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Eight leadership values we can learn from these popes’ childhood memories

They say that the family is the basic unit of society. It is where one’s personality and values are shaped––especially during childhood. To see if this is true, the My Pope team looked into the lives of four popes from when they were still young boys, and examined how their families influenced the values of these future leaders of the Church. 

Read on as we list down eight leadership values that were the fruits of how these popes were raised!

Prayer and Devotion

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II

“I had not yet made my first holy communion when I lost my mother: I was barely 9 years old,” Pope John Paul II once said. His sister died in infancy, and after the death of his older brother, he was left with his father who was a deeply religious man. Nicknamed “The Captain,” the retired soldier and tailor mended his son’s clothes, cooked and cleaned, and brought up the young boy on God’s word. 

“The Captain prayed often during the day, on his knees. The two read the Bible and prayed the rosary together,” the book John Paul II, Man of Prayer by Clare Anderson and Joanna Bogle reveals. “My father’s words played a very important role because they directed me toward becoming a true worshiper of God,” Pope John Paul II said. Once, when he was anxious about an exam, his father told him to say the prayer to the Holy Spirit every day. Decades later, Pope John Paul II kept his promise. “I have remained obedient to this order that my father gave nearly 50 years ago,” he said.

Also Read: Where does Pope Francis pray?

Creativity and Steadfastness

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI is known to be a creative and resilient man. His father was a constable with a modest salary, and growing up during the rise of the third reich, his family endured many sacrifices and had to make do with the little they had. “Our mother was by profession a cook and had many talents,” Pope Benedict XVI told journalist Peter Seewald in an interview. “With her great imagination and her practical skills, she always knew, at the very moment when there was hunger in the land, how to conjure up a good meal out of the simplest and scantiest meals.” 

Meanwhile, the Pope Emeritus says of his father, “My father was a religious man,” revealing a glimpse into his God-centered home. Even if he was a civil servant at that time, Pope Benedict XVI’s father was anti-Nazi. “His religion and his decided antagonism toward the regime were convincing to us… so his attitude became a model for us, even though it stood against what had public currency at the time,” he explained.

Also Read: Happy 92nd Birthday, Pope Benedict!

Simplicity and Detachment

Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII

Lovingly called Il Papa Buono or The Good Pope, Pope John XXIII wrote in his last will and testament: “Born poor, but of humble and respected folk, I am particularly happy to die poor.” The third child from a family of 13 children, Pope John XXIII grew up in poverty. His parents were descendants of tenant farmers, but this did not embarrass him. In fact, their piety and simplicity inspired him to become a priest. 

When he became the Santo Papa, he renounced the privileges that came with the position. “I thank God for this grace of poverty to which I vowed fidelity in my youth… which has strengthened me in my resolve never to ask for anything—positions, money, or favors—never either for myself or for my relations and friends.” He continued to live simply even as a pope, and so did his brothers, who continued to work as farmers. When Pope John XXIII passed away, he bequeathed his earthly wealth to his relatives—an amount of less than $20 for each of them!

Also Read: Who are these ‘techie’ popes?

Wisdom and Faithfulness

Pope francis
Pope Francis

Pope Francis often quotes his grandmother Rosa and delights in her wisdom. “My grandma always said to us kids: ‘The shroud has no pockets!’” It was his Nonna Rosa’s way of reminding them that material wealth cannot be brought to heaven! When Pope Francis was a child, Nonna Rosa lived just around the corner. “She taught me a lot about faith and told me stories about the saints,” he said in a radio interview. His nonna’s impact on him was so strong that he joined the seminary when he was 19 years old.


For the full article, grab a copy of My Pope Philippines August 2019 issue.
Text by Stephanie Jesena-Novero.


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