From a crystal New York Wood, present temperature 20 below zero fahrenheit, i send the warmest greeting of love to our dear friend in a steamy, sandy land far away. They say that cold makes us warmer inside. But, then again, perhaps it is best that i make this a coooool Valentine to soothe your brow, my Ichabod, my Capuchin in the Middle East.
When you and i were young friars and full of dreams, we studied together the “FRANCIS WAY,” the traditions of St. Francis, while living in Rome. You followed him to that part of the world where he had left a most distinctive footprint, and to this day you try to live his “impossible dream” of seeing and treating everyone there as friend and as part of your greater family. Whenever i think of people like you, whom i am so honored to call my brother, that ancient story comes back to my mind like some favorite tune. It came out of your region of the world, the Persian legend of a little bird who, upon discovering a great fire in the forest, flies to a nearby stream and picks up droplets of water, flying back and forth to do its part in saving the forest. A frog nearby says, “FOOL! What do you think you are doing?” The bird simply answers, “I love the forest. I have to try.” On its next fly-over the flames reach up and swallow him. So many would call you a fool, Fr. Ichabod, for daring to attempt such a quest. But you are in great company, for that is what they called the Assisian and all of his little brothers who have gone there before you.
Today’s blog – on the actual Valentine’s Day – will be a kind of summary of this whole week of Valentining You, of telling people far and wide about your kind of love, since this is really all about YOUR being God’s Valentine, God’s Love-Letter, God’s clear reflection in the world.
JUST LOOK at what a mirror creation can be!! Sometimes you cannot tell the copy from the Original. That is how it’s meant to be – with our Love reflecting God’s.
My mind just keeps taking me back to Mr. Tolkien, of whom i spoke days ago. A man most brilliant with an imagination beyond limit! And yet he was such an ordinary man, of the simplest tastes and old-fashioned virtues, a man of utter fidelity to his wife of 55 years before she passed. Tolkien is called the “Father of Fantasy” for his writings, especially “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings.” He had personally, intimately, experienced war, in fact THE WAR, the BIG ONE, the first to involve THE WORLD! Every one of his colleagues died. He alone survived to tell the tale, and he did so in a spectacular way, HOPING against HOPE that the likes of it would never be seen again. (Only months after publication Hitler invaded Austria.) As spectacular as the epic story is, what stands out the most are the author’s idea of true heroes. They say it flowed very much from Tolkien’s own personal experience of his leaders in military, once writing to his wife of “how rare it is to find a human being among them!” His heroes instead were very human, generally quiet, humble, and lovers of peace. Willing to fight, of course, if they had to, if there was good reason to, but good reason had to be fully consulted first.
When i called you a “modern day,” and more importantly a “Real-Life” Baggins, Ichabod, i did so not in any trite or flighty way. To be such a man, a gentle-man so in love with the Earth and all of its creatures, is never any small task or quest.
So i made this Ichabod Blog, i made this Valentine with the artistic assistance of my own Molly, mainly to tell my friend how much i admire him, and, though there may be so many miles (and degrees of temperature) between us, i feel our Oneness more than ever. And secondly, the wonderful fact that this Valentine was opened and read on 6 of the 7 continents (haven’t reached the mobs in Antarctica yet!), i am so happy to know that the “tales of Ichabod” have brought you many more brothers and sisters to love you and to pray for you. What is your message to the world? Not that everyone must become some missionary to a foreign land, that all must risk life or limb to make peace with Muslims in Iraq or Syria, but if only to have minds opened a bit wider and hearts stretched a bit further to get the whole bigger picture…
“Saint Icky,” from my frigid yet clear forest i offer this Valentine prayer for you. Lord, take our anxieties, our fears, our doubts…confusion…anger…rage…anything that might stir our soul-waters and so blur our reflections of You, Who created us to be your mirrors. Let us share Your Stillness with all we meet this day. Keep our Ichabod safe in your Love, where even if his body be harmed, he will know Perfect Joy. Amen.