A MOST BEAUTIFUL VALENTINE

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This is my lovely step-daughter, Bernadette! (Otherwise known as “How would like your steak cooked?”) She is a single mother, working harder than anyone knows, or very few appreciate, at Longhorn Steakhouse. And when it comes to waitressing there aren’t many weekends busier than “President Valentine’s!!!” Between shopping for all the sales and showing all the honeys how loved they are, this spells work, work, WORK for this young lady! And lo, and behold! Bernadette gets scheduled for a Double Double Double, Saturday, Sunday, Monday!

The tales that she tells after such times, or even at the end of ordinary days, are so often sad commentaries on her fellow human beings. Don’t get me – or her – wrong, she does not go there expecting a breeze! But her “tales of entitlement” could fill volumes, one sadder than the other. Often treated like a slave by a large group of malcontents who wear her to the bone, as if they own her, and her existence is meant for them alone. But unable to please them enough over hours of enslavement, she is left a tip of five dollars, when the “law of human-kind-ness” says it should be closer to eighty-five. How many times over the years our sweet, and WE KNOW hard-working, girl has sat down at the end of a day and cried.

But yesterday had such a happy ending, a storybook fairytale finish. There Bernadette was near the end of her second Double, that one being the biggie, Valentine’s Day. She was having a hard enough time just standing up. An hour before the restaurant’s usual closing, there was still over an hour wait-on-line for a table! One kind group of customers detected from her usual bubbly, but now near bubble-bursting, self, that she needed something to keep her going for the last big lap. They asked, “Is there anything we can do for you?” And Bernadette joked. Outside the window, just next door, there’s a Starbuck’s, so she said, just kidding,”You could get me an espresso at Starbuck’s.” To which they said, “Ok.” But they didn’t. And of course they did not have to. She did not expect them to. It was just a laugh.

And then a group entered the restaurant, a bunch of big hungry soldiers, all wearing sunglasses, late at night in a restaurant. They were from West Point, one of our great nation’s premier military academies which is nearby. As it turned out, they had all had eye-corrective surgeries. And they had waited a mighty long time for steaks! They had many a good reason to feel annoyed or entitled, but their eyes spied a little tiny lady on her very last leg, and one asked that very same question, “Is there anything we can do for you?” Bernadette laughed to herself about the last result of her response to that question, but she saw that they each had a Starbuck coffee to help them endure their waiting time, and it made her spurt out, “You could get me an espresso to get me to the end of this night.” How shocked our Bernadette when a soldier jumped to her need. He returned with a DOUBLE-ESPRESSO and a whole big bag of coffee to boot! These men were as tired and hungry and deserving of service as anyone, but they thought of her.

A wonderful Valentine for a wonderful lady! Only, very few ever stop to notice her beauty, that hard-working beauty. Herein lies the great dignity of our military, never appreciated enough. While other people may feel entitled and even demand service without a second thought of the server, they will look through their PERFECTED VISION and see a fellow FRONT-LINER. Waitressing, THEY KNOW, is not for the fainthearted. But they could have let her carry out her task to the end. OR they could show how well they KNOW the ancient code of the True Knight. In the military encyclopedia it is known as “MAGNANIMITY,” and it means “to use one’s power not to destroy but to build, not to dominate but to serve, not to force down but to raise up, to lift one who is tired or downtrodden in any way.” Such souls are among the forgotten EveryDay Valentines of the World.

You might say, Ahh, come on, you are making so much out of such a small thing! Well, i think not. Remember one of the world’s greatest stories of Love, that of Quasimodo for Esmerelda. He gave his very life for her, who had only – she alone – given him a cup of water. At the end of that long day and night these soldiers, who know better than any about chain of command, filed a glowing report to Bernadette’s manager, who saw that she received special Company Rewards for her labors. Small things? i think not…Unless in your world the little ones are the great ones.

Of Valentines 2016, i think we’ve seen Quite a BEAUTY!

 

A VALENTINE FOR ICHABOD (or Valentino Cappuccino)

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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.

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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.

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YOU’RE GONNA LOVE THIS!!

