Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In Their Own Words: Reviews of "Questions and Answers" and "Words of Light"

Questions and Answers
by Pope Benedict XVI
The next question dedicated to the family was made by the parish priest of St. Sylvia. Here, I cannot but fully agree. Furthermore, during the ad limina visits I always speak to bishops about the family, threatened throughout the world in various ways.

The family is threatened in Africa because it is difficult to find the way from "traditional marriage" to "religious marriage," because there is a fear of finality.

Whereas in the West the fear of the child is caused by the fear of losing some part of life, in Africa it is the opposite. Until it is certain that the wife will also bear children, no on dares to enter marriage definitively. Therefore, the number of religious marriages remains relatively small, and even many "good" Christians with an excellent desire to be Christians do not take that final step....
If you ever wanted to ask the pope a question about modern life and living your faith, the chances are that someone already has done it for you. In this book, edited by Michael Dubruiel, we have a collection of questions presented to the pope from 2005 to 2007 by such various groups ranging from children making their first communion and priests from around Italy. In addition to such interesting bits of information as unexpectedly surface in the excerpt above, we see Pope Benedict's considerable range of thinking and ability to link disparate topics into an informative whole.

We also are given food for thought should we care to consider it. For example, in the sample above it is likely that this African view of marriage is quite new to those of us who thought that we already knew all about how marriage was threatened around the world. We are reminded of the scope and range necessary for the universal Church to minister to all of us. We also may ponder the desire of people to control their lives and how it leads to limiting the lives of others, whether marriage partners in Africa or denying children life as happens in the Western world.

The answers are unglossed. When a very complicated question was posed which assumed that the answer was known to all, thereby essentially serving as a statement rather than a question, it filled me with glee to see Pope Benedict answer briefly that he didn't understand the question ... and then make a kindly general statement about the overall topic. Quite often he then goes on to answer the next question by someone else with a comprehensive answer that covers the previous question as well as the most recent one.

Highly recommended.

Words of Light
Inspiration from the letters of Padre Pio
Compiled and introduced by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa [preacher to the papal household]
22 Besides the trial of Spiritual fears and agitations, with just a whiff of desolation, Jesus adds that long and varied trial of physical malaise, using to this end those horrible Cossaks.

Listen to what I had to suffer a few evenings ago from those impure apostates. The night was already advanced; they began their assault with a dreadful noise, and although I saw nothing at the beginning, I understood who was producing this very strange noise; and rather than becoming frightened I prepared myself for the fight by placing a mocking smile on my lips for them. then they appeared under the most abominable forms, and to entice me to lose my resolve they began to treat me courteously. But, thanks be to Heaven, I told them off good and proper, treating them for what they were. When they saw that their efforts were coming to nothing, they hurled themselves at me, they threw me on the ground and struck me again and again, launching pillows, books, chairs into the air, at the same time emitting desperate shrieks and uttering extremely dirty words. Luckily the rooms on either side of where I am, and also those below, are not being used.

I complained to my Guardian Angel about this, who, after having preached a nice little homily to me, added, "Give thanks to Jesus, that he treats you as one chosen to follow him closely up the steep slope of Calvary. I see, soul entrusted to my care by Jesus, with joy and emotion inside me, Jesus' conduct towards you. Do you think that you would be so happy, if you weren't so worn out? I, who in holy charity greatly desire what is best for you, rejoice ever more deeply to see you in this state. Jesus permits the devil these assaults, so that your devotion might make you dear to him, and he wants you to become like him during the anguish in the desert, the garden and the cross. Defend yourself, always drive off these malign insinuations and scorn them; and where your strength is of no use, do not worry, delight of my heart, I am close to you!"
From the section "Satan is a powerful enemy"
I actually had imagined that this book would be a series of complete letters. Instead, we have excerpts from letters. The above sampling is one of the lengthier sections. They are grouped by subject such as "I pray continually" and "I do not wish to ever offend God again." The sections are preceded by a brief commentary from Fr. Cantalamessa which helps put them in context for our contemplation. These excerpts are good for insight into Padre Pio's inner life and also as food for meditation. It is not quite the sort of book that I am attracted to yet I still got a great deal of good from it. It would certainly be a useful book for lectio divina or other contemplative prayer. If you are seeking a book that has concentrated samples of this mystic's life and experiences in Christ then it is definitely recommended.

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