To write my 2017 book, Reform Yourself! How to Pray, Find Peace, and Grow in Faith with the Saints of the Counter-Reformation with Catholic Answers, I had to read fifty-five saint books and countless documents, articles, blog posts, and other snippets on the saints. It’s not an entirely shameless plug (please, go buy it), but those hagiographies read similarly each time: birth, childhood, coming of age, works, ministry, death. Needless to say, I fell in love with numerous saints page-by-page, but I’ll tell you honestly, the repetition of these got a little dull. It made me respect great saint books, or biographies for that matter, that read differently. It’s a reason I chose to write Reform Yourself! so uniquely (which, has a perfect 5-star rating, just saying).
Good writing is hard to come by, especially in the saint section of Catholic book stores, so let me get straight to the point: go buy Benedict XVI: His Life and Thought immediately. This book is incredible.
Like any good biography, the author highlights the high points in the life of Joseph Ratzinger—and his life has been anything but dull. From his first moments on earth where his father ran him down the road to be the first baby baptized with the fresh holy water (a Bavarian tradition and perhaps a sweet bit of bragging rights), to his time playing Mass as a boy, the life of boy who would become Pope Benedict was filled with incredible moments. And with the incredible comes the controversial.
Aside from the great biographical construction, the biographer also becomes a vanguard of our Pope Emeritus. He flawlessly articulates the controversies of his life from Joseph’s service in the Hitler Youth, to his abdication as Supreme Pontiff. The real facts are really great to read for anyone unfamiliar, but also, it’s really a great reminder of how people react to and with misinformation and assumptions.
As the title promises, another highly enjoyable facet of the read was the consistent theme of discussing the thought of Benedict XVI. From a complete discussion of his favorite books, to the composition of his faculty in primary school to seminary and beyond, the book provides a thorough picture of what convicts Benedict XVI and how he formed the theology which we’ve become so familiar. Detail is given on his friendships with extraordinary influencers in the 20th century such as DeLubac, and the hopes he had with books like Jesus of Nazareth.
In many biographies, we’re given the eagle’s view of the life of a saint or individual, but with this precious book, the reader is given a significant amount of information to depict the person of Benedict XVI.
Opening this book, I had a great love for the Pope Emeritus, but after a lengthy journey through his entire life and everything about the way he thinks, I now know him for what he has really been for me: a papa. Benedict XVI: His Life and Thought is a treasure and belongs on the shelf of every modern-Catholic household for it’s wonderful picture of a wholesomely Catholic family, and in the hands of everyone who is serious about the recent history of the Church and the Christological theology of Joseph Ratzinger.