Pius XII: Allocution of January 9, 1958

October 14, 2010

With great satisfaction We welcome you, beloved Sons and Daughters, into Our house, which is still pervaded by the holy fragrances of the Christmas holiday. You have come to reconfirm your devout fidelity to this Apostolic See, and with the heart of a father anxious to surround himself with his children’s affections, We comply most willingly with your desire to listen once again to a few words of exhortation in return, as it were, for the good wishes just communicated to Us by your distinguished and eloquent representative.

You will recall to your children and grandchildren how the Pope of your childhood and adolescence did not neglect to point you toward the new responsibilities that the new circumstances of the age imposed on the nobility

The present audience recalls to Our mind the memory of your first visit here long ago, in 1940. How many sorrowful absences there have been among your elect number since that time; yet how many lovely new flowers have since blossomed in the same bed! The sad memory of the former and the happy presence of the latter seem to enclose in a single, broad frame an entire picture of life which, though past, never ceases to impart salutary lessons and shed hopeful light on your present and your future. While those “whose brow is framed in white or silver”—as We said back then—have moved on to the peace of the just, adorned with the “many merits gained in the long performance of duty,” others, already “bold with the flower of youth and the splendor of manliness,” have been assuming their positions, or have already assumed them, driven by the irresistible hand of time, which is in turn guided by the provident wisdom of the Creator. In the meanwhile, those who at the time numbered among the children, those toward whose “serene and smiling innocence” Our preference went, whose “ingenuous candor, whose bright and vivid purity of gaze” We loved so much, have now entered the struggle themselves. (See Allocution of January 8, 1940.) Well, to those children of that time, now become passionate youths and mature men, We wish to say a few words before anything else, as if to open a path deep into Our heart.

You, who at the start of each new year have never failed to come visit Us, must surely remember the careful solicitude with which We endeavored to smooth your way toward the future, which at that time promised to be harsh because of the profound upheavals and transformations in store for the world. We are certain, however, that when your brows too are framed with white and silver, you will yet be witnesses not only to Our esteem and affection, but also to the truth, the validity, and the timeliness of Our recommendations, which We hope are like fruits that have come to you and to society in general.

Social inequalities, while they make you stand out, also assign you certain duties toward the common good; that from the highest classes great boons or great harm could come to the people

You will recall to your children and grandchildren how the Pope of your childhood and adolescence did not neglect to point you toward the new responsibilities that the new circumstances of the age imposed on the nobility; that, indeed, he explained many times how industriousness would be the surest and most worthy way of ensuring yourselves a permanent place among society’s leaders; that social inequalities, while they make you stand out, also assign you certain duties toward the common good; that from the highest classes great boons or great harm could come to the people; that transformations of ways of life can, if one so wishes, be harmoniously reconciled with the traditions of which patrician families are the repositories.

Sometimes, in alluding to the contingency of time and events, We exhorted you to take an active part in the healing of the wounds caused by the war, in the rebuilding of peace, in the rebirth of the life of the nation, and to refuse all “emigration” or abstention. For in our society there still remained an ample place for you if you showed yourselves to be truly elites and optimates [aristocrats], that is, exceptional for serenity of mind, readiness to act, and generous adhesion. Also do not forget Our appeals to banish from your hearts all despondency and cowardice in face of the evolution of the times, and Our exhortations to adapt yourselves courageously to the new circumstances by keeping your gaze fixed on the Christian ideal, the true and indelible entitlement to genuine nobility.

Do not forget Our appeals to banish from your hearts all despondency and cowardice in face of the evolution of the times, and Our exhortations to adapt yourselves courageously to the new circumstances by keeping your gaze fixed on the Christian ideal, the true and indelible entitlement to genuine nobility.

Yet why, beloved Sons and Daughters, did we express then and do we now repeat these admonitions and recommendations if not to fortify you against bitter disillusionments, to preserve for your houses the heritage of your ancestral glories, and to guarantee for the society to which you belong the valid contribution that you are still capable of making to it? And yet—you may ask Us—what exactly must we do to achieve so lofty a goal?

First of all, you must maintain an irreproachable religious and moral conduct, especially within the family, and practice a healthy austerity in life.

