Pope Benedict on Prayer: The Complete Set
Readers of CatholicCulture.org will remember that over about an eighteen month period before the start of the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI had devoted many of his weekly general audiences to an extended catechesis on prayer. Earlier he had done similar series on great spiritual figures throughout the history of the Church. We have called attention to these wonderful addresses as they were given.
But it is difficult to keep up with individual audiences as they occur, and still more difficult in this way to get a full sense of the continuity and depth of the subjects treated. Moreover, while all these audiences are available in our Year of Faith section, reading them online or in print-outs is not as satisfying as owning them in book form. Thus Ignatius Press has done an extremely valuable service in collecting the entire series on prayer into a brand new hardback, entitled A School of Prayer and subtitled “The Saints Show Us How to Pray”.
There are forty-seven audiences here, making a book of nearly 300 pages. Topics include the various types and purposes of prayer; prayer in the patriarchs and the prophets; reflections on some of the great psalms; Our Lord’s life of prayer; prayer as exemplified by such figures as Mary, Peter and certain later saints; and prayer in the Church and the liturgy. Each figure or topic is a showcase for Benedict’s brilliance as a spiritual teacher.
For the purposes of this review, I literally opened to a random page to select a sample passage:
The words spoken by Jesus [on the cross] after his invocation, “Father”, borrow a sentence from Psalm 31: “into your hand I commit my spirit” (Ps 31:6). Yet these words are not a mere citation but, rather, express a firm decision: Jesus “delivers” himself to the Father in an act of total abandonment. These words are a prayer of “entrustment”—total trust in God’s love. Jesus’ prayer as he faces death is dramatic, as it is for every man, but, at the same time, it is imbued with that deep calmness which is born from trust in the Father and from the desire to commend oneself totally to him.
This was excerpted from the chapter on “Prayer of Jesus in the Imminence of Death”. The book is filled with such wisdom, which can be easily applied to our own lives..
Nor is this the first time Ignatius Press has collected the Holy Father’s addresses and homilies. To speak only of the Wednesday audiences, Ignatius had already published Benedict’s four earlier series on, respectively, Jesus, the Apostles and the Early Church (apostolic age), Church Fathers (late 1st through 4th centuries), Church Fathers and Teachers (5th through 12th centuries), and Holy Men and Women from the Middle Ages and Beyond (13th through 19th centuries). Some of these are available as ebooks and audio books, though I have pictured only the hardbacks at the end of this review.
When Benedict resigned, he was in the midst of a final series of Wednesday audiences devoted to the Year of Faith. One reason for sadness at his resignation is that this series will not be completed. Pope Benedict had a marvelous ability to pack tremendous depth into a very few words, offering piercing insights without apparent academic labor. Each of these compilations of his audiences makes superb spiritual reading.
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