Angelo Roncalli (1881-1963) was elected Supreme Pontiff, Pope John XXIII, on October 28, 1958. For some decades there has been in the church a curious phenomenon that one might call “the conciliar caricature,” part of which is a tendency to speak as if Angelo Roncalli came from outer space to bring deliverance and freshness to an antiquated Church that was serving out the stale bread of yesteryear. On the contrary, Pope John was in many ways utterly traditional. One need only read St. John’s beautiful diary, later published as Journal of a Soul, to discover the simple, hardy, and thoroughly traditional Catholic piety that nourished this man in the entire journey of his life.
Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council to bring about a deepened commitment to the religious life, a more forceful presentation of doctrinal truth, and a more inspiring appeal to live the demands of the Gospel. He was convinced that he was setting in motion the greatest missionary thrust since the age of the Apostles.
He was the Pope who, in the face of many demands for vernacularization, issued the apostolic constitution Veterum Sapientia on February 22, 1962, unequivocally reaffirming the centrality and permanence of the Latin language in the Church’s life and liturgy.
Pope John issued eight encyclicals, the first being Ad Petri Cathedrum, in which he proclaims the unity and unicity of the Church, pleading with separated Christians to reunite themselves to the Catholic Church. He stated that it is the duty of every non-Catholic to convert and join the one true Church. The best way to appreciate Pope John’s profound love of Christ and His Church is to read his encyclicals.
John XXIII ought to be remembered above all for his fearless and articulate defense of all that is distinctively Catholic, and his positive way of presenting it.
We should remember that, as we worship today, the Missal is the one promulgated by John XXIII in 1962.