A POPE AND A CHALICE MARK 90 YEARS – LOOKING BACK: BENEDICT XVI, IN BIRTHDAY HOMILY, SPEAKS OF HIS BAPTISM

Today is Pasquetta, Little Easter in Italy, a big holiday throughout much of Europe.

I am celebrating Easter for the first time in many years in the U.S., and it has been beautiful from the moment I got off the plane on Holy Saturday afternoon to this minute that I am preparing today’s column. The only difficult moments occurred when I had to try and ward off some jet lag at the always very lengthy and always extraordinarily Easter Vigil Mass!

I attended this Mass at St. Matthew’s cathedral in Washington, with Cardinal Donald Wuerl presiding. Every person who had a role that evening did a superb job, from the ushers to the choir, from musicians to eucharistic ministers, from truly amazing lectors to beautifully talented cantors.

I was just grateful that it was at the start of Mass that the church was darkened, lit only by hundreds of small candles, and not at the end of Mass!

Easter Sunday was beautiful in every way – weather-wise and celebration-wise. My hostess Margaret Melady and I spent the afternoon with her daughter, son-in law and four teenage grandchildren. It was a joy – a terrific meal, lots of great conversation and for me, just being in a family was the best part of the day, enjoying a home and back yard and tons of flowers in bloom.

I could have driven around DC for an hour just to take photos of the azaleas, cherry blossoms, wisteria, roses, magnolias, bouquets of crocuses and colorful daffodils that carpet the landscape. Some neighborhoods and individual homes were beyond breathtaking!

Easter is obviously a family day, a day off from work for many of us so I waited until today to want to share a story with you that actually has yesterday’s timeline – April 16, 2017 – Easter Sunday and also the 90th birthday of our beloved Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. He was born on Holy Saturday and marked 90 years on Easter Sunday!  Does it get any better!

A POPE AND A CHALICE MARK 90 YEARS

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 bathrooms and, of course, a huge dining room and kitchen. My grandmother spent six months a year at this home and hosted many philanthropic and church events in the house or gardens.

One of my grandfather’s brothers – our great-Uncle Frank and great-Aunt Julia – 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 great philanthropists and the Church was the focus of their lives. 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 caretaker Ignatz would set up the “pews” – the benches and kneelers – for a couple hundred 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 my uncle’s main porch. My brothers and some of our young cousins often 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 often 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 then of keeping a diary!

One of the priests I remember seeing when I was fairly small was Fr. Toohey. I remember him as being a delightful man who always wore a big smile and was very grandfatherly.

Years later, when I arrived home on vacation, I noticed a beautiful chalice in my parents’ home and asked the about it.

Dad told me that his parents, my grandparents, had paid for a young man – Fr. Toohey – to attend seminary on Chicago and on his ordination day, gave him this chalice.

Yes, he was ordained on April 16, 1927! The very day Pope Benedict was born! It is a little hard to see in this photo of the bottom of the chalice.

And, of all the truly amazing things, the chalice was made in Germany!

 

I have been told – and have to explore this further! – that these markings 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, then passed to my Dad, and my parents eventually wanted me to have this chalice.

I’ve had several dreams for this chalice.

I hope to set up a scholarship for a seminarian from Chicago at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and will arrange to have this chalice given to a seminarian from Chicago – so that, after many decades, the chalice makes a “round trip,” returning from whence it came.

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

Since I wrote this story for the first time a few years ago, that dream has come true.

At 7:30 a.m. on the morning of October 19, 2013, I attended Mass in the chapel of the monastery where Pope emeritus Benedict XVI lives in retirement with Abp. Georg Gaenswein and four memores or 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, a morning that was special beyond telling! The Pope emeritus came from the sacristy after Mass and we spoke for about five  or six minutes – it was as moving and wonderful as the Mass itself!

Benedict XVI’s first words to me, said with a big smile, were: “What a beautiful story that chalice has.”

I had written the story down in English and had given it one day to my friend Michael Hesemann who knew I had hopes that Benedict would celebrate Mass with the chalice. He translated it into German and, during a trip to Regensburg, Germany, gave it to his friend, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope’s brother who, two weeks later, gave it to Pope emeritus Benedict.

