28 October 2010

The Role of Societal Leaders - Spoken over Half a Century Ago


This was an allocution of Pius XII to the Roman nobility on 11 January 1951. While the Roman nobility specifically is being addressed, it is nonetheless a good treatise on social responsibility and follows in the theme of my previous letter on role models (see that letter here). To whom much has been given, much is expected. The so-called elites of modern society often fail to see this crucial point. Yet, Pius XII saw it and, speaking more than fifty years ago, made it quite clear that the duty of society's leaders is service.

With all Our heart We extend Our paternal greeting to the members of the Roman Patriciate and Nobility who, true to an ancient tradition, have gathered around Us at the dawn of the New Year to offer Us their fervent best wishes, as expressed with filial devotion by their illustrious and eloquent representative.

One after another, each year enters history, handing down to the new year a legacy, the responsibility for which it bears upon itself. The year just ended, the Holy Year 1950, will remain one of the greatest in the moral and especially the supernatural order. Your family annals will note its more resplendent dates, like so many bright beacons to light the way for your children and grandchildren.

But will these annals be like a closed book? Will they count only the memories of a past dead and gone? No. On the contrary, they must be a message from the vanished generations to those of the future.

The celebration of the Holy Year came to a close for Rome, not like a spectacle that had reached its end, but rather as the program of a growing life purified, sanctified, and fecundated by grace, one that must continue to enrich itself with the endless contribution of the thoughts and feelings, the resolutions and actions whose memories your ancestors have passed on to you, that you yourselves might pass on their example to those who shall follow you.

The furious currents of a new age envelop the traditions of the past in their whirlwinds. Yet, more than this, these winds show what is destined to die like withered leaves, and what instead tends with the genuine force of its interior life to stand firm and live on. A nobility and a patriciate that would, as it were, grow stiff and decrepit by regretting times gone by, would consign themselves to an inevitable decline. Today more than ever, you are called upon to be an elite, not only by blood and by stock, but even more by your works and sacrifices, by creative actions in the service of the entire social community.

And this is not just a duty of man and citizen that none may shirk with impunity. It is also a sacred commandment of the faith that you have inherited from your fathers and that you must, in their wake, leave whole and unaltered to your descendants.

Banish, therefore, from your ranks all despondency and faint-heartedness; all despondency in the face of the age’s evolution, which is bearing away many things that other epochs had built; and all faint-heartedness at the sight of the grave events accompanying the novelties of our age. Being Roman means being strong in action, but also in support. Being Christian means confronting the sufferings, the trials, the tasks, and the needs of the age with that courage, strength, and serenity of spirit that draws the antidote to all human fear from the wellsprings of eternal hope.

How humanly great is Horace’s proud dictum: Si fractus illabatur orbis, impavidum ferient ruinae (Even if the world crumbles to pieces, its ruins would strike him without, however, unsettling him). Yet how much greater still, how much more confident and exalting is the victorious cry that rises from Christian lips and hearts brimming with faith: Non confundar in aeternum!

Thus beseeching the Creator of all good to grant you intrepid fortitude and the divine gift of an unshakable hope founded on faith, with all Our heart We give you, beloved Sons and Daughters, your families, and all your loved ones, near and far, sick and in health, and all your holy aspirations and undertakings, Our Apostolic blessing.
Pius pp XII