Benedict's Mustard Seed in Germany

It got almost no coverage in the mainstream media — and what coverage there was generally was of the “protesters will greet the pope” variety that prefaced his enormously successful visit, last year, to the United Kingdom — but Pope Benedict XVI was quietly impressive and persuasive in Germany, last week.

The world may little have noted it, but the truth is, all of Benedict’s papal visits have been those very quiet triumphs. A few years back Spengler, writing in the Asia Times, characterized Benedict as saying, “I have a mustard seed, and I’m not afraid to use it.”

He’s quite right. Benedict is a small and humble mustard seed, and in time, we’re going to see huge and healthy new growth born of his tireless evangelizing.

Peter Seewald, the German journalist and former atheist, encountered that mustard seed when he interviewed then-Cardinal Ratzinger for God and the World — a long discussion that was transcribed word-for-word (and according to Seewald, virtually unchanged in editing) that resulted in both a fascinating book and Seewald’s own conversion. His follow-up conversation with Ratzinger-as-Pope, Light of the World, showed the mustard seed still potent. Now he writes of Benedict’s visit to Germany:

“[Benedict's success was] a small miracle…shortly before [he arrived] there was a very aggressive, anti-clerical assault by the media.”

“All of this brings to mind George Orwell’s ‘1984,’ in which an imaginary enemy, a nightmare, is created in order to scare people.” “And yet,” Seewald noted, “despite all of this incredible effort by the media, an innumerable amount of people stood up and refused to be deceived.”
It’s as if they were saying that everything would be wonderful and orderly in the world if the Vatican just ceased to exist.”

“We were all witnesses to something much greater. Where were all the masses of critics and protesters? They never showed up. And yet 350,000 people made great sacrifices in order to personally listen to the Pope and to attend Mass with him. Millions watched on television. The Pope’s books are selling faster than ever … And undoubtedly never before has so much intelligence, wisdom and truth, so much of what is fundamental, been heard in Germany.”
[The media] work like crazy in a state of antagonism against the Pope…to see Benedict XVI “walk through the ferocious pack of media dogs without losing his composure for one second” was amazing.

This brings to mind Tim Muldoon’s really excellent column this week, about what Catholicism actually is:

Many media outlets delight in targeting the Pope. A host of critical theories have Catholicism in their crosshairs. Those who would decry structures of power are likely thinking about the Church. The Catholic Church is the big bad bogeyman for every conceivable ill in the Western World, because it has had the most formative influence on our civilization.

But Catholicism is not, fundamentally, an ultramontane institution. Its hierarchical structure, its history, its social structures, its money, its patrimony of art and architecture—all these are in service to something much more fundamental. The Church of 2011 has a radical continuity with the stripped-down underground Church of 111: it is all about the love of God. In preaching Christ crucified and risen, it is telling its story of being surprised and delighted that God is real and present. In building cathedrals, painting frescoes, copying manuscripts, erecting dioceses, sending missionaries, composing Glorias, establishing schools, and electing popes, it is drawing together a family of those who have been seized by love for the world through responding to Jesus.

The world, and the worldly, don’t “get” it, because despite the material trappings that can be so distracting but which have their purposes, the church is not worldly; it is not of the world and does not belong to the world. She is a system supernatural, existing within the material, and to stand outside and sneer — while easy — only enhances all that one cannot “get” about it.

Over at OSV, John Norton makes a point of directing you toward the meat and potatoes of all the good stuff Benedict delivered while in Germany, and which you only saw in Catholic media or not at all. It’s well-worth your reading!

More here

Rocco Palmo with the definitive Benedict-in-Germany post

Related: Rocco reminds us that 33-years ago was elected our FIRST Pope John Paul — and he really did have a wonderful smile and way. It was kind of great to see him, again!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Manny

    I hope you’re right that a mustard seed was planted. I too am impressed with our Pope’s intellect, especially so given his age. I just hope people are listening, and if listening moved in their hearts and souls. I know we Catholics are listening. Are the agnostics (the atheists are almost a lost cause) and those tenuous Christians who are engulfed in a secular ocean listening?

  • Akil

    God Bless B16 !

  • Paolo

    I can’t imagine a more adequate term of his office and personality than, ” a Father of the Church” of the third millennium. Holy, absolutely genial. In a word, his life can be described with the words of Proverbs”Ubi humilitas-the motto of JP1- ibi sapientia” (11,2). Intelligent:distance from the world, sound judgement when approaching it, mostly the West. Humble:the Holy Father could be defined the characterization of modesty, his incarnation. I just noticed directly this way when, as Cardinal, he would have accepted an harsh observation about the speech he deliveded at Lateran University made by an anonymous interlocutor.

  • Greta

    There is a real amazing gift in the Catholic Church for the world and all of mankind. Taken in its fullness, it is a faith that tells us that taking up the cross and following all the rules is the only way through the narrow gate to an eternity in paradise.

    We use to think this way in America. It was a country where those who followed the rules and worked hard had the opportunity to pursue happiness. It was a country where “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”, could resonate. It was a country that rallied to a “shining city on a hill.”

    Sadly, many in this country bought into the victim state, the nanny state, the socialist agenda where we expect government to do for us while we do as least possible for the country.

    Slowly, I see many of the youth in our Catholic Church becoming solid followers of the teaching of Pope John Paul II and the quiet effective teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. They have bought into what America use to stand for and what the Church actual teaching stands for in its fullness and truth.

    Last weekend here in Cincinnati, we were blessed to have Credo, I believe for the weekend where many of our young people spent the weekend in retreat with Eucharistic adoration, Mass, Reconcilliation, and deep thought about what it means to be Catholic. I expect many vocations to come from this wonderful event where kids from 8th grade through high school were in tune with the Church and exited about being there. “I believe, help my unbelief.” - Mark 9:24

    America also needs a return of its people to faith which our founders said was essential to the government they formed, but little resembles the government we see today. Until we can end the culture of death in America, we will have a long road ahead of us for everyone.

  • Doc

    It is no surprise that the corporate media attack Pope Benedict so fiercely. He represents a strong Catholic Church and the Left has always feared a strong Church, just as they’ve always had fear and loathing of a strong USA. These media, this heard of independant minds, is the tip of the spear of the modern manifestation of Communism, although nearly all of them would never admit to it. The stated goals of the Left may have changed somewhat over the years, but the enemies remain the same. America and the Catholic Church.

  • Chess Griffin

    Wonderful write-up, thank you. We are very blessed to have B16 and it upsets me greatly when the media makes absolutely no attempt to understand him or his message.