The Story of Benedict XVI for Young People by Claire Jordan Mohan
2007, New Hope Publications, 80 pages, softcover, Catholic
This is a compact, readable story of the life of Pope Benedict. It focuses mainly on his young life and early manhood and moves quickly through his 24 years as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The most interesting parts are the descriptions of Pope Benedict’s life as young Joseph Ratzinger, a youth in Germany during Hitler’s reign. It’s obvious God had special plans for Joseph as he and his family were spared the more rigorous persecution others endured. Joseph’s father was able to see emerging evil in the events of the times and prepared and protected his family from them by moving out to the country when the children were young. They were able to continue to practice their faith and Joseph and his brother were able to begin their seminary studies.
The author includes endearing details, such as describing how as Cardinal Ratzinger he would walk the streets of Rome in a simple cassock. Those he met thought he was a simple priest and stopped him to ask directions or for Mass times. Although shy and serious and sometimes criticized for his decisions as head of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, he was well respected for his courtesy and intellect. He always stopped to speak to seminarians who met him on the streets and would remember their names and home countries. Throughout the book, the author also focuses on the strength of the relationships between Joseph and his family, relationships that nurtured and fostered his faith.
The book has a few other interesting additions: an explanation of Benedict XVI’s papal coat of arms, a page of quotes from Pope Benedict, and a timeline of his life.
This is a “can’t miss” book for young people today, both to learn the life history of our new pope, but also to see a holy family in action and the triumph of a humble spirit in the face of evil.
Recommend for 4th grade and up. Read aloud for the whole family.
Reviewed by Margot Davidson (4-23-07)
Available from Catholic Heritage Curricula