My Dear Holy Father,
The words of the Psalm come so easily to my mind, “Like the deer that yearns for the running stream, so my soul yearns for you.” So cool, so clear, so refreshing!!! It has been two weeks or so since you zoomed by me in Central Park, but my soul being a camera and my eye being a lens, the image of your smiling face will forever live in me. Oh, how i miss you! Oh, how WE all miss you in America! Please do come again soon.
Certain people have the ability to make impressions on us that can never be wiped away. For me, one of the surest of these – a person who reminds me so so much of you – is Deborah Cohan, M.D. Lest any of us should ever forget her, let me recall how, OF ALL PLACES, in the City of Saint Francis by the Bay, California, one of the most beautiful miracles ever occurred. Granted, it was a “natural” miracle, but to me it was Super-Natural. It was humanity at its very peak. There, this amazing OB-GYN doctor was heading to her own operating room at Mt. Zion Hospital. She was to have both breasts removed due to cancer. Before the surgery, however, she did something most unusual. She invited all available staff to join her there for a dance party. She said, “Nothing brings me greater joy than catalyzing others to dance,” to dance no matter what!
One of the first things we learned about you, Holy Father, in the first hours after your election, when all were asking, “WHAT?! WHO?! Who is this man?,” was that you love to dance, particularly the tango. All of us who saw you up close saw many a grimace as you moved or sat or stood. We all wondered HOW IN THIS WORLD IS HE DOING ALL OF THIS without collapsing??? We know just how difficult it would really be for you, but we ALL WOULD LOVE TO SEE EVEN ONE OF THOSE TANGOS!!!!
But when the Holy Spirit lifted you up off your Argentinian stage to carry you and to drop you on the wider World Stage, it was to do a different kind of dance, the “Dance of the New Evangelization,” the bringing of a RENEWAL to the whole world, not just for Catholics but for all People Everywhere. And so far you have been “knockin ’em dead,” as they say! To you it is the Dance of the Christ and His Gospel, the Neverending GOOD NEWS that God’s Love is always there, for the asking, for the taking. “God never repents of creating us,” were among your very first words in America! There is always Reason to Rejoice, Reason to Hope, Reason to Dance! St. Francis of Assisi is, as you know so well, the one who better than most showed us how to move gracefully, to dance, in the footsteps of the Great Teacher, Jesus. When i heard the awesome story of Dr. Cohan, i realized that you two have a very similar goal, i.e. to catalyze everyone to fall in love with the dance, the dance of love.
My Father, i myself am the world’s worst dancer, two left feet for sure, though i know that the dance is in me somewhere, in the little boy in me. When we were little, we all longed to dance day and night. You have been able to keep your boy alive. That is what we love in you…and what we long for you to teach us, teach us how to dance with you. Let us move in the spirit of this most amazing woman and try to take the whole world dancing, both physically and spiritually, body and soul, in one, universal dance. And if we see it through the eyes of that amazing little man, history’s most famous “stripper,” St. Francis, who cast aside all that was non-essential, then we can really call it “the Dance of Perfect Joy.” He traded a mere human perspective for a greater one, when he took off his fancy clothes and replaced them with rags. He turned the world “upside-down,” and when everything seemed to be going wrong, and hope seemed lost, he would say, “This is the time of REAL JOY!” Or as another wise person put it, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Thus, the ever-dancing spirits of Deborah and Francis, Francis One and Francis New, Perfect Partners on the stage of history! Your personal Preacher, my personal Friend, Fr. Cantalamessa, says, “There is no time in history more exciting than this to be alive!”
How interesting that i met you in Central Park, and not just anywhere in Central Park, but in the place which many call its Heart, the section called “Strawberry Fields” after a song by the Beatles. John Lennon, who lived just across the street from there – and died right on that corner – used his powers of persuasion and of peace to unite so many countries of the world to participate in creating that sacred little corner of New York and of the world. When i was there waiting for you – with 80,000+ others – i was thinking of a different Beatle song, one which John wrote with George Harrison (who by the way had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus). i was humming the song to myself all throughout that afternoon, and i still do, when i think of you. Though you are gone from our sight now, you are with us in heart and soul, and i know that whenever we work towards your same goal of making this world a better place, a fairer place, a more just and loving place, then we are TRULY WITH YOU doing the dance. The simple song says it best…for me just what HAPPINESS is all about. “I’d Be Happy Just to Dance With You!”
i sure do miss you, though. And i think i’ll be writing alot of these letters…
As St. Francis used to say, PACE E BENE, Peace and Every Blessing. Your son and brother, “knucklehead”