but he made an even greater one when he thought his sin was too enormous to be forgiven. No sin is too big: a finite wretchedness, however immense, can always be covered by an infinite mercifulness.”

“And it is never too late…And no tempestuous past should frighten us. The storms, which were evil in the past, become good in the present if they drive us to remedy, to change…”

“We are the children of hope.”

“Never be too discouraged!”


“The simple and straightforward man…does not try to appear richer, more cultivated, more devout, nobler, more powerful than he actually is.”

“Personally I am not so frightened to hear that there are assassinations in the world, thefts, robberies, kidnappings, and murders. They have always existed. What is frightening is the new attitude many people have toward these phenomena.”

“The melancholy character, unlike the choleric, becomes depressed and underestimates himself…He allows himself to be frightened by the difficulties from the very beginning, a born pessimist.”

“This is the impulsive man: easily roused to enthusiasm, but unsteady; an optimist, when it is a matter of himself and his own capacities, but unthinking, too influenced by feeling and imagination.”

“…it is the quality of our actions that counts, more than their size or their number!”

“…be modest…gentle and without affectation…”

“All extremes are vicious, the middle way is the best.”


“…we are always old for those who come after us; for those, on the contrary, who age along with us, we are always young!”

“…let each begin by improving himself. And let us make sure we are not falling into ingenuous utopias; there will always be imperfections, in whatever system. Let us not judge men without appeal; let us not make racial divisions…Life is always very complex: even the good have failings, even the bad have virtues.”


“…three problems…are the most important for everyone: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going?”

“…some men always find a hair to split, always discover a flaw, are never satisfied with anything or anyone.”


“Humility…goes hand in hand with magnanimity. To be good is a great and beautiful thing, but difficult and arduous. So that the spirit will not aspire to great things in an excessive way, there is humility; so that it will not be afraid in the face of difficulties, there is magnanimity.”


“What they call old and outdated ideas are often ideas of God…”

“To hold firm convictions…is a beautiful thing…”

“…respect for the great ‘masters’ should never flag; to be the confidant of great ideas is worth far more than to be the inventor of mediocre ideas.”


“…certain hard heads seem harder than diamond: they never give in, they cling to a mistaken opinion in the teeth of all evidence to the contrary.”


“…jealousy…does not ennoble love — as is sometimes believed — but humiliates and corrupts it.”


“Joy is mingled with Christian love.”

“…joy is the atmosphere necessary for every effective system of education.”


“…in one-third of the world there is an extraordinary abundance of everything and a shameless squandering; in two-thirds of the world there is a poverty that is increasing all the time. It would suffice to cancel the insane expenditures for arms and reduce certain luxuries: in a short time technology could bring the entire human family to a very high economic, social, and cultural level.”

“…be careful that, with the excuse of the distant, general poor, you do not neglect your poor neighbors.”

“The sense of justice that is in every man, of whatever faith, demands that the good done, the evil suffered, be rewarded.”

“An apparent success…is in reality a failure if it is won by trampling underfoot truth, justice, charity.”


“Marxism tramples personal liberty underfoot and sweeps aside all religious values; it cannot, however, be denied credit for having made many people realize the sufferings of workers and the duty of solidarity.”


“…civilization is temporary for each of us; we live here only in passing.”

“…nobody knows…the years that remain to us.”

“…our life is a voyage…whereas we know our precise distance from the point of departure, our distance from our destination is completely unknown.”


“There are…those who are less fortunate than we, because they are ill or poor or in trouble or sinners. Toward them we have the duty of effective Christian love, which must be directed to each person and also to the group or class that they form.”

“Joy is mingled with Christian love…Joy can become exquisite charity, if communicated to others.”

“…our love must be: a flame that is fed on everything great and beautiful in us, that renounces everything rebellious in us; a victory that takes us on its wings and carries us, as a gift, to the feet of God.”

“To help others as best you can, to avoid losing your temper, to be understanding, to keep calm and smiling on these occasions (as much as possible!) is loving your neighbor…in a practical way. Christ practiced this charity constantly.”

“Anyone who truly loves Christ cannot refuse to love mankind, for all are Christ’s brothers. Even if they are ugly, bad, or boring, love must transfigure them a little.”

“Along with God you can love plenty of other beautiful things. On one condition: that nothing be loved against or above the same degree as God.”

“…external works…are pleasing to the Lord only if they correspond to an inner love.”

“…love is the perfection of the spirit…”


“Montaigne…presented marriage as a kind of painted, gilded cage: the birds outside strive to get in, those on the inside would do anything to get out.”

“Even the best of husbands and wives have their moments of weariness and bad humor, for which a remedy must be found without destroying the peace of the home.”

“…couples of today…find themselves in the midst of undeniable difficulties…”


“In this…society there is a terrible moral and religious void. Today all seem frantically directed toward material conquests…Few think also of doing good.”


“For us, today, overwhelmed as we are by the frenzied pace of life, silence and the possibility of reflecting are wanting…”

“…revolution is proclaimed as the only remedy to the evils of society and the young are educated in violence.”

