Bonnie Mahala sent me the following quote from Cardinal Ratzinger (Provenance unknown):
"Conversion is a death event. The 'I' is not simply submerged, it must release its grip on itself in order to receive anew in a greater 'I'. There is only One bearer of the promise of conversion. It is Christ. He exists within us. Outside is the chaotic world of self-realization where men compete with one another and desire to compete with God but succeed merely in working right past their true hope. Their True Hope lies within, always within."
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
I respond to Bonnie Mahala:
Where did you get the Ratzinger quote on conversion? I ask because I have it from a talk he gave in '86 in Toronto, but only the first part. Yours may be earlier and original. But from where? It is important because it is the meaning of faith. Faith is not primarily propositional but performative. It is the outstretching of the self. And in the context of matrimony, it is constitutive for the validity of the sacrament. And the brouhaha is about annulment and therefore validity. And if true faith as a "death-event" is not present in the exchange of vows at the altar, then you do not have a sacrament, and therefore only need a cheap (free) and quick declaration of nullity.
The Crisis of Annulment, Remarriage and Sacraments Opens Up A New Story
This is not the end of the story, but its beginning - as al la Opus Dei and the universal call to holiness in ordinary life - which did not become magisterial until after the approval (Decretum Laudis) of Opus Dei (10/11/1943). This means that the whole preparation for marriage is preparation for entering a way of sanctification which is = becoming "Ipse Christus." Marriage now becomes a commitment to death not as a legal barrier but as a positive vocation - and most ordinary - way of holiness and freedom.
This commitment to sanctity in matrimony has always been soft-spoken within the irrevocability of the marriage vows, but never with the force of a calling to be a saint. And, as we know, that vocation to sanctity was identified with the call to the state of perfection and – until the Opus Dei and Vatican II – it was understood to be the unique call to the religious life as separation from the world and the taking of vows. It took the struggle of St. Josemaria Escriva and Blessed Alvaro del Portillo to break the hegemony of the religious state and leaving the world (celibacy as no marriage) and open the way of – in our case here - sanctity precisely in matrimony.
Hence, the development in Vatican II, and particularly in the document on Divine Revelation (Dei Filium), reads (#5): “By faith man freely commits his entire self to God, making ‘the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals….” Ratzinger did original work on this in his habilitation thesis where he comments that “the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it.” He says further: “Revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down.” It means, what he says earlier, that revelation is “wholly Christological and that sees the dualism of word and reality reconciled in him who, as the true Logos, is at the same time the true ground of all that is real, and that consequently sees the antithesis between intellectual dogmatic faith and the yielding-up of one’s whole existence in trust as overcome through the total acceptance coming from the person, which recognizes Jesus Christ as, indissolubly, both the truth and the way. Thus the total character of faith inevitably emerges strongly here; it is expressed in the scriptural idea of obedience in faith, ‘by which man entrusts his whole self freely to God’”
This becomes diaphanous when Ratzinger describes how Simon comes to know that this physically existent man, Jesus, who is alone in prayer to the Father (Lk. 9, 18), is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). Simon had entered into this prayer, and began to pray with Jesus, and thus experienced in himself what Christ experienced in Himself. That is, he experienced going out of himself – the “death-event” that is Christ as pure relation to the Father. And so, Simon is able to respond to the question, “Who do you say that I am?” with: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And in doing so, he becomes “Peter” (rock) as Christ is “Cornerstone.” Simon had to go through a death event, an obedience to the Word, whereby he converts away from himself to the Father and so is able to re-cognize Christ in himself because he had become Christ. He did this by way of praying with Christ. And in this context, Ratzinger shows that the very meaning of the Person of the Word is to be prayer. He had not just followed Christ, or imitated Christ, or become like Christ. He had existentially become Christ by the action of prayer, that as action (faith) is obedience to death. The revelation of the Word of Christ that is Christ takes place only in the conversion from self whereby one becomes the Word. One “knows” Christ, only by becoming Christ.
Conclusion: The clarification of faith as a “death-event” changes the panorama not only with regard to the validity/invalidity of past marriages, but also with regard to the meaning of marriage for the future. It will change the entire meaning of evangelization from doctrine as ideology to the challenge of the Kerygma of personal sanctity. It will render the politics of same-sex union meaningless since it is incapable of mutual self-giving for enfleshed persons. To reach clarity of heart and mind on this issue of the meaning of faith and validity of matrimony is to become aware of the Kairos of the third century and to begin the new evangelization in earnest.
 J. Ratzinger “Milestones, Memoirs 1927-1977” Ignatius (1997) 108-109.
 J. Ratzinger, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II “Revelation Itself,” Chapter I, Vorgrimler, Vol. III (1969) Herder and Herder, Article 5, 177-179,
 Mt. 16, 16; Lk. 2, 21: “The Christ of God.”
 Cf. Thesis 1 of Ratzinger’s “Behold the Pierced One” Ignatius (1986) 15-22.