“Human life cannot be realized by itself. Our life is an open question, an incomplete project, still to be brought to fruition and realized. Each man’s fundamental question is: How will this be realized—becoming man? How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path toward happiness?

To evangelize means: to show this path—to teach the art of living

(…)

Yet another temptation lies hidden beneath this—the temptation of impatience, the temptation of immediately finding the great success, in finding large numbers. But this is not God’s way. For the Kingdom of God as well as for evangelization, the instrument and vehicle of the Kingdom of God, the parable of the grain of mustard seed is always valid

(…)

An old proverb says: “Success is not one of the names of God.” New evangelization must surrender to the mystery of the grain of mustard seed and not be so pretentious as to believe to immediately produce a large tree. We either live too much in the security of the already existing large tree or in the impatience of having a greater, more vital tree—instead we must accept the mystery that the Church is at the same time a large tree and a very small grain. In the history of salvation it is always Good Friday and Easter Sunday at the same time”

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Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

(future Pope Benedict XVI)

Address to Catechists and Religion Teachers
Jubilee of Catechists, 12 December 2000

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  1. Avatar Joaquin Mejia says:

    I thought it was Pope Francis! I was quite surprised that the quote is from Cardinal Ratzinger. I guess the tone of both men are quite similar.

    • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

      It is! They are indeed very similar, and you’ll see that once you’ve read Benedict / Ratzinger with more detail. Those who try to pit one against the other show a severe lack of knowledge of ratzingerian thought. In my humble opinion, there are more diferences between Benedict and John Paul II, than between Benedict and Francis.

      • Avatar Joaquin Mejia says:

        This just reminded me to go to a Catholic bookstore as soon as possible so that I can get a book by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Hopefully, I will get to buy more than one book because I know his books will be good!

        If it is okay with you, may you explain how you think Benedict XVI is more similar to Francis than to St. John Paul II? I don’t want to have an argumentative conversation. I am just curious to know your thoughts because I have read many comparisons between the three most recent successors of St. Peter. Thank you!

      • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

        This is more a hunch I have from having read the three of them, a kind of intuition you get after becoming acquainted with them.

        As Ralph noted below, they are both heavily influenced by the same sources, namely Second Vatican Council theology (Ratzinger was an active member in the Council and Francis is the first Pope to have been ordained after the Council).

        Also, although I don’t like doing this (for it is to make the Church more worldly,) if we must place each pontiff on a left-right political spectrum, both Benedict and Francis are closer to the center-left than John Paul II, who is the most right-wing Pope of the 20th century (note: this is not a defect, nor a virtue for me, it’s just an imperfect way to describe their thoughts.)

        Ratzinger’s encyclicals are mostly about charity / love and hope. This is extremely Bergoglian.

        Most of the times, you can only distinguish between a ratzingerian quote and a bergoglian quote in this regard: the former tends to be more theoretical, while the latter tends to be more practical. As far as the content of the quote goes, they are usually similar. They are concerned with modern-day man’s status in an over-materialistic and dehumanizing society, while John Paul II tends to be a little more strict with both doctrine and discipline.

      • Avatar Joaquin Mejia says:

        Oh. That’s interesting. I don’t like it when people use such political language when describing Pope Francis and his two predecessors either. Peole use the words “conservative” and “liberal” a lot but that makes everything so confusing. If we learn more about the three popes, then we will know that they cannot be put in these narrow political categories. Why can’t we just see them as they really are:servants of Jesus Christ.

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

      • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

        Yes, it’s an imperfect way of describing it, as I mentioned. For now, all I can say is, the best way to understand what I’m telling you is just by reading them.

        And by all means, don’t stick just with those three popes. I’m having a blast reading Pope St. Pius X’s documents and drawing some parallels with Francis. Also, one pope that is usually underrated is John Paul the First… he has a book called Ilustrissimi, where he sends make-believe cards to various historical and literary figures. Very interesting.

      • Avatar Ralph says:

        I agree and I wonder if this is because Benedict and Francis were influenced by some of the same trends and figures in Catholic thought. For example, Romano Guardini is a major influence on both Benedict and Francis and it shows in their thought.

  2. Avatar Ashpenaz says:

    Both popes remind us that holiness is an invisible process between that person and God. What we see from the outside might not reflect what’s actually going on. Even when we see someone in a gay marriage, a divorced and remarried person, a woman who has chosen to terminate her pregnancy for health reasons, we don’t see the “mustard seed” of faith which God is growing in that person. Guadete Et Exultate tells us each person’s path to holiness is unique. Spe Salvi tells us that most people have a fundamental option towards God even in the middle of our messiness. If the Mass is Heaven on Earth, then when we receive Eucharist with gay, divorced, undocumented, and otherwise marginalized people, we are seeing the Kingdom among us. We see Jesus calling all the broken to His supper, based on what He has called them to do, not what we think they should be doing.