Before reading these few pages by Sister Mary, and even before this class, I did not have a good idea of who Pope Benedict XVI was. All I knew was that he was a very intellectual and gentle man from Germany who people loved to listen to. There have been many controversies surrounding Pope Benedict, but people continue to listen to his insightful religious lectures. Now after reading this brief insight by Sister Mary, I have developed a newfound appreciation for this man because of the hardships he experienced early in his life. To overcome these adversities, Pope Benedict relied on his love and friendship with Jesus, the Beloved.

He sets a great example for us Christians. I think that all of us have to take the time to learn more about him so we can all develop the appreciation for him like I did. His humbleness and loving character is something that all Christians should take note of. Pope Benedict XVI’s adolescent years were not so carefree to say the least. From being diagnosed with diphtheria to entering into the seminary with unwelcoming peers to being drafted into the war, it is obvious that young Joseph Ratzinger experienced some hardships in the most important years of his early life.

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I feel that for all of us, hardships early in life force us to put our life in perspective and from there, make determinations so that we can live our life to the fullest. This is exactly what Pope Benedict XVI did. For example, before entering the seminary, he did not take his studies so seriously due to the fact that he found studying easy. After returning to the seminary after the war, he took his studies seriously and earned the title of Father Joseph Ratzinger. The challenging experiences in between his times at the seminary truly did influence this young man and changed him for the better.

Even though the common adolescent might not experience hardships as difficult and severe as Ratzinger did, we can make sense of how challenges in our lives provide windows of opportunity for us to learn from and in turn, become better people. Even though Joseph Ratzinger experienced these challenges, he also had a friendship with Jesus that most of us Christians fail to develop. Most Christians may think that they have a friendship with Jesus, but the fact is that they don’t take it to the next level of intimacy. Pope Benedict used Jesus’ intimate relationship with his Father as an example to live his own life.

Though Pope Benedict does not have a tangible, direct relationship with Jesus Christ, he holds him close to his heart just like Jesus held his Father close to his heart during his trials and tribulations. Sister Mary often mentions in class that we must have an intimate relationship with Jesus so that when we are experiencing difficulties in our life, we can talk to Jesus to guide us. Pope Benedict demonstrates throughout his early life that a close friendship with the Beloved is something that we all need to develop to get us through life’s obstacles.

Most Christians, at least the ones that I have spoken to, feel as if being Pope is a relatively easy job. All you have to do is lecture to huge crowds about your beliefs, wave, smile, and carry on the traditions of the Christian religion. Well after reading Sister Mary’s explanation of what the Pope’s job description is, it is safe to say that it is not so easy after all. The burdens that Pope Benedict carry are extraordinary. Imagine dealing with all of the people that reject the teachings of Christianity and attempting to convert those same people into followers of Jesus Christ.

It truly is not so simple, especially when you are constantly in the spotlight. Even though it may seem like a job with insurmountable amounts of pressure, Pope Benedict takes serious enjoyment in it. What makes Pope Benedict different from any other Pope is that his meaningful sermons attract people, not his presence alone. Again, the intimate friendship with Jesus shines in this situation. Pope Benedict, the brilliant theologian, extends his intimate friendship with Jesus to all of us.

His lectures on this topic are simply beautiful and clear, so much so that those who are fortunate enough to read or listen to them end up finding their own way to Jesus. I am so fortunate and glad to be able to read Sister Mary’s explanation of Pope Benedict XVI’s origin and how he came to become the respected human being that he is. After the reading, it is obvious to me that the whole Christian religion is not as superficial as most people assume it is. In fact, it is the complete opposite. Pope Benedict demonstrates this by preaching that we must develop a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

It is this relationship that guides us through life, in good and bad times. Sister Mary explained to us that this intimate relationship with Jesus was existent in Pope Benedict’s difficult adolescent years and was so important in the development of the rest of his life. Without this friendship, Pope Benedict would not become the humble, gentle, and loving person that he is today. It is important for all of us to use Pope Benedict XVI’s friendship with Jesus as an example so that we can grow spiritually and become the disciples we all want to be.