The only shortfall in Cardinal Ratzinger's book is its brevity and this cost him a star. Otherwise go for it. As I read the Holy Father's epistles, particularly as they pertain to the Holy Eucharist, I recalled the opposing views of his predecessors. John Paul II, for example, knowing many priests were homosexuals, allowed homosexuals to create the Host; something that our current pontiff is intent on bringing to an end. Also, John Paul I, had he lived, would have gone to the other extreme. Not only would he continue to permit [...] he would have permitted women and even [...] to sanctify the Host.
I think of the 33 day pope as the 'Patron Saint of Orphans'. Few people, today, remember the plight of born-out-of-wedlock children. Once condemned by the Church [...] made up most of Italy's immense orphan population - several million in the early twentieth century when this pope was growing up. In 1973, Paul VI motioned to make Luciani (John Paul) a cardinal. The Archbishop of Venice sent a private message to the Vatican that unless Paul reversed the Church's condemnation of [...], he would refuse the 'red hat'. Needless to say, Paul complied. Yet, even today, a child born out of wedlock cannot be ordained a priest. Likewise, being recognized by the Church as subordinate human beings, women are unworthy to create the Eucharist. Things that John Paul, had he lived, was intent on correcting.
John Paul was an ardent feminist activist as evidenced by his letters to Carlos Goldini in his book Humbly Yours. As a Pope, he declared publicly "God is more our Mother than She is our Father" the day before his sudden and unwitnessed death. His philosophical mentor was Serbati Rosmini,[...] and an ultraliberal progressive who had forty of his propositions for change in the Church condemned by the Vatican in 1887.
It was John Paul's atheist socialist revolutionary father who placed him in a minor seminary at the age of eleven with the commission to bring change to the Church. There are some books which are misclassified as biographies of this man, abbreviated resumes: he was born on, became a priest on, etc.; none of which speak of where he stood on the issues of his day for the Church would rather forget where he stood on the issues of his day. The reason he is the only pope the Church has never commissioned a biography be written.
The only existing true biography of this good man's life is Lucien Gregoire's 'Murder in the Vatican' which despite its title is much more about this good man's life than about the investigation of his mysterious death. I would recommend clicking on the white 2006 cover of that book to review its first chapter which relives the suffrage of the orphans of his time. Then return here and buy them both - free shipping. I did. You will find that there are two sides to every Host.
Cardinal Ratzinger, the new Pope Benedict XVI, is a man whose devotion and spirituality is definitively focused upon the Eucharist. In this text, 'Gott ist uns nah: Euchariste: Mitte des Lebens', Ratzinger provides a series of essays reflecting on the importance, the mystery, and the spiritual aspects of the Eucharistic feast. 'God is with us and God is among us' is the title of the first essay, and sets the tone for Ratzinger's devotion in this regard. God in Jesus Christ took on human form to become for us a way and a light, and this same presence is available to us, not just on Sunday mornings and other times when we are in church, but throughout all our lives, according to Ratzinger. Church must mean more than simply that which happens in lofty and grand buildings a short while on a weekly basis - just as the Eucharist provides an Incarnational way for us to be in relationship with God, so too must we strive for ways to connecting our church life (ethically, spiritually, and practically) in our daily life and work. Ratzinger shows his education and breadth of knowledge on these theological matters by drawing on sermons and essays he's written in the past, as well as reflections on biblical texts, from the Torah to the Epistles to the Acts of the Apostles as lead inspirations, and further into the heart of the gospel itself, reflected through the Paschal mystery. Like his predecessor Pope John Paul II, Ratzinger also has a significant strand of Marian devotion - again, his first essay draws upon the incarnation as Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. 'She has an indisputable place in our belief in the living and acting God.' The Incarnation required acceptance, first from Mary, and continues to require acceptance by those who attend mass regularly, and those who strive to live their lives in conformity with the creeds. Creedal history is a principle guideline in Ratzinger's development in much of his theology here - a very traditional theologian in method, he nonetheless can be surprising in the breadth of his interpretations. This is a good book from which to glean insight into the heart of theology of the Eucharist, the central rite of the church, of the new pope, Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Ratzinger never fails to satisfy the reader hungry for insight and depth. In this small book, which is a collection of past homilies and addresses on the Eucharist, Ratzinger discusses the Eucharist from many perspectives. For Catholics, the Eucharist is the "heart of life," as the book's subtitle states. So to deepen knowledge of the Eucharist is life-changing. For Protestants, there is no better way to see the Catholic difference, a Catholic difference shared with the Eastern Orthodox. You can see the Catholic difference in this excerpt: "The church is not just a space in which something sometimes happens early in the morning, while for the rest of the day it stands empty, 'unused'. There is always the 'Church' in the church building, because the Lord is always giving himself, because the eucharistic mystery remains present . . . ." (p. 89). This excerpt is from the address entitled "The Presence of the Lord in the Sacrament," which, in my view, is the most compelling of all the addresses in the book.