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Let’s get back to Ichabod…somewhere in the sands of the Middle East…

But first, let me say that whenever my eyes feel dusty and in need of a good rinse, whenever my soul feels heavy and dark and needs a little lightening, i turn on the YouTube and look for Mr. Bean on his Holiday. A hop-skip-n-jump to Paris, where he awaits his train to Cannes. With time to kill and a hungry belly, Bean enters a restaurant and is whisked to a seat and assured – in words he does not understand – “YOU’LL LOVE THIS!” Though London and Paris are so very close on a map, French taste and English taste may as well be planets apart, but BEAN BEees NICE and gives us a laugh to cleanse body and soul. He tries to eat, and what he just can’t he GIVES to the lady at the next table. LOLOL!

It is awesome, because we have all been there, all heard those words, scary words, before. Even scarier the plate before us! And we have sometimes been nice – and tried. Other times we have thought, “Eat it? I can’t even look at it! No way!” Once, when i was still just a young English-American, very unfamiliar with the world’s cuisines, satisfied with toast and butter, i was invited to an Italian house – and i mean REAL ITALIAN – where dinner went from One P.M. to Nine P.M. NON-STOP!!! i played nicee nicee nice, the best that i could, hearing “Provalo, ti piacerà” (Try it, you’ll like it!) a hundred times. i know, i know, i know, they meant well, they were so caring, so kind! But i was so sick to my stomach, i wanted to die!

WHY AM i TELLING THIS STORY? Because a similar thing happened in recent years in the Middle East with a result that could not possibly be less comical, less funny, more tragic. Some foreigners came into Iraq, they swore they had good intentions (let me even presume here that they did – somewhat). Many many people greeted them with joy and gratitude. But then they offered a dish, no, a platter; no, a whole gigantic plan, including a new “way of life.” i can still see a rejoicing, boasting George W. Bush, and hear him say, “Everything’s gonna be great! They’re gonna LOVE freedom and democracy!!!”

Now LOOK AT MR. BEAN’s FACE and try not to laugh. That is the reaction-historic, but it is NOT FUNNY AT ALL! The catastrophic MESS that now exists in the Middle East can well be traced to misstep after mistake, misunderstanding after miscalculation, miscue after misread, misperception after misinterpretation.  All of these misses, small or grand, now spell MESS on an epic scale, of truly global proportions. You can’t expect millions of people to just love hotdogs – let alone to go nuts for American liberty – just because this treasure which is all you’ve ever known tastes so good to you.

As Peter Jackson must see the whole picture now, we have simply, sadly, shaken the meanest, nastiest dragon that the human race has ever faced. Except this one is not on a massive theater screen. This one’s FOR REAL! Terrible pain and destruction are absolutely inevitable. A millennial-old Beast that was born of the fiery Hatred between Christians and Muslims has been awakened from its sleep. The effects, beyond words, have already been felt around the world. And the remaining humans live in a mixture of grave fear and grave determination to fight to the death.

AND THEN THERE’S ICHABOD! Remember him? This is how i started this story, this incredibly true story days ago. This story resembles that great epic tale in more ways than the dragon. Dragons will always make big stars. But the whole point of Mr. Tolkien and his pal, C.S.Lewis, and their Epic Tales, which were inspired in the foxholes of real-live World Wars, is that the SUPERSTARS are the little guys, the LITTLEST GUYS, in fact, like Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, and Ichabod! (Doesn’t he just fit right in?) i often wonder whether Tolkien imagined St. Francis, whom he knew so well, when he sketched his very first barefoot hobbit? Could the little man from Assisi, who might well be called the “most fearless warrior in history,” when he kept his humble, peaceful Baggins beside those journeymen, always encouraging them to keep their heads and examine their hearts, asking, Why did this happen? What was it all about anyway? Gold? Power? Who really wants it anyway? Questions, questions, questions…which, if honestly confronted, could humble the worst Giant.

