What I'm Reading
I've just finished reading God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church by George Weigel, and now I'm working on Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings edited by Marcus Borg (who, thankfully, has very little to say and leaves the talking to Jesus and Buddha).
Regarding God's Choice, I think it's safe to say that there are a number of things I don't agree with George Weigel about. Perhaps the most notable among these disagreements is George Weigel's conservative interpretation of the just war doctrine and my near-absolute opposition to all war (even that which meets the criteria of the just war doctrine). With that said, though, I respect Weigel as a historian and as a biographer, and he didn't let me down with this new book about Pope Benedict XVI and the direction his pontificate could go in.
I think what I took away from Weigel's book is the profound sense that God's hand guided the death of Pope John Paul the Great, the interregnum period, and the conclave. For instance, did you know that Pope John Paul died after celebrating Mass for the Vigil of Divine Mercy -- the liturgical feast based on the apparitions to St. Faustina Kowalska, a liturgical feast he instituted based upon apparitions to a Polish saint he canonized? And did you know that Pope Benedict XVI was elected to the Chair of St. Peter on the Memorial of Pope St. Leo IX, the last German pope before Pope Benedict? Even skeptics would have to admit that this confluence of events is too astonishing to be dismissed as mere coincidence.
Another crucial thing that I took away from Weigel's book is Pope Benedict XVI's personality, which is remarkably like my own. As a youth, he was quiet but passionate about life; shy, introverted, and intellectual. He hated sports because he was no good at them, and he was overjoyed when his school moved to a place that was more conducive to outdoor activities like hiking (which I also enjoy) instead of team sports. As much as I loved Pope John Paul the Great, we had little in common: he was charismatic, he was an actor, he was an extrovert, he loved sports as a youth and even as an older man. He was many things I'm not. While I loved Pope John Paul II and while I've struggled with the election of Pope Benedict XVI, I'm beginning to realize that Pope Benedict is in many ways more "my pope" than his predecessor ever was. Now that I've decided to let myself, I find that I can relate to this pope better than I ever thought I could, and it's helping me to overcome the negative feelings I had for him before. If for nothing else, I appreciate Weigel's book for this reason.
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Note: Yes, both the adorable little boy and the handsome young priest (with a bad hair day!) are Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). I know this may come as a shock to some who believe that the pope came up from the seventh circle of hell as a superhuman (subhuman?) "Great Deceiver." Deep breaths!