How I Stole the Pope’s Ring 10

By Fr Jason Smith

Fisherman's Ring

Fisherman’s Ring

With Pope Benedict being on everyone’s mind and heart, and today being the feast of the Chair of St Peter, I thought today would be the perfect opportunity to tell my favorite personal encounter with Pope Benedict.

Back in April of 2006, while still a seminarian, I had the privilege of serving at the Easter Vigil, presided over by Pope Benedict XVI.

My only responsibility was to hold the towel for the few occasions the pope would need to dry his hands during the celebration.

One of those moments was right before the Mass started, in the small sacristy next to the Pieta, on the immediate right when you enter St Peter’s.

I was waiting there for the pope to come with one other acolyte and the master of ceremonies. My heart started to pound when I saw the papal elevator start to descend and before I knew it, there was Benedict XVI, looking very, well, white, in his white cassock and white hair, smaller than I remembered him, humble in demeanor, and tired.

He walked over to us and washed his hands, at which point I gave him the towel, which he used, and gave back to me. Since I did not know what to do with the towel afterward, I stuck it behind Michelangelo’s Pieta (inconspicuous enough) and waited.

The Pope had finished vesting when he suddenly noticed that his ring was gone. He turned to the master of ceremonies who gave an exasperated look. Then, they both looked at me.

I probably turned a hundred shades of red when it occurred to me: it’s in the towel!

I muttered something like, “Excuse me a second,” casually meandered over to the Pieta to grab the towel, and presented it just as I had left it, all crumpled up, to his Holiness. I watched him unwrap the little bundle like a Christmas present, and sure enough, there was the ring of Peter. He put it back on his finger and then tapped me on the cheek with a smile, a smile I’ll never forget.

These seminarians nowadays, can't let 'em out of your sight for a minute

These seminarians nowadays, can’t let ’em out of your sight for a minute

I think we were all surprised and saddened when Pope Benedict announced his retirement. His papacy has been a great gift to the Church, especially his teaching of profound and insightful theology. Perhaps the lesson that most stands out in my mind, however, is the one he personally taught me that evening. As I left St Peter’s laughing at how uniquely funny the whole event was, I couldn’t help but think of how human the pope is.

Please, remember to say a prayer for the Pope!


  1. Fr. Jason, what a wonderful story! I’ll bet you were never so nervous holding a towel as you were that night. Thank goodness you had the presence of mind to remember where you stashed it ‘cuz that would be an awfully difficult ring to replace 😉

  2. This is priceless!!! I love it! I was the maid of honor at a friends wedding and forgot the grooms ring which was entrusted to me why I don’t know. I’d forgotten it in the brides room. So I whispered to the brides brother in the first pew beside me to borrow his ring because the couple was about to get to that part. I was mortified but my friend had luckily a good sense of humor and laughed about it.

  3. Father Jason, I am so glad that you are sharing this story with the interweb, it is among my favorite of your stories and one that I know will humanize the Pope for all of us. Blessings to you!

  4. I loved this Father!!! What a wonderful of story. I tried to place myself in your shoes, and I could not even imagine. Thank you so much for sharing this. I hate to see him go! God Bless, SR

  5. Father, this is such a great story! Not only is it entertaining (although I can’t say that I would have done anything different if I had been in your shoes), but it also shows the pope in a personal way. Thanks for sharing!

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