AND THERE IS ICHABOD, my old friend, my own trusted companion, fortified by the Love of God and directed by the humble wisdom of the first in his line of hobbits – i MEAN FRIARS!! Sorry about that! Somehow he has the courage to “engage the Beast directly,” one might say, the beast living, breathing inside these men he knows to be his “brothers.” He can engage, especially as he knows his intentions are right. He is not out to force anyone “to eat his food or follow his path or lead his lifestyle.” He is simply trying to understand everyone he meets and to point every child to the very best in their varied traditions, as both religions are religions of peace…at the core. Of course the dragon is frightful. He could rise up and just react to this man, not give him a chance, and devour him. Ichabod knows that, just as he knows that “the Great Dragon of the West,” just as scary, might fly over someday – and strike him along with everyone else.. It is a very scary existence, yes, but fear is far smaller than faith, or hope, or love. And that is the triple-edged sword that Ichabod carries with him.

Carry on, buddy. Peace.

SEIZE THE MOMENT

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Taking a day off from my “Tales of Ichabod” to share a wonderful meditation that was shared with me for Lent. In my church we often speak about “sins of omission,” namely, the Good Things I Might Have Done. In many ways these are even more important – and so, serious failings – than the negative things we do do. SO MUCH GOODNESS down the drain!

Paul Bear Bryant was one of America’s Greatest Coaches. He knew how to bring out the BEST in people. He never settled for less than 101%. It is no surprise that a piece of paper was found in his billfold when he died. It read:

 The Magic Bank Account
Imagine that you had won the following *PRIZE* in a contest:
Each morning your bank would deposit $86,400
in your private account for your use. 
However, this prize has rules:
The set of  rules:

1. Everything that you didn’t spend during each day  would be taken away from you.

2. You may not simply transfer money into some other account.

3. You may only spend it.

4. Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400 for that day.

5. The bank can end the game without warning; at any time it can say,“Game Over!” It can close the account and you will not receive a new one.

What would you personally do?

You would buy anything and everything you wanted right? Not only for yourself, but for all the people you
love and care for. Even for people you don’t know, because you couldn’t possibly spend it all on yourself, right?
You would try to spend every penny, and use it all, because you knew it would be replenished in the morning, right?
ACTUALLY, This GAME is REAL

Shocked ???
YES!
Each of us is already a winner of this *PRIZE*. We just can’t seem to see it.
The PRIZE is  *TIME*
1. Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds   as a gift of life.2. And when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is Not credited to us.

3. What we haven’t used up that day is forever lost.

4. Yesterday is forever gone.

5. Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time WITHOUT
WARNING…
SO, what will YOU do with your 86,400 seconds?

Those seconds are worth so much more than the same amount in dollars.

Think about it and remember to enjoy every second of your life, because time races by so much quicker than you think.

So take care of yourself, be happy, and enjoy life!
Here’s wishing you a wonderful and beautiful day.

Start “spending”….
“DON’T COMPLAIN ABOUT GROWING OLD…!”

SOME PEOPLE DON’T GET THAT PRIVILEGE!
When i was small, i saw on television some great musician being awarded by all of his friends and colleagues a Lifetime Achievement Award. Funny thing is, i do not remember who he was. All that i recall was a giant theater filled with standing, screaming fans, as he got his award, and when he returned to his seat, his wife leaned over and whispered something in his ear through all the cheers. He burst out laughing. What i remember the most was when the couple exited the theater, and a reporter asked, “What did your wife say to you, that made you laugh so much?” The artist answered, “She said to me, ‘Now just imagine if you practiced!'”

ONLY THE PINK RHINO KNOWS

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My 14 year old Molly’s latest artwork was finished just in time for a Mardi Gras gift to our Capuchin friar friend, Ichabod, in the Middle East. But, an email from him this morning points out that it makes any even more perfect symbol for today, Ash Wednesday. It is just what he needs for his mission in a land where a Catholic priest is hardly welcome. He will need a Super-Strength, and there is nothing mightier than the Pink Rhino. So, where do we find such a creature? He is in anyone who runs on Compassion, a “battery” best found in the admission of one’s weakness and sin -AND THEN TOUCHED TO THE CORE BY THE HIGHEST POWER of all. The result is the AWESOME Might of Gentleness, of Tenderness.

