A Priestly Woof

Memoirs 1927 – 1977

Joseph Ratzinger

A week ago I returned home from Germany after enjoying a wonderful two week holiday there. I stayed in the south-east of the country with my Camino friend Ellena. Every day, I got to look out of the window and see the schwarzwald, the Black Forest; it was heavenly.

During my visit, I decided to read the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s memoir, Milestones. Well, he is German, after all!

I first read the book a few years ago. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my copy of it (I am surrounded by books at home, which rather ironically makes the task of finding any somewhat difficult) so downloaded a copy to my Kindle App.

The book is a very short, around 150 pages, and lightly written account of the first half of Ratzinger’s life. Reading it was a joy – admittedly, this was partly because I am Ratzinger fanboy, but also because he comes across as a very humble individual.

Of course he does, you might say, he wrote it! That’s a fair point. On that note, if I have one regret about the book it is that it is much too short and constantly glosses over the controversies of Ratzinger’s life, whether they involved him (and, for example, his teaching career during the tumultuous sixties) or events that he was part of (Vatican II). I wish he had decided to say more about them.

Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI has been a titanic influence on the Catholic Church in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first; if you are interested in either him or it, Milestones is a super read. I would also read it to get the low down on someone who will surely, come the day, be declared a saint (and, I hope, a Doctor of the Church). When you do, you will be in the presence of a calm, God filled man who as it seems to me entirely in the light of his Faith.

Credit Where It’s Due
Front Page of Milestones: Amazon

We Have A Saint!

When I told the university chaplain that I was interested in becoming a Catholic, he introduced me to a saintly lady whose first action was to suggest that I read something by John Henry Newman – we settled upon his autobiography, his Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

This was in 1996. Back then, Newman was a ‘mere’ Venerable. In 2910 Pope Benedict XVII beatified him during a visit to England. In February this year, Pope Francis authorised Newman’s canonisation. Today, the Vatican announced that it would be carried out on 13th October this year.

I am extremely happy at Newman’s elevation to the ranks of the Saints. However, while on the bus home this evening, I asked myself – what exactly does Saint John Henry Newman bring to the table?

It’s easy to see what he brings for priests – Newman was utterly committed to his priestly ministry.

It’s easy to see what he brings for theologians and scholars – Newman was expert in both disciplines.

What about for lay people, though; people like me? If I am academically minded this question is easily answered. But otherwise…? What is the JHN Factor that makes him a Saint worth paying attention to?

I have to admit, I don’t yet have an answer for that; at least, not a specifically Newmanian one. I suppose we could point to his virtues – patience, perseverance, etc, but as I write this nothing that speaks to me specifically of Newman comes to mind. I look forward to thinking more about Newman’s life and seeing what answers I can come up with.

Camino Postcard 16: Castrojeriz to Población de Campos

First of all, I owe the people of HONTANAS an apology. I realised the other day that in my earlier posts, I referred to their hometown as ‘Honatas’. Lo siento!

Day Four on the Meseta

Today, we ate breakfast at our albergue in Castrojeriz before setting off. Our boots had spent the night in a little shed. When we collected them we found that they were now more or less dry.

Tying our laces up, we started walking; just the three of us, now; we left Tony at the albergue to catch us up later.

This morning, we climbed the alto de Mostelares. The path wound its way to the top, stretching our legs but never being too strenuous. At the top, we were rewarded for our efforts with a beautiful view of the valley we had just crossed.

A short plateau followed before we began walking down a very steep incline. It was so steep, we had to lean backwards as we walked.

The clouds skudded across the sky as we continued on our way – a breezy day in the heavens.

Upon a moment, we came to a chapel where we paused to stamp our pilgrim passports. Framed photographs of the current and last two popes hung proudly on the wall. The photograph of John Paul II showed him wearing a brown pellegrina with scallop shells embroided onto it. This photograph was taken in the early 80s when John Paul made his own pilgrimage to Santiago.

We next stopped at an interesting café-albergue in Itero de la Vega, where we saw bronze insects mounted on the wall. Tony caught up with us here so we ate together.

After stopping again at Boadilla del Camino, we joined the Canal de Castilla, which took us to Frómista. As canals go, it was a fairly ordinary one although the high walled lock at its end with its two bridges, one held up by a lovely arch, were impressive sights.

Our original intention had been to stop in Frómista but at Boadilla Tony told us that the albergues there (or at least the one we had intended to stop at) had been reviewed unfavourably online. In contrast, an albergue three kilometres up the road – just before Población de Campos – had been very favourably reviewed – so we decided to head for that one.

The albergue in question is called La Finca and it was unique among all the albergues we stopped at on the Camino Francés. How can I describe it? There were no dorms, but rather, individual bedrooms. I say ‘bedrooms’ reservedly because they were more like cubicles. The bedroom/cubicles had an upper and lower level. The lower level was on the ground floor; the upper level was accessible via a short set of stairs.

Our first impression of La Finca was very favourable. Very soon, however, we began to see some of the cracks – the showers didn’t have locks on them and the water was permanently cold; neither were the bedroom/cubicles as clean as one would have liked. I think La Finca had only lately opened so hopefully these were just teething problems. At any rate, the food that evening was good. As we ate, proud parents took photographs of their daughter in her first communion dress outside.

As soon as I finished my meal, I retired to my bed. I was feeling out of sorts that afternoon and not in the mood for company. I did a little writing before going to the toilet. When I came back, I found Ellena sitting on my bed. She had been concerned for me and came to make sure I was alright. Did I say I didn’t want company? I will always be very grateful for the company of a friend. We sat and chatted and peace came back to my heart.