August of 1978

August, 1978 was an unforgettable month. In it was the death of Pope Paul VI on the Solemnity of the Transfiguration (August 6), the standing in line to see the pope’s body laying in state in St. Peter’s Basilica, his funeral Mass on August 11 (a papal funeral of great simplicity and dignity), then all the rush and hush and gossip in the days leading up to the conclave and the election of John Paul I, Papa Luciani, on August 26. I was so fortunate to have been either in the Vatican or within a 10 minute walk for all of this. As I have mentioned so many times before, being able to bear the cross for John Paul I’s installation Mass early in September is a grace for which I am very grateful.

What many probably don’t recall is how in the preceding weeks leading to Paul VI’s death, there were other things in the news, especially in Italy. The prime minister, Aldo Moro, had been kidnapped by the Brigate Rossi (the Red Brigade) and later found shot to death in a car in downtown Rome. Moro had been someone Paul VI had admired and supported. There was a mutual respect and sense of good will between them. Paul VI hadprayed for Moro’s safe return, and when that did not happen, the pope seem deeply saddened. There had been rumors in the months prior that Paul VI was going to resign the papacy upon his 80th birthday and live out the remainder of his life in a Benedictine monastery in Switzerland, but was dissuaded from doing so by Vatican insiders. As it turned out, Paul VI lived a little less than a year after his 80th birthday, his health and energy depleted. If I recall correctly, he made Giovanni Benelli archbishop of Florence and then quickly elevated him a cardinal, all within a year of Paul VI’s death. Benelli was considered by many to be the most likely to succeed Paul VI, but as we all know, Luciani was elected instead.

If anyone questions whether I was there for all of that, I have the papal tickets and programs to prove it!! O what a unforgettable month…

Because of Moro’s disappearance, the border guards in Italy, Switzerland, France and Germany were very diligent.  I was traveling that summer between Italy and Germany by train. I have told the story of my run in with the German police at the border to many people. I won’t bore you with the details here, but suffice it to say it was my wake up call that Germans do not enjoy some of the constitutional rights we here in the USA take for granted. In all fairness to the German border police, they did their job thoroughly and allowed me to continue without much of a delay.

August is also the month of the death of St. Maximilian Kolbe who died on August14 in Auschwitz. Tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into heaven. As previously mentioned, August also has within it the celebration of the Transfiguration.

It also is the month of many of my family members birthdays. O happy days!

Have a great week everyone…. and don’t forget to pray for this deacon! I pray for all of you five times a day.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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