“…worldliness…devours us with endless engagements…We allow ourselves to be engulfed by these things as if by an abyss.”

“…people are attached to their personal freedom and it is hardly possible today to resort to censorship and prohibitions.”

“Do the publishers perhaps want to make a fortune, speculating on the fragility of the young and on our worst instincts? I fear, unfortunately, that this is chiefly the case.”

“In the comic books our young people read, and in the weekly picture magazines…(m)ore often it is the hero of evil who cuts a fine figure and is given the final victory.”

“Now everything is dared: in dress, in songs, in writing, in photography, in shows, in behavior.”

“…producers tend to turn out movies appealing to the less noble tendencies of the audiences, who go to movie theaters as a rule not to be elevated, but to be amused.”


“…today’s female protagonists…are portrayed as a biological phenomenon, a plaything…”

“To be one of the ‘great’ is also a gift of God, which must not give anyone a swelled head, but should, on the other hand, lead him to modesty and virtue.”


“Nobility is an obligation!”


“We have never felt as we do today how small the world is: with hunger and thirst for unity, but we are constantly pulled by opposing forces.”

“Peace…has a price: it is not made with words, but with sacrifices and loving renunciations by all. Nor is it possible to obtain it with only human efforts; God’s intervention is required.”


“…preachers as a rule, perhaps wrongly, give the impression of being against their hearers.”


“…the less proud one is, the more one is insured against insincerity and error.”

“When we are shown a group photograph in which we posed, which is the likable, attractive face we look for at once? Sad to say, it is our own. Because we are vastly fond of ourselves, above all others. Loving ourselves so much, we are naturally led to enlarge our own merits, to play down our transgressions, to judge others by different standards from those used to judge ourselves.”

“…the truth is that I have conducted my pride’s funeral a hundred times, convinced I was burying it six feet underground with a proper requiescat, and a hundred times I have seen it rise again, more sprightly than ever. I have realized that I still dislike criticism, while I like praise, on the other hand, and I am concerned about what others think of me.”


“…let each begin by improving himself. And let us make sure we are not falling into ingenuous utopias; there will always be imperfections, in whatever system. Let us not judge men without appeal; let us not make radical divisions…”

“Progress…has gone to our heads: we are very aware of having reached the moon, of having created a civilization with every kind of consumers’ good and every kind of comfort.”

“The other day, getting off the train in Rome, I noticed that workers got on, employees, who grabbed all the papers left on the seats of the compartments: they carried them away, enjoying the idea of reading them later, in comfort, at home. There is a greed for printed papers; and tomorrow it will be worse, because the newspaper will come into our homes, projected on a kind of telescreen and, self-copied, detached, it will be read then and there.”

“…this vaunted progress is not everything that was hoped; it also brings with it missiles, bacteriological and atomic weapons, the current process of pollution: things which…threaten to bring catastrophe on the whole human race.”

“He who takes the road of later ends then on the road of never.”


“…the Christian must concern himself, and effectively, with the great social problems. In fact, the more one is passionately devoted to Heaven, the more one must lend a hand in establishing justice on earth.”

“When you work for the public, you must not dream too much of recognition and applause, but must prepare yourself for indifference and the criticism of the very people in your charge…”


“Music is…our reconciliation with our brothers.”


“Our present day, weak in religion, must be approached by the most suitable method. The method is not important: it is the final success that counts: making people reflect!


“…we must all try to see at a distance the effects of our actions…”


“…propaganda continues, prejudices leave their mark, the ‘blunders’ cannot be avoided. God, fortunately, will judge men one day after having weighed their thoughts and will save them — I hope — in spite of their involuntarily twisted thoughts.”


“The Book of the Apocalypse…to tell the truth, its demonology, based on struggles and victories of angels over devils, is not easy to interpret.”


“The choleric man has a vivid, deep sensitivity; he is quick to decide, tenacious in executing; but he needs greater reflection and calm, he should defend himself both against enthusiasm and against excessive pessimism.”

“…anger…should be repressed, not released, if it is true that we must be not the servants but the masters of our passions.”

“In school and in life, deciding a course is not enough; one must also have willpower.”

“Even if it were true that many or ‘everybody’ does it, a bad thing remains bad.”

“Smart and strong is the man who knows how to conquer himself…”


“…the frantic cult of sex…is a religion in reverse…”

“Are the young impatient to develop their sexual life? It is affirmed that chastity is a repression…an out-of-date medieval practice, and it is time to bring about the ‘sexual revolution’.”


“It seems to me that, in us, there is less willingness to recognize the failings we are guilty of… In practice, we excuse ourselves with the oddest pretexts.”

“The existence of the devil, a pure invisible spirit, cannot be more of a problem than the existence of God and of the angels. To admit his power over mankind cannot be frightening, if we believe in the victory won by Christ.”

