“Of course, the Gebirgsschüzen (Territorial Marksmen), whom I was only able to hear in the distance, deserve special thanks, because I am an honorary ‘Schütze,’ (marksman) even though I was once a mediocre Schütze."
Pope Benedict XVI, Bavarian Evening, Castel Gandolfo, August 3, 2012.
“Now, as we ‘thank you,’ I can only impart my blessing to you, but let us first sing the Angelus together, and if we can the ‘Andachtsjodler’ (a hymn in the form of a yodel).”
Pope Benedict XVI, Last Words in German at the Bavarian Evening.
The present pope, we know, is a man of many talents. We usually think
of these talents as primarily intellectual, even his taste in music is
classical. No one ever told us that he was a marksman, albeit mediocre,
or that he could yodel. The idea of yodeling a hymn would go over big on
country and western stations of the old school, no doubt. Google has
many sung versions of this quite beautiful hymn that anyone can listen
to. After listening to it, I can see why the pope added “if we can” as
the music is quite lovely.
On August 3, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich arranged at the Pope’s
Villa at Castel Gandolfo for an evening of music and friendliness in the
Holy Father’s honor. In his remarks, the Pope said that he was truly dahoam,
which means in German to be “at home.” He kidded Cardinal Marx a bit
over the word: “I must compliment Cardinal Marx because he always
pronounces the word (dahoam) so well.”
The Holy Father took the occasion to recall his homeland. Bavarian
culture is “a joyful culture.” It is not “rowdy” but it is “full of
fun.” Anyone who has been to an Oktober Fest in Munich will have a
suspicion of what this means. Of the Bavarians, Benedict says, “we are
not a boorish people.” He does not mean “amusement,” that they merely
amuse themselves. The people are “joyful.”
Benedict then reflects on why this joyful characteristic might be
present in Bavaria. “The joyfulness of the Bavarian culture is based on
the fact that we are in tune with Creation.” That is an expression
mindful of the English title of one of Josef Pieper’s books: A Theory of Festivity: In Tune with the World. The good is ultimately “a person.” This is where true joy can only be located.
For the Bavarians, Benedict adds, there is joy that God gave them a
very beautiful land. In such a place, it is easier to recognize the
grandeur and goodness of God. But God did not just give the Bavarians a
naturally beautiful land. Following the admonition of Genesis, He
expected them to make it more beautiful. Benedict puts it this way:
“Through the culture of the people, through their faith, their joy,
their songs, their music and art it has become beautiful because the
Creator did not want to make it beautiful by himself, but also with the
help of men and women.”
This remark embodies a fundamental approach of Catholicism. The world
is great and lovely in itself, but it is not “complete” by itself. What
was good was open to becoming better, more beautiful, if men would
engage themselves in its possibilities to carry out God’s purpose in
creating them within this cosmos, this world, and all its parts.
The Pope then wonders whether it is all right to be happy and joyful
when there is so much misery and evil in the world. His answer is:
“Yes.” Why? “Because in saying ‘no’ to joy we render no service to
anyone, we would only make the world darker.” If we have to wait till
everyone is happy, till all the sins are forgiven and all the ills
cured, we will never understand what the world is about now.
Benedict adds: “Anyone who does not love himself is unable to give
anything to his neighbor, he cannot help him, he cannot be a messenger
of peace. We know this from faith and we see it every day: the world is
beautiful and God is good.” The commandment tells us that we are to love
our neighbor as we love ourselves, as if we are ourselves gifts of God
who do not create but only received the goodness we are initially given.
This understanding is why there is something terrible about that kind
of self-love that finds in itself only itself and not signs of a reality
that is more than oneself. No one can really think that he is the cause
of his own being, of what is.
In addition, we have the Incarnation. God has dwelt amongst us.
Christ “suffered and lived within us, we know once and for all and every
day: yes, God is good and it is good to be a person. We live from this
joy and starting from this joy we also try to bring joy to others, to
repel evil and to be servants of peace and reconciliation.” Thus, the
evil and suffering that we know is itself taken up by and in the Godhead
through Christ’s passion. The end of this passion is the joy of
resurrection. This is a profound way of telling us that it is all right
to be joyful even midst the suffering and sorrow. We are to say of what
is lovely what it is “lovely,” even when we know disorders in the world
and in our souls. The latter, the disorders, are ultimately ordered to
the former, to joy.
So the Pope recalls his homeland for an evening in the Italian hills.
He mentions each of the areas of Bavaria familiar to him: “Lower
Bavaria as far as the Oberlarnd, from the Rupertigau Region to the Werdenfelser Land.”
He thanked the lady announcer for speaking Bavarian so well. “I do not
think that I could speak Bavarian and at the same time so ‘uplifting.’”
He thanks those who played the “wind instruments” before recalling the
distant shots of the marksmen. Actually, Google also provides examples
of these marksmen shots that the Pope heard in the distance.
Finally, to an Italian cardinal present for the evening, Cardinal
Bertello. Benedict says: “I hope you also felt that Bavaria is beautiful
and that the Bavarian culture is beautiful.” Such is the price a Pope
like John Paul II and Benedict pays. The memories of their homeland are
not lost on them; yet they are there in the hills of Rome where the Lord
wants them to be. They are dahoam (at home) in both places
when they hear songs of their land. Yet no one is in a lasting city;
however beautiful God and men have made Bavaria to be. Benedict knows
this truth also.