I received a phone call, telling me that Pope emeritus Benedict would be delighted to say Mass with this chalice – would I like to be present?!

Following Mass and our brief but ever so memorable conversation, Pope Em. Benedict gave me a rosary and two holy cards for the young man who will receive this chalice some day and he gave me – for myself – a rosary and two 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 have yet to write the final line to this story – the name of the seminarian to whom the chalice will go.

Stay tuned!

P.S. Three hours later I met Pope Francis at a gathering of the Patrons of the Vatican Museums! The singular, joyful, unforgettable Day of two Popes!

LOOKING BACK: BENEDICT XVI, IN BIRTHDAY HOMILY, SPEAKS OF HIS BAPTISM

Monday morning, April 16, 2012, in the Pauline Chapel, in the presence of members of the College of Cardinals and bishops from his native Bavaria, Pope Benedict celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving to mark his 85th birthday that day and the April 19th anniversary of his election to the papacy.

In his homily he recalled how, on the day he was born and baptized, the liturgy “erected three signposts showing me where the road led and helping me find it”: the feast of St. Bernardette of Lourdes, the feast of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, and Easter Saturday which fell on the very day he was born. He spoke at length of the two saints, and then focused on Holy Saturday.

“Finally there is the Paschal Mystery. On the day I was born, thanks to my parents, I was also reborn with the water of the Spirit. … Biological life is in itself a gift, yet it begs an important question. It becomes a true gift only if, together with that life, we are given a promise stronger than any misfortune that may threaten us, if life is immersed in a power which guarantees that it is a good thing to be a man, and that the person is a benefit whatever the future may bring. In this way rebirth is associated with birth, the certainty that it is good to exist because the promise is greater than the threat. This is what it means to be reborn from water and from the Spirit. … This rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must continually grow therein, we must ever and anew allow God to immerse us in His promise, in order to be truly reborn into the great new family of the Lord, which is stronger than all our weaknesses and all the negative powers that threaten us. That is why today is a day of thanksgiving.”

Benedict XVI noted that in 1927, the year he was born, it was still customary on Easter Saturday “to hold the Easter vigil in the morning, followed by the darkness of Easter Saturday without a Hallelujah. This singular paradox, this anticipation of light in a day of darkness, can almost be seen as an image of the history of our own times. On the one hand there is the silence of God and His absence, yet the resurrection of Christ contains an anticipation of God’s ‘yes’. We live in this anticipation, through the silence of God we hear His words, and through the darkness of His absence we glimpse His light.”

The Holy Father then said: “I am in the final stage of my life journey and I do not know what awaits me. However, I do know that the light of God exists, that He rose again, that His light is stronger than all darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than all the evil in this world. This helps me to continue with confidence. This helps us to continue, and I would like to thank everyone who, through their faith, continually makes me aware of God’s ‘yes’.”

 

THANK YOU, POPE BENEDICT! MAY GOD CONTINUE TO SIT ON YOUIR SHOULDER!

How I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall – or an invited guest – at this Vatican celebration of Benedict XVI’s 65th anniversary of his priesthood! Beautiful words from and about both men.

I also had a very privileged day – a single, unique day – when I spoke to both Popes, the reigning Pope Francis and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. How many people on earth could even say that! Those special moments occurred on Saturday, October 19, 2013 – a story I will tell some day!

In the meantime, I want to get ahead of myself with today’s column. I have some photos I took in Germany in 2006 when Pope Benedict visited his native Bavaria for the first time as Pope, including pictures of the church in which he and his brother Georg were altar boys together and learned to play the organ. I found a photo online of the brothers on the day they were ordained to the priesthood 65 years ago tomorrow. I was going to post those photos tomorrow, on the actual anniversary day but given this morning’s marvelous celebrations in the Vatican, I’ll place them within this article. The two photos of the Popes embracing are from AP and CTV.

THANK YOU, POPE BENEDICT! MAY GOD CONTINUE TO SIT ON YOUR SHOULDER!

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday hosted a celebration for the 65th anniversary of the priestly ordination of his predecessor Benedict, the pope emeritus. Joseph Ratzinger, who took the name Benedict XVI when he was elected to the papacy in 2005, attended the celebration in the Sala Clementina within the Apostolic Palace. More than thirty cardinals were also present, as well as a number of other invited guests.

