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Archived Online Discussion
Topic: Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI
Date: 5-6 pm (ET)
on Thursday, January 24, 2008
Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight
Fr. Cameron
Carl A. Anderson:
Welcome to the January book club discussion on this fantastic compilation of meditations from our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Let me also welcome Fr. Cameron as we take our first question.

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
What was the most unexpected thing that one can learn from reading this interesting book?
Carl A. Anderson:
I think that there are a variety of interesting things we can learn from this book. But one thing that certainly struck me was the depth and breadth of Pope Benedict’s writing and interest on topics of spirituality. He brings a profound understanding of the great wealth of the Catholic faith and presents it in terms that are very accessible.

Fr. Cameron:
For me, one of the most unexpected things that I learned was how to understand Christian faith more deeply. The Holy Father has certain ways of speaking about faith that, for me, are new, profound, and deserving of serious meditation. A few examples from the pages of Benedictus:

p. 23 faith is an awakening to what is real
p. 25 faith can mature only by suffering
p. 29 by faith we resist the "brute force"
p. 32 faith enables us to recognize ourselves
p. 35 faith is the certainty on which life is based
p. 37 faith is the opening of our powers
p. 76 faith is the breaking out of the malady of our "I"
p. 124 faith affects every domain of our existence
p. 264 faith gives joy
p. 296 by faith we "escape our gravity"
p. 341 the rationality of faith

Tony K.
Austin, TX
Have either of you discerned any major themes of Pope Benedict's papacy from his writings, travels, etc.?
Carl A. Anderson:
Pope Benedict is certainly interested in promoting the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. His first two encyclicals make this clear, since they are on the topics of Charity and Hope. He is also very interested in the history and traditions of the Church from its very beginnings. This is evident in his book Jesus of Nazareth. This interest is a long-standing one of his, of course, going back to Introduction to Christianity, and is a theme found in much of his writing. He is also very interested in carrying forth Pope John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization and for the defense of marriage, family, and human life.

Fr. Cameron:
Certainly one major and pivotal theme is that expressed in the very first paragraph of the Holy Father's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est: Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea but the encounter with an Event, a Person which gives live a new horizon and a decisive direction. This notion of encounter appears many times--and prominently--in the writings and talks of the Holy Father. For example, in Benedictus, Pope Benedict XVI mentions "encounter" on pages 18, 20, 22, 31, 33, 34, 40, 41, 84, 115, 119, 122, 154, 180, 183, 187, 188, 197, 198, 204, 221, 230, 238, 240, 248, 257, 263, 276, 310, 319, 323, 327, 329, 332, 335, 345, 352, 359, 360, 372, 383, 385, 390, and 391--virtually throughout the entire book.

Grand Knight Robert Camilleri
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
What were your impressions of Pope Benedict XVI the first time you met him?
Carl A. Anderson:
Pope Benedict is clearly a man of great intellect and holiness and despite the many aspects of his ministry, I have always been impressed with how interested he is, and how knowledgeable he is, about the work of the Knights of Columbus.

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
What part of the book stands out to best represent
the essence of the Papacy of Benedict XVI to date?
Carl A. Anderson:
I think that the book as a whole represents the essence of the papacy of Pope Benedict. He is a man whose wide ranging thought and interest in the Catholic faith is obviously the result of his own deep prayer life and his brilliant mind. The wide variety of issues that he discusses in the passages of this book -- whether they are contemporary, historical, spiritual or ethical -- define Pope Benedict, like his predecessor Pope John Paul II, as one of the greatest Catholic thinkers of our day.

Fr. Cameron:
The material in Benedictus represents writings that go back all the way to the 1960s. The parts of the book that best represent the pontificate of the Holy Father are those that cite his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, along with the excerpts from homilies he has preached since ascending the throne of St. Peter.

Could you please tell us something about what it is like to meet Pope Benedict. I know he is a great intellectual. Is he also a very good person to talk to in person?
Carl A. Anderson:
I have had the opportunity to speak at length with the pope, and he is wonderful to talk to. He is gentle, serene, and very interested in what other people's views are.

Maria C.
How long did it take you to pull together all the quotes in this book? It is really very comforting and informative to read day to day.
Fr. Cameron:
If I remember correctly, it took about a year for me to go through all the books and articles in English by Joseph Ratzinger and earmark the texts that seemed appropriate for Benedictus. When we had assembled about 400 or so, then we went through an editing process eliminating any texts that we thought might be a little too hard to understand out of context, etc.

