Interview with Prior Mauritius Wilde
Questions of the publisher to the author Prior Mauritius Wilde on the book Be Yourself! The Call of a Christian.
1. Father Wilde, you tell, in the very first pages, the episode from which this book was born. Why did you really consider it “essential to have the courage to show yourself”, to the point of writing a book? In other words, what is the contribution that you want to offer in the current ecclesial and civil context?
In fact, I don’t know if I’m very brave. For the most part, I’m an introvert. Monks are often like this. However, I learned how liberating it can be to get out of yourself and express yourself, especially in such important and intimate things as our faith. Furthermore, I perceived that, as Christians, we have all become somewhat – if I may say – lazy about our testimony. We take it for granted that the church is there, that faith is there, and always will be. This is not what history teaches us. Although Jesus has promised us that there will always be a people gathered around him, evangelization and mission are also up to us. With the new serenity that we have acquired with the Second Vatican Council, that everyone can find salvation even outside the Church, we have lost a little energy to bear witness, to do mission. So, I looked for a way in which to evangelize today, in a largely secularized society, in an adequate way, even if we are not so brave. I wanted to know what can motivate us, what can give us courage.
2. Who is your book specifically for? While writing it, in the monastery, maybe you were thinking about some specific recipient in particular, or some real-life situation?
I appeal to all those for whom faith is important. All those who love faith, however, still do not see the need to come out. All those who deeply feel that the heart of society will be missed if faith is lacking. I appeal to all lay people who want their children and grandchildren to also carry faith in their hearts, and I turn to the clergy to encourage them in their evangelizing effort. First of all, the book is aimed at those who want to grow spiritually, in Christ, responding to the call of Jesus. In the book there are no strategies or techniques for evangelization. The aim is the living relationship with Jesus once you come out. I wanted to communicate how much and how our life with Christ can be enriched if we go outside ourselves and share the faith.
3. If you were to summarize the book’s message in one sentence, a sort of slogan: what would it be?
Go out! You too are called to be curious to find Christ in the other, in the unknown.
4. With which character, present or past, real or imaginary, would you like to discuss the issues that the text deals with? What do you expect from it?
First of all, I would not only like to discuss, I would like to listen. I would like to invite you to share your experiences with testimony. It is contagious to share your stories. There are many. The Church should, could be the place where we share what we have experienced “outside”. Upon the return of the 72 disciples, the joy of Jesus was given by the sharing of their experiences. We can do the same today too.
5. You, a Benedictine German, have lived for some time in Rome, in the heart of catholicity, being prior of S. Anselmo today. What difference in style do you find, in the way of “showing yourself” Christians in a secular and secularized society, between a country in Central and Northern Europe and a Mediterranean country? What, in particular, have we Italian Catholics to learn from the culture and religious traditions of your country of origin?
There are differences. Germany is very secularized. My home country is also heavily marked by reform. The Lutheran attitude: “I remain firm in my intentions, I cannot do otherwise”, “This is my position, I cannot deny it”, it is a good basis for how we can testify without hiding in a group, in society. Today, there is no willingness to testify personally, without being afraid of the consequences. In Italy, it seems to me, catholicity is in the genes of the majority. It is something that is not always expressed, but it is there. I have only been in Italy for almost three years, so I can’t really judge. However, I feel that there are both: either a profound identification with the Christian faith or, in any case, a tacit agreement, and a certain distance and, in part, a growing mistrust. In the history of the church, over the centuries, Italians have always looked at the difference between good things and bad things. Therefore one remains calm. However, secularization is growing here too. Catholic countries are not immune to the loss of faith, exactly as seen in other European countries.
6. Christian witness can be embodied in a “maximum” or in a “minimum” of external manifestations. To use the colorful metaphor of an Italian theologian, there could be Rambo communities (“made of superheroes with exceptional abilities”) and Zombie communities (“made of living dead that arouse more pity than fear”). In your opinion, in the current social and cultural context, which of the two extremes is more dangerous for the community of faith: exaggerated exhibitionism or exaggerated intimism? And above all: how to find the right balance point between the two extremes, Rambo’s excess and Zombie’s too little?
The Benedictines seek balance. But balance is a job. It’s an activity. It is an art. The problem is that fewer and fewer people want to stay in the “middle” way. It is easier to be extreme. I see this both in society and in the church that is part of society. I would not like to favor mediocrity, I speak rather of a strong state “in the middle”. To the Rambo, the book says, “Listen first! Respect the other! Be ready to convert yourself, not only the other”. To the Zombies, the book says, “Wake up. It’s the Lord calling. Do you want to leave others without the blessings of the Christian faith?”
7. You are also a publisher, as well as an author: how do you see the present and the future of religious publishing in the Old Continent? Could you, also here, outline a constructive confrontation between Germany and Italy?
Publishing houses are very important, although these are not easy times. However, aiming for the quality of publications in a world where everyone can easily write and publish everything is a great service for the Church and society. It is “quality management”. Since reading has become difficult for many people, podcasts have become a way in which things of faith can be passed on. Believing comes from listening. I would also suggest a comparison with the United States where I lived for 6 years. My podcasts are widely listened to.
In Germany, religiously-run publishing houses have an advantage. They can combine theology with daily life, lived. The faith of the future in the secularized worlds must begin with religious experience. Readers look for books to help with practical life. Readers trust religious. In Germany books are sold with a practical-spiritual content.
8. To conclude, if you allow, one last more personal question, which, however, is perhaps connected to the previous one: what are you currently reading? What are the books that you keep on your bedside table these days?
There are many. If only I had the time to read them all! In preparation for teaching at our university, I read the life of St. Benedict in the writings of Pope Gregory the Great. Having met a nun of the Mar Musa monastic community in Syria, I am reading the story of the Jesuit Paolo Dall’Oglio. And I’m also reading the books of the German author Peter Modler, which describes the difference in leadership style between women and men.