It ran so well in the soul of “the Great Soul,” Mahatma Gandhi, who did not observe Ash Wednesday but who stated emphatically on many a Wednesday or any other day, “The only devils in this world are those who live in men’s hearts, and the only battles that should be fought are there, each one battling himself. I haven’t fared very well in mine, and that is why I have so much tolerance for other scoundrels such as me.” That is why, as many times as he was slapped or beaten, he could gently offer his other cheek.

It wasn’t long ago that Pope Francis visited our shores. Remember that guy?! Most of us went GaGa over him!!! Do we remember? Do we recall what was the gist of his message to “the most powerful nation on earth?” i have written many times how he could actually have found it in a letter written by George Washington to the nation in embryo. But Pope Francis already knew the answer and declared George’s secret wherever he roamed: “THERE IS NOTHING STRONGER THAN MERCY!” Ichabod notes what an excellent symbol Molly Robinson of Beacon, New York, has made of Pope Francis’ WORLD MISSION, being carried out by women and men like Fr. Ichabod: A PINK RHINOCEROS!!! What a bright child i have!!! The Mightiest of Might that can only be found in LOVE. No one said it better than St. Paul, who under the name of Saul appeared to be a man of power, quite the brute. He rounded up followers of Jesus and had a good old time watching them squirm and die. And then he saw THE LIGHT and how TRULY WEAK AND MISERABLE he was, not strong at all, just another bully. It was only when he was stripped of all power, all wealth, every-thing, that he really started to live. “When I am weak, it is only then that I am strong, in the strength that I have from above,” from the One Who Showed the Surest Strength by surrendering His Power to Love.

My friend, Ichabod, is not walking some new path through the Middle East – although it absolutely is “A ROAD LESS TRAVELED BY.” No, he walks in the footsteps of another man, the “first of the little brothers” who set the precedent for the mission some 800 years ago. St. Francis of Assisi, once a knight himself with all the swords and armor and other trappings, had fallen madly in love with a different kind of king. The Credo of all good knights was found in one word, which described such a King, MAGNANIMITY. It means to PROVE ONE’S GREATNESS by bending, serving, lifting up anyone who is below you, anyone in need. He had only found ONE SUCH KING, and he promised that ONE & ONLY his everything. Francis had found THE PINK RHINO and so was transformed into one himself. Strength in Service, in Compassion!

Without a doubt the perfect example of the pink rhinoceros came out during the Great Crusade, the centuries-long battle against the ultimate foe, or so they were seen, the Muslims. A young Francis had pledged his life, his blood, to defeat them. A NEW Francis, with NEW EYES and NEW HEART – found in the ashes of his sins forgiven, set out on foot and without sword or armor to the same Middle East (where his brother Ichabod walks just like him.) St. Francis in an action UNTHINKABLE-to-say-the-least walked straight through the “enemy lines” and asked to be taken to their leader. Imagine how many times the word “CRAZY” in its various translations was used that day!!! He was fearless, as only a PINK RHINO could be. He could NOT be harmed! All that he had to do was to reflect on the words of St. Paul thanking God for preserving him from all harm. Ha Ha, He He Ho Ho!!!!!!!! Did he miss something? Did he have major Alzheimer’s Disease? Could he not remember just how many times he was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, tortured? Why, of course he did! And he even knew that eventually they’d finish him off – that is, his body. But they could do no harm to HIM, the REAL HIM, the SAUL-BECOME-PAUL. He had been shown GREAT MERCY, handed personally by Christ “the Pearl of Great Price;” he had all that he could ever need or want.

And so Francis…in the very same Mercy, with the very same Pearl in the pocket of his soul, went to THE BIG GUY, the head honcho, the one who pulled all the strings of the enemy forces, and said, “Why can’t we find peace? After all, are we not brothers under the One God?” The Sultan Malik al-Kamil gazed with awe and listened intently to the PINK RHINO. Truly he had never before seen such STRENGTH. In the end he apologized to the holy man, saying those saddest of words, “If only they were all like you, Brother Francis, I would gladly order every soldier to lay down his arms.”