Paul Grange
Anaheim, CA
Father Cameron: I've used your book off and on this past year; thank you.
I'd like to ask both of you for recommendations for full-length books by the Holy Father. Are there any that are not too "theological" that an educated layman could read, understand and benefit from?
Carl A. Anderson:
In addition to Benedictus, which we read this month, I would certainly recommend Salt of the Earth and the Ratzinger Report. Both of these books are interviews of the Pope – prior to his election – by journalists. As a result, one gets a very good idea of his thought in very accessible language. That having been said, I think that Catholic laymen could also learn a great deal from Jesus of Nazareth, the pope’s most recent book.

Fr. Cameron:
If you look at page 400 of Benedictus you will see a list of all the different books that went into it. Of those, some I would recommend are God and the World, Introduction to Christianity, and Seek That Which Is Above. Most of the Holy Father's books are published by Ignatius Press, so if you look at their catalogue or log on to their website you will get a good sense of which books seem appropriate for spiritual reading.

This may be a tough one, but what is your favorite entry in the book? Did you try to match the reading to a particular feast day?
Carl A. Anderson:
There are so many excellent entries, it is difficult to choose one. But I should note that the theme of the Knights of Columbus' 125th Supreme Convention in Nashville last August was "The Yes of Jesus Christ". If we look at the entry in this book under September 27th, we see 'The Yes of Christian Families'. The Pope concludes this entry by saying, "For this reason, the building of each of the Christian families is framed in the context of the great family of the Church, which supports and accompanies it, and guarantees that there is a meaning and that in the future there will be the 'yes' of the Creator."

Fr. Cameron:
One favorite of mine is April 17, page 124, "Faith and the True Self." I can read that over and over again, and get something new from it each time. I remember that, as I was editing the book, a few of the texts I was reading made me go "Wow!" I said to myself, I should really keep track of these awesome ones. But of course I didn't. In terms of the layout of the texts, we did try to match readings to particular feast days. We used the liturgical calendar for the year 2006-2007. But since the dates of so many feast days fluctuate according to the secular calendar (for example, Ash Wednesday last year was February 21; this year it is February 6). So probably it will be a long time before that perfect alignment of texts with feast days happens again.

Robert T.
Worthy Supreme Knight, I hear you have a book of your own. Please tell us why you wrote it and who should read it. Do you think that Catholics have a special role in the world today?
Carl A. Anderson:
Thank you very much for your question. I do, in fact, have a book coming out on March 25th entitled "A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Build a Better World." As the title indicates, it is a book that I hope will be widely read by members of the Knights of Columbus and by Catholics everywhere. Taking as its inspiration the thought of the Church, particularly as explained by the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II and, most recently, Pope Benedict XVI, this book lays out a Catholic vision for the future and a role for each Catholic to play in building that future. You can read more about this book in an interview that I provided for the February issue of Columbia magazine.

Mason City, IA
Could you discuss the entry from the book for today, Jan. 24th?
Carl A. Anderson:
The entry is titled "The Commandments As the Form of Our Freedom." Pope Benedict, shortly before his papal election, spoke about the 'dictatorship of relativism' which is opposed to authentic freedom that leads us to embrace and do the good, based on the traditional understanding of the objective natural law. It is important to understand that the Pope places freedom and the Ten Commandments in the realm of rational understanding, as something that the intellect can grasp. So that freedom is based not on a 'dictatorship of relativism', where the ability to know the truth is denied from the start, but on a knowable truth that conforms to the way that God created us. Thus, he writes in this entry, that the Ten Commandments are "the foundation of every law of freedom and are the one truly liberating power in human history."

Fr. Cameron:
The Holy Father speaks of the Ten Commandments as a "great utterance." In this respect, they are like a word we have been waiting all our life to hear. The Pope says that the Ten Commandments are "the answer to the inner demands of our nature." That means that the Ten Commandments are not something added on to our life--something superimposed. Rather, they correspond with, as the Pope writes, "the inner demands of our nature." They open up "powers of understanding" in us because we were made for these words. The Ten Commandments do not limit us in some constricting way--rather, they set us free. They open up the path that makes our journey to happiness and fulfillment certain. And the more our freedom becomes enlivened by faith, the more we can hear the "great utterance" of the Ten Commandments and know exactly how God is loving us and showing us the way to friendship with him and others.

