Pope Benedict is in Germany this weekend, Bavaria specifically, and in his old archdiocese of Munich. Gerald has translated the Pope’s address from yesterday. He spends some time musing on the story of the Bear of St. Korbinian, which he has had on his own coat of arms and which is on Munich’s arms as well, and its relation to how he sees himself.
He recalls that he was a simple university professor when asked by the pope to become archbishop of Munich-Freising, and how reluctant he was. He remembered the story of the bear and then St. Augustine’s interpretation of Psalm 72:22-23.
The following story in the legend of Saint Korbinian has fascinated me since childhood: A bear tore apart the horse of Saint Korbinian on his journey through the Alps. He reprimanded the bear and as punished but all his belongings onto the bear’s pack and made him carry it all the way to Rome. In Rome, the bear was released by Korbinian.
… In this Psalm, the Psalmist asks himself why bad people are frequently doing so well, and why so many good people are faring so badly. Then he says: “I was stupid and ignorant, I was like a beast toward thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee; thou dost hold my right hand.”
St. Augustine kept returning to this psalm with great fondness. In this passage “I was like a beast toward thee” he saw the word “iumentum” in Latin – the draught animal common in the agriculture of Northern Africa. He viewed himself as God’s beast of burden which is under the weight of his mission, the “sarcina episcopalis.”
He notes, however, that unlike Korbinian’s bear, the Lord chose not release him once he arrived in the sacred city. It is a moving and personal address and in it you can sense the Pope’s great emotion at returning to his homeland, a place he was hoping to retire to, but where he will probably never be able to freely visit again, not like he did before. It is a great reminder of the burden that the papacy is and the great sacrifice Pope Benedict has made for us.