Viewing Posts from 11/2012

Writing Habemus Papam, Part 3

Posted by Regina Doman on November 28, 2012, 12:56 pm

It was an intense weekend, creating the written portion of Habemus Papam.  As I sat at my desk, I roughed out the format on some notebook paper.  I knew the graphic novel was to be divided into four chapters.  So I decided that I would separate the book in half, and tell the story as two long flashbacks.  

Always start your story with a dramatic scene.  So I decided that Chapter One would begin in the conclave that elected Benedict XVI Pope.  For many people in the world. Josef Ratzinger was just an obscure German cardinal until that famous conclave, so I thought I would start from the moment where Josef realizes that he might just be elected to succeed John Paul the Great as Pope.  

Gabrielle's 16-page manga, which my manga was supposed to expand upon, had as its theme "I never thought I'd become Pope."  I thought this was a good place to start - with a reluctant Josef Ratzinger reacting in disbelief when a cardinal comes up to him and says, "Josef, you must become Pope. We're going to nominate you."  Reportedly (no one is supposed to tell what happens at a conclave, but sometimes things slip out, like this one:), Josef responded, "Are you crazy?" and walked away, distressed.

Habemus Papam, p. 1 excerpt

As Josef ponders this possibility, his thoughts go back to his boyhood in Bavaria, and the first flashback, and the story, begins.  

I decided that Chapter One would deal with Josef's growing up in a Germany that was rapidly subcumbing to the evil charms of Adolf Hitler.  Most people don't know that the Ratzinger family were against Nazism right from the start, before most people were even aware of the evil.  I liked being able to show the quiet heroism of Josef's father, a police captain in rural Germany.  I didn't get a chance to include Josef's mother's famous sense of humor.  She liked to tell Hitler jokes, even when doing so was treasonous. The family's stance kept them poor, and the Ratzinger siblings had to learn to "swim against the tide."  More on that later.

Chapter Two would start at a key turning point of Josef's life - his entrance into seminary.  Seminary was his "coming of age," and represented the first time in his career that he could study what he wanted without any interruptions from war or Nazis randomly closing down his schools, etc.  Chapter Two also showed how other people around Josef began to realize that this young man was a genius.  (I don't think Josef himself ever realized this.)  I hope to write more on this later.

Chapter Two ends with Josef embarking upon what was probably the happiest period of his life: teaching at Regensburg University.  The words of his older sister Maria come back to him as he sits in the conclave, helping him to make yet another life-changing decision.  Is that how it really happened?  Who knows?  My story is only a guess, but I hope it's an educated guess.  I'll write more about "educated guessing" and writing fiction next time.

Habemus Papam, p. 115 excerpt

The Cats of the Pope

Posted by Regina Doman on November 09, 2012, 11:57 am

Habemus Papam, pg. 194 excerpt

One of the cool and more-well-known things about Pope Benedict is his love of cats.  This was one aspect that helped me connect with his character early on, since I'm also a cat-lover. The Ratzinger family always had so

Josef Ratzinger and cats, Habemus Papam p. 159

me kind of cat, and each of the three Ratzinger siblings loved cats.  In his book My Brother the Pope, which I read during the writing of the manga, Georg commented that although someone had written a book about Chico the Cat and the Pope, Chico belonged to a neighbor in Regensburg, Germany, and was not actually a very friendly cat.  It was difficult to find out for sure if the Pope keeps a cat in his Vatican apartments, but one source said that that when he moved to the Vatican, he took with him an alley cat whom he'd been feeding for years in his Roman neighborhood.  Someone else gave him another cat after he became Pope, reportedly a Persian.


In our manga, I didn't go so far as to give a name or a personality to any of the cats in Josef's life, but most of the scenes that show his various homes, there's a cat somewhere in the background. Sean did a great job drawing some cute ones.  And yes, I had Josef take a cat to the Vatican - whether or not that part of the story is true.  

Writing Habemus Papam, part 2

Posted by Regina Doman on November 07, 2012, 5:15 pm

Benedict of Bavaria by Brennan PursellI have to say a few words about the biography Benedict of Bavaria, by Brennan Pursell, the first book I read on the Holy Father's life.  It was truly the perfect book for me to start with.  The author is married to a native German, and has a great love for the Bavarian countryside and culture.  

I hadn't really realized that Germany has states, just as the United States does.  There are 16 German states which share a single government, including states whose names I've encountered in studying history: the Rhineland-Palintinate, Saxony, and Hamburg.  One of the states is Bremen, of the Bremen Town Musicians fairy-tale fame. 

The largest state is Bavaria, where the Pope was born. Bavaria, says Pursell, is the Germany people love: the Germany of Oktoberfest, beer gardens, chalets, wood carvings, and fairy tale castles.  It also happens to be the Catholic part of Germany.  After the Reformation, most of Germany became Protestant, but Bavaria is historically Catholic. 

In each chapter of the Pope's life, Pursell describes in great detail the architecture and surroundings where the young Josef Ratzinger lived.  This was a real bonus for me as a writer, because it helped me "get inside" Josef's head.  I realized that Josef Ratzinger truly loved Bavaria, his threatened homeland.  

So one recurring theme in the story of Josef's life became "returning home to Bavaria."  When the Nazis shipped young Josef off to camps in Munich and Burgenland ... when the professor Josef accepted posts at universities in Bonn and Tumbingen ... when Pope John Paul II called Archbishop Ratzinger to work for the Church in Rome ... all through the changes, Josef's heart kept longing for his Bavarian homeland and he rejoiced and relaxed every time he was able to return.  Habemus Papam p. 59

His acceptance of the papacy meant that he had to sacrifice the chance to ever return to live in the land he loved the best.  And that exile is permanent.  When the Lord calls Pope Benedict home, chances are, he'll be buried in Rome, his adopted city.  But part of creating his character was realizing that even in Rome, the Pope's heart beats Bavarian. 

So I highly recommend Dr. Pursell's book if you want a brief and warm-hearted overview of the life of Josef Ratzinger.  To me, the book was a godsend.  I hope other readers enjoy it as much as I did!

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