Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI: a fond farewell

One of the first thoughts that rolled through my head as I awoke this morning was that I would not to post anything today, the day Pope Benedict XVI abdicates the Chair of Peter. Shortly after having that thought, I came across this on Facebook by Dr. Susan Windley-Daoust, the Ironic Catholic, a friend and former theology professor: How about everyone post their favorite line/paragraph out of one of Pope Benedict's books, audiences, or encyclicals tomorrow as a tribute? He's written some beautiful pieces about the faith, and this could make for a small but real tribute on a rather poignant day, with lots of good reading across the blogosphere. Plus we could learn something about each other in this exercise. Are you in??? I'm in.

While it would not be possible for me to identify a favorite quote from all that I have read that was penned by Josef Ratzinger, I will take my prompt from another FB encounter yesterday. A friend asked me if I had read the Pope's Jesus of Nazareth trilogy. I responded that I have read each one as soon as they were published and relished every word. But even among those works, one stands out for me, the second volume: Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. I read this book over Holy Week two years ago.

Pope Benedict speaking to the College of Cardinals assembled in the Clemintine Hall earlier today

"'Bearing witness to the truth' means giving priority to God and to his will over against the interests of the world and its powers. God is the criterion of being. In this sense truth is the real 'king' that confers light and greatness upon all things. We may also say that bearing witness to the truth means making creation intelligible and its truth accessible from God's perspective - the perspective of creative reason - in such a way that it can serve as a criterion and a signpost in this world of ours, in such a way that the great and the mighty are exposed to the power of truth, the common law, the law of truth.

"Let us say plainly: the unredeemed state of the world consists precisely in the failure to understand the meaning of creation, in the failure to recognize truth; as a result, the rule of pragmatism is imposed, by which the strong arm of the powerful becomes the god of this world" (Chapter 7, "The Trial of Jesus" 192-193). It is from Josef Ratzinger that I took the line I use often: there can be no love without truth. It stands to reason that there can be truth without love. Jesus' passion unites the two in an awe-inspiring, sublime way.

Perhaps the reason that quote came to mind was that just yesterday, in the wake of the controversy that caused the sudden resignation of Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Damian Thompson posted a piece by Professor Tom Gallagher, in which the professor observed something about Scotland that is broadly applicable to the West: "The secular liberal drive to increase regulation and uniformity, supposedly in the name of progress and fairness, is too coercive and too self-evidently an elite project, to enjoy real credibility. There is no unifying ideology behind secular liberalism other than perhaps a desire to end what remains of the Christian ascendancy over the minds and hearts of ordinary folk."

It has often been observed that the reason Josef Ratzinger chose the papal name Benedict was his intention to re-evangelize the West, especially Europe. Let's hope his successor continues this worthy initiative. God bless you Holy Father as you climb the mountain the Lord has called you climb.

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