25 November 2010

Meet my friend, the Pope

The previous two book-length interviews then-Cardinal Ratzinger granted to Peter Seewald have provided a profound look not only into the mind and faith of the man who now occupies the See of Saint Peter, but also an intimate look into his personality.

I have long said there is something inexplicable about Pope Benedict XVI that draws me to him. His gracious smile, his genuine warmth, his visible shyness and his strong intellect and deep faith have endeared me to him.

Naturally, I greatly admire the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, but there is something about Pope Benedict XVI that I find particularly appealing.

I have found in his writings the heart of a poet and a man who - at least in the written page - has become my friend and travelling companion on the journey of faith. Page after page I have made myself his student and look forward to learning from him and growing deeper in faith through his subtle and profound insights.

In the book-length interview Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times: A Conversation with Peter Seewald, we are given a deeper glimpse into the thought and personality of this Pope.

At one point Seewald reflected on the draw Pope John Paul II exercised on the world by the force of his personality and noted that Pope Benedict's personality is markedly different. "Was that a problem for you?" he asked. The reply was straightforward:
I simply told myself that I am who I am. I don't try to be someone else. What I can give I give, and what I can't give I don't try to give, either. I don't try to make myself into something I am not. I am the person who happens to have been chosen - the cardinals are also to blame for that - and I do what I can (p. 112).

Earlier in the interview, Seewald noted that Ratzinger "did not want to become a bishop, you did not want to become Prefect, you did not want to become Pope. Isn't it frightening," he asked, "when things repeatedly happen quite against your own will?" The Pope answered:
It is like this: When a man says Yes during his priestly ordination, he may have some idea of what his own charism could be, but he also knows: I have placed myself into the hands of the bishop and ultimately of the Lord. I cannot pick and choose what I want. In the end I must allow myself to be led. I had in fact the notion that being a theology professor was my charism, and I was very happy when my idea became a reality. But it was also clear to me: I am always in the Lord's hands, and I must also be prepared for things that I do not want. In this sense it was certainly surprising
suddenly to be snatched away and no longer to be able to follow my own path. But as I said, the fundamental Yes also contained the thought that I remain at the Lord's disposal and perhaps will also have to do things someday that I myself would not like (p. 5-6).

Standing in the "Room of Tears" after his election, Pope Benedict said, "...all I wa able to say to the Lord was simply: 'What are you doing with me? Now the responsibility is yours. You must lead me! I can't do it. If you wanted me, then you must also help me!'" (p. 4).

I have said before the Pope Benedict thinks not in phrases, but in paragraphs; though typically true, this is not always the case. When Seewald asked, "Are you afraid of an assassination attempt?" the Pope answered simply and directly, "No" (p. 73).

If you want to know that mind and heart of this Pope, read these interviews. Besides, it isn' t every day that a Pope references The Little Prince.

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