MEETING JESUS AND FOLLOWING HIM:
A Retreat given to Pope Benedict XVI and the Papal Household
by Cardinal Francis Arinze
(Ignatius Press, 2010, 144pp, $25.90, ISBN: 978-1-58617-423-1. Available from Freedom Publishing)
The text of the Lenten Retreat exercises given by Cardinal Arinze to Pope Benedict XVIII and his Household in March 2009 is a small gem. In the case of priests who are called to give retreats this work is an answer to prayer.
The schema can be used or, in fact, the daily retreat homilies or lectures can be given verbatim!
Francis Arinze, who was born in Nigeria in 1930, was ordained a priest in 1958 and four years later was ordained a bishop, the youngest in Africa. In due course, as a cardinal, he became the first African cardinal to head a Vatican office being Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He retired a few years ago and is now 80 years old.
After the Lenten Retreat, Pope Benedict wrote to Cardinal Arinze that "you have dispensed God's word with wisdom and fidelity ... you have organised the spiritual journey according to a thematic order, attentive to the Magisterium, and modelled on that of Jesus' first disciples.
"You commence with the call given by the Lord to His first followers ... then you revisit the great enduring themes of the Christian life: sin and conversion, the Paschal Mystery, the Scriptures, Church communion and mission, prayer and the Eucharist, the role of Mary ... You have helped us to rediscover and deepen the primacy of the presence of Jesus in our lives."
The book has few limitations.
However, the abuse scandals which have savaged the Church's reputation in some countries and hampered ministry were mentioned only briefly and, outside Rome, pithy local examples could add immediacy to the presentation.
If this reviewer is ever asked to give a retreat, this book will provide its basis. I recommend Meeting Jesus and Following Him warmly.