33 Years Ago Today – Papa Luciani on Education

Thirty-three years ago today, Pope John Paul I during his Angelus address spoke on education, focusing largely on youth.

Here are some excerpts for you to enjoy (my translation of the Italian original):

Next Tuesday, about 12 million kids will return to school. The Pope doesn’t wish to take from Minister Pedini’s job, with any undeserved intelligence of my own, by offering my most cordial wishes to the teachers and scholars.

Italian instructors have some classic examples of attachment and dedication to schools. Joshua Carducci was a university professor in Bologna. He went to Florence for some festivities. One evening he met with the minister of public education. “But please,” said the minister, “stay here until tomorrow.” “Your excellency, I cannot. Tomorrow I must teach at the university and the youth expect me.” “I will excuse you.” said the minister. “You may excuse me, but I cannot excuse myself.” Professor Carducci truly was committed to the school and its graduates. He was of the class of those who say, “To teach Latin to John, it is not enough to know Latin; one must know John.” Also, “The lessons are worth only as much as the preparation.”…..

The Pope too has been a graduate of these schools: grammar school, high school, the university. But my thoughts have been only of youth and parish. No one ever came to me and said, “You will become Pope.” O my! If they would have told me! If they would have told me, I would have studied more, I would have prepared. Now however, I am old and there is no time.

But you, dear young ones, may you study, for you are truly young, you have the time, you have the youth, the health, the memory, the intelligence; seek to reap from all of these…. Some of you will become ministers, deputies, senators, mayors, assessors or other engineers, leaders, you will occupy places in society. Today, whoever occupies a position must have the necessary competence, he must prepare himself.

The general Wellington, he who defeated Napoleon, wanted to return to England to see the military college where he had studied, where he prepared himself, and he said to the cadets, “Be on guard, for here is where the battle of Waterloo is won.” And so I say to you, dear young ones, you will have battles in your life when you are 30, 40, 50 years old, and if you want to defeat them, now is the time to begin, now is the time to prepare yourselves, now is the time to be assiduous in your studies and at school….”

You can read the entire address, in Italian, at this link:


The humanity of Luciani is so evident here in the midst of his love for children, education and catechesis. One gets again a sense of his awareness of his limitations, his belief he was completely and unexpectedly chosen pope and, in his mind, unprepared for the vocation which truly was his, and the premonition that his was to be a brief role to play, a role that was to be a preparation for something in the future.

Luciani’s comments also reflect, in my mind, his spirituality which included a focus on the present. As he said, his thoughts had always been of youth and parish life. He didn’t aspire to great things, even though great things were given to him.

I was really struck by his comment, “I am old and there is no time.” Actually, he was not all that old, for popes, being in his mid-sixties. Yet, I find that comment to have been prophetic of his death some eleven days later.

Papa Luciani, pray for us!

About Deacon Bob

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