James Schall, Jesuit professor at Georgetown and mightily prolific author (most recently of The Regensburg Lecture, has a brief review of Tracey Rowland's new book, Ratzinger's Faith, at First Principles, the excellent web journal of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
Behind this emphasis on love, no doubt, is Benedict’s long-standing interest in Augustine, who reminded us that “two loves built two cities.” We have to be sure that what we love is loveable. This interest, as Rowland insists, is not to be seen as being anti-Thomistic. St. Thomas, after all, was one of the greatest readers of Augustine, ever. Rowland explains that Augustine’s famous maxim, that “faith seeks understanding,” establishes the interest of faith itself in philosophy and points us toward the “necessary prerequisite for the pursuit of understanding.” The pope wrote that “just as creation comes from reason and is reasonable, faith is, so to speak, the fulfillment of creation and thus the door to understanding.” In this context, Roland shows that Ratzinger not only wrote on Thomas from the beginning of his own studies, but has needed him to complete his own (Benedict’s) overall approach. That approach, as Rowland shows us, is harmonious with, and not antagonistic to, Augustine. In fact, Augustine may be the more useful in a post-modern, Nietzschean world.
Rowland remarks that “Ratzinger describes history as a whole as the struggle between love and the inability to love, between love and the refusal to love.” This too is something that begins in beauty, for it begins, as Plato taught us and as Augustine reaffirmed, in our very souls where we all must begin to see the reality and beauty of what is. Ratzinger’s Faith is the real introduction to what is most needed in our times. It understands both that Deus Logos Est and that Deus Caritas Est.