17th September

Last Conversations is a book by Peter Seewald based on interviews with Pope Benedict XVI. ItJesus-brings-fire was published in several European languages recently and will be published in English under the title Last Testament in November.

One of the questions asked of Pope Benedict is about the dark night of the soul and the perceived absence of God.

Seewald: Have you also experienced any of those ‘dark nights’ of which many saints speak?

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI: Such powerful experiences, no. Perhaps I am not holy enough to have plumbed the depths of that obscurity. However sometimes, things happen to the persons around us that push us to ask ourselves how the good God can permit it. And these are already important questions. Then one must stay firm in the faith, and believe that He knows more than we do.”

Seewald “How do you face such problems of faith?”

Benedict replies: “I face them first of all by not abandoning the underlying certainty of the faith and remaining, one might say, immersed in it. And knowing that if I do not understand something, it is not because it is wrong but because I am too small to understand it. Sometimes it has happened that I arrived bit by bit at understanding. And it is always a gift when, unexpectedly, one sees something that one did not see before. One understands that one must be humble. If one does not understand the words of the Scripture one must wait until the Lord discloses them to our comprehension.”

And Seewald, rightly, asks: “And does he disclose the meaning?”

Benedict replies: “Not always. But there are moments in which he does shows me the grandeur (or “the greatness”) of that experience… I am an entirely normal Christian. Naturally our task is to recognize the truth, which is a light. And through the power of the faith, even a simple person is enlightened, because he sees what others, even in their wisdom, do not perceive. The Greeks called baptism Photismos, enlightenment, coming to the light, acquiring sight. My eyes are opened. I see a dimension which is entirely different, that I cannot perceive with the eyes of the body.”