Thomas L. McDonald, writer
One of Pope Benedict’s key projects both before and during his pontificate was recapturing a truly Catholic Biblical criticism. Using the new analytical tools developed over the past century—but within the framework of deep tradition and living faith—he sought to forge a third way between untenable literalism and the excesses of the historical-critical method. The summit of that work is his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy, but some chips from the master’s workbench are found in a much smaller book.
“In the Beginning…”: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall not only captures the mastery of his approach to the Bible, but soars with the poetry, beauty, and heart that makes Benedict one of the greatest teachers in papal history. It’s a slim book of exactly one hundred pages, comprised of four homilies and an appendix on the theme of God the creator. We tend to be embarrassed by the early chapters of Genesis, fearing that if we look too closely at these passages the ghost of Darwin will leap from the shadows and snatch away our belief. Creation, Benedict suggests, has almost completely fallen out of catechesis, and some suspect that our shifting understanding of Genesis betrays a faith being chased into ever-shrinking boxes by new scientific discoveries.
Papa will have none of it. He recasts the Creation accounts through the powerful lens of Christology, tracing the subject beyond Genesis and into the Babylonian captivity, the wisdom literature, the psalms, and finally the New Testament. It is all of a piece, he tells us, urging a more thorough understand of the Bible based in canonical criticism. That means we don’t disassemble the Bible piece by piece and try to understand it in isolation, but view it as a totality, with each part dependent upon another, and all of it unified and fulfilled in Christ.
It’s a beautiful, moving, intellectually assertive series of talks urging us to reclaim the true meaning of God’s greatest gift: creation itself, and the revelations that unveil it for us.
Tod Worner, Blogger, Physician
To ask for a favorite quote or book written by Pope Benedict XVI is akin to asking one to do the same for G.K. Chesterton or William Shakespeare: it is an embarrassment of riches. PBXVI has the uncanny capacity to offer brilliant insights on modernity just as often as he provides profound considerations in theology. To paraphrase a favorite Chesterton quote & apply it to Pope Benedict XVI, “Benedict XVI has not been tried and found wanting; he has been found difficult and left untried.” His work is a holy trove to be read, contemplated and applied to our often distracted and disordered lives.
And so, a favorite quote of mine draws from the pope’s extraordinary 2005 homily at the opening of conclave after the death of St. John Paul II. It articulates the constant waywardness of our fallen humanity, while reminding us of the simplest answer, the purest goal, the ultimate Truth: the Person of Christ.
“We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.
However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an ‘adult’ means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth. We must become mature in this adult faith.”
Katrina R. Fernandez, Columnist, Aleteia
I took it really hard when Pope Benedict abdicated. He was my first pope, my papa. As a convert I watched him take the balcony at his election as Pontiff while I was going through RCIA. It seemed his papacy was there with me every step of the way through my conversion.
Because I was so particularly saddened when he stepped down I found comfort in the book, Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI by Rev. Peter J. Cameron, given to me by a close friend.
As Benedict faded from the news feeds and headlines I could easily access his wisdom and kindness from simply opening its pages. The entire book is a treasure that I re-read and go to for reference throughout the entire year, every year.