FRANCIS AND BENEDICT 2 CTV

The event began with music from the Sistine Choir and a speech by Pope Francis. In his remarks, the Supreme Pontiff recalled St Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” “Lord, you know that I love you,” answered the first Pope. And this, the current Pope said, “is the note that has dominated a life spent entirely in the service of the priesthood and of the true theology”.

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Pope Francis said that Benedict continues to serve the Church, “not ceasing to truly contribute to her growth with strength and wisdom.” “And you do this,” he said, “from that little Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican, that is shown in that way to be anything but that forgotten little corner to which today’s culture of waste tends to relegate people when, with age, their strength diminishes.” He spoke, too, about the “Franciscan” dimension of the monastery, which recalls the Portiuncula, the “little portion” where St Francis founded his order, and laid down his life. Divine Providence, he said, “has willed that you, dear Brother, should reach a place one could truly call ‘Franciscan’, from which emanates a tranquillity, a peace, a strength, a confidence, a maturity, a faith, a dedication, and a fidelity that does so much good for me, and gives strength to me and to the whole Church.”

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At the conclusion of his remarks, Pope Francis offered best wishes to Pope emeritus Benedict on behalf of himself and of the whole Church, with the prayer for Benedict, “That you, Holiness, might continue to feel the hand of the merciful God who supports you; that you might continue to experience and witness to us the love of God; that, with Peter and Paul, you might continue to rejoice with great joy as you journey toward the goal of the faith.”

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The view from the little church –

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Later, after more music and speeches by Cardinals Gerhard Müller and Angelo Sodano – respectively Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dean of the College of Cardinals – Benedict offered words of thanks to all his well-wishers, and in a particular way to Pope Francis. Speaking to the Holy Father, Benedict said, “Your kindness, from the first moment of the election, in every moment of my life here, strikes me, is a source of real inspiration for me. More than in the Vatican Gardens, with their beauty, your goodness is the place where I dwell: I feel protected.”

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The Pope emeritus also reflected on the concept of “thanksgiving,” reflecting on a word written, in Greek, on a remembrance card from his first Mass. That word, he said, suggests “not only human thanksgiving, but naturally hints at the more profound word that is hidden, which appears in the liturgy, in the Scriptures,” and in the words of consecration. The Greek word “eucharistomen,” he said, “brings us back to that reality of thanksgiving, to that new dimension that Christ has given it. He has transformed into thanksgiving, and so into blessing, the Cross, suffering, all the evil of the world. And thus He has fundamentally transubstantiated life and the world, and has given us, and gives us today the Bread of true life, which overcomes the world thanks to the strength of his love.”

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PS. A cousin of the Ratzinger brothers showed us the little pewter cups that the young brothers used when they played at being priests –

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MOTHER ANGELICA: FROM THE VATICAN – SHE CHANGED THE WAY WE SPEAK ABOUT GOD – FAREWELL TO MOTHER ANGELICA

MOTHER ANGELICA: FROM THE VATICAN

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI knows that Mother Angelica died. We learned through his secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, that he said “it’s a gift” that she passed on Easter Sunday.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office was informed Sunday night by Michael Warsaw and Monday morning by our Rome Bureau. He said to our employees in Rome: “Dear ones, thank you for the information. I also received a letter from M. Warsaw inviting me to come to the funeral (of course I can not), along with the press release. Certainly she was a great witness and a missionary apostle. I hope that she prays for us more than we for her. I had the joy of seeing her briefly when I attended a meeting of various Catholic Radio stations several years ago in Birmingham at EWTN and someone had kindly taken me to the shrine to greet Mother. I do not remember exactly what year it was. I think it was the first meeting of Catholic Radio stations organized by EWTN (or second?). For me it was also the proof that faith and love of God are the true engine that drives our communication … (more so than technique and ‘professionalism’).”

SHE CHANGED THE WAY WE SPEAK ABOUT GOD – FAREWELL TO MOTHER ANGELICA

Michael Warsaw – on the website of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily:

A miracle of evangelization: only in this way could one define the legacy left by Mother Angelica, founder of the international Catholic network EWTN. A network whose success is proven by the numbers: launched in a garage in 1981 without caring about the cost, today the network broadcasts 24 hours a day, reaches over 264 million homes in 144 different nations, and publishes in or contributes to major magazines and agencies of religious information in the United States and around the world, in multiple languages.