“In the Middle Ages people still believed that the devil comes to torment the good especially, in guises sometimes frightening, sometimes sexually tempting…it is Satan, the incubus, who rapes virgins and procreates accursed children in their wombs! Alas! Medieval religion often crosses the boundary of superstition in this field…Despite the efforts of the Church, demonology was joined and often strengthened by magic.”

“…the devil…tries to move through this world completely incognito; he leads men to deny his existence so that he can bring them to foment the revolution against God which he himself began; and now, to some extent, he has succeeded.”

“…to have one’s own burden of sins, but to feel its weight, to decide seriously to change one’s road…really to fling oneself into God’s arms: what music that is…”

“There was evidence of his success a few months ago, when Pope Paul VI made a stern reference to the devil, saying that he exists not only as impersonal evil but also as a real person, invisible, yes, but industriously active in harming mankind. There were big reactions. Some writers, from their newspapers and magazines, becoming makeshift theologians, declared pompously that it was not a serious speech…” 

“…sin becomes, willy-nilly, the master of the sinner…the sinner remains its slave and sooner or later will get a taste of the whip.”

“When we take the wrong road and rebel against God, we overturn order…we renounce His love; we become irritated with ourselves, discontent with what we have done, gnawed by remorse.”

“What we should feel for blasphemers, especially young ones, is not irony but interest, understanding, a wish to help, and an offer to do so. As we are their companions, friends, superiors, relatives, then with tact, delicacy, and respect for their personality, we owe them, according to the situation, friendly advice, polite reproof, scolding, at times punishment. The real remedy, however, is for them to shake off, by themselves, the bad habit, with firm and persevering decision…”

“The thinking person does not blaspheme, and the blasphemer does not think.”

“…a blasphemous word is black, ‘dead water,’ a stagnant marsh, asphyxiating gas.”

“…we are not serene and upright in our thought and speech.”

“…repeated sins become habits, chains that are harder to break.”

“…there are those who deliberately set out to deceive with their words…and nasty human passions come into play.”


“…we are all exposed to temptations…”


“We are for a life without pretense or deceit.”

“…the idea that the truths of the faith are only a momentary expression of the conscience and life of the Church must be rejected with every strength…truths are always valid…”

“What is false for one is truth for another; truth and lie are granted equal rights. A genuine slap in the face for human dignity and the goodness of God, who created man capable of certitudes.”

“Through the press, radio, television, people do not come into contact with events themselves, but with a version of events, interpreted by different people in different ways. And thus there is insinuated into the mind the pernicious idea that the truth can never be reached, but only opinion.”

“…modest self-opinion and the desire also to hear others lead one to speak the truth.”


“…to prescribe virtues for a heart lacking the love of God is like suddenly prescribing strenuous sport for a weakened organism.”


“…the amount of money squandered for arms is immense…and meanwhile, in the Third World, people continue to suffer and die.”


“The wise man does not let himself be dazzled by appearances and by flattery: he senses the temperament, the ambitions of another person from the face, from gestures…”


“My wish…is that women may achieve new conquests, but just and lofty ones.”


“Through the holy pictures in the home, through the prayers said there, through family conversation, through the respect shown priests and sacred things, children can find themselves immersed in a warm and natural environment of religiousness. But something more must be done.”

“Society is shown to the pupils in its worst aspects, at times deliberately exaggerated…”

“…revolution is proclaimed as the only remedy to the evils of society and the young are educated in violence.”

“…dialogue with the young is necessary…these young people…show pity for the poor, the outcast, the underprivileged. They declare themselves opposed to all social barriers, against all discrimination by class or race. This is beautiful and generous.”

“…the young…today…preach a complete break with the past, rejecting, with one swoop, society, family, marriage, school, morality and religion…our young people insist on disposal, but they make no proposal…they have no ideals for living.”

“The trouble is that younger people…do not understand irony and caricature, and instead they gradually absorb the evil, poisoning themselves morally.”

“The misfortune of a young student is not so much scant memory as scant willpower.”

“…students (are) exposed today to a thousand snares.”

“It is opportune for them to agree to impose some sacrifices on themselves and to keep their distance from people, places, and amusements which are, for them, occasions of evil.”

“…some people today argue in favor of a broadly permissive morality. Even admitting that in the past there was too much severity on some points, the young must not accept this permissiveness; their love must be with a capital L, beautiful as a flower, precious as a jewel, and not vulgar…”

“You cannot pass abruptly from the total obedience of a child to the full autonomy of the adult.”

“We must…allow the young to be different from us older people in their way of judging, of behaving, of loving and praying. They also have…something to say worth listening to, worth the world’s respect…We must share with them the task of making society progress…their crisis is, in part, a crisis of society.”

“…the young…like to be told the truth…”

“I…going to and from school, was involved in ‘battles’; snowballs in the winter season; blows and punches and the like in every season of the year. Sometimes I was on the receiving end, but I also gave a few, trying to balance the ledger and not to whine to those at home, because, if I complained, perhaps they would have given me my ‘change!’ “




Mo Guernon, Ed.M. / Biographer