Remembering ‘Benedict XVI: Servant of Love’
A commemorative softcover book produced by Ignatius Press traces Benedict’s life in photos and text.
SERVANT OF LOVE
January 2023, Ignatius Press
128 Pages, $17.95
To order: ignatius.com or (800) 651-1531
The recent death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was like the passing of a beloved friend. Even though at the time of his death he had not been on the Throne of Peter for nearly a decade, his mere presence was reassuring that the faith would endure.
Now, looking back at his legacy, it is clear that he strove to be Christ-focused and serve the Church with all his gentle heart.
Benedict XVI: Servant of Love, a first-class commemorative book produced by Ignatius Press, traces Benedict’s life in photos and text, from boyhood to old age and from priest to pope to pope emeritus.
When looking at the many photographs, it’s apparent his visage exuded holiness. The text is a reminder, too, of his towering intellect.
The softcover book is divided into three sections: “Benedict XVI, the Man,” “Benedict XVI’s Thought” and “Praying With Benedict.”
Part One traces his life in Bavaria. The 5-year-old Joseph Ratzinger looks almost impish staring into the camera. It moves through his childhood to the time of the Nazis and his forced service in the German army toward the end of the war and finally onward to his priesthood and time as a greatly admired professor.
Two things stand out in the photos: his love of Bavaria, which, according to a recent biography by Peter Seewald, he never wanted to leave, and the deep attachment to his family. Upon losing his mother in 1963 to a painful bout with cancer, he wrote:
Her goodness became even purer and more radiant and continued to shine unchanged even through the weeks of increasing pain. On the day after Gaudete Sunday … she closed her eyes for the last time, but the radiance of her goodness has remained …
Part Two looks at some of Benedict’s most important writings and inspirations. We are told that Benedict loved Mozart and his music led the future pope to see the world as “a symphony of the Word, a single Word expressed in multiple ways.” He saw Christ as the soloist in this great musical expression. In the apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord), the reader can feel Benedict’s faith bursting forth:
Scripture tells us that everything that exists does not exist by chance but is willed by God and part of his plan, at whose center is the invitation to partake, in Christ, in the divine life. Creation is born of the Logos and indelibly bears the mark of the creative Reason which orders and directs it; with joy-filled certainty the Psalms sing: ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth’ (Psalm 33:6).
In Part Three, readers are reminded that Benedict was a humble man of prayer. The section includes many meditations on Christ and Mary and the Psalms.
It shows he had friends in high places.
“Naturally I always pray first and foremost to Our Lord,” Benedict said, “with whom I am united by old acquaintance, so to speak.”
Perhaps most poignant is an excerpt from a homily called “Prayers in Times of Sorrow.” It applies not only today but to all time:
Lord, show us that love is stronger than hatred, that love is stronger than death.
We hope and pray that Benedict is alive with the Lord, proof that love overcomes death.
Charles Lewis writes from Toronto.
Correction: An earlier version of this article described Benedict XVI: Servant of Love as a magazine; it is actually a softcover book. The Register regrets the error.