Here in Rome, everyone has a theory about why Pope Benedict will be leaving office in less than a week. While many people theorize about the ungovernable inner tensions of the Curia Romana, I have preferred to steer clear of political theories (we get enough Italian politics on the Rai’s nightly newscast). The thought came to me yesterday as I read an article about Benedict’s unwritten encyclical (http://www.osservatoreromano.va/portal/dt?JSPTabContainer.setSelected=JSPTabContainer%2FDetail&last=false=&path=/news/cultura/2013/042q13-L-enciclica-non-scritta-di-Benedetto-XVI-Po.html&title= Potenza e fecondit%C3%A0 dell%E2%80%99umilt%C3%A0 &locale=it) I wondered if perhaps Benedict hadn’t had an experience similar to that of St Thomas Aquinas.
The story goes that as St Thomas was writing (dictating, as he did) the fourth part of his watershed Summa Theologica, the Lord appeared to him in a vision. After seeing the breadth and the depth as it were, St Thomas descended back to his day to day work–and realized that compared to what he had seen, all this is just straw. He even wanted to burn everything he had written up to then–a desire, which, to the gratitude of eight centuries of seminarians worldwide, was never carried out.
It is well known that Benedict was already putting on the finishing touches to his encyclical, rumored to be on the theme of faith (a suitable theme, given the Year of the Faith, etc). Who’s to say he hasn’t had a similar vision, to the point where any and everything else he could do would seem like mere straw?