On the 65th Anniversary of the ordination of Joseph Ratzinger to the priesthood, Aleteia asked a random selection of Catholic writers to share their favorite quote, or favorite book, coming from the clear mind and prolific pen of the Pope Emeritus.
Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., Editor, Magnificat Magazine
It is part of the mystery of God that he acts so gently, that he only gradually builds up his history within the great history of mankind; that he becomes man and so can be overlooked by his contemporaries and by the decisive forces within history; that he suffers and dies and that, having risen again, he chooses to come to mankind only through the faith of the disciples to whom he reveals himself; that he continues to knock gently at the doors of our hearts and slowly opens our eyes if we open our doors to him. — Jesus of Nazareth, Part II
I first came upon this quotation on an exhibit wall at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Connecticut, and I remember being stunned. It’s true! Jesus, in coming to us, assumes a most subtle and understated style. He is not flashy or forceful; he does not overwhelm, does not impose himself. I was moved that Pope Benedict noticed what little the Lord did to be noticed. In his chosen method of self-revelation, Jesus shows himself to be a great risk-taker. What about the danger of being overlooked? Christ’s sure confidence is in the heart beating within his own rib cage. Certain that the human heart was made by him and for him, the modest strategy of the Son of God is one of simple wooing. As Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict reminded us that the essence of faith is that something meets us which is greater than anything we can think up for ourselves. That Something doesn’t have to hit us over the head. All the Lord need do is knock gently at the doors of our hearts. Faith, says Pope Benedict, is the finding of a You who upholds me and gives me the promise of an indestructible love. It takes a subtle mind like Pope Benedict’s to be able to plumb the subtlety of God for us. It was part of the mystery of Pope Benedict XVI that he acted so gently.
James Martin, S.J., Author of Jesus, a Pilgrimage
“We thus begin to understand the event of Cana. The sign of God is overflowing generosity. We see it in the multiplication of the loaves; we see it again and again–most of all, though, at the center of salvation history, in the fact that he lavishly spends himself for the lowly creature, man.” – Jesus of Nazareth, Part I
This may be a minority position but I believe that Pope Benedict XVI will be most remembered for three things: his superb encyclicals, his humble resignation of the office of the papacy and his magisterial book Jesus of Nazareth. For me, that last work is the fruit of his papacy for which I’m most grateful. His multi-volume Life of Christ is a magnificent meditation for all Christians and, incidentally, a great introduction for those who may know very little about Jesus. The passage quoted above is what you might call classic “Benedictine” Christology: clear, pastoral, firmly grounded in Scripture and with a bit of surprise. One often thinks of Jesus being “lavish” in his ministry, but not as often God being lavish with Jesus himself. A terrific observation. His book is filled with insights like that, and I’ve learned a great deal about Jesus from the Pope Emeritus.
Kathryn Jean Lopez, Editor-at-Large, National Review Online
First of all, I’ll forever be grateful to Pope Benedict in Light of the World, wherein he and Peter Seewald got to talking about papal resignation. And so I actually had something to say when everyone and his mother was calling me for reactions the morning of his big news in 2013!
I’m rereading Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium and am struck by how relevant it is today. As in marching orders.
He’s given us so much and we can go on and on. But no one has had as much of an impact on me in helping me know some of the holy men and women that have come before us and are eager to intercede for us as Pope Benedict XVI in some of his Wednesday Audiences. Ignatius press has many if not all of them in a collection called Holy Men and Women of the Middle Ages and Beyond. I think I have two copies, neither of which I can find right now. Which is fine because they’re also online. St. Anthony of Padua. John of the Cross. Catherine of Siena. Catherine of Genoa. Catherine of Bologna. Joan of Arc. Bridget of Sweden. The list goes on. I’m always struck by beauty and love with which he writes about the women, in a particular way. He’s focused on the merciful gaze of Christ in their lives and their faithfulness to Him and His gifts. I often Google his words when a feast day comes around and make rediscoveries that sometimes feel like a first meeting all over again. They bring me to tears because they help me go deeper into the Divine life with people who truly knew Him and are just long enough for an accessible mediation.
About that merciful gaze of the Father… Benedict once looked at me with what sure seemed like it. Thanks be to God for His priesthood. He is a holy father, in the Chair of Peter or out.