Jesuit Father Jim Martin, who counted Cardinal Avery Dulles as a friend for the last 10 years, has a very personal tribute to the late cardinal in the On Faith blog sponsored by Newsweek and The Washington Post. Writing about a life that was “like something out of a Henry James novel,” Father Martin, associate editor of America magazine, gives examples of the cardinal’s lightheartedness and especially of the humility that made him reluctant to mention by name the Washington airport that honors his father, former U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.
ROME — It could easily be called “The Christmas Puzzle,” but in its only concession to formality, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi’s Christmas letter to children in the Archdiocese of Milan is titled “God So Loved the World.”
The letter doesn’t look like a letter — it’s a short children’s book filled with drawings by two of Italy’s most accomplished children’s book illustrators.
It doesn’t read like an archbishop’s letter — it’s the tale of an archbishop who receives a mysterious package with torn scraps of paper inside.
And it doesn’t sound like a letter — it comes complete with a CD in which professional narrators read the story and one of Italy’s most famous children’s choirs, the Piccolo Coro Mariele Ventre dell’Antoniano, provides the soundtrack.
The letter is not only being distributed to children in Milan parishes; a partial clip is available on YouTube and bookstores throughout Italy are selling the book and CD for less than $5.
The scraps of paper in the archbishop’s mystery box turn out to be the torn pieces of a map of the world taken from an atlas.
Trying to figure out the meaning of the puzzle, the archbishop says, “It doesn’t take much to get it: wars, injustices, hunger and poverty, pollution and global warming, family breakups, loneliness and sadness even for children and the elderly.”
Yet the package is labeled “Anima Mundi,” which the archbishop finds odd since it’s a Latin phrase in a child’s writing.
Since the book is available only in Italian, I’m guessing I won’t ruin the reading/listening experience by revealing that a literally fabulous phone call helps the archbishop understand that it is up to him, to the world’s children and to all people of good will to help put the world back together again.
He also realizes that the real “Anima Mundi,” the saving “Spirit of the world,” is the spirit of Jesus, “who heals the fractures of our world” with the power of his love.
The letter ends with a goodnight prayer and “Merry Christmas, children big and small. Your archbishop, Dionigi.”