Friday, April 11, 2008

Ratzinger on Benedict

With Pope Benedict's upcoming visit to the U.S., April 15th-20th, I thought I would look at a 2000 speech he gave to the Jubilee of Catechists and Religion Teachers. It is a short and accessible speech (only about 9 pages in 12 point font). It is also very revealing. Pope Benedict has said that his purpose in coming is evangelical, to proclaim the Gospel: "I shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture, and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us."

He begins by identifying mankind's common search:
Our life is an open question, an incomplete project, still to be brought to fruition and realized. Each man's fundamental question is: How will this be realized—becoming man? How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path toward happiness? ...To evangelize means: to show this path—to teach the art of living...This is why we are in need of a new evangelization—if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science—this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life—he who is the Gospel personified.
Our Pope has a great love for St. Augustine and so begins with a classic Augustinian theme: "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee!" This is how St. Augustine begins his Confessions, which are not a "tell all" in the modern sense, but a description of Augustine's search for truth. Another notion worth noting is that Pope Benedict is firmly convinced that the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church is the sure and certain path to happiness. This confidence in the Church's identity may prove difficult for our mass media.

On the structure of Evangelization, we find something quite un-American:
New evangelization cannot mean: immediately attracting the large masses that have distanced themselves from the Church by using new and more refined methods. No—new evangelization means: never being satisfied with the fact that from the grain of mustard seed, the great tree of the Universal Church grew; never thinking that the fact that different birds may find place among its branches can suffice—rather, it means to dare, once again and with the humility of the small grain, to leave up to God the when and how it will grow (Mark 4:26-29).
Pope Benedict is not afraid of this mustard seed size. This certainly smacks in the face of American values of size, pizazz, and glitz [can't forget glitz]. In another part he makes the clear connection with Israel, smallest of the nations, and Judah, a meager tribe. Remember also 1 Cor. 1:27: " Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong."

Finally, two quotes on methods of Evangelization:
evangelizing is not merely a way of speaking, but a form of living: living in the listening and giving voice to the Father. "He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak," says the Lord about the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had to acquire the disciples from God. The same is always true. We ourselves cannot gather men. We must acquire them by God for God. All methods are empty without the foundation of prayer. The word of the announcement must always be drenched in an intense life of prayer.
These two notions are intimately linked. The importance of witnesses, as evidenced by the Great Commission- not to write but to teach- is echoed [see #41] throughout the life of the Church. But this witness of integrated life is useless unless it is united with our Lord. Pope Benedict reechoed this in his greeting in advance of his trip.

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