The Stained Glass Windows of B16

The Stained Glass Windows of B16 January 13, 2023
As my wife and I were on a date celebrating our wedding anniversary from a few days prior we went to noon mass at the Cathedral in downtown Providence. We were expecting a regular weekday mass but when we saw the 20 or so priests presiding to the altar with the bishop swinging incense along the way we knew something out of the ordinary was taking place. There were also more people in attendance then normal at a weekday mass  Looking over at the picture of Pope Benedict surrounded by candles in the sanctuary was a clue to what was going on. It was announced on TV, but seeing we don’t have live TV (we have Roku) we didn’t know what we were walking into.
It was good to be there regardless. It is good to remember such a great and wonderful leader of our church. There are literally a megaplex of articles circulating about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on social media in the event of his passing from this world to the next. If you want to reflect on or ponder his life and legacy there is no shortage of things to read about him or by him.
Here are a few examples.
“If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge. You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One that loves you.”
― Pope Benedict XVI

What was already evident in Introduction to Christianity is that the crisis of the post-Vatican II Church is, at its core, a Christological crisis. The transforming wine who is Jesus Christ is diluted by those who invoke him only as an inspiring model for sundry social causes, or summarily dismiss him as a barely knowable figure from the first century of the “common era.” It is this discernment that impelled Benedict to compose his trilogy Jesus of Nazareth. He expressed his pastoral concern poignantly in the foreword to the first volume: “This is a dramatic situation for faith, because its point of reference is being placed in doubt: Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air.” It is only through a lived relationship with Jesus, who is the way, truth, and life, that we have access to the Trinity’s love in which all things live and move and have their being.
Responding to critics who frowned on Benedict’s decision to resign while his predecessor, John Paul II, continued to reign while openly afflicted by the effects of Parkinson’s, Gänswein said Benedict was never bothered by the comparison.

“He told me once: I cannot and do not want to copy the model of John Paul II in sickness, because I have to face my life, my choices, my strengths. This is why the pope allowed himself to make this decision, which to me required not only a lot of courage, but also a lot of humility,” he said.
Gänswein: The devil was ‘very against Pope Benedict’ – Deacon Greg Kandra (

Living inwardly. That was the practice of the pope emeritus these last nearly 10 years. He went on to describe the process as, “I time and time again think on the fact that it is going to end.” And lest this seem an overly transcendent exercise, Pope Benedict clarified, “The important thing is not actually that I imagine it, but that I live in the consciousness of it, that all of life ascends to an encounter.”

Pope Benedict “understood the connection between solid faith formation and evangelization,” said Father Hezekias Carnazzo, a Melkite Catholic priest and founding executive director of the adult catechetical Institute of Catholic Culture based in McLean, Virginia.

For the late pope, that dynamic required “always required asking the question of who God is,” said Father Carnazzo, noting that Pope Benedict “very clearly answered that question with his encyclical ‘Deus Caritas Est’ (‘God is Love’), in which he reminds us that God is love, and love is the giving of ourselves to the beloved.”
Pope Benedict placed Jesus Christ at the heart of church’s mission, say evangelizers – :

“Among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience.”

Benedict spoke these words at the conclusion of his final address to the College of Cardinals on February 28, 2013. Benedict himself kept his word, but sadly many Catholics – including many in that room – refused to follow his example. Early in the pontificate of his successor, these words were a consolation to me when I struggled with something Pope Francis said or did. I thought, if Pope Benedict has pledged Francis his unconditional obedience, then the least I could do is give him a chance.

And for that, Holy Father Benedict, I am forever grateful.

May eternal light shine upon you.
5 Quotes from Pope Benedict that changed my life – Where Peter Is

What, then, was Benedict’s attraction, and why did he touch a nerve with so many? I can only speak for myself, but I suspect that in so doing, I speak for many others as well. Benedict’s allure is that he represented a kerygmatic provocation of a kind that only saints can embody. That provocation was an eschatological one that presses upon us with percussive force the necessity of a deep existential choice for or against Jesus Christ. Life is not a game, and yet the technocratic materialism of modernity begs us to treat it as such, even if the game turns out to be a tragic one.
“It is theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity. Through Mary, and the other holy women, the feminine element stands at the heart of the Christian religion.”
― Pope Benedict XVI

Australian cardinal George Pell AC ( June 8, 1941 – January 10, 2023)

Francis is, of course, now older than Benedict was when he decided to resign, showing no signs of emulating his predecessor’s example. And, give or take a bad knee and colon surgery in 2021, the pope appears to be in rude health and set to continue in office for the foreseeable future.

