Monday, September 17, 2012

Well Said: Belief in the Middle Ages

From Introduction to Christianity by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) which is admittedly dense but is also simply terrific. One of the things that I love most about this book is the way that Benedict will casually admit a truth that many believers would like to ignore. He does it time and again and every time I mentally cheer because hiding our heads in the sand is not only unbecoming, the only ones we fool are ourselves.
...when today as believers in our age we hear it said, a little enviously perhaps, that in the Middle Ages everyone without exception in our lands was a believer, it is a good thing to cast a glance behind the scenes, as we can today, thanks to historical research. This will tell us that even in those days there was the great mass of nominal believers and a relatively small number of people who had really entered into the inner movement of belief. It will show us that for many belief was only a ready-made mode of life, by which for them the exciting adventure really signified by the word credo was at least as much concealed as disclosed. This is simply because there is an infinite gulf between God and man; because man is fashioned in such a way that his eyes are only capable of seeing what is not God, and thus for man God is and always will be the essentially invisible, something lying outside his field of vision. ...
Benedict never forgets that Truth can only be found by not ignoring all truth when we come across it, even when that truth is something we would rather gloss over. Such as the fact that people are people both in the Middle Ages and now ... and that nominal believers are not something only found in our time.


  1. That book absolutely blew my mind. I did a whole series of blog posts based on it. If you like, you can go to our blog and use the search engine; just type in “Professor Ratzinger”. You’ll love it! I promise.

  2. no doubt the excerpt goes on but I'm troubled by how distant God is even after the Incarnation.