Devotion to the Pope
Frederick William Faber, D.D.
Priest of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri
Devotion to the PopeO glorious capacity of human hearts to love! Even all this was not enough. When we serve our dearest Lord in the persons of the Poor and of the Children, we are, as it were, His superiors. We are ministering to Him of our superfluities. He comes before us in pitiable plight, and we are full of pity, and we run to His pity, and we run to His rescue, and succour Him. Sweet task indeed, and a most wonderful relief to our swelling love, which is ever growing so great as to be a burden to itself! Yet there are other kinds of love, to which we reach as we grow in grace, higher kinds bespeaking higher graces, more robust as being more proper to the fullness of our manhood in Christ. We want to obey. We want to receive commands, to hearken to teaching, to practice submission. We have wills of our own, and we want to give them up for the will of Him we love. We cling to our own opinions, and we set a high price upon our own judgements; and we wish to abandon them for His sake. We want to conquer the selfseeking of our understandings, in order that our hearts may grow larger and we may be able to love more vehemently and more exclusively. We want more immolation of self in our service of Jesus, than the tending of the Poor and the Children can supply. Besides, we want Jesus in all ways. We want Him as our Master. It was the name His disciples on earth delighted to give Him. Somehow they contrived to put into it an affectionate sound, above what in His case any other name possesses. They listened to His sermons on the mount and on the plain. They hung upon the words which fell like pearls of price from His beautiful lips. In delighted silence they nourished their souls on His teaching, which was to them the very bread of eternal life. His parables sank into their hearts, and grew there into broad revelations of the mysteries of God. We cannot forego all this. He must be our Master also, not in a dead book, not by hearsay, but our real living Master, at whose feet we can lay down our forwardness, and at the sound of whose voice we can be out of love with our own judgements and conceits. Jesus left Mary to the infant Church, as well as Peter. Was it not perhaps to supply this very craving of primitive fervour, a craving which had fed itself so recently on His own dear presence in the flesh? Even the sublimities of apostolic holiness could not bear that both Jesus and Mary should be withdrawn at once. So in like manner now He has left us the Pope. The Sovereign Pontiff is a third visible presence of Jesus amongst us, of a higher order, of a deeper significance, of a more immediate importance, of a more exacting nature, than His presence in the Poor and in the Children. The Pope is the Vicar of Jesus on earth, and enjoys among the monarchs of the world all the rights and sovereignties of the Sacred Humanity of Jesus. No crown can be above his crown. By divine right he can be subject to none. All subjection is a violence, and a persecution. He is a monarch by the very force of his office; for of all kings he is the nighest to the King of kings. He is the visible shadow cast by the Invisible Head of the Church in the Blessed Sacrament. His office is an institution emanating from the same depth of the Sacred Heart, out of which we have already seen the Blessed Sacrament, and the elevation of the Poor and of Children, take their rise. It is a manifestation of the same love, an exposition of the same principle. With what carefulness then, with what reverence, with what exceeding loyalty, ought we not to correspond to so magnificent a grace, to so marvellous a love, as this which our dearest Saviour has shown us in His choice and institution of His earthly Vicar! Peter lives always, because the Three-and-Thirty Years are always going on. The two truths belong to each other. The Pope is to us in all our conduct what the Blessed Sacrament is to us in all our adoration. The mystery of His Vicariate is akin to the mystery of the Blessed Sacrament. The two mysteries are intertwined.
The conclusion to be drawn from all this is of the most momentous importance. It is no less than this: - that devotion to the Pope is an essential part of all Christian piety. It is not a matter which stands apart from the spiritual life, as if the Papacy were only the politics of the Church, an institution belonging to her external life, a divinely appointed convenience of ecclesiastical government. It is a doctrine and a devotion. It is an integral part of our Blessed Lord’s own plan. He is in the Pope in a still higher way than He is in the Poor or in Children. What is done to the Pope, for him or against him, is done to Jesus Himself. All that is kingly, all that is priestly, in our dearest Lord is gathered up in the person of His Vicar, to receive our homage and our veneration. A man might as well try to be a good Christian without devotion to our Lady, as without devotion to the Pope; and for the same reason as in both cases. Both His Mother and His Vicar are parts of our Lord’s Gospel.
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What are the motives, then, upon which our devotion to the Pope should be based? First and foremost on the fact of his being the Vicar of our dearest Lord. His office is the chief way in which Jesus has made Himself visible on earth. In his jurisdiction he is to us as if he were our Blessed Lord Himself. Then, again, the fearfulness of the Pope’s office is another source of our devotion to him. Can anyone look over so vast a region of responsibility, and not tremble?
H/T Mark Shea here