WHO SAYS GHOSTS AREN’T REAL?

1013151535i dedicate this blog to a true lover of the Game, John Luongo, Red Sox Fan!

Who says ghosts aren’t real? Not only are they real, but they are REALLY necessary!

Ok, call them spirits. Sounds better. We’re not talking about Casper here. i’ve been praying these last few days that two of them in particular (one very new, the other out and about for five years) will step up to the plate and help resolve an Ugly situation, the Utley situation. It is ruining these soooo anticipated playoff games between some of the greatest squads in Baseball’s Illustrious History.

In a way i can’t believe that i am using my blog to weigh in on the matter, what with the enormous problems in the world, billions hungry or dying, terrorists everywhere… But, BASEBALL! As the commercial says, “We lived for this.” That little boy i once was with his shoebox full of cards, images of all of my heroes, Bill Maz, Stan the Man, Roberto!! i was a Philly boy, so in time a guy named Utley would also steal the base of my heart! He has been a symbol of the game itself, the game we love. Maybe this is why i cannot rest without saying something. And the thing i would keep saying is, “Chase, look at the video. Just look at the video. Send your agent home. Step up to the mic and settle this.”

Just recently someone was telling a cool story of Cal Ripken, Mr. Baseball himself, how a couple of games into his second season – after being Rookie of the Year – he was throwing some tantrum during a game.  A loving teammate took him into the clubhouse after and left him by a TV, saying simply, “Cal, look at the video.” It was the only lesson he needed. He remembered what the Game was for…for the children, who always need heroes.

One of the greatest movies ever made tried to tell story of John Merrick, “The Elephant Man.” There is a scene in the film, one of its most powerful, which might never have happened, but David Lynch used his poetic license to make us all think a most critical thought. At one point the doctor who saved the man from his most miserable existence, Dr. Frederick Treaves, cannot sleep. His wife wakes up to find him staring into space, tears in his eyes, wondering….asking himself why he did what he did, saving John. Was it for John’s sake, or for his own fame and glory? Freddy pondered the question, “Am I a good man, or am I a bad man?” Each of us must never stop questioning our motives and our behaviors, always striving to be our best inside and out.

i have not for a single moment questioned – as many Met fans have done to the point of calling for a head on a  platter – the motives of my ONCE-HERO, Mr. Utley. i KNOW that he had no intention to do harm to Ruben Tejada. His intention was, just as he says, to break up a double play. However, if he cannot “watch the video” and simply admit that he made perhaps the WORST ATTEMPT AT A SLIDE in the history of the game, then i for one can never even think of calling him what we all called Mr. Musial.

When i took my children to Cooperstown, N.Y., not far from our home, thank God, it was almost a spiritual experience. When i looked upon the name Mazeroski and thought of Bill in 2001, when he went there for his induction, how he got up to speak, ready for the usual 45 minute thank you, and i remember how Bill could not speak….Instead, overwhelmed by the fact that he was being honored for HAVING THE HONOR to play the game, he just sat down and cried. His emotion said everything! When i saw the name of my greatest hero, Mr. Sparky Anderson, a man who only played one year, when i was 5, with my Phillies, but went on to become one of the greatest managers of all time – AND WAY MORE THAN ALL OF THAT became the spokesman for the game and what it meant for life, MAN! i was overcome! Back in my teens and twenties i used to carry around a little notebook called Sparky’s Sparks, all little words of wisdom from THE MAN about gratefulness and humility and not taking ourselves too seriously and of taking each game, each day, as if it were the first and the last. Whew! What a man!

i’ve been praying that Sparky’s sparky spirit will light a fire under Utley’s butt. i’ve been praying that the newest, and one of the greatest ghosts of all, Yogi Berra, will come and talk some of his unique, no nonsense sense into the kid. Funny, but i can see Sparky and Yogi at that appeal process, each one taking an arm of Utley and leading him to the john. Sparky’ll say, “Come into our office, kid.” Yogi’ll say, “Have you really checked the video, I mean, honestly?” Then both will blast him in harmony, “That was just about the worst friggin move a guy has ever made on a diamond! Look how stupid you look. You even clunked your head. Did you clunk any sense to it? Why can’t you just step up to the mic and say it? Yes, we know you have made thousands of fantastic slides in your fantasic career, but that one was the worst. And so what! We were all learning right up to the very last play of out very last game. Ain’t that the most important thing we had to teach the kids?!” And Yogi adds, “Ain’t nobody’s poifect, pal! So, go ahead, save your career. A simple sorry’ll do. I know the Mets, they’ll never forgive ya, but the Game will, and that’s what matters. It’s about the Game, and the Game is more than the Game. It’s all about Life! If it doesn’t teach us how to live, what good is it?!”

