I originally posted the story of this chalice on April 16, 2012 when both the chalice and Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI turned 95. I had two wonderful dreams for this chalice over the years – you will see how I realized those dreams by reading this story!


Once upon a time…..
My paternal grandparents had two lovely summer homes on a large piece of property on Lake Michigan that were used alternately by my parents and my Dad’s sisters and brother throughout June, July and August every summer. The main home was called White Ledge and was a legend in the area for many reasons but mainly because it could accommodate about 30 guests on a weekend – many bedrooms and baths and, of course, a huge dining room and kitchen. My grandmother spent six months a year at this home and hosted many philanthropic events for the Church in the house or gardens.

One of my grandfather’s brothers – our great-Uncle Frank and great-Aunt Julia Lewis- had a rather large estate about a mile up the road from our property. Because the Catholic populace grew so much when people came up for the summer, the small local church could not handle everyone, even with multiple Sunday morning Masses (no evening Masses in those years), and so my aunt and uncle obtained permission to have Mass outdoors at their home on Sunday.

They were known for their philanthropy and the fact that the Church was the focus of their lives, along with their very large family! It was quite common for them to invite some of their closest friends – cardinals, bishops, priests and seminarians – to spend the weekend at their Michigan summer home. The main house was quite large and they a number of almost equally large year-round homes on the property for their large family and for guests.

Every Saturday night, the Belarussian-born caretaker, Ignatz would set up the “pews” – the benches and kneelers – for one hundred plus people. And every Sunday morning, before the 10 a.m. Mass, big bunches of gladioli were cut and put into tall vases near the altar – which was at the top of some steps going up to the home’s main porch. My brothers and some of our young cousins served as altar boys in those years.

My Dad and uncles served as ushers and Sunday morning Mass at Aunt Julia’s and Uncle Frank’s was largely a family affair! I do remember Aunt Julia telling us once, years later that, for 30 summers, it never rained on a Sunday morning between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.! I know she had several relics she would bring out each Sunday and place on her pew.

Over the years I met many prelates, as you can imagine. I just wish I had thought at the time of keeping a diary! But one doesn’t often think of doing that at the age of 8 or 10!

One of the priests I remember meeting a number of time was Fr. Toohey. I remember him as a delightful man who always wore a big smile and was very grandfatherly.

Years later, when I was home from Rome on vacation, I noticed a beautiful chalice in my parents’ home and asked them about it. Dad told me that his parents – my grandparents – had paid for a young man to attend seminary on Chicago and on his ordination day, and had given him this chalice – Fr. Leo Toohey.

Fr. Toohey was ordained on April 16, 1927! The very day Pope Benedict was born! And, of all the truly amazing things, the chalice was made in Germany!

I have been told – and have to explore this further! – that several markings on the bottom of the chalice indicate exactly where in Germany this was made and by whom.

The bottom of the chalice reads: “Presented to Rev. Leo Raphael Toohey by Mr. and Mrs. William H. Lewis on his ordination day – April 16 AD 1927.”

The chalice was purchased at Edward Koenig Company in Chicago. It was given to my grandfather when Fr. Toohey died at 53 on January 8, 1950, later was given to my Dad, and my parents eventually gave this chalice to me. Fr. Toohey for years was pastor at St. Simon Church in Ludington, Michigan. I found articles about him on the Internet!

I’ve had two big dreams for this chalice: The first was to get to know a seminarian from Chicago to whom I could give the chalice so that, after many decades, the chalice makes a “round trip,” returning from whence it came.

My second dream was to have Pope emeritus Benedict XVI celebrate Mass with this chalice.

Both have now come true!

First, let me tell you about my second dream….

OCTOBER 19, 2013:

I attended Mass this morning in the chapel of the monastery where Pope emeritus Benedict XVI lives in retirement with Abp. Georg Gaenswein and four consecrated women. Benedict XVI said Mass with Fr. Toohey’s chalice, Abp. Gaenswein did the readings. It was beautiful and intimate and very moving for me. The Pope came from the sacristy after Mass and we spoke for about 5 minutes. It was as moving and wonderful as the Mass itself. I have written an account elsewhere.

Pope Em. Benedict gave me a rosary and 2 holy cards for the young man who will receive this chalice some day and he gave me – for myself – a rosary and 2 holy cards. Abp. Gaenswein handed me an envelope and inside was a note with his crest that stated that Pope Em. Benedict said Mass with this chalice on October 19, 2013.

I had written Msgr. Georg a few times before this day, asking if Pope Benedict (I started writing when Benedict was still the Holy Father) could say Mass with the chalice. I told him the story that you just read. I only wanted the chalice to be used at Mass. I never thought of my actually being present at Mass so this was a huge gift for me.

This photo was taken in my home after that Mass with Pope emeritus Benedict:

The person who actually got the ball rolling was a German friend of mine, Michael Hesemann (yes, the well-known prolific author) who knew the story of the chalice and, in the summer of 2013, when he was in Rome, asked if my dream had come true – had Pope Benedict said Mass with the chalice? I said ‘no’, adding that I was a little disappointed.

Michael knows the Pope’s brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger and he asked me to write down the story which he then translated into German and a few weeks later handed to Msgr. Georg at his home in Regensburg, Germany. Msgr. Georg shortly after that came to Rome to visit his brother, the Pope emeritus, told him the story, handed him the written story and not long after that I got a phone call from the papal secretary to tell me that Mass was indeed possible and did I wish to be present!!!

This story has been printed and is in a folder, along with 2 photos of Fr. Toohey, the rosary and holy cards that Pope Benedict gave to me after Mass on Saturday, October 19, 2013. The folder is under the chalice in my crystal cabinet.

I have to add one more small detail about October 19, 2013:

Three hours after attending Mass in Pope Benedict’s monastery chapel, I met Pope Francis for the first time! The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums was celebrating its 30th anniversary in Rome and, as a patron, I joined the group for the papal audience. Francis met each one of us individually – his wish! – after a brief speech.

How many of us on this earth can say we were with two Popes – a reigning pontiff and an emeritus Holy Father – on the same day!

And now, the final dream has come true!

On December 22 in Chicago, I finally met Ryan Brady, a second year seminarian from Mundelein with whom I had been corresponding for some time and about whom I had heard wonderful things from priests in the diocese.

From all I learned, I knew that Ryan would be the seminarian to receive the chalice.

And so we met for dinner, along with Msgr. Michael Boland, director of Catholic charities in Chicago, and Deacon Stan Strom.

Ryan knew nothing about the chalice.

During the dinner conversation, Msgr. Boland (who knew what I was about to do) made a statement about something that was the perfect introduction to the story about the chalice. I told the story as written above and when I got to the part about my dream for the chalice to go to a seminarian, I pointed to Ryan, and said with a big smile, “You are that future priest.”

I took photos but none of that very moment!

I had gift wrapped the chalice, along with the papal rosary and holy cards, the pictures of Fr. Toohey and Msgr. Gaenswein’s certificate about the Mass, and Ryan slowly unwrapped everything. It was a beautiful, memorable moment for all of us!

The letter he wrote to me after the dinner merely affirmed my belief that this almost century-old chalice should go to Ryan Brady.

And so a dream does not end but rather continues!

Bless you, Ryan! May God sit on your shoulder!