Monday, February 26, 2024

He Gave Us So Much

A Tribute to Benedict XVI


The back cover of this book has the words of another reviewer: “This book is an absolute treasure, a source of hope in dark times.”  I strongly agree.  The book’s author, Robert Cardinal Sarah, says his purpose in writing the book is to reveal the spiritual mastery that was Benedict XVI, and his intense focus.  He saw God as Father, but Benedict “in his fatherly concern took to heart the missionary duty to discuss wisely, rigorously, and with an acute sense of accuracy, a question of capital importance:  Who is God?”

The Catholic Church has much focus (and debate) on synods around the world.  In this book’s Prologue, Cardinal Sarah writes: “Allow me to dream: Benedict WVI would certainly have loved to convoke a synod, the sole subject of which would have been: God is! … I seem to hear (those words) uttered by his gentle voice, trembling with emotion before the mystery, his voice entirely in love with the reality being contemplated.”  And then he quotes Joseph Ratzinger: “God is --- and this also means that all of us are his creatures ... whom he has willed and destined for eternity. ... Man owes his origin to God’s creative love.”  And then Cardinal Sarah concludes his Prologue with these words: 

“Here the beautiful soul of Joseph Ratzinger is revealed.  He has been seized by the love of God and has let himself be seized.  This “God is” encapsulates the whole theological and, I dare say,  mystical experience of Benedict XVI.  He experienced to the vey depths of his being God’s love for him, God’s goodness, God’s mercy.”

This book is largely a display, with Cardinal Sarah’s insights, of words written or spoken by Benedict XVI, most little known or published.  In them, you see the heart of a man deeply in love with God.  Cardinal Sarah knew this man well, and this book conveys his love and respect.

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Cardinal Sarah is from the continent of Africa.  I know and deeply respect some people living there, the continent where the faith is strong and growing.  Even as “God is,” there, the people are their faith, and living it.  Were I a young man now, I think I would go and visit there, and seeing the beauty of faith lived out in community, might stay.


Sunday, February 18, 2024

Review: The Power of the Cross


This is a book of 43 Good Friday sermons from the Papal Preacher, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa.  Now, I admit I only bought this book because I have read other writings/preachings by Cardinal Cantalamessa.  He goes very deep.  But 43 sermons on Good Friday?  I fully expected this book to be boring.  I decided to read the sermons though, one a day, starting the Friday after Ash Wednesday, so I would finish on Good Friday.  So as of today, I have read the first three --- and I believe I can write this review now.

The first two days’ sermons were deep, as I expected, and I made a number of underlines in my book to point out things I will want to read and meditate upon again.  Today’s sermon, however, read in the chapel, had me crying.  Was it the Spirit overwhelming me with grace, or was it just my emotions at what was being said.  I’m not sure, but I do know that I was sobbing deeply at the words, as I looked up at Jesus in the monstrance on the altar and the overhanging crucifix.  The words cut to my heart.

I write this review now, having only read 3 sermons, confident that this is a book I want to recommend for Lenten reading, so I write these words that others might read them and perhaps begin this journey, this Lenten journey which Cardinal Cantalamessa walks you on, as you see may clearly in your heart why Jesus chose to die --- for you.  This is a book which will not just give you factual, historical, or even Christian perspectives, it will touch your soul --- with His.

In the first sermon, from First Friday in 1980, Cardinal Cantalamessa spoke:

God was God and Father before the existence of the world, angels and humans, but he was not yet Lord.  He became Lord,  Dominus, the moment creatures existed over whom he could exercise his dominion and who freely accepted his dominion.  In the Trinity, there are no lords because there are no servants, and all three persons are equal.  In a certain sense, it is us who make God Lord! God’s dominion, rejected by sin, was reestablished by Christ, the New Adam.  In Christ, God has become Lord again, by an even greater right … that of redemption.  God reigns again from the cross.  “For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Rom 14:9)

But in the third sermon from 1982, he spoke:

Peter spoke to the people “You crucified Jesus of Nazareth!  God raised him up!  Repent!”  God cries out the same words to us… “You are the one!  You killed Jesus of Nazareth!  You were there that day; you shouted with the crowd, Crucify him!”  The certainty that Christ died for our sins is at the very heart of our faith.  … Only if I am deeply convinced that I am the cause of Christ’s suffering, that I inflicted it, can I really grasp what these sufferings were.  Jesus says to you what he said to the holy women “Do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves.”  (Lk 23:28) Weep for your sins!

God wants to be merciful to us, but he can’t be if we deny our sin, the very object of God’s mercy. … Our greatest misfortune is that we do not acknowledge our sin from the depths of our hearts, we tell ourselves: “Look, what evil have I really done?”   You can’t see your sin?  Know this, then, that your sin is precisely that you can’t see it!  Your sin is self-righteousness.

The book of Revelation contains seven letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor… A close reading shows that the word metanoia, which means “repent, convert,” appears prominently at the center of each letter.  Anyone who has an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church today knows that he is saying the same thing. “Repent!”

That third sermon started out speaking of how modern man argues about whether the Jews or the Romans were responsible for the death of Jesus.  Cantalamessa quickly provides the answer, in a most convicting way.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

A Bumper Sticker

I saw a rather nice bumper sticker on a car this morning.  It said:  Do You Follow Jesus This Close?

And before you ask, yes, I was close.  I was right behind that car in the line leaving the church parking lot.


Today is Ash Wednesday.  Unfortunately, it is also St Valentine’s Day.  I suspect the restaurants will be crowded.  It is a great day to give witness, having been crossed with ashes on our forehead we can go out to eat or shopping or just aisle-shopping, and the cross will give silent witness that We Believe.

I think I may try for a 3PM or so Linner, if I see a not so crowded restaurant parking lot nearby.


Happy Ash Wednesday!   Happy St. Valentine’s Day.  I hope Lent spurs us all on to spiritual growth.  Although I turned off my Christmas tree and outside lights last night, I will leave it all up until Easter.  We celebrated His birth at Christmas, I will continue to celebrate it until His Re-Birth at Easter.  Then it will all come down in my house.