His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, celebrates today the first anniversary of his installation as the 264th or so successor to the chair of St. Peter.
I like him.
And I hope he visits the US. Apparently His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler, the Archbishop of Baltimore, has announced that the Holy Father might visit in the fall of 2007. The General Assembly of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is in Baltimore in November of 2007, so maybe he’ll address the assembly. And I’d hope he would preside at some big outdoor mass that I could go to.
The reason I like him, other than just because he’s the big cheese, is that I’ve been actually reading him. I read his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est and really liked it. I mean, I’ve never read any other encyclicals, so what do I know, but I found it not just readable but enjoyable. I talked about it with Michael Winters, who has written about the Catholic Church for the New Republic as well as other publications, and who helped run inquiry classes back in the summer of 2002 when I was an inquirer, and who most recently has been teaching classes at St. Matt’s on the history of the Church. He loved the encyclical as well, even noting that it contained the first ever joke in a papal encyclical. The joke was maybe a little highbrow, but it was a joke nonetheless, he said.
Should [man] aspire to be pure spirit and to reject the flesh as pertaining to his animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity. On the other hand, should he deny the spirit and consider matter, the body, as the only reality, he would likewise lose his greatness. The epicure Gassendi used to offer Descartes the humorous greeting: “O Soul!” And Descartes would reply: “O Flesh!”.
I suppose it’s not even his own joke, since he’s really just repeating Pierre Gassendi’s and René Descartes’s joke. But still. It’s a joke.
And during Lent I read the first section of Journey to Easter: Spiritual Reflections for the Lenten Season, adapted from then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s talks at a Lenten season 1983 retreat at the Vatican. It was pretty much like daily homilies through the first week of Lent, commenting on and explaining the readings for each day. Unfortunately the readings were from year C, and we’re in year B, but it was great to read and hear him preach this way anyway.
And I’ve discovered that the Holy See website posts his actual homilies, a few days later after translating them. That’s pretty cool.