.- In an interview with CNA yesterday, Fr. Joseph Fessio, founder of Ignatius Press and personal friend of Pope Benedict XVI offered insights into the Holy Fatherâs soon-to-be-released On the Way to Jesus Christ--his first book to be released in English since his election. In the new book, which is slated to hit bookshelves in October, the pope takes a hard look at the distinction between the pop-culture Jesus who has become tremendously popular in recent years--from t-shirts to movies and T.V. shows--and the authentic Jesus of the Gospels, whom the pope says is âquite different, demanding bold.â
Fr. Fessio said that he thinks, and believes the Pope would say, that the pop-culture Jesus phenomenon is both good and bad--âa mixed phenomenon.â
âThe figure of Christâ, he said, âhas drawn people even when just a piece of Him is presentedâ or distorted and incomplete.
Fr. Fessio noted that the new book is actually a compilation of talks and articles written by then Cardinal Ratzinger in his position as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, prior to becoming Pope.
In On the Way to Jesus Christ, the Pope makes knowledge of the person of Christ profoundly personal, an act which Fr. Fessio calls markedly unique for a theologian. âItâs particularly interesting for the Pope to be talking about a personal relationship with Christ,â he said.
On this topic, the Pope writes that, âAs long as we have not tasted an essence, we do not love the thing to the extent that it is a worthy object of love.â
âBeing overcomeâ, he continues, âby the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deductionâ¦We must rediscover this form of knowledge--it is an urgent demand of the present hour.â
At the heart of the book, the Holy Father stresses the idea of evangelization of our modern world by coming in contact with the face of Christ through means of the Church.
Fr. Fessio told CNA that he was particularly impressed with Benedictâs stress on the âimportance of beauty in terms of drawing people to Christianity.â
He cited the Pope who wrote that, âI am convinced that the true apologetics for the Christian message, the most persuasive proof of its truth, offsetting everything that may appear negative, are the saints, on the one hand, and the beauty that the faith has generated, on the other.â
âFor faith to grow today,â Benedict writes, âwe must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to come in contact with the beautiful.â