Peering Into Pope Benedict's Mind Print
Thursday, 25 January 2007 18:47

Written by JACK

Like Keith commented below, I also take quite seriously the reaction that Intentional Disciples has received throughout St. Blog's. As much as I have expressed my surprise at some folks' reactions to what we have spoken of here -- and, apparently, the particular phrase "intentional disciples" -- I must accept that this has been in fact the reaction. As some friends of mine would say, "it is given". And it is better to acknowledge and address what is in front of me than an image of what I might hope would be in front of me. Of course, to acknowledge the reaction is different than to reach a judgement (ooh, there I go with another one of those provocative words!) of what it means (e.g., use different language; although provocative, the reaction is positive; etc.). Frankly, I have only begun to discern that.

But since our words here have been seen by some as "syncretist", "impoverished", etc., I thought I would take a break from all of that and offer up for consideration the words of another: our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

If you haven't spent some time digesting the homilies, audiences and writings that Pope Benedict has issued so far during his pontiff, then do yourself a favor and make the leap. (The Vatican has made all of his writings easily accessible here.) One of the things that I have been most struck by is how this man, whose popular reputation as Cardinal Ratzinger was as this "enforcer of dogma", spends so much of his time talking about the experience of the faith.

What do I mean? Well consider just the following few examples:
  • Deus Caritas Est. Consider that striking definition of Christianity that he offers in the second paragraph: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."
  • Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate. Consider his comments on the beauty of encountering Christ and how He takes nothing away of what makes life great: "There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him .... Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life."
  • Easter Vigil Homily. Look at his striking discussion of the "I" and about being "seized" by Christ in baptism.
  • Address to the Ecclesial Convention of the Diocese of Rome. Consider: "In fact, discovering the beauty and joy of faith is a path that every new generation must take on its own, for all that we have that is most our own and most intimate is staked on faith: our heart, our mind, our freedom, in a deeply personal relationship with the Lord at work within us. ... Dear brothers and sisters, this certitude and this joy of being loved by God must be conveyed in some palpable and practical way to each one of us, and especially to the young generations who are entering the world of faith. In other words: Jesus said he was the "Way" that leads to the Father, as well as the "Truth" and the "Life" (cf. Jn 14: 5-7). Thus, the question is: how can our children and young people, practically and existentially, find in him this path of salvation and joy? This is precisely the great mission for which the Church exists - as the family of God and the company of friends into which we are already integrated with Baptism as tiny children -, in which our faith and joy and the certainty of being loved by the Lord must grow. It is therefore indispensable - and this is the task entrusted to Christian families, priests, catechists and educators, to young people themselves among their peers and to our parishes, associations and movements, and lastly to the entire diocesan community - that the new generations experience the Church as a company of friends who are truly dependable and close in all life's moments and circumstances, whether joyful and gratifying or arduous and obscure; as a company that will never fail us, not even in death, for it carries within it the promise of eternity."

But don't take my word for it. Dive in and get dirty. Read him with an eye not just to the dogmas he might speak of, but for what he says about the human condition, how man encounters the faith, the sacraments, the Church, and the life that is generated. I do not know why Pope Benedict's words speak to me in this way so powerfully, but it makes me so grateful to have him as our pontiff.