Saturday, August 30, 2014

Classic "Ratzinger" - Unbeatable and Unstoppable

Dogma and Preaching, 2nd. Ed.  
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal 
(2012-03-30). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition. 

In these days of tragedy when, because of the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS and the promoters of the so-called "caliphate" throughout the Middle East, more than one author has referred back to the words of Pope Benedict XVI pronounced in Regensberg, we have been reminded that his words, which many criticized back then, effectively offered a better footing for Moslem-Christian dialogue than most irenic alternatives in competition for the lead.

Reading this book I came across an even greater (to my way of thinking) and unstoppable Ratzinger quote. I would love to see lots of "Westerners" embrace this one and consequently rediscover access to the system of Christian values which founded our universities and carried our culture in adherence to the truth which comes to us only from God in Jesus Christ. Chances are that if Christ were invited back into our lives, if the King and His Law once again took precedence in Europe, we might be able to take the steam out of Russia's locomotive and bring Ukraine's project for a better future for its people back on line. Here's the quote, which is no doubt familiar from other sources:

"Today even someone for whom the existence of God and the world of faith have become obscure should live practically quasi Deus esset—as though God really did exist. He should live as subject to the reality of the truth, which is not something we produce but is, rather, our master. Live by the standard of righteousness, which we do not merely devise but which is a power that measures us. Live mindful of our responsibility toward Love, which waits for us and loves us. Live according to the claim of the Eternal. Anyone who is alert to current developments will see that this is the only way man can be rescued. God—he alone—is man’s salvation; this unheard-of truth, which seemed to us until now to be a scarcely attainable ideal, has become the most practical formula for our present hour in history. And anyone who entrusts himself, although perhaps hesitantly at first, to this demanding and yet ineluctable As-If—to live as if God existed—will become increasingly aware of the fact that this As-If is the genuine reality. He will perceive, along with its responsibility, its redemptive power. And he will know profoundly and ineradicably why even today Christianity is still necessary as the truly Good News that redeems mankind." (Kindle Locations 6041-6050).

The book "Dogma and Preaching" itself was intended as a substantive contribution to improving Catholic preaching by improving content and the overall vision of what is at stake in the Christian life and therefore should be the object of preaching. Ask any man or woman in the pew today what gripes them about Sunday homilies and they will tell you it is the lack of content. Father's delivery may be less than flashy - that will be forgiven, but generally folks complain because Father has made no effort to prepare or he sadly has nothing to offer, because he isn't living the faith to the full and has no wellspring to draw from. I would love to see this book on the reading and discussion list for every seminary's course in homiletics. 

Back to my classic quote! Last evening I was caught up in a friendly exchange with an ambassador friend from the Americas, who allows himself to observe what is going on here in Ukraine as a bystander. Granted, the EU and the various G's 7, 8, 9, 20?... sort of have a monopoly on things as those perhaps better able or more obliged or interested in seeking peace for Ukraine. In any case, my friend expressed frustration over the fact that in any conflict situation around the world that would seem to demand intervention from outside (of a military sort - a peace keeping force) the UN requires a vote of the Security Council, where somebody can always be found to veto any action (usually the guilty party or one of the parties in the crisis). Must this be so? Of course not, but just find the square peg to fit in the available round hole!

In more than one of Louis de Wohl's great historical novels much of the drama centers around the machinations of the horrible little, red-headed, hawk-eyed German emperor Frederick, who with his Arab mercenaries terrorizes Italy, the Popes and beyond. The drama stems from Frederick's dark soul which knows no God. Different rules for making decisions in the Security Council are not apt to solve problems arising from hearts closed to the one truth that comes from the one only God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The As-If - quasi Deus esset - would really be an improvement.

As hopeless a case as little Frederick is, Louis de Wohl's heroes, both saints and sinners, face the challenge with faith in God. We need to do the same, while praying that more of the faithless of good will might stumble across our Ratzinger quote and begin living "as-if".


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