Pius XII: Allocution of January 15, 1949

September 30, 2010

The Christmas holidays and the renewal of the year are for Christian families a joyous occasion for strengthening the bonds of affection and for manifesting love of one another with good wishes and mutual promise of prayers. We feel this joy today, as in accordance with ancient tradition you have come, beloved Sons and Daughters, to offer Us your devout homage, so excellently expressed by your illustrious young representative.

An image of the British royal family with their Christmas tree at Windsor Castle published in the Illustrated London News in 1848.
The Christmas holidays and the renewal of the year are for Christian families a joyous occasion for strengthening the bonds of affection and for manifesting love of one another with good wishes and mutual promise of prayers

Yet the members of a family worthy of the name are not content to exchange old and trite formulas of good wishes. Each year the father renews his customary recommendations, illustrating and complementing them with the kind of advice that the special demands of the hour suggest. For their part, the children examine their own conduct so as to be able, if necessary, to loyally affirm their obedience to the fatherly counsels.

We do the same. Every year We remind you of the fundamental and immutable duties, in all their variety and multiple aspects, imposed upon you by your station in society. Last year We delineated them for you with the brevity required by the circumstances. We do not doubt that, in examining your conscience, you have asked yourselves with what loyalty and in what practical, concrete, effective manner you demonstrated, over the course of the last year, your strength of soul, your readiness to action, and your generous adhesion to the precepts of Christian doctrine and the Christian life in accordance with your station.

No doubt this threefold task is required of all, in all ages. Nevertheless, it is graduated and differentiated according to the ever changeable events and special conditions of those whom it obligates.

Divine Providence has assigned everyone in human society a specific function; it has therefore also divided and distributed its gifts. These gifts and talents are supposed to bear fruit, and you know that the Lord will ask each to account for how they were administered, and according the benefits gained he will judge and separate the good servants from the bad (cf. Matt. 25:14 ff.; Luke 16:2). The harshness of the times may even make it necessary for you to work, like so many others, to earn your living; yet even so, you will have, by virtue of your birth, special gifts and duties among your fellow citizens.

It is quite true that in the new Italian Constitution “titles of nobility are not recognized” (except, of course, in accordance with Article 42 of the Concordat, as pertains to the Holy See, those titles granted or to be granted by the Supreme Pontiffs); yet not even the Constitution can annul the past, nor the history of your families. Therefore even now the people—whether they are favorable toward you or not, whether they feel respectfully loyal or hostile toward you—look at you and see what sort of example you set in life. It is thus up to you to respond to such expectations and show how your conduct and actions are in keeping with truth and virtue, especially in the matters We have just discussed in Our recommendations.

All are in need of strength of soul…in order to bear the suffering bravely, to overcome life’s difficulties victoriously, to constantly perform one’s duty….Who does not have some cause for sorrow? Who does not have something to fight for?…Yet your right to surrender and flee is much less than that of others.

All are in need of strength of soul, but especially so in our times, in order to bear the suffering bravely, to overcome life’s difficulties victoriously, to constantly perform one’s duty. Who does not have some reason for suffering? Who does not have some cause for sorrow? Who does not have something to fight for? Only he who surrenders and flees. Yet your right to surrender and flee is much less than that of others. Suffering and hardship today are commonly the lot of all classes, all social stations, all families, all persons. And if a few are exempt, if they swim in superabundance and enjoyment, this must spur them to take the miseries and hardships of others upon themselves. Who could find contentment and rest, who, rather, would not feel uneasy and ashamed, to live in idleness and frivolity, in luxury and pleasure, amid almost universal tribulation?

Readiness to act. In this moment of great personal and social solidarity, everyone must be ready to work, to sacrifice oneself, to devote oneself to the good of all. The difference lies not in the fact of obligation, but in the manner of fulfilling it. Is it not true that those who have more time and more abundant means at their disposal should be more assiduous and more solicitous in their desire to serve? In speaking of means, We are not referring only nor primarily to wealth, but to all the gifts of intelligence, culture, education, knowledge, and authority, which fate does not grant to certain privileged individuals for their exclusive advantage or to create an irremediable inequality among brothers, but rather for the good of the whole social community. In all that involves serving one’s neighbor, society, the Church and God, you must always be the first. Therein lies your true rank of honor, your most noble preeminence.

there are not two truths, nor two laws; rich and poor, big and small, noble and humble, all are equally expected to submit their intellects through faith in the same dogma, their wills through obedience to the same morals

Generous adhesion to the precepts of Christian doctrine and the Christian life. These are the same for all, for there are not two truths, nor two laws; rich and poor, big and small, noble and humble, all are equally expected to submit their intellects through faith in the same dogma, their wills through obedience to the same morals. Divine justice, however, will be much more severe toward those who have been given more, those who are better able to understand the sole doctrine and to put it into practice in everyday life, those who with their example and their authority can more easily direct others onto the road of justice and salvation, or else lose them on the fatal roads of unbelief and sin.

In speaking of means, We are not referring only nor primarily to wealth, but to all the gifts of intelligence, culture, education, knowledge, and authority, which fate does not grant to certain privileged individuals for their exclusive advantage or to create an irremediable inequality among brothers, but rather for the good of the whole social community.

Beloved Sons and Daughters! The past year has shown how necessary these three inner forces are, and has demonstrated the results that can be obtained through their just application. Most important of all is that the activity not suffer any interruption or diminution, but rather that it be begun and carried out with constancy and steadfastness. This is why We were particularly pleased to learn from the words of your representative how deep your understanding of present-day social ills is, and how firm your offer to help remedy them through justice and charity.

You must therefore fortify in your minds the resolve to meet in full the demands that Christ, the Church, and society so trustfully make of you, so that you may hear, on the day of the great retribution, the blessed word of the supreme Judge: “good and faithful servant,…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:21).

With this ardent wish that, at the  dawn of this New Year, We offer on your behalf to the Infant Jesus, with all Our heart We give you, your families, and all those dear to you Our paternal Apostolic blessing.

Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di Sua Santità Pio XII (Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, January 15, 1949), pp. 345-348.

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