02 July 2011

Musical Ratz and Book-lover Ratz

Vatican Radio recently interviewed the Reverend Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, elder brother of Pope Benedict XVI, about the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  Msgr. Ratzinger was ordained with this brother on June 29th, 1951.

The text of the interview follows, with my emphases:
Q: What are your memories of your priestly ordination 60 years ago?

Monsignor Ratzinger: It's difficult to explain it with words. It was a very solemn day. We had prepared ourselves very well for that moment, both from the spiritual as well as the practical point of view. It was a beautiful celebration. On entering the cathedral of Freising, it was clear that that day was very important for our lives.

Unfortunately, that afternoon we had to leave Freising, because the following day we were to take part in the ordination of a friend.

Q: There were more than 40 candidates to be ordained. What was the group's experience?

Monsignor Ratzinger: We were a very varied group. Many were young. My brother was the second to youngest, though there were some who were older. This was caused by the War, which set back the priesthood for many young men. In any case, we were a nice group. Each one of us was able to offer something special with his life.

Q: You referred to the different ages of the candidates that were ordained. Your brother is three years younger than you. On the day of ordination, did you feel like the elder brother or was the difference in age not a factor?

Monsignor Ratzinger: No, age did not count with me. My brother was very mature. On the day of ordination the most important thing was precisely the ordination.

Q: You have followed both the priestly as well as the musical path. Do you remember the music of the Holy Mass of that day?

Monsignor Ratzinger: Sadly I don't remember it exactly. In any case, at that time I was a member of a choir of priests and for priestly ordinations we always sang more or less the same songs. I am thinking of the "Veni Creator," or the "Christus Vincit," which is still sung today in Freising at the conclusion of priestly ordinations. Sadly, I don't remember the names of the composers. So much time has passed since that day.

Q: Have you and your brother kept a special memento from that day?

Monsignor Ratzinger: I have the stole and the cassock from that day. As for the rest, we have not kept particular objects.

Q: Priestly ordination is in a certain sense like the celebration of a marriage. There are guests, relatives, friends, who come to celebrate. Of the Ratzinger family, who took part?

Monsignor Ratzinger: Our parents and our sister were there. But there was no one else in particular. It was important for us that our parents participated, and to be united.

Q: Your nickname was Orgel-Ratz (Musical Ratz) and your brother had the nickname Bucher-Ratz (Book-lover Ratz). On the day of ordination, was it already clear in what direction your lives would go?

Monsignor Ratzinger: My brother had already obtained a certain experience in the field of theological science. It was clear that theology would be his path. Instead my life led me to music. But it was not clear to us where our particular vocations would lead us. At the time of ordination what was most important for us was being priests.

Q: Did you and your brother ever think of joining a religious order?

Monsignor Ratzinger: I never thought of it and I don't think my brother did either. But I cannot say with certainty.

Q: In your opinion, is priestly ordination more important than being elected Successor of Peter?

Monsignor Ratzinger: Priestly ordination is fundamental. To be the pope it is necessary to have received this sacrament. Obviously the responsibility and functions are much more difficult for a pontiff than for a priest. Nevertheless, priestly ordination is the foundation for episcopal ordination and for pontifical election.

Q: For the 60th anniversary of your priestly ordination do you have in mind the performance of some musical piece in particular?

Monsignor Ratzinger: Sadly I have difficulty in reading the notes and also my hands can no longer move in the proper way. In any case, I have in mind the notes I would like to hear. I have many CDs from my years as director of the choir of the Domspatzen. These are very beautiful memories.

Q: Do you have some CDs to hear this Wednesday with your brother?

Monsignor Ratzinger: I haven't brought anything. But in his apartment he has all he needs.
Msgr. Ratzinger seems to have the same simple humility and down-to-earthness as his brother.  I am particularly fond of the Monsignor's line that life "can't be all peace, joy and pancakes."

And the Pope still refers to his books as his "friends."

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