Jacob M.
Dearborn Hts, MI
Are there any specific quotes of the Holy Father that you think can help to guide or summarize the work of the Knights of Columbus?
Carl A. Anderson:
Yes, if we look to his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, we will find a number of themes that should inform the life of each Knight. Specifically, I would point to the following quote, which says that no matter how efficient or helpful government is in alleviating the suffering of people, there will always be a need for individual acts of charity performed in love. In short, there will always be a need for charity which the Knights of Columbus performs and provides so well and so often. The passage from Deus Caritas Est is found in section 28:

"Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such."

Jackson Mississippi
What lesson can Knights learn from this book?
Carl A. Anderson:
Our Supreme Chaplain Bishop Lori has recently restated, and the Knights of Columbus has long stressed, the need for Knights and their families to develop a deeper spiritual life. The Knights as an Order has always sought to foster among its members a spirituality based on the Eucharist, Marian devotion and practical charity, and we have also stressed the need for us to be in solidarity with the Holy Father, who has also stressed these areas of the faith very heavily. This book can aid Knights and their families in all of these endeavors. If we look at the entry, for example, for March 28th, we read Pope Benedict's words on "The Richness of Giving," of charity. I think that in these words every Knight and his family can find spiritual enrichment and a call to action that will help them become better Catholics and better persons in our society. In addition, I think meditating with our Pope each day in this book is a way for us to explore various elements of our faith and to glimpse the additional vast richness of our Church, while entering into communion with our Holy Father. It offers an opportunity for Knights and their families to pray for and with the Pope each day, which is a wonderful gift.

Fr. Cameron:
The book is a clear but profound way to learn what it means to be a Catholic, how important Catholic witness is for the world today, and that Christian heroism and holiness are actually the same thing.

New York City
As we prepare for Easter and the visit of the Pope, how important is this book for us as Catholics?
Carl A. Anderson:
This book is important because it gives, in an easy to use daily format, an excellent summary of the writing and thinking of Pope Benedict on so many issues that are important to Catholics in particular and the world in general.

Bob Pfiefer
What can we expect in the Pope’s visit to the United States this April?
Carl A. Anderson:
During the Pope’s visit, people in this country will begin to have a real sense of the holiness of Benedict and the depth, breadth and insight of his thought. I think the Pope will come with a message specific to our country and our circumstances, while also stressing the universal call to holiness outlined by the Second Vatican Council. I think he will emphasize the call of each one of us to live a holy life, wherever we are in our life’s journey. For the Knights of Columbus this call to holiness will take on a special meaning, given the Pope’s repeated reference to charity, as expressed eloquently in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est. Charity, of course, is the first principle of our Order , so we should listen with a special attention to the messages the Holy Father while he is here in our midst.

Fr. Cameron:
The Holy Father has at times spoken about how the Church might have to become smaller before it becomes larger--that is, through the lived faith of deeply committed, convicted Catholics, the faith will grow. I imagine the Holy Father will help us to understand this better by his visit.

New Mexico
Who do you think were the biggest influence on Benedict’s thought?
Carl A. Anderson:
Pope Benedict has made it very clear that one of the main influences on his thinking about the Church and the faith is St. Augustine. He calls himself “Augustinian” in his thinking in his book Salt of the Earth, and he has a very great respect for this Father of the Church.

Pauline K.
Amarillo, TX
Do the themes that Pope Benedict is concentrating on in his papacy "piggyback" on those from the papacy of John Paul?
Carl A. Anderson:
Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI were present at the Second Vatican Council and they took away from council a need for new evangelization in our modern or post-modern world. In his opening homily as Pope in the Sistine Chapel, Benedict said that John Paul was the authoritative interpreter of Vatican II, adding, "Pope John Paul II rightly pointed out the Council as a "compass" by which to take our bearings in the vast ocean of the third millennium. Also, in his spiritual Testament he noted, 'I am convinced that it will long be granted to the new generations to draw from the treasures that this 20th-century Council has lavished upon us.'"

Fr. Cameron:
I would like to reemphasize what Mr. Anderson has said regarding the theme of the New Evangelization. Moreover, as the events of recent days and months have shown, the theme of the relationship between faith and reason is absolutely crucial. This is something that Pope John Paul II highlighted in his encyclical Fides et Ratio.

Carl A. Anderson:
I'd like to thank Father Cameron for taking part in today's discussion. He is a special friend of the Order and has brought us many insights into the life of Father McGivney through his play, "He Was Our Father."

On Feb. 21 we will be discussing a short booklet, "10 Things Pope Benedict Wants You to Know," by the well-known Vatican correspondent John L. Allen Jr. I hope you can join us then.

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