If only pink rhinos were not so very rare!!

Well, at least i know of another one….Francis still walks. Gandhi still breathes. Jesus still lives. And Nothing will ever be Stronger than Mercy.

T.G.F.I.

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Let us pause for a moment in a prayer for our sponsors….

Everybody, including me, loves to shout out TGIF one day a week and go out to eat! But i could say 7 days a week, even 8! and 24 hours of every day, T.G.F.I. Thank God for Internet!

i started yesterday’s blog joining the praises for the newest Knight, Van Morrison, for his Crazy Loving Ways. Let me begin this one thanking God for Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Inventor of The WorldWide Web, which makes it possible for me to proclaim the wonderful tale of Ichabod, not the one with the headless horseman but my buddy, the one who risks life and limb – his own head – a Catholic Priest somewhere in the Middle East, just trying to share God’s Mercy!

TimBL, as they call you, “these kids of ours” – lol, they hate when we say that! They know no other way. Typewriters to them, even libraries to them, are like old toys, not unlike red wagons or Flexible Flyers. They will never have the reverence or gratitude i have towards one like you – and all of your colleagues, of course, in giving us the ease and the precision, the truly “amazing grace” with which we communicate with our human family around this “little earth.” (and i still barely know how to work this stuff!!!)

How happy i was to awaken this morning to chat with my “Brother,” Ichabod, and share a prayer with him for all of our human family. How excited i was to be able to share with him how sooooooo many now know of him and feel one with him, he needs not feel lonely, at least, as he serves the People of God, be they Muslim or Christian or Hindu or God-less in the Middle East.

Though the Internet is now one more tool which, like so many others, may be used for great harm, it does us limitless good in linking all our lives together! i swear, if TimBL were my neighbor, i’d bring him breakfast in bed every morning!

Through my little blog i have been able to share with the world some of the amazing people that God has placed in my life. The latest offering will take all week, my Ichabod, such a fascinating soul. When i offered my first installment, it was picked up in Italy and Canada and Australia and Brazil, and responses came in from Pittsburgh, Massachusetts and Jersey. Sweet Debbie Isaacson of Danbury shared how she KNOWS that in these present horrors around the world true saints are being molded, but we won’t ever hear of many of them. i was able to present one, as God had graciously allowed my path to cross with that of this awesome friar.

Able to bounce Debbie’s words off of Ichabod, he was able to LAUGH at his new “title” and then to share his weekly homily and how he, like Isaiah in ancient times, had been so touched by the Power of God, that when God said, “I need some help here; who will help me?” Ichabod answered – with both trembling and joy, “Here I am, Lord; send me.” As unworthy as he feels, like Peter on his knees in the sand at the feet of Jesus, the overwhelming feeling is that he just cannot hold in his Gratitude for Mercy. Ichabod will still get into “icky” situations, and sin is always close. Just think how hard it must be, for example, to love people who could no sooner have your head. He will have to constantly return to his source of strength, the Heart of God.

But again! God has put His Heart EVERYWHERE, and another source of strength for “Saint Icky,” as Debbie and i have decided to call him, are his brothers and sisters – so far away and yet sooooooo close – thanks to Sir Timothy. Isn’t it all so amazing? As Louie Armstrong sings, despite all of its horrors, “What a Wonderful World!”

Where else could i send my daughter Molly’s pink rhinoceros for all to ride?

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WOW! Thanks, Molly! This is for you, Ichabod!

 

…AND THEN THERE’S ICHABOD!

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In a previous blog i mentioned a piccoloist who felt her part just so insignificant that she stopped playing. The Maestro halted the whole orchestra mid-symphony in order to comfort and to ensure her that her role was as important as anyone’s. In light of this i want to share the tale of someone so tiny YET SO TALL in the center of this world with all of its troubles. ICHABOD is the Maestro God’s VALENTINE to us all. i believe his story may take a few installments, but it is well worth the reflection.

Let me first say how happy i was last week, when the British Royalty decided to honor an amazing little saxophone player from Northern Ireland, George Ivan Morrison, better known to us all as VAN THE MAN. At Buckingham Palace he finally became Sir Ivan.