“Am I a good man, or am I a bad man??” Sometimes the answer is in a simple acknowledgement of fault.

A LETTER TO POPE FRANCIS

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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”

“IT’S BREAKIN’ UP OUT THERE!”

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One of the worst times in my life was also one of the best – and one of the funniest, with retrospect. Giving us one of the most endearing memories of my father, it is an event that would provide direction to our whole lives.

What puts it into the category of catastrophe was my age at the time. A brand new teenager, 90% emotion, think of all the build-up, as dad told me to pick three buddies for a week-long graduation vacation to Wildwood-by-the-Sea, New Jersey, as close as you could come to Heaven at the time!! Better than 8th Grade Graduation itself would be this trip of a lifetime with my buds. And so the day came, the long drive to the ocean on a cloudy drizzly day. My father assured us, “Oh, this is nothing. It’ll all break up, boys, I promise.” We all unloaded, then took a seat at the table for some Rummy. My dad, the infamous Howie Robinson – in white tee and boxer shorts, Phillie Cheroot dangling from his mouth, a cloud of hideous cigar smoke matching the ones outside – began his seven day (count them) stroll from the kitchen to the door, declaring more times than we could have counted, “It’s Breakin Up Out There, Boys!” As it rained and rained and rained and rained!! Total Tragedy! Brother Sun began to shine 165 hours later, three hours before we drove home. Here is a photo of Johnny Williams and John Iorii, released from captivity on the best beach resort of the Northeast.200722_104578876290084_5982298_n

Thus one of the legendary phrases of my Father was born, not just a phrase but an attitude, a way of looking and a way of living. Who knows how many times it enabled my family and my pals to carry on in life? i am certain that my daddy’s HOPE helped Jimmy Peltz in his nearly forty marathons, to find that extra srength. 10013442_243430965843748_7679647031532847899_o i’m sure that my dad was in John Iorii’s heart and soul, when his young wife, Deb, was dying, and that lifelong “pal o’ mine” wanted to die with her. He would make it, it would break, and the sun would shine again. Good ole Mr. Robinson would help Johnny Williams to battle cancer…and now help me to do the same. Come on, boys, it’s breakin up out there. It’s a great life, a great adventure. We must forge ahead.

These days, when i think of my father at that door, i think of my dear dear friends, Gerry Straub and his sweet wife, Ecarlatte, in Haiti. i have blogged on Gerry before. As the Pope stood on Rocky’s “Stage” as the World’s Prophet of Hope, i wrote of Gerry as one of the reasons WHY the POPE has HOPE, one of Hollywood’s “stars” who chose instead to give up the limelight to take on the darkness and to trade the comforts of Tinseltown for the slums of Haiti. Gerry had already delivered hope to the homeless of Philly. But, then he got the message – EVEN LOUDER  AND MORE CLEARLY – from St. Francis and St. Clare, that the BEST solution to world poverty is the Christ Solution, which is no less than BECOMING ONE WITH, ONE OF the poor. Gerry’s true home now is in the midst of “the poorest place in the Western Hemisphere” at the service, especially, of the children. The problems there, the sufferings, are of such intensity, that one could easily lose all hope. But my buddy and his wife choose to GO and BREAK IT UP THERE, boys!!!P1020770Even if it means bringing food one morsel at a time and Joy one smile at a time. They see the ecstasy of children wearing two of the same shoes in the same size! Can you imagine?! So many are used to wearing two different shoes, whatever the closest fit, whatever they could find in the city dump. Bit by bit by baby bit, it IS breakin up down there!

When my kids were little, we all fell in love with Atreyu of the modern classic, “The Neverending Story.” The boy, whose name means selflessness, sets out to battle a force which seems infinitely larger than him. It is called the “Nothing” and its powers and effects everywhere. There are times when the lad appears just too small, way too weak, and there is almost no reason, no sense to carry on. That notion definitely appeared to my friend, Gerry, during the earthquake there. He was just like Atreyu in the Great Swamp of Sadness, about to sink. The scope of the suffering was beyond imagination. Hey, all that he had to do was to go to the airport, hop on the next plane, and return to Burbank, to the sweet California scene with its cool breezes and cool chicks, have a good stiff drink, maybe a bottle or two, and get back to business.

