Apr 18, 2008
Recently I had the chance to read the galley proofs for the upcoming book, Benedict of Bavaria by Brennan Pursell. This significant work on the complex developments of Joseph Ratzinger’s life from his birth in Bavaria to the Chair of Saint Peter in Rome portrays not only the personality of the pope, but also the dynamics of the man. Quite a bit of description is written about the Pope’s formative years as a child in Bavaria, his relationships with his family and his unique and strong ties to his country. These factors are with strong devotional faith in his Catholic Church are the foundational roots of the man we know today as Benedict XVI.
The intense description of Benedict’s sense of, heimat, homeland is evident throughout the entire book. When we think of Benedict’s predecessor, we think of Poland. Most appropriately, Benedict is a man that embodies all of the cultural, religious, academic and theological aspects of his beloved Bavaria. Through the significant exploration of the world of Joseph Ratzinger the image and motivation of Cardinal Ratzinger and finally Benedict XVI emerge and are given their proper motivations.
Benedict is clearly a man motivated by love of his homeland, love of his Church and love of God in this book by Brennan Pursell. A point that is keenly noted in this book is the unbiased and honest portrayal of Benedict as a man; priest and developing person is emphasized. The prejudicial classifications of Joseph Ratzinger as the embodiment of German nationalism, and the derogatory references to him as the Panzier Kardinal are set aside and the portrait of a genuinely gifted, intellectually and spiritually person become the most apparent.
The books author takes us through the developmental stages of the Holy Father’s life from youth, to seminary days, to early priesthood, to academic professorship, to episcopate, Cardinal and finally Pope. With each progression Benedict’s genuine personality emerges, a personality that is shaping the destination of modern Catholicism. Most importantly, Pope Benedict’s life clearly shows the deeply rooted Catholic faith and the rich traditions of Bavarian culture that form the Pope’s intellectual and spiritual motivations as an academic theologian, an expert at Vatican II, a curial official and now Pope.
In an amazing manner the author, Brennan Pursell offers a very personal, yet logical glimpse at all of the factors that lead to the development of Benedict the Pope. At the same time, the book provides a remarkably clear and colorful reflection of the Bavarian upbringing of Joseph Ratzinger that most determined his entire life.
The intense intellectual ability of the Pope is pointed out in this book. However, the ability of Benedict XVI to be a source of personal affection and closeness are not forgotten either. After one reads this work, perhaps the world will finally have a deeply felt and spiritual portrait of Benedict XVI that has been misunderstood for so long.
Benedict’s development as a true Renaissance theologian and believer is strongly evident in the speculations of the future of this papacy. What is clear however is that Benedict’s determination, intellectual capacity and strong faith will motivate the Catholic and secular world to a new birth of Christian understanding during this papacy. Benedict’s personal character is marked by the continuity of past, and present in the pastoral move to the Church’s future. Once we understand Benedict the man, we will appreciate the theological premises of Benedict the Pope.
Catholics and all people interested in a dynamic understanding of Benedict XVI should order and read this book…it will answer all of the questions anyone has about Benedict of Bavaria.