The Pope's razor, as we all know, is not just any old razor. It always receives pride of place whenever it appears in newspaper columns. Pope Francis' razor came into the focus of the media when a reporter unable to restrain his curiosity asked what in the Pope carried in that small black bag in his hand on the plane to Rio.
However, the real story of the Pope's razor actually began long ago with Pius XII. His razor, in fact – an electric razor though a more primitive model, of course – made the cover of Domenica del Corriere on 4 May 1952 and was featured beside a story on the Apostolic Palace goldfinch. Pacelli had publicly expressed thanks for that modern gift. He allowed himself this modern convenience, he said, to save time in the morning so as to dedicate more time to prayer; for the technology of the day, his razor was the top of the line. Radio was also the latest technology of the day, and the Pope did not shy away from making use of it. In fact, he made maximal use of this modern “devilry”.
Of course, condensing a thought into only 140 characters would have forced him to streamline his usually solemn parlance. Still, Twitter would also have allowed Pius XII to save more time for prayer and charity work. And obviously, it would have widened his reach the largest possible audience. That intuition was certainly not lost on his successors – Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis.
But it's never too late for anyone. Today, 55 years after his death, the “voice” of Pope Pius XII has also made it to Twitter. For those surfing the web, the account is simply “Papa Pio XII”, @SSPioXII. It's all due to the initiative of a 27-year old student from Milan. It shows that words of truth, even those from half a century ago, never lose their appeal. And it is the appeal of Pacelli’s words that these brief tweets seek to transmit. The only liberty taken – as mentioned above – is to trim down the papal parlance of that time, yet without betraying its meaning and beauty, so that the message remains within the140 character limit imposed by the server.
It might come as a surprise that the majority of Pope Pius XII's followers are young people. The same is true for the many pages dedicated to the Venerable Pontiff on Facebook. The FB page “Miracles of Pius XII” merits special attention. It is edited by a priest from a parish in Wisconsin, not far from Chicago. He started it in order to ask as many people as possible for intercessory prayers for several particularly grave cases of illness.
To put Pius XII on social networks is meant to make him contemporary, especially for young people who have no visible memory of him. The few examples we have cited here attest to the fact that where there's a little daring the outcome can be amazing. Perhaps this is due to the fact that once the initial diffidence that characterizes the generation gap has been overcome, the younger generations, more than any other, know how to recognize the pastors who really have the “scent of the flock”.
It should be noted that both of the initiatives mentioned above were completely spontaneous. Nor are they being spearheaded by those who are directly involved in the cause for canonization. It is a sign that simple devotion to Pacelli, despite what we're sometimes told, is still exists among the People of God. The effort - and this is where the “social network operation” comes in especially – is to delicately remove the vaneer of distance that the passing of time brings, and to restore the image of Pius XII as he was actually seen by his contemporaries: a Pastor who though shy by modern standards was utterly attentive to caring for the wounds of men, by directly applying the balm of Christ to their wounds.
Thus we can understand why those who deny Pacelli’s relevance to modern times are actually in error. His authentic modernity consisted in this: it was his intuition, for he knew how to get right at the essence of things, that if the sophisticated men of our day put Christ to the side they place themselves on a dangerous path toward suicide. When man removes Christ from life, he is struck with a wound so profound that only Christ himself can heal it. And this was Pius XII's greatest inner torment: his inability to effectively stop man – every man, each in his wonderful uniqueness – from this self-mutilation without Christ.
Pacelli has this to say in the midst of his flock on the social network, his arms opened wide just as on that July day at Saint Lawrence: “The Lord knows how we would like to go into every home, pass through all the hospital wards, stand next to each cradle blessing, bending down with tenderness to all suffering; We would like to be able to free everyone from all fear, so as to give peace to all, so as to fill all people with joy” ( Urbi et Orbi - Easter, 1957).
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 20, 2020
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