ONE OF THE LITTLE TREASURES in my library is Wit and Wisdom of Good Pope John, published in 1964. The dearly loved Pope John XXIII was a man possessed of very great self-knowledge and he often described himself as “incorrigibly talkative”. One of his personal diary entries reads “My speech was a trifle too long, but it certainly responded to that mysterious something overhead”. Wit and Wisdom records this of him:
John XXIII was incorrigibly talkative. He knew it and often made fun of himself for this minor Italianate fault. Yet at the beginning of his pontificate, upon being asked whether he planned to increase the promulgation of encyclicals and addresses as his predecessor had done, he replied: ‘I shall talk much less but I shall say as much!’
This is the same John XXIII who was once asked whether, upon leaving Rome for his holiday home at Castelgandolfo, he was worried about leaving day to day business behind him for a while. Could he spare the time for a holiday? “Of course”, he beamed. “I’m only the Pope you know!” Is it any wonder he was loved the world over? He didn’t take himself too seriously. Good lesson that, for a priest. Even a Pope.