Upon the death of Papa Luciani in 1978, Cardinal John Wright wrote a foreward to John Paul I’s book, Illustrissimi. In it, Wright wrote the following: “The mood of Christian joy, I regret to say, is momentarily under a certain trauma or paralysis — an eclipse of some sort. It cannot possibly come back too soon for the sanity of civilization and the salvation of the Church. It was in contradiction to this negativism and defeatism, that seem to be the source of the sourness afflicting so many of this generation, that Pope John Paul’s smile takes on such significance. He was a happy soul….” (Illustrissimi, by Albino Luciani, page X, 1978).
Perhaps the legacy for which Papa Luciani well be remembered is the return, hopefully, of joy in Christian life. I was thinking of this yesterday when I was listening to talk radio, and heard how much “shouting” was going on, how much “this is what is wrong with the Church” was being spouted, how much “sin” was being discussed.
I don’t think evident Christian joy is a disavowal of the reality of pain and problems in the world but rather a sign of the presence of Christ and his conquering of sin and death. Joy is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Papa Luciani gave us a glimpse of that. God loved him for it.