But, this is Gerry’s business now. An atheist’s trip to Italy years ago put him on a brand new road, and there was no turning back. There was only ONE ANSWER – like i said before. Jesus said, It’s not enough to feed the poor, Gerry. You must BE the poor, and then you will BE the Hope for the Poor. THERE lies all of the difference. Gerry did not give up. Furthermore, Gerry knew that he could only fight the Gloom from within. So, he dove right into it. It did not swallow him, the way that the Sadness almost swallowed the boy. What is known as the Great Paradox of the Cross, embraced to perfection by St. Francis, is being tested and proven once more in the Straubs. Gerry “beats the Nothing” by becoming nothing. The more he is emptied, the more he is fulfilled. “If you want to be rich,” promised Jesus, “embrace poverty.” Gerry and Ecarlatte dove right in, KNOWING that they hold SOMETHING STRONGER and GREATER than the Darkness. They have Faith, and they have Hope, and most importantly, they have LOVE.

So, it’s breakin’ up out there, alright! Because the Straubs are not giving up. Howie never gave up. Jimmy never gave up. John n Johnny never gave up. i sure ain’t giving up. Heck, if i ever dared to try, these guys would kick my butt!!!

HOLY MOTHER

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As a writer and listener to sermons, thousands and thousands of them, i must say that i have never experienced one quite like that of Eric Clapton. That’s right! The rockstar, as famous for his substance and sex addictions as for his guitar-hand, and the one that many used to call “God.” Of course, he never meant it as a sermon. It was just a chat, an interview, a recollection. Call it what you will; to me, it was the sermon of sermons.  

If ever there was an “lol,” Eric has lived in one for many years over that 1965 nickname that was painted on the London subway wall. He says that his very favorite picture was the one of the dog that stopped to relieve itself under the declaration of Clapton’s divinity.

Of course, the man must  take us all back to “the day the whole world cried,” the morning after he took his son, Conor, to the great circus at Madison Square Garden. Dad awoke to the news that the four year old had gone too close to the window on Floor 53. Thinking of Eric’s angel we all realize that we are still NOT CRIED OUT! And Clapton is perfectly willing  to confess his long, long battle with addiction – drugs, alcohol, sex, in desperate attempt to fill the void which is in us all, fillable only by ONE. Then, most beautifully, he tells how his life came full-circle, with Conor guiding the way, and how he returned to the way it was when HE was the sweet, pure little boy. Clapton so humbly yet proudly tells the whole world, “Every night now, before I go to bed, I get down on my knees by the bedside and pray…” to the true God, the One Who got me through it all.

Whenever I think about just what it is that I want my children to learn about “the higher things”, life, death, eternity, God….my message becomes increasingly simpler over the years. Five attempts at good, Catholic educating, only to learn again that these great gems will only be found through each one’s digging through the dirt of life-experience, these are wising me up and teaching me to let go. But, one thing, which I will point to – and repeat and repeat and repeat, is that irreplaceable tool. Please – for your own sake – befriend a good kneeler or find some special place, pure and special to you, and there hit the knees, morning, noon, and night. Don’t follow the Sinatra types, no matter how successful, if theirs are “not the words of one who kneels.” Heed the Claptons who know the very reason why our bodies were created this way, with this flexible joint. We are kneelers, all of us, and life will not let us forget it. “Yes, my name is Eric, and NO! I am not God!”

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But another critical point which comes out loud and clear in Eric’s perfect sermon is the essential need in us for a Mother. What i believe – and i think he does as well believe – to be his greatest song, “Holy Mother,” cries out from every cell of his body and of his legendary guitar. Written, he says, at the very very very lowest depth of his life, it finally took him to the road of recovery, of healing.

Millions of us around the world are thrilled this week with the return of Doc Martin to our lives. The BBC hit TV show created by the amazing Dominic Minghella only has new episodes every two years. We fans have longed with earnest hope that this “poor idiot” in what he calls “a whole village of idiots” will finally break through his horrid existence, a darkness that has engulfed his entire life. The saddest, most pathetic, yet irresistible man can save so many lives through his genius, but he cannot see his own pathos, because it is just too unbearable to face. i am amazed by Dominic’s ability to create this character, as Dominic has the most beautiful and passionate love for his own mother. The secret of Martin’s darkness, the root of all his problems, was eventually revealed to us when his parents suddenly arrived unannounced for a visit. We immediately saw the ugliness under the beauty of the great actress, Claire Bloom, and soon we learned, our hearts breaking to pieces, just how evil a mother- or shall we say  NO MOTHER at all. Somehow Mr. Minghella in his unceasing gratitude for his own darling mother is able to imagine life’s ultimate horror, to be a motherless child.

