Dear Pope Francis, so far and yet so near,

Traditionally the way that you are addressed is “Your Holiness,” and while your holiness is so plain to see – your shining likeness to God in His Great Mercy – i never cared much for titles or formalities. In 1980 i was ordained by a wonderful Franciscan Bishop, a missionary to El Salvador and friend of St. Oscar Romero. Lawrence Graziano was his name, and you would have loved him! You remind me so much of him, in fact. Many times when people asked where was his ring, so they could kiss it, he’d answer, “Go ahead. It’s in my back pocket!” And when asked what they should call him, he’d say, “How about Larry? Or better yet how about Friend?” Isn’t that, after all is said and done, the very word that Jesus chose?

If i do then boldly call you friend, be assured that it is out of absolute reverence and gratitude for the Gift of Love which you have been to us all, a TRUE FRIEND being the best gift that anyone can receive. And i do so because you have stirred up in me the passion of my youth, when my first HERO in life was another man who wore your robes, although a few sizes wider, Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII, now Saint John. As a teenager in the 1960s, the decade of the Hippies, many of us had posters on our bedroom walls which declared our allegiance to the cause of Peace and Love. The poster that i chose, that i stared at each morning as i got dressed and each night as i drifted off to sleep, held the image of a little house with a candle in one window. Below it were the words of Good Pope John: “In my window a little light will always be burning. All may come in. The arms of a friend will always be waiting.” He made this little boy so proud to be a Catholic, and rest assured each night that my Church – which generally had a harsh tone – really had at its center a Gigantic Heart, the Heart of God.1024151028

How i wished that heart to be seen and known again! A wish come true in YOU!

They call it a matter of Style. No one could (or should) question your dogma. For you, however, it is a grave matter of so so many wounded out in the fields, that there is just not time for dogmatism. And so, how well you represent what i really felt in my heart, not just my brain, yes even as a boy, of what Catholicism is all about. i suppose this is why i keep choosing to STAY with my Church despite its disasters.

We were all so much like human tape-recorders as kids, taking in tons of data, dogma. However true or magnificent those tenets were, being “one of the ONES who holds the truths” wasn’t really what most of us were after. And for a lot of us boys, after a full day of “recording,” we had to stay after school – if we wished to be altar boys – and listen to phonograph records of all of the Latin in the Mass, memorizing every word perfectly, whether they meant anything or not, from “Ad Deum qui laetificat…” to the end. Oh how we were tested – to be able to repeat those precious words and concepts – to the nuns and the priests. God help you if you didn’t get it! (i won’t get into those things here; that’ll be for other letters…) Suffice it to say that the little boy in me, the one who loved and sought after honesty rather than truth – honesty being the living of the truth – i always knew that something wasn’t right!!!

You, Good Pope, you reflect that Little Round Man who was my guiding light through those trying times, GOOD JOHN. Like him, you clearly hold and cherish all of those tenets of Faith. But more importantly you HONESTLY and very practically realize that the Church is in bad shape right now, just as the world is. The Church is meant to be the Great Beacon to the world, the HOPE of the world, showing as the Lighthouse in the storm another way, a better way, a higher way. How can it hope to do that if it forgets what matters most?!

How proud i am of you every day, but how especially proud i was that day when you attended what is the traditional “Office Christmas Party of the Vatican,” known for its exchanges of little gifts and trifles and fraternal embraces. But YOU, in what we know now to be your TYPICAL STYLE, you arrived with a unique gift for “the Good Ole Boys,” A BOMB!!! (a Love Bomb, they’re all Love Bombs you drop! but nonetheless BOMBS!!!) You used the party, which is meant to be just a pleasantry, to launch a Don Quixotic Cry for Change, suggesting – among many other deadly diseases – the Vatican was suffering from the grave illness of Spiritual Alzheimer’s, known especially as the Disease of Forgetting. When you get accused of brushing aside the Sacred Dogmas and Rules and Traditions, you so simply cut to the heart, in word, but more so in action. Your answer: “All of that is well and good, but there’s no time right now for that, There is just too much hurt, too many wounded or hungry or dying. WE CANNOT FORGET what all of the dogmas are about in the end, Love and Compassion. My work is out there in the field hospital, outside the majestic buildings, how-ever beautiful stone and gold can be. It can NEVER compare to the true stones, “the living stones”- with little broken hearts inside – and they are scattered all about right now. They need to be picked up and reconnected, rebuilt, as St. Francis called his own mission. They, the BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, are the Body of Christ just as much as any Pope or Cardinal or Bishop. I must spend as much of my time with them, to let them know this. Otherwise, what is it all about?”

i think that’s what you are saying, dear Friend. i wish we could meet for a cappuccino, and you could correct me where i’m wrong. At least, this is what i HEAR you saying by your life. And again…and again…and again, i am beaming with pride. Til next time, i am your knucklehead

{i borrowed the beautiful picture from Sandra Jo Mike, Secular Franciscan. Note how the LIGHT blown in the Wind of the Holy Spirit, flows from the darkness of the Cross, Made So Blessed by the Friend of all friends.}


Author: friardad

what's it like having a wife and six kids after having been a friar for many years and being still married to St. Francis' Lady Poverty?


    1. John xxlll my hero too. He brought me back to his church. Dispute the good old boys I have developed a love relationship with my lord and savior. This relationship made it possible for our Francis to regenerate hope for his church. To be blessed to be in his creation to experience these two gifts to his creation has blessed my life in his crration


  1. My brother! What a beautiful letter to Francis! Where do you such inspiration? The Holy Spirit, I know. I hope the Papa is able to read this. You are as down to earth as he is. I love you.


  2. You did a splendid job writing this….now only if he gets a chance to read it. Wonderful, Mike. I loved it. Passing it on.


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