Without question, Pope Benedict XVI is an incredible theologian and Catholic mind. In his new book, author James Day examines the writings of Pope Benedict XVI and sheds light on the Pope’s thoughts on topics that we are unfortunately all too familiar with in today’s culture—individualism, materialism, secularism and godlessness.
Despite the troubles of today’s world, Father Benedict casts a hopeful gaze towards the future. Day’s book explores Father Benedict’s writings on education, Marian devotion, seeking the face of God and the virtues of faith, hope and love.
Father Benedict offers readers a way to return to the beauty of the Catholic Church through the New Evangelization. He makes a convincing case for the Christina life. We can learn so much from this priest from Bavaria who now humbly wishes us to call him Father Benedict.
You can read more about Father Benedict and his wisdom with James Day’s new book, Father Benedict: The Spiritual and Intellectual Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI.
Check out these eight incredible facts about Father Benedict!
1. He was the first pope to meet, repeatedly, with victims of of clergy sexual abuse
In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI made history when he met privately with five victims of clerical sexual abuses. He met with them at the Vatican’s embassy to the United States in Washington D.C.
Reverend Federico Lombardi later said that the pope prayed and spoke personally with each of the victims in a meeting that lasted about 25 minutes.
“No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse,” Pope Benedict later said in a homily later that week. “It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention.”
2. He was the first pope to retire since Gregory XII in 1415
On February 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI made a surprising announcement: he was retiring.
“Not since Gregory XII in 1415 had a supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church resigned – a resignation that ended in the Schism (1378-1417) that had spawned numerous anti-popes,” James Day writes. Before Pope Gregory XII resigned, Pope Celestine V abdicated the papal office in 1294. He was canonized as a saint less than twenty years after his resignation.
3. He survived Nazi rule
Joseph Ratzinger was born in Bavaria, Germany. He grew up in a home that despised the Nazi regime, and his father was particularly outspoken about his resentment. Because of their outspoken protests, Joseph’s father suffered a demotion in his career and his family was harassed.
When he was only 14 years old, Joseph was required by law to join the Hitler Youth. He refused to attend any meetings. Later that year, Joseph’s cousin, a 14 year old boy with Down Syndrome, was taken away by the Nazi regime and murdered.
4. He was a university professor
Before he became pope, Benedict spent time as a professor. The first lecture he gave at the University of Bonn was titled ‘The God of Faith and the God of Philosophy’.
“Decades later his students continued to meet – often with Ratzinger present – indicating the enduring influence of the professor-theologian,” James Day writes. “He could both grasp and articulate the malaise and acedia of peoples while offering hope for their redemption.”
Shortly after Benedict abdicated the papal seat, James V. Schall, S.J., wrote that “anyone who is not aware of the intellectual caliber of Benedict simply reveals his own incompetence of incomprehension.”
5. He was concerned about a profound crisis of faith experienced in today’s world
“This is what he sought to cure in those disillusioned by material accumulation and constant distraction, burdened by stress and unhappiness – that they might be reintroduced to the Source of life, to find mystery in times of predictability.” James Day writes in his book. “Benedict XVI, in the mold of great popes throughout history, stood as a warrior of faith, encouraging those who dared to listen and spurred on by their own conversions to follow his lead into their own Westminster Halls and Reichstags, their own Areopagi.”
6. He loved Saint Augustine
In 1953, then-Father Ratzinger titled his dissertation The People and the House of God in Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church.
“Fond of citing Augustine, Benedict clearly saw that what was being played out at the very time mirrored Augustine’s own observation of the battle between the ‘city of the flesh’ and the ‘city of the spirit,” writes James Day. “This was the quintessential ‘Christian situation, this battle between two kinds of loves.'”
His spiritual mentor, Italian German priest Father Romano Guardini wrote a book called The Conversion of Augustine.
7. He called for the New Evangelization and a New Metanoia
James Day compares Benedict to the character of Virgil in Dante’s Divine Comedy. “He called for both a New Evangelization and a new metanoia – a sacramental return to Christ and His Church,” he writes. “The Father of the West who guided the poet has now become the Holy Father who did the unthinkable, and now wishes simply to be called Father Benedict.”
In his book Credo for Today: What Christians Believe, Benedict explained the concept of metanoia:
“When one tries to translate the word metanoia, one immediately runs into difficulties: change of mind, reconsidering, remorse, repentance, turning back, conversion are available, but none of these words exhausts the contents of the original meaning, even though turning back and conversion indicate most clearly the radical character of what we are talking about: a process that affects one’s whole life and affects life wholly, that is, definitively, in the totality of its temporal extent, and that means far more than just one single or even a repeated act of thinking, feeling, or willing.”
8. His nickname was the ‘German Shepherd’
When he was a cardinal, Ratzinger served as the cardinal-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for almost 25 years. The office used to be the holy office of the Inquisition.
“The perception of the office’s German enforcer earned him some clever nicknames,” James day writes. “Panzerkardinal, God’s Rottweiler, German shepherd.”
Do you want to learn more about Father Benedict’s life, thoughts, and writings? Read James Day’s new book, Father Benedict: The Spiritual and Intellectual Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI!