Voicing Hope

by Thomas More College on July 16, 2008

It’s not every day you get to put words in the pope’s mouth. Well, that’s not exactly what Thomas More College Professor of the Humanities Christopher Blum is doing. Instead, he is giving the pope a voice by reading aloud the English version of Pope Benedict XVI’s incisive, deeply inspiring recent encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved In Hope), for an audience of millions.

Spe Salvi coverDr. Blum’s carefully produced recording of the Holy Father’s theological reflections is now available to every English-speaker with Internet access, through H2o News, an international Catholic news service headquartered in Vatican City. H2o News operates on a global scale, creating and distributing multimedia news, every day, in eight languages to 120 countries. H2o News works closely with Vatican TV (CTV) and Vatican Radio, among other Catholic media.

This past spring, eight Thomas More College sophomores worked as interns for H2o News during their Rome semester. Several others have embarked or will embark on such internships on our campus in Merrimack, working closely with Tony Assaf, Director of Thomas More College’s Vatican Studies Center.  Tony is also creator and editor of H2o News’s Arab-language edition, which is translating for the first time Church news and the Pope’s words into Arabic.

“I find the encyclical to be very engaging,” Prof. Blum says. “Given the proliferation of worldly and anti-Christian ideologies purveyed by charismatic leaders, popes in the past century have seen that it’s pastorally necessary to use their office as something of a bully pulpit—a means to reassert the Christian message. And each pope has developed his own distinctive preaching style. Benedict XVI, like his predecessor, seems to want to use the office both for instruction and for evangelization. Regarding the present pope’s writings, I am struck by their apologetic nature. They reach out first of all to the secularized, culturally forgetful citizens of the modern West, even to (in Schleiermacher’s phrase) ‘the cultured despisers of religion.’ He addresses objections to Faith (and even to Reason) that popes of previous decades might never have engaged, and speaks about ‘ultimate questions’ in a style that shows he has engaged—and overcome—the doubts raised by Nietzsche, the angst of the existentialists, the cultural critique of Frankfurt School Marxists. But he has also learned from them. His encounters with these thinkers enrich his discourse, and make it impossible for his message to be dismissed.”

CBlumProf. Blum admits, “The experience of voicing the words of the Vicar of Christ was humbling, of course—and strenuous. I worked very hard to get the rhythm right, to be clear and serious without sounding unduly portentous. It felt a bit like diving into the deep end when you are learning how to swim.”

Other Thomas More College faculty and staff, including President Nelson, have joined the students in narrating news reports on the H2o News Web site, or repeating the Sunday Gospel delivered by Pope Benedict in his Masses at St. Peter’s Basilica, which are Webcast by H2o News each Sunday.

The audio edition on the H2o News Web site includes evocative musical interludes provided by a string quartet between the various chapters. It can be downloaded onto an iPod or one’s home computer, turning the pope’s encyclical into an instant audiobook which commuters can use to make their drive-time an opportunity for a little lectio divina.

To listen to Professor Blum’s narration of the pope’s encyclical, click here.

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