I wouldn't presume to say that I have much in common with our holy father the Pope, Benedict XVI gloriously reigning. Nevertheless, we are both Catholic priests, foreigners living here in Italy, fans of St. Bonaventure, and native speakers of Germanic languages. And as I begin to live here in Italy, I am noticing ways in which I have come to understand Benedict a little better.
First, Fanta. There was some amusement when it was reported some years back in the secular press that Benedict likes Fanta. Fine. It is a little funny to imagine the dignified old professor-pope enjoying a sweet, bright orange soda. But here's the thing, at least for you Americans: here in Italy it's quite a different substance, this Fanta, and much superior to what we have at home. So I get it. Yum.
Second, the so-called 'Benedictine Altar Arrangement.' To some, the Pope's apparent preference for six candles and a crucifix arranged on the altar itself is a welcome symbol of his 'hermeneutic of continuity.' To others, it is further sign that Benedict is a crypto-traddy making every effort to roll back the reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council. Living here in Italy, as the Pope has for many years, has helped me to better understand his preference. You see, there seems to be a very common style for arranging altars here, and it goes like this: you take all the candles, whether these be one, two, or even four (that's the most I've seen, and at the lower basilica of St. Francis no less) and put them all the way on one side of the altar. On the other side, you put a flower or plant or even a whole floral arrangement.
In this practice I perceive the drive towards modernist unbalance that smolders away in the Churches, and the rotten and relativist fruit of which we all know so well. So as I see more and more of these unbalanced altars, I understand more and more why a thoughtful priest like Benedict XVI might want to restore some classical proportion to the setting of the Sacrifice.