What I like about the pope

One point among many, of course.

This weekend, a friend was telling me of a lecture she went to on St. Catherine of Siena. Apparently, this professor was Catholic, an Italian scholar and extremely knowledgable of the saint and her writings, even to the point of choosing to center her career around further studies of her.

You would think, then, that when asked by a member of the audience what about St. Catherine has impacted her life personally, she’d have something to say. My friend said she didn’t really answer the question.

I wasn’t there, but from what I’ve heard, either the lecturer felt caught off guard/unable to sum up in one pithy answer how Catherine of Siena has changed her life … or, there was a disconnect in her mind between the study of a medieval saint and the witness she is to our lives today.

It made me think of the pope’s general audience last Wednesday, in which he talked about … St. Germanus. (Me: Who?)

Below is the Vatican Information Service’s write up; I emphasized where Pope Benedict showed how Germanus’ life can be a model for us.


VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2009 (VIS) – During his general audience this morning Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to St. Germanus of Constantinople, who “played an important role in the complex history of the battle for images during the so-called iconoclastic crisis, and was able to resist the pressure of an iconoclastic emperor, … Leo III.

…  The Holy Father went on: “Patriarch Germanus’ appeals to Church tradition and to the real effectiveness of certain images, unanimously recognised as ‘miraculous’, were all to no avail. The emperor became ever more intractable in implementing his policies of reform. … Germanus had no desire to bow tothe emperor’s will in matters he considered vital to orthodox faith. … As a consequence he felt obliged to resign as patriarch, condemning himself to exile in a monastery where he died in obscurity. Nonetheless his name re-emerged at the Second Nicean Council … of 787 where his merits were recognised”.

…   The Holy Father concluded by considering three aspects in which St.
Germanus still has something to say to modern man. Firstly, in the need to recognise “the visibility of God in the world and in the Church”,
because  “God created man in His image but that image was covered with dirt and sin” and the Creator  “could almost no longer see it. Thus the Son of God became man and … in Christ, the true image of God, we too can … learn to see ourselves as His image”. If, to prevent idolatry and the danger of pagan images, God prohibited the Israelites from creating His image, yet “when He became visible in Christ through the Incarnation it became legitimate to reproduce the face of Christ. … Holy images teach us to see God in the face of Christ, … of the saints and of all human beings”.

 Secondly, Germanus shows us “the beauty and dignity of the liturgy”, which must be celebrated “with an awareness of the presence of God and with a beauty and dignity that enable us to glimpse His splendour”.

 The third aspect is that of “love for the Church”, the Pope concluded. “It may be that in the Church, as in ourselves, we see sin and other negative things, yet with the help of faith … we can always rediscover divine beauty in the Church. In the Church, God offers Himself to us in the Eucharist, He speaks to us, … He forgives us and He teaches us to forgive. Let us pray that God may teach us to see His presence and His beauty in the Church, to see His presence in the world”.


I love that. Short, applicable and real. I’m not only more educated about the Church and the heroes of our faith,  but I’ve been given a graspable example of why it all matters. The Incarnation … seeing Christ not only in an icon, but in the faces “of the saints and of  all human beings” … gaining a deeper appreciation and awe of the liturgy … and relearning how to love the Church, despite its dirt and stains. I find that last point alone — that it takes faith, not mere human eyes, to recognize “the divine beauty in the Church”  —  so relevant to our world today, as steeped as it is in secularism and, at best, distrust against the Church and, at worst, vehement bias.

Cathechetics majors, take note; I like learning like this :o)

So thank you, Pope Benedict, and thank you, St. Germanus. I won’t name a kid after you, but you’re cool.


One thought on “What I like about the pope

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