The founder of the Fall River Diocese, St. Pius X, mentioned snow in his 1905 encyclical Acerbo Nimis. He was speaking (in paragraph 14) about the very important work of catechists and began with a quote from the prophet Isaiah (who was quoting God): “‘And as the rain and the snow come down from Heaven, and return no more thither, but soak the earth and water it, and make it to spring and give seed to the sower and bread to the eater: so shall My Word be, which shall go forth from My mouth. It shall not return to Me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it’ (Is 55:10). We believe the same may be said of those priests who work hard to produce books which explain the truths of religion. They are surely to be commended for their zeal, but how many are there who read these works and take from them a fruit commensurate with the labor and intention of the writers? The teaching of the ‘Catechism,’ on the other hand, when rightly done, never fails to profit those who listen to it.”

St. Pius was describing the work of catechists as an essential first step (and, as we mentioned last week in the editorial, the first and primary catechists are the parents, who are then aided by parish Religious Education and Catholic school teachers) to having people embrace the faith. He said that without adequate catechesis, other proclamations of the faith will often be useless: “We do not disapprove of those pulpit orators who, out of genuine zeal for the glory of God, devote themselves to defense of the faith and to its spread, or who eulogize the saints of God. But their labor presupposes labor of another kind, that of the catechist. And so if this be lacking, then the foundation is wanting; and they labor in vain who build the house.”

Pope Pius XI also mentioned snow, in the context of an encyclical he wrote in 1923 honoring St. Francis de Sales (whose feast we celebrated last Saturday). In Rerum Omnium Perturbationem (at paragraph eight) he wrote about the saint’s catechetical efforts: “In order to bring [his parishioners] the light of faith and the comforts of the Christian religion, he was known to have traveled through deep valleys and to have climbed steep mountains. If they fled him, he pursued, calling after them loudly. Repulsed brutally, he never gave up the struggle; when threatened he only renewed his efforts. He was often put out of lodgings, at which times he passed the night asleep on the snow under the canopy of Heaven. He would celebrate Mass though no one would attend. When, during a sermon, almost the entire audience one after another left the church, he would continue preaching. At no time did he ever lose his mental poise or his Spirit of kindness toward these ungrateful hearers. It was by such means as these that he finally overcame the resistance of his most formidable adversaries.”

In 1926 the same pope wrote an encyclical about St. Francis of Assisi entitled Rite expiatis. In paragraph 44 of that letter he spoke about the Poor Clare Nuns: “The holy virgins of the Second Order who participate ‘in the angelic life which was made known by St. Clare, by the snow-like whiteness of their souls, should continue to spread abroad, like lilies planted in the Garden of the Lord, a sweet fragrance so pleasing to God. Through their prayers, may sinners in much larger numbers hasten back to the merciful arms of Christ Our Lord, and may Our Holy Mother the Church feel the increasing joy of seeing her children restored to Divine grace and to the hope of eternal life.” Their prayers and sacrifices help prepare the ground of our hearts to accept catechesis.

Pope Pius XI’s successor Pius XII mentioned snow four times — in reference to Mary’s “snow-white brow crowned with a golden diadem” (1954’s Ad Caeli Reginam 20); in a 1955 speech to an U.N. agency in which he referred to how “forests retain the snows, and even if they can not prevent exceptional flooding they regulate river levels”; in a reference to the British author John Snow; and in a 1947 radio message to Catholic school children in the United States.

In the address, his first-ever to them via radio, the pope said, “You are very happy in your beautiful schools, some small, some very big. You have light and heat, and all the books you need to learn your lessons well. When school is over, you put on your warm over-coats, wrap up well and go out to play even in the snow; because your shoes and stockings are strong and protect you securely against the cold and wet. When evening comes, you will sit down to a warm supper that mother has prepared to make you grow up healthy and happy.” We here at The Anchor hope that this Currier and Ives vision was enjoyed by many kids this week.

The Holy Father then reminded them, “But you must know that there are other millions of children here in Europe and out in the far East, whose life is very different. They are young boys and girls just your age, and they too should be growing up happy and healthy. Instead, they are falling victims to dread disease, they are hungry, some of them are starving, and many of them are going to die so very young. They shiver in the cold; their clothes are thin and worn; many have only rags to cover their frail bodies, have no stockings, no shoes. And their mothers, who love them just as much as your mothers love you, can give them only a little bite to eat at the end of the day.”

We here at the paper hope that the snow emergency will be long over by the time you read this paper (so we don’t have to review the dozens of references to snow by more recent popes), but our concern for those in need, be they on other continents or in our diocese should grow. May God figuratively snow down upon them many blessings, in part brought about by our generosity.  

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts