Born in 1927 in Germany as Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI has been head of the Roman Catholic Church since April 2005. A prolific author, theologian and university professor, Ratzinger served as an "expert" at the Second Vatican Council, and was tapped in 1977 by Pope Paul VI to lead the German Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. In 1981, Pope John Paul II called him to Rome to head the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he served until his papal election.
During his weekly addresses and sermons, the Holy Father has been offering a "portrait gallery" (a charming phrase he used repeatedly) into the lives and thoughts of the men who helped shape Christianity. In this, the fourth volume of the series published by Our Sunday Visitor Press, Pope Benedict turns his attention to the later medieval thinkers, theologians and saints. In this volume, the Holy Father looks at St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas and others, offering his thoughts and meditations on how these holy men molded the faith. On some of the more obscure figures--such as John of Salisbury--the Holy Father crafts a memorable and lasting portrait.
There are also excellent chapters as the Holy Father offers an overview of the various monastic and scholastic trends of roughly the 11th through 13th centuries. He also offered an interesting meditation on the ideas behind the Gothic cathedrals.
This is perhaps the best book in the series. While too often, especially in the OSV version of "The Apostles" and the first of the two volumes of "The Fathers," the Holy Father could only offer small glances at figures, noting repeatedly that there was not much evidence to go on. Here, Pope Benedict is in his element as a theologian and scholar. He knows these figures very well and has studied them for decades. He is able to leave short but memorable sketches of these great thinkers and saints. This book is highly recommended.
One minor caveat. Amazon stated this book was released on March 24. I pre-ordered the work and received my copy on April 12. With OSV still advertising "The Virtues" by Benedict instead of this work, there may be publishing or distribution problems. The book's editing seems a little rushed--and there are some mistakes. But as a whole, the book is fascinating and insightful.
Another Great book by Pope Benedict taken from his weekly talks at the Vatican. The book is concise but gives a very good overview of why each Teacher of the Church is important. I use the book to give me an overview then I go and read more about the different Teachers who interest me. Great book to have in any library.
Great Teachers is another volume that collects the Wednesday lectures by Pope Benedict XVI. These catecheses cover a small but highly fruitful period of history, the 12th and 13th centuries. Several factors contributed to the growth and development of spiritual thought in these years. One factor was the monastic reform that brought about a new emphasis on the study of the Bible as the center of theology. By meditation and reflection on the Sacred Scriptures, the monks were able to delve more deeply into the mysteries of the faith. Another factor was the creation of the universities, where learned men had the opportunity to discuss and debate various ideas. The discussions were further enhanced by the rediscovery of Aristotle's works, which present a more or less comprehensive understanding of the world through reason and observation (i.e. science) but apart from the Judeo-Christian heritage. A third factor was the rise of the mendicant orders, viz. the Franciscans and the Dominicans, whose charism included preaching the word of God to all and teaching at the universities, where they worked to integrate the Aristotelian world view with the Christian faith.
Benedict describes the various strands that come together and reviews the lives and works of fifteen men who have had a lasting impact on the church and Western civilization. His writing style is clear and concise as always. He often draws parallels to modern day problems and demonstrates the relevance of these thinkers and theologians to today's world. His work is also an excellent entrance for those interested in the medieval period and he mentions several of the best works of each writer.Read more ›
Pope Benedict XVI (PB XVI for the sake of convenience) wrote an interesting text re some of the Great Catholic teachers during the c. 2000 years of Catholic History. PB XVI wrote a readable book that should attract readers who know little about Catholic History as well as those who are knowledgeable about Catholic Church History.
PB XVI wrote an good introduction to the book. He cited 1 Peter 3:15 when St. Peter wrote that those who accepted Christianity should always be ready to give an intelligent answer to skeptics and critics. Such answers could be simple (not simple minded) or intellectual. The History of the Catholic Church has saints who were contemplative and simple as well as men and women who were learned. There was always a delicate balance between the Mystics and the Scholastics. The Catholic authorities were aware that extremes could lead to superstition or atheism. Yet, a balance was achieved.
The next section of the book dealt with St. Bernard of Clairvaus (1090-1153)and Peter Abelard (1043-1142). St. Bernard was the leader of the Cistercians who were a cloistered order of monks dedicated to reading/understanding the Bible. On the other hand, Peter Abelard was a Scholastic who enshrined reason and logic. St. Bernard opposed Abelard's concepts because St. Bernard thought Abelard's logic would trivialize the Faith especially the concept of the Holy Trinity. There were bitter exchanges. However, when Abelard died, he was in a Cistertian monastary and was treated with kindness and care. He died in full communion with the Church. Men and women could show class and respect even toward those with whom the disgreed. St. Peter the Venerable (1092-1156), who was a Cistercian monk, was able to reconcile St. Bernard and Abelard.Read more ›