On the last day of 2022, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the 265th Pope of the Catholic Church, died in Rome following a lengthy illness. His funeral was presided over by our current pope, Francis, last Thursday, and was attended by heads of state, royalty, clergy, and thousands of people from around the world. Pope Benedict was a highly regarded scholar and theologian, and his writings, prolific in number, defended traditional Catholic doctrine, values, and liturgy. However, he is best known for his resignation from the papacy at the age of 85 due to poor health; he was the first pope in over 500 years to do so, paving the way for future pontiffs to make a similar choice near the end of their service.

A few years ago, I read Benedict XVI: A Life Volume One: Youth in Nazi Germany to the Second Vatican Council 1927 – 1965, written by Peter Seewald. It describes Benedict’s (Joseph Ratzinger) life as a young boy in Germany prior to and during the war, as well as his rise through the Church’s ranks as a young adult. The book is lengthy and a bit heady, but definitely a good read, as it gives insights into Benedict’s formation and his spirituality.

I am always fascinated about people’s life stories, not just famous people but everyone: how did they choose the career they are in, what path did they take to get there, what most influenced them along the way? We can learn a lot from understanding the paths that others went down, and sometimes it helps us in straightening out our own crooked paths. One way to do that is by talking to people; the other is to read about them.

Bill Gates has stated he reads around 50 books a year. Reading is, he said, “the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.” Tom Corley, in his book, Change Your Habits, Change Your Life,” declares that 88% of financially successful people read at least 30 minutes per day. And Oprah Winfrey says, “What I love most about reading is it gives you the ability to reach higher ground. And keep climbing.”

I was always an avid reader as a child. I remember my mom taking me to the library every Friday afternoon and I would check out an armful of books to read during the week. While I still enjoy reading, primarily historical fiction or non-fiction books, I often find I don’t have the luxury of time to spend reading. My adult daughter was never fond of reading, but has discovered a new-found enjoyment and has made a one-year challenge for herself: 23 books in 2023 – she is tracking her progress on Goodreads and sharing her recommendations with others. I started out last year strong, but fizzled as the year progressed; however, I am going to accept her challenge, with a slightly less lofty goal of 12 books in 12 months.

If anyone has any recommendations, I would love to hear your suggestions. We can post them in Messenger for anyone else that would like to take the challenge. I encourage you to set a goal for your children as well. Make reading time a family event, and get off of the devices in this new year.

In Mission,

Kathleen Mock