Wednesday, October 12, 2005

From God and the World

As I mentioned in another post, I recently bought Pope Benedict's God and the World, a book which came out when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. It's basically a lengthy, 450-page in-depth interview with a journalist, Peter Seewald, who had fallen away from Christianity. After he did this book and another book-length interview with Cardinal Ratzinger (called Salt of the Earth), Mr. Seewald returned to the Church. As you might imagine from that, the book is very, very good. I've already read it, but I was paging through it last night and I came upon a passage that is particularly interesting, given later events. The Cardinal and Mr. Seewald are discussing the psychological power of doubt:
How is it for you? Are you personally acquainted with this "oppresive power of unbelief"?

Of course. If one is trying to share the faith with others in the spiritual situation of our century, as a professor or a teacher of the faith, then one must take particular care to be open oneself to the questions that make faith hard. And then, obviously, one counters the various life-styles that are offered to us with the promise that they can replace faith, or make faith unnecessary. To that extent, accepting the impact of everything that speaks against faith today, its inner strength, and feeling myself oppressed by it is all an essential part of my work.

But even if I did not wish to, one encounters it anyway in news bulletins, in current affairs, and in every kind of life experience that opens up to us. All that, on the one hand, makes the path of faith laborious to tread. But then when you come out into the light again, you can also see that you have climbed higher, that it is in this way that we get nearer to the Lord.

Is that ever a thing of the past?

Never quite past.

Can one imagine even a pope might be attacked by doubt or indeed unbelief?

Not by unbelief, but we can and should picture him as likewise suffering under the questions that make faith hard. I shall never forget a meeting I had in Munich when I was a curate. My vicar at that time, Father Blumscheid, was friends with the pastor of the neighboring Luterhan parish. One day Romano Guardini came to give a talk, and the two vicars had a chance to chat with him. I don't know the actual course of the conversation, but Blumscheid told me - he was deeply shocked - that Guardini had said that as you grow older faith does not get easier, but harder. Guardini may have been between sixty-five and seventy at the time. That, of course, is the specific experience of one man, who was in any case of a melancholy cast of mind and had suffered greatly. But, as I was saying, this buisiness is never entirely settled. On the other hand, it does get easier in a way, because the flame of life is burning less fiercely. But so long as we are on the journey, we are traveling.
Even the pope! Which is, of course, what the former Cardinal is now.

His last line almost sounds like somebody's episcopal motto: "So long as we are on the journey, we are traveling." I don't know what it would be in Latin, though ;)


  1. hi :) hope things are going well; you don't always talk all that much about you and your life ;) but i'm glad you enjoy reading about current events so much! sometimes i wish i found it more interesting so that i knew about stuff before coming to your site, lol :P

  2. No more traveling Episcopals! VERY BAD IDEA! They've traveled too far as it is!