A Christmas letter that Pope Benedict XVI wrote to Baby Jesus when he was seven years-old demonstrates his devotion to the Sacred Heart and his desire to be a priest. The letter is on display this Advent in the village of Marktl am Inn in Bavaria, where he was born.
"Dear Baby Jesus, quickly come down to earth. You will bring joy to children. Also bring me joy," he wrote in the 1934 letter, published on the Church-affiliated Italian website Korazym.org. "I would like a Volks-Schott (a Mass prayers book), green clothing for Mass (clerical clothing) and a heart of Jesus. I will always be good. Greetings from Joseph Ratzinger," he wrote in German cursive hard writing called Sütterlinschrift.
|The Ratzinger family. Joseph with his hand on dad's shoulder|
The letter, found during the renovation of a house that Joseph Ratzinger's occupied when he was a professor in Regensburg, was published on December 18. The message was discovered in the estate of his sister Mary, who kept the letter after the Pope's house was converted into a small museum dedicated to him.
In Korazym’s view, the “letter was uncommon for a seven-year-old since he did not ask for toys or sweets, which were always in front of the Ratzinger family's nativity for his three brothers."
The first thing the Pope wanted was a Schott, one of the first prayer books with the missal in German and a parallel text in Latin. At the time there were two editions in the country, one for adults and one for children. But little Joseph also asked for "green clothing for Mass." The Pope and his brothers used to play the "game of the priest," and their mother, a seamstress, would help them by making clothes similar to those worn by priests, according to an "Inside the Vatican" interview his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, gave a few years ago.
He also asked for a heart of Jesus, referring to an image of the Sacred Heart, which his family was very devoted to. His brother noted that "each year the Nativity would have an extra miniature statue, which was a great joy … We would go with dad into the woods to gather moss and twigs of fir."
In his biography, Pope Benedict the XVI wrote that the volumes he received were "something precious and I could not dream them to have been more beautiful." Along with his letter is another one by then 10-year-old Georg, who wanted sheet music for a song and a white chasuble, the outer vestment worn by priests when they celebrate Mass. A third letter by "Mary," a 13-year-old who wanted a book full of drawings, was also discovered. According to Korazym, "the letters were all on one sheet because the Ratzinger family was not rich." Pope Benedict and his family lived in Aschau am Inn, a small town west of Munich, from 1932 to 1937.
"The Pope was very glad to find the letter and its contents made him smile," said his secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, when he inaugurated the small museum at the end of summer. "For him, the smell of musk still belongs to Christmas," he added.