‘Last Testament’ by Pope Benedict XVI with Peter Seewald: Book Review
The Last Testament is the first book I have read concerning the writings of Pope Benedict XVI. I am so glad that I picked this wonderful and enlightening memoir to read. The Last Testament is probably one of the last interviews in a book form that Pope Benedict XVI will publish. It is very in-depth, comprehensive, but a fast read. Although I had a very busy schedule the past whole week, I managed to finish the book in four days; it actually would take lesser time than that. If you are a fan of His Holiness’s writings then you should not forget to add this book to your collection. It is amazing and quite revelatory to a certain extent.
Reading the writings of His Holiness is an intellectual feast. You will get to know about the Pope’s knowledge of the importance of the liturgy, his life in theological studies, and about his books. He is my kind of a theologian, absolutely going by the book. He is a master in scripture and well versed with the structure and functioning of the Catholic way of life. His theology is precise and not murky. In this book, you will learn about his love for Augustine theology and a bit of a disdain for Thomasian theology. You will learn that it takes great dedication and a strong will power to write the amazing number of books that His Holiness has written throughout his life. He is an inspiration to me both as a writer and a teacher, or rather a professor.
I too am very interested in Catholic theology as well as other forms of philosophy and intellectual thought. I was astonished to know that His Holiness has studied and taught almost all the philosophical forms of thought known to the human intellect and still finds a Christian basis in it all. His Holiness finds unity and succor in the basic idea of a universal God who is infinite in a finite realm. Also, that this God has an infinite element in a finite garb who is Lord Jesus Christ. I was amazed to read about how secular His Holiness’s thoughts are as he has studied the writings of Lord Krishna as well as the Vedas and shown a parallel dimension to this infinite being in the form of the ‘God’ we all worship. He has studied, written about, and mingled with people from all religions and all walks of life. However, I want to make it clear here that as far as this memoir is concerned, he has been a bit private about his personal feelings and life.
Maybe the reason why this aspect of the memoir did not come out the way I expected it to is that in earlier books, the Pope Emeritus has already talked and clarified his position on various issues and topics that we associate with him. This book the Last Testament makes me realize that even at the age of eighty-eight when this book was written, His Holiness is not someone who loses his cool. He is a very levelheaded and calm personality with an active as well as a highly alert mind. He is sound in his discussion with the interviewer and co-author Peter Seewald and is not perturbed even by the most difficult questions. I found him so calm that it is unbelievable; I live in a house with four senior citizens all way younger than His Holiness and all of them are firebrands because they are so independently minded. Pope Benedict XVI is independently minded and has built up the intellectual aspects of the church, especially the liturgy of the Catholic Church. He did all this despite having lost vision in one eye due to brain hemorrhage, having become a Pope at the late age of seventy-eight, and having to deal with people who didn’t understand that he was an introvert and needed to spend more time secluded and just being himself.
Peter Seewald has done a wonderful job with the questions and has been politely rude whenever required. He has brought out the scholar in this book the Last Testament and it is a marvel how expertly he handles the questions. I loved seeing that the Pope was and is so introverted and of a scholarly disposition. He reminds me a lot of myself, including the part where he loves to play the piano. I love playing the piano myself but had to give it away to make room for more bookshelves packed with books. You can check out that part of my bookish life in my memoirs The Reclusive Writer & Reader of Bandra and Scenes of a Reclusive Writer & Reader of Mumbai.
I was happy to read the Pope’s thoughts on the liturgy, his scholarly mentors, his views about philosophy, and his take on why Catholics should continue to evangelize in a time when Christianity is being followed by fewer people. Pope Benedict XVI is realistic and knows that most of us living in society today are either completely atheistic or somewhat agnostic. It is in this kind of society that he still believes the Gospel can work magic and will still work magic in the life of believers. For those of you who are wondering, I am an existentialist in an almost nihilistic sense. If you want to know more about the different types of atheism then do check out my book review on John Gray’s awesome book the Seven Types of Atheism. You will not regret it, and have fun choosing which atheism you fit into if you are one! However, although I’m an existentialist-nihilist, I still practice my Roman Catholic faith and evangelize. The Last Testament is a great book to learn about the Pope Emeritus and you will be happy to know that he has written such a quantity of quality work that it will blow your mind away.
I highly recommend this vital Catholic memoir to you. It is all about our Pope Emeritus, his beginnings, and his ultimate destiny. If you are looking for shocking details you won’t find them here; the Pope Emeritus is as cool as a cucumber where that is concerned, but he is a person of that nature and you can’t help but love him for it. He is well aware that he is not like any of the Popes before him and certainly not like our present Papa Francis but, he has been a reformer as well as a preserver of the faith. The interviewer Peter Seewald feels that after Benedict XVI the Pope Emeritus, a new age of Papacy and holiness related to it has dawned on humankind. Whether the Gospel stands the test of this present time it is for the Popes coming after this who will determine that.
I loved this book but will not be doing an in-depth analysis of it on this blog. It is a very good book nevertheless so do get your copy of this book as soon as possible. I’ll try to get my hands on more of His Holiness’s books and then review as well as analyze them for you here on my blog.
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