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Already i’ve heard many asking Why? What did he do?! Sing about some girl with brown eyes? Do a little Moondance? The truth is, this little man labored for over half-a-century to fill the world, so dark and sad and lonely, so “melancholic” – as he puts it, as it can be, with Light and Hope and Love. When i announced the Knighthood far and wide, many wrote to share what he meant to them, each one by their favorite from his enormous repertoire. It’s interesting how the winner among them all turned out to be Crazy Love. (i believe that only Dylan wrote more, and Dylan claims, “There’s none better than Van the Man.”)

i’ve been writing this blog for days, actually for months. Most recently i did some rambling on Donald Trump, and people have asked me why? Why would i waste my time, my words, on Trump…or on politics in general? Well, it’s true, our politics are at their very lowest ever (i feel the pain), and our country, our world, is in its direst need for a few good men. But i did all of that Trumping deliberately, and as a PRELUDE to this man, Ichabod, in contrast, one very good man, the CRAZIEST-LOVING brother of mine.

There are those like Trump and Cruz who actually think that carpet-bombing the Middle East is the answer, the best answer, the one answer. As if it would end the war and end the threats against the U.S. and the other freedom-loving nations of the earth. As if it would not lead to the War-to-End-All-Wars, as it would end all human life. What did Mr. Gandhi say? “An eye for an eye until the whole world is blind.”

…AND THEN THERE’S ICHABOD, my looney-loving buddy. Ichabod is not his real name, but it is what i always called him, as he was tall and skinny like Ichabod Crane. i won’t mention his real name or where he is at, as i would dread to be the one to hasten any terrible fate, as ready as he might be. Ichabod is a Capuchin friar/priest who lives in the Middle East as shepherd to many Catholic Christians and “crazy lover” to everyone he meets. He is not there to convert anyone but only to understand, to heal, and to love. i will return to this later.

But speaking of Gandhi, who can ever forget that defining moment of his life’s mission. Here he had wrestled his beloved India out of the grip of British tyranny. Enough project for whole vast armies, it was completed by only one tiny man who walked around in a diaper, had no title and no money. No sooner were they all free, however, then his dear countrymen decided to slaughter each other, Hindi versus Muslims. “The Great Soul” as he was known, “Mahatma” decided to hunger strike as a plea for civil war to cease and for them to begin instead to discuss how all could live in harmony. Wasted to nothing and just before he breathed his last breath, Gandhi was visited by a fellow Hindu who was screaming almost out of his mind, “I AM IN HELL!” He had just taken a Muslim child and crushed his head. “I LIVE IN HELL!” By now it was nearly impossible for Gandhi to breathe, let alone to speak, but he managed to get out, “I know a way out of hell. Find a Muslim child orphaned by this senseless war, and raise him as your own.” The man immediately felt a great burden lifted from him…..until the Mahatma added, “But be sure to raise him Muslim.”

WOW! To stretch the mind to think the unthinkable. To open and expand the heart to the very Craziest of Crazy Love (to love even as Jesus who was Gandhi’s ideal, although he was not even a Christian.)

And then there is Ichabod. A dear friend of mine, truly a BROTHER in the highest sense of the word, he and i lived in Italy together over 30 years ago. He actually chose to “Live in Hell,” as Americans and many others would call it. Whether he is killed by sword across his throat or by a nice shiny American carpet-bomb – but HOPEFULLY, God, you will preserve him who serves You!? Whatever happens, there is one who has found another way, call it Gandhi’s way or Jesus’ way or just “the road less traveled by.” Or maybe call it “the way of the Great Knight, Sir Ivan Morrison, the Way of Craaaaaaaaaazy Love.” His way out of Hell is to go right into Hell’s Belly, and, like a little piccoloist, play his tiny part minute by minute, hour by hour, doing what he can do for Love.

Let’s pray for him and all of those with him…and for our crazy world. Only something crazy is going to work (and i truly do not think it is carpet-bombing?!)

More next time. Ichabod, i love you. (He is reading this!)