Pope Benedict XVI, Requiescat in Pace. I first met Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2001, after a
Mass he celebrated in the Vatican. Fr. Jerry Pokorsky and I were waiting outside, hoping to greet
him as he left, but when he came out, he was instantly surrounded by a group of German students
with the same goal. But when he bid goodbye to the students, instead of walking away toward his
office, he turned and said to us, in English, “Were you waiting for me?” He spoke to us for about five
minutes about mutual friends and his work and ours. He couldn’t have been kinder or humbler. Not
quite what some presented as the mean “German Rottweiler.”
But I had actually come to know Ratzinger about 15 years before when I read his book-
length interview, “The Ratzinger Report,” in which he very clearly and honestly discussed the terrible
problems in the Church. That began a 35-year friendship, albeit unknown to him, as I became his
student and he my mentor as I read everything I could of his writings (translated into English).
Eventually I was privileged to study under professors and befriend others who were close personal
collaborators and even former actual University students of Professor Ratzinger. To this day, if you
hear any perceptive insight in one of my homilies, it most likely comes from him.
You can imagine my delight when he was elected Pope in 2005, and my disappointment
when he resigned the Papacy in 2013. And now my sadness at his death, last Saturday, December 31.
But on the other hand, I also rejoice, because I believe, personally, that I now have a powerful
friend-intercessor-patron-saint in heaven.
What else could await such a great and holy man, a truly “humble servant in the vineyard of
the Lord.” Think of all he’s given of himself for Christ and the Church over the last 70+ years. First as
a brilliant young theologian, one of the leading “experts” at the Second Vatican Council; then as the
famous professor/theologian helping to implement the Council; and then as the 49 year old
Archbishop of Munich. Then in 1981 he was called to Rome to begin his 24-year long collaboration
with Pope John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: in my humble
opinion, as wonderful as John Paul II was, no one would be calling him “the Great” today if Ratzinger
hadn’t been there as his strong right arm. So much so that when the other cardinals looked around
the Sistine Chapel on April 19, 2005, they recognized that there was no one comparably equipped to
succeed John Paul—and they elected him Pope Benedict XVI.
From the beginning of his Papacy, he brought his keen intellect to bear and challenged the
world to reason with him, and to come to know, love and believe in Jesus Christ. Among his
concrete historical accomplishments: his many encyclicals, exhortations and homilies; his trilogy of
books on Jesus of Nazareth; his 20+ pastoral visits around the globe (including his memorable visit
to Washington in 2008); his courageous handling of child abuse scandals; his restoration of the
Traditional Latin Mass; the new English translation of the Roman Missal; the establishment of the
Ordinariate for Anglicans coming into the Catholic Church; his with dialogue the Orthodox; and the
appointment of so many strong bishops throughout the world, especially in America. But more than
that, he was recognized as a brilliant thinker and gentle pastor, a voice consistently proclaiming the
truth to a world confused by secularism, false ideologies, Islamism, and “the dictatorship of
Then on February 11, 2013, he announced his intent to step down—the first pope in 598
years to resign. Some have since speculated about conspiracies or hidden reasons for the
resignation. Some were even angry with him, calling him a “coward” for “abandoning his flock.” I
don’t agree even a little bit with those voices. Rather I take the smartest Pope in centuries, a truly
holy and humble priest, at his word: “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an
advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry….[B]oth strength
of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the
extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
At almost 86 years old he was working full-time at a job the burdens of which would crush most men.
And now, he humbled himself and decided to let the cardinals pick a stronger man to take up the
Now, after 10 years of prayer and solitude, he has gone to his reward. We owe it to him to
pray for his soul; to help him, if necessary, in his final purification. But even as we pray for him, as I
wrote above, I am confident that he is already with the Lord in heaven—so I will pray to him as well.
And I invite you to join me in giving thanks to God for the tremendous gift he has given us in the life
and ministry of his humble servant, Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.
Feast of St. Raymond of Peñafort. Yesterday, January 7, was the feast of our parish Patron. For
those of you who don’t know much about St. Raymond, I invite you to read the 32-page biography
we published a while back. If you don’t have one, come by the parish gift shop or the office and pick
Raymond was born in 1175, and at a young age he was named a professor of civil and
canon law and at the University of Bologna. On August 1, 1218, Raymond received a heavenly
vision from our Blessed Mother (“Our Lady of Ransom”). In 1222 he entered the Order of Preachers
(“Dominicans”), and published the Summa Casuum, a book guiding confessors and moralists. In
1230 he was appointed confessor and theologian to Pope Gregory IX, who also assigned him the
daunting task of codifying the entirety of the juridical laws of the Church. In 1238 he was elected
Master General of the Dominican Order. He resigned after 3 years, but continued his writing,
preaching and pastoral work for another 37 years until his death on January 6, 1275, at the age of 100.
He is the patron saint of lawyers, both canon and civil.
St. Raymond of Peñafort, pray for us!
Epiphany and the End of the Christmas Season. Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord,
commemorating the visit and adoration of the magi to Christ in Bethlehem. In the Orthodox Church
and many of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches it also, effectively, celebrates the birth of Our Lord,
i.e., Christmas. This year it also represents the last Sunday of the Christmas season, which ends
tomorrow, Monday, with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. So, Merry Christmas!
Et, oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles