A Review of Benedict XVI’s Shortest Book

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Daughter Zion


Yesterday I finished the first book I’ve ever read by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. I’m quite proud of myself. This isn’t the first one I’ve started. One of the Lay Dominicans in my chapter has made the argument that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will one day be declared a Doctor of the Church. To be declared a Doctor of the Church, you have to be someone that people generally agree wrote or spoke in such a way as to clarify or develop Christian doctrine. Many commentators have pointed out that Benedict XVI was much more of a scholar and professor compared to his more charismatic predecessor St. John Paul II or successor Francis. This is very apparent in all of his writings — this book being no exception.

Even for someone like me with a Master’s degree in church teaching, I could only take this book in small chunks with long breaks. I highly recommend reading until it doesn’t make sense anymore, then put it down. When you pick it back up with a fresh mind, it’ll all make perfect sense again.

It’s dense. As he explains in the introduction, it’s basically three college lectures elaborated, revised and edited into book form. It’s only 90 pages, the last 10 or so of which are end-notes.

It does, however, look deeply and thoroughly into our Marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption. He actually digs into the Old Testament for proof and explanation. He shows how Mary is truly a daughter of Israel found in the Old Testament writings and prophets just as much as her Son. As an old hymn states:

O Mary of all women,
You are the chosen one,
Who, ancient prophets promised,
Would bear God’s only Son;
All Hebrew generations
Prepared the way to thee,
That in your womb the God-man
Might come to set us free.

O Mary, you embody
all God taught to our race,
For you are first and foremost
In fullness of His grace;
We praise this wondrous honor
That you gave birth to Him
Who from you took humanity
And saved us from our sin.

It was a very appropriate book to work on during the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.

If you would like to better understand how the Catholic faith fits into the Old Testament, give this book a chance. If you’d like to understand the role of Our Lady better especially in light of her identity as a Jewish woman, give this book a chance. If you wish you could brag to all your intellectual friends that you’ve read something by Benedict XVI, give this book a chance.

I’m glad I did for all of those reasons.

Daughter Zion is hard to find unless you look online. It is available in e-book  and paperback format from several sources. You just need to let your fingers do the walking.

This book review first appeared on the blog True Dignity of Women.
Bethanie Ryan

Bethanie Ryan

Bethanie Ryan is a housewife, mother and writer. She recently graduated with a MA in Pastoral Studies from Aquinas Institute of Theology. Originally from Missouri, she currently calls upstate New York home. She writes for several websites including her own, True Dignity of Women.

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1 thought on “A Review of Benedict XVI’s Shortest Book”

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    Bethanie, by all means read him wherein he is wise but if he is made a Doctor of the Church, it goes with limitations. St. Thomas Aquinas is the greatest Doctor of the Church yet he asserted in the Summa Theologica that heretics could be killed and that children born to a slave mother were therefore slaves themselves…two positions that most of the clergy now rightly reject. Benedict has an opposite problem: in section 42 of his Verbum Domini, he insinuates that God never ordered the OT massacres whereas Scripture has God ordering such in the first person imperative…e.g. read Wisdom 12 which explains that God ordered the Canaanite massacre ONLY
    after more than four centuries of God appealing to the Canaanites first by warnings, by patience, by lesser punishments. ONLY THEN did God command that the Jews kill them for His punishment sake and to keep the morally weak OT Jews from going over to that pagan worship themselves which they did anyway for centuries which was why God then punished them with the exiles and again nly after enduring their sin for centuries. Broad overview: ancient Catholic authors could err on the side of harshness…and modern saintly figures tend to err on the side of over softness. What Benedict ignores in Verbum Domini sect. 42 is that the largest massacre of all…70 AD in which 600,000 ( Tacitus) to a million ( Josephus) Jews were killed by the Romans in Jerusalem and this was predicted by Christ who said it would happen because Jerusalem had not known ” the things that are for thy peace”. We are currently ignoring the just side of God but Christ did not do so.

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