Pope Benedict XVI Servant of Love

My latest column at Catholic Mom is a review of this beautiful new book.

The foundation of all true culture is the search for God and the readiness to listen to him.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Sept 2008)

Benedict XVI, Servant of Love is the new commemorative book published by Ignatius Press and edited by Magnificat. The recent death of our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was not unexpected. However, the former Joseph Ratzinger led a holy and exemplary life, and I believe he is on his way to heaven (if he isn’t already there).

From the publisher:  Through stunning photographs, glorious art, insightful commentary, and his own inspiring words, this beautiful deluxe commemorative book celebrates the extraordinary life and legacy of Pope Benedict XVI. Lavishly illustrated. Special Commemorative Edition, edited by Magnificat.

This is a beautiful book that includes three different parts: Benedict XVI, the Man; Benedict XVI’s Thought; and Praying with Pope Benedict XVI.  Readers will enjoy this pope’s inspiring life and legacy from infancy to his becoming pope. He was born on a snowy Holy Thursday and had a great love of music from a young age. We learn about his family’s experiences under Hitler, and his father’s moving the family to Traunstein near Salzburg to distance them from the Nazis. He served a short time in his obligatory stint in the German Army and left in the spring of 1945. He was eventually taken prisoner by the Americans along with 50,000 other men in a vast outdoor camp. Every day, he took comfort in being able to see the steeple of the Ulm Cathedral, as well as the Masses in the camp. In June of 1945, he was given his liberation certificate. From there, he and his brother entered the seminary. Two professors influenced him: Gottlieb Sohngen, who was a pianist like Joseph, and Friedrich Wilhelm Maier, who was a professor of New Testament exegesis.

On the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul in 1951, Joseph and his brother received priestly ordination. There were many trials for Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (at his first parish, as a new professor, through Vatican II, and during student protests and riots in 1968), but he tried to remain positive. He enjoyed returning home to visit his family. His nostalgia for home continued throughout the rest of his life, even after his parents and sister were deceased. He was consecrated as an archbishop in 1977 and, within a few months, was appointed a cardinal by Pope Paul VI.

He endured trials, but his achievements were greater. Before becoming Pope Benedict XVI, he worked closely with Pope Saint John Paul II. He was the producer of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992. He wrote many books during this time. He was a strong proponent of fasting, not just during Lent, but year-round.

When his close friend Pope John Paul II passed away, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger celebrated the funeral Mass and, a few weeks later, was elected the new pope, Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote three encyclicals, many spiritual reflections, seven apostolic exhortations, and over 60 books. Excerpts of many of them are included in Part 2, Benedict XVI’s Thought, and Part 3, Praying with Benedict XVI. As an author myself, Pope Benedict XVI has always been an inspiration.

When traveling to Italy in 2007, my husband and I were privileged to pray the Angelus with Pope Benedict XVI and thousands of pilgrims in Rome. We listened to the Holy Father as he spoke in several languages from the balcony of his apartment above St. Peter’s Square one Sunday in March. Being present and hearing Pope Benedict XVI’s words was one of the highlights of our trip (even though we were quite far away from the pope, see below).

As Catholics, we believe in the intercession of those who have gone before us. We can be comforted knowing that the Holy Father is praying and interceding for us.

Pope Benedict XVI’s contribution to the Catholic faith and his service to the Church is joyfully celebrated in this book. Stunning photographs, beautiful artwork, and interesting commentary make this an extraordinary book. I learned so much about Pope Benedict XVI. Now that he has gone to his reward, this is an ideal keepsake for this extraordinary pope. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about and celebrate his life of service.

Pope Benedict XVI, servant of love, pray for us.

Copyright 2023 Ellen Gable Hrkach


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