This morning I shared with Drew Christiansen, our editor in chief, an amazing video that someone sent me the other day. Until then, I had thought only still photographs existed of this remarkable event, which is frequently retold in church histories of the time. Early in his papacy, in 1958, Pope John XXIII visited the Bambin Gesu Hospital for children and, shortly afterwards, for his first Christmas, visited Regina Coeli Prison in Rome. The newly elected pope, animated and clearly comfortable in this unusual setting, shared with the inmates the somewhat surprising tale of his own cousin, who had been imprisoned in the same jail after his conviction for poaching. (The official Vatican reports of the papal visit would omit this part of his talk.) After his warm words to the inmates, the pope promises to remember all of them, as well as their wives and sisters, in his nightly rosary prayers. Upon hearing this, they burst into heartfelt applause. But for me, the most moving part, which I had previously seen only in photos, is his visit to those who are imprisoned for life, who fall to their knees before Good Pope John. It is an episode depicted on his tomb at St. Peter's basilica, so much of an impression did it make on the world. How amazing it is to see it with sound in film.
Fr. Christiansen encouraged me, in turn, to post this remarkable artifact on our site. But there are countless videos of popes and other well known Catholics available on the web if you search hard enough, or if you have eagle-eyed friends who find such things. On Youtube alone you can hear, besides Blessed John XXIII, people like Dorothy Day; Mother Teresa; Chiara Lubich; Pope John Paul II; Pope John Paul I; Jean Vanier; Anthony De Mello, S.J.; Bishop Fulton Sheen; Sister Wendy Beckett, Cardinal Avery Dulles, Cardinal Walter Kasper, Sister Helen Prejean, Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., Richard Rohr, O.F.M., and on and on. (Many of these I've posted on my public Facebook page, if you'd like to see them rounded up.) YouTube, of all things, might help bring you closer to God. Remember that the next time someone tells you how terrible is the web!