My dear 88 year old Mother often likens “THE DIVINE MERCY” as a LOOKING INTO THE  EYES OF GOD. Whenever something wonderful or miraculous happens in her life, she immediately grabs pen n paper, or telephone, to tell me, “God’s doing it again, winking at me!!!”

My precious friend, Olga Mihanowich, old enough to call my mother “a kid,” called me today to share a beautiful tale of Divine Mercy. It had to do with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in whose eyes Olga has seen God’s Great Big Heart.IMG_20160406_192905 i told her that i just had to share it here.

Actually it is about Olga’s friends, Matt and Nancy Condon of Beacon, New York. They were booked on a flight Friday night from New York City to Rome. They were among a large group, under the lead of Cardinal Dolan, to celebrate Easter and Divine Mercy with our Pope. There was, however, a problem. After all of the months of planning they had not anticipated an airplane with mechanical issues. After hours of praying with mechanics-at-work, the whole delegation was told they’d have to wait another day for another plane. Everyone was shuffling about, making arrangements, but Matt and Nancy were too late. It appeared that they would have to just curl up in one of JFK’s cozy airport lounges…until the Big Man, headed back to St. Patrick’s, asked about them. He would hear nothing of their staying anywhere but in his home. They must’ve felt that a bright Angel was before them, IMG_20160405_210448987

but angels don’t usually wake you up the next morning with a big breakfast. Men do, men who have stared into the eyes, and deeply through to the HEART, of God. 12371029_920057238075573_9091724108862031976_o (1)

Pope Francis has probably considered among his most important work these past three years the countless appeals – should we call it begging – to his fellow bishops and priests, that they fall passionately in love with God, that is, MADLY IN LOVE WITH LOVE HIMSELF! A LOVE THAT EXPLODES IN JOY! No doubt, whatever has been Matt and Nancy Condon’s experience in Italy throughout this week, whatever Olga will be hearing and seeing in photos this weekend, it probably will not compare to Day One, the failed day, the flopped plan, when they came face-to-face with Mercy Divine in human form. They had planned a trip of 4300 miles to celebrate Divine Mercy, but they had already felt and tasted it in the generosity of their own good shepherd.

TIMMY, YOU DID YOUR PAPA PROUD!!! (Not to mention your dear Mama!)

i have stared myself into the eyes of the Cardinal (though, like Olga,  i strained my neck to do so). But, even more importantly for me was the night that my children and i were watching all of the Cardinals assembled in the awesome Sistine Chapel, where they were praying and discussing which one they should elect the New Pope. History in the Making, i remember feeling so darned proud, as the first 100 or so marched in with such stern faces. Sure, it was understandable with the magnitude of their decision at hand! But then came our own Timothy Dolan!!! i say so with no disrespect, but rather because – and my kids were so thrilled about it – our Big Man walked in like a little boy, into that room where i myself have been many times as a witness to its MAGNITUDE! He was the only one with that most appropriate expression of utter awe, his eyes popping out like a tourist’s in his Manhattan. His Spirit Uncontainable! Pope Francis has said it til he’s blue-in-the-face, that this is the kind of soul we need to shoot New Life into the Church and into a growingly hopeless world. A CHILD’S AWE AT THE ULTIMATE MYSTERY OF GOD’S LOVE!


i found AMAZING GRACE in the onions…

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GRACE IN THE ONIONS/A Letter to the Pope

My Holy Father/my Holy Friend,

It happened recently at our market. Just as my hand reached in to grab a big juicy onion, so did hers. It was Grace, SWEET GRACE!!! Thirty-three years or so have passed since her last confession to me (she was a regular customer, when i was a priest), but it was as if that had been just yesterday. And so, like yesterday, the RIVER IMMEDIATELY BEGAN TO FLOW!!! She exploded into tears, gracing my cheeks down to my chest with love divine. Maybe it was the onions? Maybe it was our Common Passion for the Mercy of God.

Almost by routine, right there amid the onions and potatos, Gracie began to “confess” – tears now like Niagara – how she’s been away from the Church soooo long. Of course there was no mention of (what i know already) tragedy upon terrible tragedy that struck her life from every side, making it barely possible for her to practice her faith like once upon a time – as is the case of so many wounded souls in the Great Field. i stopped her from the Get-Go, “Whoa, Friend! Wait!! You know i’m not a priest anymore. i traded for a wife and six children. i have no power left to wipe away sins!!” And do you know what she said to that? She said, “YOU will always be my priest, and it will be more than enough for me to hear you say, as you always did, ‘HOW LOVED YOU ARE, DEAR GRACE! How loved we are, NO MATTER WHAT! And it’s ALL THAT MATTERS, TRULY!'”

Oh, Pope Francis! i need not tell YOU! You, above all men!! But i just love to tell you, right here from the onions, how desperately the Good People of God LONG FOR THAT LOVE and want to hear this simple message of Mercy over and over and over again. You often say, dear Teacher, that each and every man and woman needs to be brought – by Life – to that Deep Well Within, to this Gushing Gift of Tears. Or maybe an Italian lady such as my Grace would prefer to describe it as Life’s Endless Entry into the Layers of the “Great Onion” with ITS WELL of tears, the Encounter with AMAZING GRACE ITSELF, or should we  IMG_20160403_122434027_HDR (1)


No priest can ever receive a more precious gift than to have such tears, human and divine co-mingling, pour out upon his face and shoulders by a person who is meeting this God FACE-to-FACE in Mercy. Gracie bathed me so many times in the past – and WOW! Now again, reminding me as she did that we, each and every one of us shares in a Royal Priesthood, and Jesus, the Founder of this Priesthood, somehow knew how important it was, humans being flesh and blood and sweat and tears, that MERCY BE EXPERIENCED in the flesh and tears.

YOU, Holy Father, have given this FACE OF MERCY to our Old Church once again. i could never express in words how proud i am of you, how thankful, and HOW PLEASED i am that the Whole World Has Received You, has EMBRACED YOU for this reason. Today is the Feast which your predecessor, Pope Saint John Paul II, made sure to establish before he died. INDEED, Amazing As It Sounds, he passed from this life to the next ON THIS FEAST, HIS FEAST, OF DIVINE MERCY.

Three Easters ago, on your first Easter as the Pope, you put out a cry to the whole world for “All Hands On Deck,” for every man, woman, and child to join you in this all-important task of FIRST: Meeting Mercy, of Going to God in brokenness and sin, to be healed…and then SECONDLY: of Bringing that Healing Grace to what you described as “all of the wounded in the field hospitals of the earth.” The part of you of which i am the MOST PROUD is how you traded our “Old Church Definition” of APOLOGY, that of a “Defense of our Beliefs No Matter What” to the other definition of the word. It is the understanding, the definition, which most people have, this beautiful manner and practice that you have. Most Simply Put – We are all so imperfect, so hurt and broken, that we can just never tire of saying, “I’m Sorry,” and, then, after being forgiven ten thousand times, being so happy to forgive others… IMG_20160403_133410849

We are all such a mess, “knuckleheads” i like to say, but the HOPE OF ALL THE EARTH, as both you and your Capuchin Preacher, Fr. Cantalamessa, put it last week, “THE ONLY TRUE HOPE OF THIS WORLD LIES IN MERCY.”

My dear friend, Lisa Codner-O’Flaherty, just sent to me from her “place on top of the world, St. John’s, Newfoundland,” the perfect image of Divine Mercy, that ONE THING we can be even surer of than of our sinfulness, the LOVE THAT NEVER ENDS! Amen. Alleluia! God Bless and Keep You, Holy Father. BUONA FESTA di AMORIS LAETITIA!