By Devin Watkins
“Paul VI was a contemplative, and I am sure that mysticism is the best key to understanding most of his writings, especially his private ones.”
Cardinal Marcello Semeraro offered that insight into the life of Pope St. Paul VI in his homily at Mass.
Celebrated on Friday in the Vatican Grottoes near the Saint’s tomb, the Mass came on the 43rd anniversary of the death of St. Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini. It also marked the liturgical memorial of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints spoke about how Paul VI’s life was inspired by the Transfiguration.
His first encyclical—Ecclesiam suam—was even released on that date in 1964, and is often called a document on dialogue.
In his homily, Cardinal Semeraro noted how Jesus’ Transfiguration was focused on the element of dialogue, as Jesus conversed with Moses and Elijah and then with the disciples about the event.
“Though it is rich in words, the context of the Gospel passage is, however, an atmosphere of the indescribable,” he said. “The disciples feel they have run up against a limit.”
Church modeled on heavenly exchange
The Cardinal explained that the disciples will not fully understand the Transfiguration until the descent of the Holy Spirit, who still fills the Church today.
He added that the saints in heaven dialogue amongst themselves, “immersed in the trinitarian dialogue.”
“If even today—as Paul VI hoped—the Church desires to become word, message, and exchange,” he said, “then she must take the ‘dialogue’ of the Church in heaven as her inspiration, model, and criterium.”
Contemplative at heart
Cardinal Semeraro recalled that St. Montini, when he was appointed as the Archbishop of Milan, considered taking his motto from the Second Letter of Peter (1:18): cum ipso in monte sancto (“with Him on the holy mountain”).
However, he thought that it spoke more about the vocation of a contemplative religious than a bishop.
But, the Cardinal expressed his belief that the man who would become Pope Paul VI was truly a contemplative at heart.
Cardinal Semeraro concluded his homily inviting the faithful to turn to the Saint in prayer, “so that love, fidelity, and dedication to the Holy Church might grow in us.”