Novak (novak) wrote,

Theological Notebook: On "Benedict XVI"

I just heard on CNN the Jesuit Fr. Fessio, who had Joseph Ratzinger as a doctoral dissertation director and with whom he is still good friends, speak on the choice of the name "Benedict" for the new pope. He said that his appeal to Benedict looks back to Benedict of Nursia, the hermit whose "invention" of European monasticism caused a significant spiritual revolution in Europe, for which he is considered the patron saint of Europe as one of its priniciple evangelizers during the collapse of Roman civilization. I would guess that Fessio is right on target: it is western Europe (the U.S. included) that is the new Benedict's great concern: that the Western, secularized culture needs to be re-evangelized after falling into a secular wasteland and great spiritual poverty.

Saint Benedict, a former law student in Rome in early 500s had gone off and become a conventional monk living in a cave in the wilderness. After having failed at creating a monastic community with a bunch of guys who had come to him looking for leadership (they had unfortunately conceived of being a monk as being a "bum for Jesus" who could be fed and paid for by the local populace). After meditating on this failure for a long time, he created a new community years later, this time under the Rule that he had written, one of the great spiritual documents of the Church's history, a rule that took the spiritual orientation of monasticism away from individual spiritual prowess and made the "hard work" of monasticism living in community, realizing the simple human and spiritual truth that it is easier to "love" people if you don't have to deal with them, but that the love that actually has to live with people is a much more profound and real love.

If this is the model of our new Pope, that should be encouraging in itself.

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