Mother Angelica returned to the Father’s house at 5p.m. March 27, the Solemnity of Easter. She was 92. In the morning she participated in Mass inside her room, from the bed to which she has been confined since 2001, when a stroke permanently damaged her mobility.

Mother Angelica’s whole life has been marked by dates that follow the liturgical calendar, as if to signify her unconditional “yes” to God and her unshakeable trust in Providence. The stroke came on Christmas Eve 2001. She entered the Order of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration August 15, 1944, a day that was to become the Solemnity of the Assumption. And it was August 15, 1981, that Eternal Word Television first aired. It was the television network God had asked Mother Angelica to found.

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Born April 20, 1923, with the name Rita Rizzo, Mother Angelica experienced poverty and a life of hardship after her parents divorced when she was just six years old. But she didn’t just live with solitude, suffering and distress. She was also tried by physical suffering. When she was a teenager, she had consistent stomach pain. She was cured when Rhonda Wise, a woman from Canton (the town in Ohio where she lived) to whom miraculous cures were attributed to, told her to recite a novena to St. Therese of Lisieux. In 1944, at 21, she entered the Order of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Cleveland and took the name Sister Mary Angelica of the Annunciation. Two years later, she was invited again to the city of her birth, Canton, to found a new monastery. She lived there for several years, until the 50s. While cleaning the floors with an electric scrubbing machine, she lost her balance on the slippery floor, covered in soap, and slammed her back against the wall. The injury lasted for two years, and even worse, she needed a surgical operation. It was risky, and she had a 50 percent chance of being paralyzed. So she promised God that if the operation was successful, she would build a monastery in the South.

The operation succeeded, and Mother kept her promise.

The okay from Rome to found the Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels in Irondale, Alabama came February 3, 1961. A charismatic speaker, Sr. Mary Angelica was asked if her speeches could be recorded and distributed. She did it for the first time in 1969. In 1971, she recorded her first radio program, which was a 10 minute transmission for WBRC. Seven years later, Mother began to record her first television programs, which were half-hour transmissions titled “Our Hermitage.” It was the spark that inspired the idea of a media apostolate faithful to Catholicism. The spark then flared up when she realized that the owner of the studio where she recorded her transmission wanted to broadcast a program she considered to be blasphemous. Mother said that she would go elsewhere to record. Upon receiving threats that she would be out of television forever, she confidently responded: “I will found my own.”

And so it happened. The Eternal Word Television Network was born August 15, 1981, and from there began the work of evangelization through media.

It is a company willed by Providence, just as it was Providence which characterized the foundations of Mother Angelica: the Congregation of the Missionary Franciscans of the Eternal Word, a community of men which consists of 15 friars who are very active in evangelization within EWTN; but also the monastery itself in Irondale, because Mother Angelica’s request to found a new monastery came simultaneously with that of another sister, and the Mother Superior decided to that she would give permission to the first of the two sisters that received a response from the local bishop.

Some observers have said that the network founded by Mother Angelica (EWTN) has helped to protect the Church in the United States. If this is true, it is true because Mother Angelica built the network in His own image and likeness: with an unwavering faith in God, the knowledge of the goodness of the teachings of the Church and the desire to share them with people, truly reaching everyone. And if the network has grown so much in recent years, it is also due to the fact that Mother Angelica – who left leadership in 2000 – has ceaselessly watched over it with her prayers, despite being bedridden for almost 15 years.

She ascended to the Father’s house on Easter day, as often happens with the Saints, after receiving countless awards, even from the Pope. In October 2009, Benedict XVI gave her the “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” award, the highest recognition that a Pope can give to a layperson or religious to honor their work. Upon hearing the news of Mother Angelica’s passing, Benedict XVI commented that “it’s a gift” for her to have gone to heaven on Easter Sunday. And on February 12, 2016, while on his way to Cuba, Pope Francis prayed for her.

Mother’s model of evangelization through media is an example for all to follow.

By Michael Warsaw, Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive Officer, EWTN Global Catholic Network