One of my oldest (meaning “most faithful”) friends, Carole Roberts, once said, “Oh, Michael! You make the world seem so beautiful!”
i must admit, i have tried for much of my life to do what Pope Francis does to perfection, to always see the good through the bad, the light in the darkness, the gold in life’s ore. i have had a great deal of help in this quest from a God Who has simply smothered me with gifts, especially so many
One of the most powerful of such occasions, that very much sealed my optimism, happened in the Spring of 1985 when the Capuchins sent me to Italy for a few months special assignment. Very soon after arriving, i experienced at the Vatican a genuine miracle, though far unlike any that i had ever dreamed of. To experience it with me i am going to challenge your linguistic ability. Get ready to roll with some beautiful Italian.
My dad had sent me a check to cover my mail and gifts to family and friends, and i heard that the Vatican Bank had the best exchange rate. It was still in lire then, so i walked out of the bank with about a million! i was headed to the Vatican Post Office, one of the world’s busiest, to send dad a “grazie.” There i stood among a great mass of humanity of all kinds. We were all waiting for – LOOK OUT, HERE IT COMES – FRANCOBOLLI!!! Ah, don’t you love it? It means stamps. What a word, but it must be rolled. Come on, you can do it!
Anyway, so i fixed my FRANCOBOLLI, mailed my letter, and took off down Via di Porta Angelica for a cappuccino. But after slowly savoring my drink, i reached for my money to pay, only to realize i had left it ALL on a counter at the post office in that vast sea. My heart sank. It was all i had. The cafe guy felt my pain and let me go on a “domani” (tomorrow). Walking back, then, towards St. Peter’s, i just kept thinking of how long it had been and how at least 1000 had gone by the spot. Still, a spirit pulled me into the building and through the mob, only to find that someone had spread a million lire across three feet of counter space, so that the loser might see it. A woman was licking francobolli inches away, and she knew by my eyes that i was “the guy.” “Eh, Bravo!” she screamed, and with her a couple hundred souls, all applauding me, patting my back or hugging me. i just stood in awe, a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. i bowed to them, to the Good God in them, as i recalled the sentiment of Thomas Merton, the day he left his sacred hermitage in order to return to a city to see a doctor.It was in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, at its busiest intersection, that Fr. Merton stopped dead in his tracks, seeing, as if for the first time: “The Blessed Human Race! If only they could see themselves, shining like the Sun.”
How utterly awesome on March 13, 2013, when a brand new Pope, who asked to be called Francis, stood on a balcony overlooking that very spot where i met God. And now, with billions watching, he did something totally new. He was supposed to give them all his very first blessing, but instead he bowed to them, to the Very Sacredness of them, each and every one, and asked them to bless him. Recently my niece, Andrea, was visiting Rome, and when she returned, she brought me this refrigerator magnet picturing that very very
moment, reinforcing the reinforcing of my memory of God in His Creatures. No wonder Pope Francis started his American Visit with a Cannon Blast of HOPE.
How can i not believe, with him, in the what he spoke of today before the Congress, “THE TRANSCENDENT DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN BEING!?”