But however long Francis continues, his relationship with his predecessor for the first decade of his pontificate will be an important part of his own time in office.

Conspiracy theorists and partisan commentators to one side, Francis was a not infrequent visitor to the monastery at the bottom of the garden. While we may never know how much counsel the pope sought from his predecessor, or what effect it had in shaping Francis’ own thinking, that too is a part of Benedict’s legacy.
Pope Benedict’s most important legacy is Francis (

“Father into your hands I commend my spirit”. This is the invitation and the program of life that he quietly inspires in us. Like a potter (cf. Is 29:16), he wishes to shape the heart of every pastor, until it is attuned to the heart of Christ Jesus (cf. Phil 2:5). Attuned in grateful devotion, in service to the Lord and to his people, a service born of thanksgiving for a completely gracious gift: “You belong to me… you belong to them”, the Lord whispers, “you are under the protection of my hands. You are under the protection of my heart. Stay in my hands and give me yours”.    Here we see the “condescension” and closeness of God, who is ready to entrust himself to the frail hands of his disciples, so that they can feed his people and say with him: Take and eat, take and drink, for this is my body which is given up for you (cf. Lk 22:19). The total synkatabasis of God.

Pope Benedict XVI — especially during his extraordinary career and ministry as a theologian and professor — was not only one of the towering intellects in global Catholicism but also one of the most prolific.

In his nine decades of life, Joseph Ratzinger wrote more than 60 books and more than 1,300 articles, essays, and academic pieces; three encyclicals; and four apostolic exhortations. The writings range from profound theological tomes to general audiences to spiritual reflections, to encyclicals, to more popular books and book-length interviews. They cover fundamental and dogmatic theology, biblical exegesis, spiritual theology, cultural commentary, and catechesis on virtually every possible aspect of the faith.

It is a daunting task to begin reading his work, not merely because of the sheer volume but also the intimidating subject.

Here are five suggestions for a Benedict reading list. They span decades and topics, but each has been chosen as emblematic of his teachings and each is also accessible to the average reader. Any list is subjective, of course, but this is a potentially helpful place to start wandering through a holy and profound mind.
A Ratzinger reader: 5 books to help you encounter Pope Benedict XVI – Catholic World Report

“Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.”
― Pope Benedict XVI, God Is Love: Deus Caritas Est

A few people asked me about favorite books, as well as “Where to start?” While I am not an expert on the thought and works of Ratzinger/Benedict, I have read roughly 75% or so of the books pictured above, and have written several essays and reviews over the years.

Here are a few suggested books for the ordinary reader—that is, who is not a trained theologian or academic—who is looking for a good place to start.
A beginner’s guide to reading Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI – Catholic World Report

This isn’t just a silly, random contrast between a real man and a movie character. I really have been thinking about death, and how we live in preparation for it, and how that preparation affects everyone around us. I have been marveling with gratitude at how easy on the Church Benedict made his death, and how many years in the making this ease has been. I’m old enough to remember a tiny bit of the tumult when John Paul II was elected, and also when he died, and also when Pope Francis was elected. Benedict XVI’s unexpected renunciation of the papacy did throw the Church into confusion for a time, but then he lived exactly has he promised to do — quietly, in complete docility, showing nothing but support, love and respect for Pope Francis, until all but the most pop-eyed fanatics had to grudgingly believe he meant exactly what he said: that he was no longer pope, and Francis was, and the Holy Spirit was in charge, amen, the end, live with it.

