Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Glimpse of Paul VI from His Irish Secretary Mons Magee

From his nephew John:

A few of you have asked me to tell more about my uncle's relationship as Private Secretary to Blessed Pope Paul VI. Here are some transcripts from a talk he gave on Pope Paul VI a few years ago.

Fr. Magee, who was an Irish missionary priest, working at Propaganda Fide in Rome when he was called to be Pope Paul’s secretary in December 1974, and lived daily with him until the day of his death, August 6, 1978.  This is what he said:

“Paul VI was . . . the first person I could say that I saw the person of Christ in him. He was absolutely transparent and beautiful. His prayer life his whole personality shone within; I knew I was walking with a saint, talking with a saint.”

What he has to tell about Pope Paul would occupy a lot of space, but here is what he recalled about his spirituality.

Bishop Magee recalled that every Tuesday morning, the Pope would give him a piece of paper with the books he wanted to consult for his Wednesday audience talk, and invariably the Opera Omnia of St. Augustine was to be found among them. St. Augustine was his favorite. “If you know anything about St. Augustine,” Magee said, “you know he was a bad boy, and he was converted.”

On one memorable occasion when they were walking on the rooftop terrace built by Paul, Mons. Magee says, the Pope said to him: “The secret of my spirituality is to be found in St. Augustine. In St. Augustine, as there is in each of us, there is a struggle going on inside; I call it a tension of love, between the weaknesses that are within us, the miseria, on one hand, and on the other hand, the love of God that seeks us out, to cover over the miseria that each one of us is. And this encounter between the love of God and the miseria of mankind coming together forms the word misericordia – mercy. So on the one hand, every one of us carries baggage, we all have miseria within us, we all all broken, but God sent his Son to cover over the brokenness, to redeem it and draw us back into the Father. . . . Remember, mercy would never have been, were there no sin to be redeemed. . . and when miseria and misericordia encounter each other, misericordia becomes prominent in our lives, we become conscious of God’s goodness to us.”

Then he asked Mons. Magee. . . “Now when you become conscious of God’s action of love in your life, what must be your reaction?” He obviously wanted Mons. Magee to guess the answer, and he did (the M’s must have done it).

“Holy Father, would it not be true to say that Our Blessed Lady is a perfect example of one totally covered by God’s love?” he said, “She who did not even have sin was totally covered over with God’s love, and she sang her song of thanksgiving in the Magnificat.”

“You have the secret of my spirituality,” the Pope replied. “I am always conscious of my miseria, my weakness; I am always conscious of God’s great love for me, and when I allow the two to encounter, I sing my Magnificat."

Miseria – Misericordia – Magnificat – Some years later, when he became bishop, Mons. Magee took these words as the motto of his episcopal coat of arms.

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