One of the treasures which we Catholics are most grateful for is how Jesus, in one of His final acts during his unspeakable death, took the time to deliberately share His Mother with the world, with all people of all time, but especially with those who have never experienced a good mother. Many of the Muslims whom i have known throughout my life were thrilled to acknowledge the wisdom of Christians in cherishing that most precious gift of God, the Holy Mother. October 7 is the day each year that we celebrate the Rosary in her honor and as our way to connect with her loving care for all her children.

A PARABLE

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Robinhood and the Old Cardinal – A Parable

(for my mother, who taught me to always love and take care of the birds – “…then God will surely take care of you.”

In the Great Forest there are so, so many kinds of birds, each one so wonderful in its own right. There is a Hierarchy among them, or so some tend to think. Among the least is robinhood, a mixture of a common robin and, well, a hooded monk, you might say. It is a tiny bird, smaller than a sparrow or a finch, and there is a little dot of red on the chest and a kind of hood on the head. It was a handsome bird, but quite, quite common.

One day, this robinhood was pondering this whole hierarchy thing, this Best to least. He always did tend to agree that none compared to the Great White Dove, the Most Magnificent bird who, while no one questioned his place of superiority, never did think of himself as or want to be superior. He flew around day and night, visiting all of the creatures. He was both all-wise and all-present, never but a chirp or tweet away. Wherever there was a bird in pain, he managed to fly right in and offer comfort.

That day Dove found robinhood weeping, and asked why. The tiny bird who was so sick and tired of being put down by the rest for being so plain, asked the Dove why some birds were more blessed, more colorful, more beautiful. This was especially so of the Cardinal who, whenever he flew through, would cause the rest to be silent. The Dove answered that it does not really matter how one looks, but only what one holds within and what he or she does with it, how well one loves and serves the rest. The Magnificent One told the robinhood, however, that the Cardinal is indeed very special. He was given that most fabulous cloak by the Creator of the forest, because he was called to guardian and guide of all, and to be forever ready to lay down his life for anyone in need. The bright red, then, stood for blood, the symbol of life.

Robinhood immediately answered, “But, I watch them. They don’t give their lives at all. They mostly fly around and show off, like they are better than the rest of us!” Then, he thought of his parents, how they indeed constantly sacrificed themselves for him and his siblings, and even their neighbors. How hard had been their lives! How often they went without eating, thinking only of others. How many times they had really risked life and wing to protect their families.

The Dove had tears in his eyes as he listened, as he truly felt every word of robinhood and stood in utter awe of that mother and father. “But,” he said, “Robbie, this is how the Lord of the Forest has willed it to be. We need our guardians, and if the Lord has given them the brightest cloaks to single them out, so it is.” And with that, he flew away.

Robinhood was so focused now on his mother’s love and on the fact that she deserved the highest honor. She deserved to wear that beautiful royal red cloak more than any old Cardinal. They are called to be ready to die, but she does die every day in every way. So, little robinhood worked out a plan to break into the Cardinals’ palace and to steal a red cloak for his mother.

Late that night the little bird found a very tiny hole in the basement of the palace. Being so small he was able to pass right through, and once inside, being so small, he was able to hop around and avoid the guards. He made it to the Cardinal’s chamber to search for the cloak. Soon, however, he was standing right in the presence of a Cardinal, but not like the one he had seen in the forest. This one was old, tattered and torn. “Your lordship,” he bowed, trembling, weeping, “your mercy.” How utterly shocked he was when the Cardinal began to speak. Expecting a powerful reprimand and a sentence to the deepest dungeon below, instead he heard the gentlest voice he had known, even more than the Dove’s.