And so, having made these preparations and having lived them out, he now seems to be passing into the waters of eternity with the smallest of ripples, having already accomplished most of the work of transition, like a kindly grandfather who has prepaid for a funeral, cleaned his house and carefully labeled his belongings for his heirs.
No knives out after the death of Benedict – SIMCHA FISHER

It’s impossible to overstate my debt to the late Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. The suppleness of his intellectual engagement with modernity and postmodernity contributed more than any other Catholic thinker to the intellectual tool set I bring to thinking about what it means to be Catholic today.
I’m not incognizant of Benedict’s flaws and limitations—or of those of his predecessor and his successor. I’m not an uncritical fan of any of these men (as I perhaps was in my youth of John Paul II). I also love and admire all three, and I see God at work in and through them all.
These three popes have been loved and vilified by different people, but Benedict was the most misunderstood, no less by fans than by critics. The “change is compromise” caricature played by Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes is an expression of the false image that was hated by progressives and loved by conservatives.
Christian conservatism tends to err in the direction of treating Christian doctrine as “a complete, finished intellectual construction,” in Ratzinger’s (critical) phrase. We have all the answers; we have everything to teach and nothing to learn. Christian progressivism tends to err in the opposite direction, treating Christian doctrine as an entirely negotiable, human construct that must adapt to become acceptable to the world.
For Ratzinger, Christian belief cannot become something it isn’t to please the modern world, but neither can it avoid the challenge of modernity to the categories and the whole shape of human thought in which it has been expressed and understood. The challenge goes both ways.

Steven D. Greydanus December 31, 2022 at 2:36 PM 

Actually THIS is the best lesson I ever learned from Pope Benedict XVI: “If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: “IT IS GOOD THAT YOU EXIST” – must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love.”

– Principles of Catholic Theology (Emphasis mine…)

Elizabeth Scalia 

I want to end with this short twitter reflection by Fr. James Martin.
James Martin, SJ@JamesMartinSJ (
Dear friends:
Many people will be reflecting on the life of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died today after decades of service to the church. What moved me most about his papacy were three things, two well known, the other perhaps not as well known.
First, his resignation as pope in 2013 was one of the most remarkable acts of humility in church history. It caught nearly everyone off guard, not only because he was the first pope to resign in centuries, but also because acts of humility of that magnitude are vanishingly rare.
Second, his series of books “Jesus of Nazareth,” by turns deep, learned, surprising, expansive and inspiring, are a signal contribution to Christian spirituality. Along with his encyclical “Caritatis in Veritate,” they are among his most powerful theological writings…
But finally is a passage from a homily that I heard during his visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 2008, which I’ve never forgotten. Pope Benedict beautifully used the image of the church’s magnificent stained glass windows to invite people inside the church:


“I would like to draw your attention to a few aspects of this beautiful structure which I think can serve as a starting point for a reflection on our particular vocations within the unity of the Mystical Body. 

The first has to do with the stained glass windows, which flood the interior with mystic light. From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers – here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne – have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself. It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit.

It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light. This is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, ‘from the outside’: a world which deeply senses a need for spirituality, yet finds it difficult to ‘enter into’ the mystery of the Church. Even for those of us within, the light of faith can be dimmed by routine, and the splendor of the Church obscured by the sins and weaknesses of her members.

It can be dimmed too, by the obstacles encountered in a society which sometimes seems to have forgotten God and to resent even the most elementary demands of Christian morality. You, who have devoted your lives to bearing witness to the love of Christ and the building up of his Body, know from your daily contact with the world around us how tempting it is at times to give way to frustration, disappointment and even pessimism about the future.

In a word, it is not always easy to see the light of the Spirit all about us, the splendor of the Risen Lord illuminating our lives and instilling renewed hope in his victory over the world. Yet the word of God reminds us that, in faith, we see the heavens opened, and the grace of the Holy Spirit lighting up the Church and bringing sure hope to our world.”

Pope Benedict XVI, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, April 19, 2008.

May he rest in peace.


“Jesus, ich liebe dich!” Jesus, I love you.
These were the final words that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI uttered before he died, a powerful final expression of love and faith.
Pope Benedict XVI’s last words: ‘Jesus, I love you.’ | America Magazine

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