B16 Final Flight

01-15-2023Pastor's LetterFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

I’ve often thought that if I were stranded on a deserted island or in solitary confinement and had only one book to read, it would be something written by Pope Benedict XVI. His writing is brilliant, lucid, and always thought provoking. He was certainly one of the most brilliant thinkers of the twentieth century and very likely the wisest theologian to ever occupy the Chair of St. Peter.

And remember, he was the everpresent advisor to St. Pope John Paul II and together they helped steer the Church away from the stormy waters of the post-Vatican II era.

He was always a gentleman, and a humble and gentle priest. He cherished an academic debate but was always gracious to his adversaries. A lesson our Twitter feuded world could use. The media of course, since according to them, you can only be one of two things: in years past it was liberal or conservative; today it is progressive/on the right side of history or right wing/neo-Nazi/fascist/racist, portrayed Josef Ratzinger as a neo-con, “God’s rottweiler”, the German Shepard. Yet when you read his writings, you see a man who understood better than most everyone the truth of the human condition and the threats to humanity that the modern world was producing. In that way he was at times, innovative, forward thinking and never stuck in the past. A nuanced thinker and good steward who took from “both the old and new”.

Two of his key achievements as Pope showed his innovative style and willingness to craft new ways that could guide the Church into the future. I think particularly of his moto proprio Summorum Pontificum, which allowed for a much wider use of the Tridentine Mass. After the Second Vatican Council, there was much tension and dissention over the “new Mass” and those who desired the older form of the Mass. While John Paul II allowed for a restricted use of the Tridentine Liturgy, Benedict granted its use to all priests without special permission from a Bishop or Rome itself. His hope in doing this was first to heal some of the divisiveness over this issue but also that the two forms of the Mass could learn from one another and enrich each other. It really spurred a deeper consideration of the Liturgical life of the Church.

Anglicanorum coetibus, was issued after a large swath of the Anglican Church petitioned Rome for reunification. (Remember the Anglican or Church of England split when King Henry VIII declared himself. Head of the Church.) Without hesitation, Benedict welcomed them back into the fold and allowed them to keep their own liturgical traditions, style, prayer books and practices with little modification. In this he really showed himself to be the Pope of Christian Unity.

For certain, Pope Benedict, leaves a long, rich, and enriching legacy that will serve as a wellspring for spiritual vitality for the Christians for times to come.

Here is just a sample of something he wrote:

The history of salvation is not a small event, on a poor planet, in the immensity of the universe. It is not a minimal thing which happens by chance on a lost planet. It is the motive for everything, the motive for creation. Everything is created so that this story can exist, the encounter between God and his creature.

Think on that for a time, let that roll through your mind and heart. Is there a need for another spiritual thought, ever? If all you did was to think of this and what its implications are, you would be a content person and your life purpose would be clear. God created you just to have a relationship with you. Could you live your life with just that one purpose in mind? In everything you do, in all your ways of acting and thinking, they would all be guided by the purpose of keeping and sustaining and growing in your relationship with God? The entire created world is setup, created by God, just to enable you to have a relationship with Him.

Thank you Papst Benedikt for that thought and thousands more like that!


Fr. John B.