The Cardinal asked why the robinhood had come to his chamber, which the little bird now noticed to be utterly simple, empty of anything ornate. Robinhood confessed his entire tale, accenting the wonders of his mother and father, and by the time he was finished, the Cardinal was weeping himself. “You do not understand, my little friend. How I wished that I could have taken off my fancy coat and placed it on your most worthy mother, or any of the precious parents in the forest. I know the way that they sacrifice and serve. I watch them. They are my teachers everyday, as I fly around the forest. That is my main mission; it is not to show off, but to see. To seek out and to study the selfless ones, to learn from them how to ready myself for service unto death. My red is their color, it came from their hearts, and I wear it for them, at every moment, for their honor, the Glory of Love. How many nights I cry myself to sleep that I have been so blessed to wear this cloak when your mother deserves it so much more. Why, I cry, why me?”

From that moment forward, the Cardinal and robinhood were bonded, the very best of friends, even more than friends. They were brothers forever. They would always be considered among the Greatest Companions in the Forest.

“SONO STANCO DI FRANCESCO!”

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i’ve been talking so much about my hero, St. Francis. He says it is making him SICK! “Sono Stanco di Francesco” is the way he puts it! “I am sick and tired of Francis!”

Yes, he and i often chat. Anyone who has been to the Portiuncola in Assisi, the Home of Franciscanism, will hold the little big man forever within. i called my website “The Adventures of FriarDad,” because although i was a friar-priest for many years, now i’m a father to six. And though “i left my heart with San Francisco,” he travels by my side wherever i go. The Irish say, “The Irish never leave Ireland; they take Ireland with them!”

So, this morning, after his grand worldwide Feast, St. Francis says to me – in beautiful Italian, of course – “NON PIU SU DI ME! Se si vuole dire al mondo la mia semplice messagio, quindi blogga di dogga.” i say, “WHAT!? i get the first part (“No more about me. If you want to tell the world my simple message, then…) WHAT?!” He points to my beagle, Rudy, BLOGGA  DI DOGGA! OOOHHH! Blog the Dog!

Now there is exactly what we were talking about yesterday, about Creation Mirroring the Creator! You can’t get much closer than in a dog. If you want to stare into the eyes of God, just look for a while into your dog’s. My good friend, Giovanni Luongo, for example, sent me this picture of his Riley. Have you ever seen anything so tender or true?!FullSizeRender_(3)The Passion,  the Yearning for Communion!

Giovanni says it so well that a dog does not see color or race or nationality. Concepts such as “pretty” or “sexual orientation” mean nothing to them, nor does young or old. Dogs just peer deeply into a person’s heart; is it good or bad, whatever, their love is unconditional.

At some point in the creation of the English language, some neologist (i.e. maker of new words) faced a great dilemma, when the meanings of two words would be so incredibly similar, almost “twins,” so he decided to just keep them as close as possible – “Hey! Let’s just spell them backwards! GOD & DOG!” God is  so many things, but to St. Francis of Assisi it was very simple. God is this Pure Love, no matter what, and this constant longing to be together with the beloved. He just wants to walk with us, by our side – always. Now who does that sound like?10153660_625625724185394_4655930681427172542_n

My precious Rudy suffers from congestive heart failure. His enlarged heart presses on his larynx and cuts off his breathing. He goes into a horrible cough, so painful for Rudy, doubly painful for us, because  this cough is especially brought on by his excitement over us. For example, if i leave the house for ten minutes, my return home will put the poor dog into the throes of passion. We try and we try to keep him calm, but there is just no containing his love. It can honestly be said, or predicted now, that my dog will die of Love. (i’m just not exactly sure whether it will be for me or for a piece of bacon; his allegiance can be held in question. LOL! He IS a beagle, after all!)

A few days ago i was part of a massive crowd of people of every age, size, color, creed, orientation, etc., etc. who each wanted just to touch one man who is like Rudy, like Riley, like Francis, like God. All felt so comfortable in his company, as all felt loved, each as he or she is. It reminded me of a day thirty years ago when i was in a very similar crowd, where everyone wanted to touch another Pope. A large group of teenage girls, one in particular, was trying to reach him as if her life depended on it. And when Pope John Paul II bent that extra bend to meet hers and their fingers touched – just like the Creator and man on Michelangelo’s ceiling – the girl exploded in tearful bliss. And i caught it, the magical mystical moment. All that i could think of was Carole King singing, “All you have to do is touch my hand…and something happens to me that’s some kind of wonderful.”1377599_628032453944721_8766895353220560304_nThis is what happens every time i take a moment to connect with my adoring dog. And this is what happens every time we are ready to let the Master connect with us, be it through prayer or when we really feel that Awesome Love TOUCH US deeply through a loving parent or sibling or a child or true friend, or an ocean or a forest of sycamores. It is really “some kind of wonderful,” and we could know it constantly, if we could just learn how to break from our busy or self-centered lives to LOVE and to be LOVED more…just like a Dog or God.1017751_635080819906551_7182317074189536740_n


	

SAINT FRANCIS & THE HOLY COMMUNION

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This favorite portrait of me, taken by my photographer daughter, Molly, caught me in the act of “holy communion” with a beautiful sycamore. Very allergic to every other kind of tree, i am all the more devoted to these, and this giant, this treasured friend, always has advice for those who bow and listen: “Patience! Slow Down.”

