Benedict’s Vision of Faith: A New Theory Regarding His Retirement

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?

“The seed is the word…”

Faith has become something of a rarity today. While it is easy enough to see the things around us, and to weigh things according to human reason, there are still circumstances which escape our logic, and call for something deeper. And it’s not like we just can’t reach that deep–we often get the sense that the answer is there, but, as it were, hidden.

In baptism, we have received the gift of faith, by which we can see even to the mind of God. Why then do we have such a hard time believing?

“The seed is the word of God…” In Luke 8, Christ explains the parable of the sower, and I think here we will find something of an answer. Whenever we hear the Word of God, a living seed is placed in our soul. But like any seed, the beginnings of its growth are its most fragile moment; it is necessary to protect and nourish the seed, so as to grow into a robust faith.

My hope is that these words may help contribute to the nourishment of that seed. Ultimately, it will grow through the grace of God. But our little help can’t hurt. And hopefully as believers, we can strengthen and confirm each other in the faith, so as to discern the heart and the will of Our Lord.