Elizabeth Scalia, Editor-in-Chief, Aleteia English Edition
My first real exposure to the mind and wisdom of Pope Benedict came shortly after his election to the papacy, when I opened up a copy of God and the World: A Conversation With Peter Seewald, and made acquaintance with lightning, barely held in check. I had always known that Cardinal Ratzinger was a towering intellect — his eyes may be deep but they snap with intelligence — but the man I encountered in those pages was not just brilliant, he was accessible. Pope Benedict possess the ability to communicate his faith, his friendship with Jesus and his stunningly instructive theological insights with a clarity and warmth that makes reading him feel like time spent with a beloved relative who has much to share and great warmth in how he shares it. Discovering that the book — a simple conversation between two men recorded over a number of days — was transcribed with only minimal edits from Ratzinger, “for clarity only” as Seewald wrote, I was a bit stunned: all of this poured out of the man in conversation, with bare editing required? Whuuuut? This speaks of wisdom that is distilled from the springs of daily prayer and contemplation — a full-on engagement with Christ and the Creator — that is almost unimaginable, yet inspiring.
Like Katrina Fernandez, I love the Benedictus book, which is a Ratzingerian feast for the mind and soul, but also for the eyes; it is put together with Magnificat’s typical attention to beauty, and it is a book I cannot do without. It was within its pages that I found this excerpt,
It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist . . . If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: “It is good that you exist” – must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love. – Principles of Catholic Theology
That is the sort of beautiful, true, instinctive insight that is wise and deep but completely comprehensible. You needn’t be a genius to understand this spark that is Benedict. You can open any of his writings and feel immediately like you have come into the company of that dearest grandfather, who greets you with, “hello, my dear, thank you for visiting me; it is good that you exist, now let us talk…”
Finally, a personal tribute from Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., Founder and Editor, Ignatius Press
Professor Ratzinger was my mentor and dissertation director from 1972-74. Later, when he was the ‘cardinal protector’ of Casa Balthasar in Rome, we on the board of directors met with him at least yearly. And, of course, Ignatius Press was and is the primary publisher of his books. This relationship has been one of the great blessings of my life.
Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict’s intellectual brilliance and gentle demeanor became well known to all soon after his election to the papacy. People suddenly realized that the Panzerkardinal, the Vatican Enforcer, the humorless, predatory doctrinal watchdog was in fact none of these things. Quite the opposite in fact.
It would take a full-length biography to record all that is good and holy about this exemplary man of the Church. I would like to pay tribute to him by listing his defects. It won’t take long.
He is sometimes a poor judge of character. (Accepting me as a doctoral student should be proof enough.) There are some reasons for this: Being so deeply good himself, he can be naïve about others. He sees the best in everyone and takes them at their word. He is never defensive or self-protective. And there is simply no trace of jealousy or ambition in the man.
He is ill-suited to leadership in a fast-paced, competitive commercial enterprise. And when sectors of the Church—even at the highest levels—become tainted with this spirit of the world, he is not the one to ‘clean house’.