October 4 is the day on which the whole world celebrates Saint Francis of Assisi, now more popular than ever, thanks to a Pope who daily gives more honor to that holy name. Not that the Saint needed or wanted any more. He is already beloved everywhere and by everyone, non-Christians as well as Christians, and even by “atheists” who often will state that “at least one saint was for real!”

Francis’ Oneness with his Creator was so clearly reflected in his union with all of Creation. To him God’s Heart was evident everywhere, from a simple, humble, ordinary piece of bread to the finest performance of Francis’ Biggest Brother, Brother  Sun!11958197_879545598793404_5882470069095576699_o
If Francis had been strolling on the beach with me that morning at Avalon-by-the-Sea, he would have gone into ecstasy over the Golden Chalice reminding him of the Precious Blood which his Lord poured out for him.297358_162632797151358_1957486483_n

If he had been by my side in the woods last Thanksgiving morning amid a peaceful and perfect early snowfall, i know he would have stopped us both and told me just to listen to God’s Voice in the Silence, “Be still and know that I am…I Alone!”10933957_768697276544904_2458706986832886405_n

i know these things because, as crazy as it sounds, St. Francis WAS with me at that mystical moment in time. And it was Francis who tells me that God expects me to reflect Him as clearly and as simply as this pond reflected the trees. He wants us to do this in words, as humans are wordy creatures, but also without them, as Nature knows so well how to do. St. Francis had seen thousands of Assisi Sunsets and had gazed at countless mountaintop vistas. He knew “Speechless!” He often told whatever companion was by his side, “We must go out to the world to preach the Good News, and occasionally we will use words.” Whatever the Season, whatever the situation, stormy or still, the Creator still resides in the soul of every creature. Flowers, birds, even rocks, they all do it so simply, so well. Creation has been around so much longer than this knucklehead; it knows how to say it all! Only humans complicate things, which for the most part mean just be-ing. If only we can learn the Language of Nature – Simplicity, Simplicity!, Thoreau knew it. Francis perfected it, and his legacy lasts forever.

My favorite “fun-fact” about  Francis is how  he was  contemporary of Genghis Khan. Each was at the center of his half of the world. Not far apart in age, they died only months apart. But oh, what  different lives and legacies! Genghis declared himself the “Conqueror of the World,” apparently told so by his god, and he set out to do it, slaughtering whole cities and provinces of men, women and children who would believe in his dream. He built great pyramids to himself throughout Asia with the skulls and bones of his victims.  All of this as Francis set out to be nothing, nothing but the littlest brother of all – and servant of all, just a quiet clear mirror of God’s Heart – and so CONQUERED the hearts of all the world, in his time and all times since.

For St. Francis of Assisi Creation reached its highest mountaintop of all times and ages on that real date in real history when God Himself became one of us, a tiny, fragile, totally dependent and vulnerable Babe in Bethlehem. That Babe went on to become the Christ, the Savior of the world, and the night before He died told His followers that every time thereafter that they remembered that night at that table – with the simple everyday gifts of bread and wine – Jesus would really and truly come to be with them again. St. Francis firmly believed this to be the Ultimate Holy Communion. As someone once put it so well, “the greatest love story ever told is contained in the tiny white Host.” To really try to tell or to understand the life of St. Francis without this Host is impossible. Every communion with every creature, great or small, flows from and is made HOLY by that Communion with his Lord. It defines his life, and it explains just why the Saint was so madly in love with Creation; simply, it was because the Creator So Loved The Creation as to Become ONE WITH IT FOREVER. Only there does one go  to the depths with Francis. i know that many are content to love and to imitate this amazing man without the Jesus-Link, and that is fine. There is enough in him, though teeny was he, to “feed the multitudes”…just as long as all know THERE WAS MUCH MUCH MORE…It is “the Jesus Link” alone which explains his “crazy love” and what turned a common little man into the Man of All Times and Seasons.