This book, The Apostles, contains the catecheses and presentations that were delivered by Pope Benedict XVI at his weekly general audiences from March 15, 2006 to February 14, 2007.
These conferences were edited into book form and divided into three parts:
I. The Origins of the Church
II. The Apostles
III. The Co-Workers of the Apostles.
The first part is about the origins of the Church beginning with Christ as the founder and one who designated his Twelve Apostles. The pope discusses the importance of communion with the Twelve and their communion with the Church. In this section he also defines Tradition and its importance to the Church before discussing the successors of the Apostles and those others who minister in the Church. He remarks that all members of the Church, not only the clergy have a vital role of witnessing to the world to their faith even through martyrdom.
The second section is the main part of the book. The pope begins with Peter and explains why Jesus changed his name to demonstrate his special ministry and position amongst the Apostles and the Church. The following chapters discuss each of the apostles and their unique places in Jesus’ ministry regarding their backgrounds, previous jobs, and walks of life. He couples this with how the apostles were called to preach to different people in various parts of the world, by traveling, by writing Gospels, and others by writing letters in the New Testament.
Part three is about the “co-workers” of the Apostles and the women who served Christ. This section includes Saints Timothy and Titus who were companions and disciples of St. Paul; St. Stephen the first martyr was also one of the first “deacons” who preached and gave his life for the faith; St. Barnabas, referred to in the liturgy as an apostle although not one of the Twelve; Priscilla and Aquila, a Jewish married couple who had been exiled from Rome by the Emperor Claudius. This couple helped St. Paul in his ministry and they are mentioned in his letters and in the Acts of the Apostles. A church in Rome is possibly named in Priscilla’s honor.
While there are no illustrations in the book, the book jacket has a wonderful illustration of the Apostles with the Blessed Virgin at Pentecost. This is from the upper section of the Maesta altarpiece by Duccio di Buoninsegna that is at the Museo dell”Opera Metropolitana in Siena, Italy.
The Apostles is highly recommended to those looking for a book on the Apostles, those looking for a book for spiritual reading or those looking for material by the Pope. The pope is currently giving presentations at the weekly audience on the Church Fathers. This reviewer hopes that a book would be made of them as well.
Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., St. Gregory's University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.