God does amazing things with the "gaffes" of honest, diligent people who do their best.


Tom Hoopes, writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, is the former editor of the National Catholic Register and Faith & Family magazine.

Tim Drake

The Pope's Forest

The media's recent single-minded attention to Pope Benedict XVI's comments in Light of the World demonstrates what the popular Get Religion blog has long held. The press just "doesn't get religion." Their attention on one issue -- contraception -- exemplifies that they cannot see the forest for the trees.

Contraception is one -- and a very minor -- issue among many covered in the pope's interview-style book.

Much larger themes emerge . . . the forest, if you will. Not surprisingly, that forest is primarily, as has been the case throughout Joseph Ratzinger's entire life, the theme of living as if God doesn't exist. That problem, and the Church's response to it, dominates the book.

One surprise I discovered was how often the Holy Father uses the word new. It practically screamed from the pages at me.

To give you some idea of its prevalence, the word new or renewal is used approximately 150 times. Compare that to the pope's use of the word Christ (84) or Catholic (109) and you see how central it is.

As the supreme pastor, Pope Benedict speaks of how his trips and experiences of the universal Church show him that there is a "new beginning" present in the Church.

". . . We see at this hour Christianity is developing a new creativity . . ." he says, citing "a dynamic of new movements," "new Catholic awakenings," "new life," "new enthusiasm," "new initiatives," and "new possibilities." "I am quite optimistic that Christianity is on the verge of a new dynamic."

Speaking of our culture's Godlessness, the pope calls it a "new religion," and says a "new intolerance that is spreading." He adds that this new paganism should be countered with a new apologetics, a "new evangelization."

We are "in an age in which a new evangelization is needed; in which the one gospel has to be proclaimed both in its great, enduring rationality and in its power that transcends rationality, so that it can reenter our thinking and understanding in a new way."

He calls on bishops to reflect on ways to give catechesis a "new heart and a new face." Repeatedly, the Holy Father stresses the need to find "new ways" to spread the Word.

"That is why, I think, as a new emphasis we have to give priority to the question about God," says Benedict. "This makes it all the more important for Catholicism to present its faith in a new and vital way and to reproclaim it as a force for unity, a force of solidarity and of eternity's openness to time."

The pope also prescribes a method. At the heart of such efforts, the Holy Father points to Christ in the Eucharist, "the place where man can receive the kind of formation from which new things come into being."

The pope's clarion call is this: "We must summon fresh energy for tackling the problem of how to announce the gospel anew in such a way that this world can receive it, and we must muster all of our energies to do this."