First of all, you must maintain an irreproachable religious and moral conduct, especially within the family, and practice a healthy austerity in life. Let the other classes be aware of the patrimony of virtues and gifts that are your own, the fruit of long family traditions: an imperturbable strength of soul, loyalty and devotion to the worthiest causes, tender and generous compassion toward the weak and the poor, a prudent and delicate manner in difficult and grave matters, and that personal prestige, almost hereditary in noble families, whereby one manages to persuade without oppressing, to sway without forcing, to conquer the minds of others, even adversaries and rivals, without humiliating them. The use of these gifts and the exercise of religious and civic virtues are the most convincing way to respond to prejudices and suspicion, since they manifest the spirit’s inner vitality, from which spring all outward vigor and fruitful works.

 

Vigor and fruitful works! Behold two characteristics of true nobility, to which heraldic symbols, stamped in bronze or carved in marble, are a perennial testimony, for they represent as it were the visible thread of the political and cultural history of more than a few glorious cities of Europe. It is true that modern society is not accustomed by preference to wait for your class to “set the tone” before starting works and confronting events; nevertheless, it does not refuse the cooperation of the brilliant minds among you, since a wise portion thereof retains an appropriate respect for tradition and prizes high decorum, whatever its origins. And the other part of society, which displays indifference and perhaps disdain for ancient ways of life, is not entirely immune to the seduction of glory; so much so, that it tries very hard to create new forms of aristocracy, some worthy of respect, others based on vanity and frivolity, satisfied with merely appropriating the inferior elements of the ancient institutions.

It is well known that society progresses and raises itself up when the virtues of one class are spread to the others; it declines, on the other hand, if the vices and abuses of one are carried over to the others

It is clear, however, that vigor and fruitful works cannot still manifest themselves today in forms that have been eclipsed. This does not mean that the field of your activities has been reduced; on the contrary, it has been broadened in the total number of professions and functions. The entire range of professions is open to you; you can be useful and excel in any sector: in areas of public administration and government, or in scientific, cultural, artistic, industrial, or commercial activities.

Vigor and fruitful works! Behold two characteristics of true nobility, to which heraldic symbols, stamped in bronze or carved in marble, are a perennial testimony.

We would like, finally, for your influence on society to save it from a grave danger inherent in modern times. It is well known that society progresses and raises itself up when the virtues of one class are spread to the others; it declines, on the other hand, if the vices and abuses of one are carried over to the others. Because of the weakness of human nature, more often it is the latter that are spread, with all the more rapidity nowadays, given the greater facility of means of communication, information, and personal contacts, not only among nations, but from one continent to the next. What happens in the realm of physical health is now happening in the realm of morals as well: neither distances nor boundaries can any longer prevent an epidemic germ from quickly reaching faraway regions. The upper classes, of which yours is one, could, because of their multiple relations and frequent sojourns in countries with different and sometimes inferior moral conditions, become easy conveyers of aberrations in customs. We are alluding in particular to those abuses that are threatening the sanctity of matrimony, the religious and moral education of the young, Christian temperance in pleasure, and respect for modesty. Your country’s traditions regarding these values must be defended and kept sacred and inviolable, and protected from the dangers of the germs of dissolution, wherever they may happen to come from. Any attempt to violate these traditions, which is no sign of progress except toward decay, is an attack on the honor and dignity of this nation.

As for your own task, you must be vigilant and do your utmost to prevent pernicious theories and perverse examples from ever meeting with your approval and sympathy, let alone using you as favorable carriers and hotbeds of infection. May that profound respect for tradition that you cultivate and hope to use to distinguish yourselves in society give you the strength to preserve such precious treasures among the people. This itself may be the highest social function of today’s nobility; certainly it is the greatest service that you can render to the Church and to your country.

Your country’s traditions regarding these values must be defended and kept sacred and inviolable, and protected from the dangers of the germs of dissolution, wherever they may happen to come from

To practice virtue and use the gifts proper to your class for the common good, to excel in professions and activities promptly embraced, to protect the nation from external contaminations: These are the recommendations We feel We must make to you at the start of this New Year.

Accept them from Our hands, dear Sons and Daughters, and, transforming them by an act of will in a threefold commitment, offer them again in turn, as wholly personal gifts, to the Holy Infant, who will value them as He did the gold, frankincense, and myrrh offered Him a very long time ago by the Wise Men of the East.

That the Almighty may strengthen your resolve and fulfill Our desires, answering the prayers We have thus made to Him, We impart to all of you, to your families, and especially to your children, future successors to your worthiest traditions, Our Apostolic blessing.

 

 

Discorsi e radiomessaggi, Jan. 9, 1958, pp. 707-711.

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