WHEN PAPA GEORGE MEETS PAPA GEORGE – Fireworks!!!

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Hopefully you will pardon my feeble attempt at the art of the silhouette! In last-minute desperation i cheated with the Pope’s little hat and President’s wig and wooden teeth. How Beautiful that they shared those double chins!!! i also took the liberty of giving our George a hefty grin. Pope Francis’ is already his great trademark, but i often imagine that from Newburgh forward George Washington engaged in many a belly-laugh. For the previous few years he had little to laugh about, but i have come to see that the deeper one’s soul is carved by sorrow, the greater its laughter will re-sound – that is, when one has the key ingredient of Faith.

Yesterday my blog ended with passionate desire that before Thursday morning, when he makes history as the first Pope to address the American Congress, Pope Francis would be able to read the plea of our Founding Father to a New-America-Still-Unborn, from his knees in the final headquarters of Newburgh, New York. Mr. Donald Trump has adamantly insisted that he coined the phrase, “Making America Great Again.” No politician has ever said it before!! However, we do know that General Washington, finally the “Victor,” about 240 years ago, promised that this nation would never be great – and never be happy, lest it became a People of Humility and Gratitude, of Mercy and Compassion, not swaggering about in “the arrogance of prosperity.” The victor KNEW that he owed EVERYTHING to GOD, into whose hands he placed his courageous army every morning, noon, and night.

In the same way this holy, noble visitor to our country explodes constantly with Joy, even as he bears the weight of the world on his human shoulders. He is able to only because he leaves it all in the same God’s hands – morning, noon, and night – through PRAYER.

Only just recently did it dawn on me that Papa George would be meeting Papa George this week, at least in Spirit. The very Same Spirit which enabled Washington to found what potentially is the greatest nation on earth, on 3/13/13 whisked this joyful little dancer from Argentina and planted him on the greater World Stage. Yes, he was a Bishop, and a Cardinal, but most of all he was a poor and simple, humble priest known to all as Papa Jorge. That day he took a new name, pointing the eyes of the world to a poor and tiny man from Assisi, knowing that St. Francis still holds the keys to how this world can be re-united and re-newed, made brand new! Shortly, that same Papa Jorge will arrive here, super-fortified by the Faith of Francis. And when his Spirit meets the Spirit of George Washington (a Spirit that is far from gone, no matter how much some knuckleheads may try to keep it buried), THERE WILL SURELY BE FIREWORKS!!!!!

My Second Father

0919151030a0919151109this one’s dedicated to Doris Kearns Goodwin, America’s Dearest Historian!

When you enter my city of Beacon, New York, you are greeted by this proud
monument (though i doubt that many of our residents even know it’s here?!) It is, of course, human nature to take such “center-stones” for granted. i realize that there are few like me, who can hardly get through a day without the mind wandering back to George Washington. To live in the area where he spent the most time during the great war which birthed our nation, to breathe-in his air and to feel his Spirit still alive here is just – just – WOW!

The day that I left home, at 14, to enter the seminary, my father said to me,
“Now you will have a thousand fathers.” But already the position of #2 in my heart had been battled for – by the sweet round Pope, John XXIII, and George Washington.To this day it’s hard to say if either one won, especially the more i learned of George. My favorite president, like so many others’, is Lincoln (that passion most evident on the tattooed arm of today’s barista, Alex. SEE PHOTO ABOVE) However, any honest student of “Honest Abe” knows that the Truth that compelled him to face each day’s battles was Abe’s utter devotion to one man. Lincoln chewed on and swallowed the Bible with the same voracious appetite with which he devoured anything he could get on the first father of our nation. If anyone would break the great mystery of “JUST WHAT WAS Lincoln’s Religion?,” the answer is in the man, George Washington, the best of faith personified, the total abandonment of a life to God.

i don’t recall how young i was, when my eyes first beheld a Washington bed.
While my dad planted in my head that comical sense so prevalent in the 50s of “hey, just how many of these beds exist?,” at least THERE i knew that “the Great One” had definitely rested his head. It wasn’t far from my home – in the ever beautiful Valley of the Brandywine. i stood in awe, my tiny body bursting with goosebumps! That house remains, of course, there in Chadds Ford, Pa., such a sacred, and sad, place, a place of great loss. More men fought that day, September 11, for the longest time of any of the war’s battles, 11 hours straight. The prize would be massive, the city of Philadelphia! At the loss hopelessness just about took the Patriot’s Soul – were it not for the Faith of the Commander. It was on that battlefield that i first learned life’s lesson that “you can lose many battles, but still win the war. As bad as things get, GOOD will be the Victor.”

Where i live now – in another beautiful valley which also saw much fighting
and was often soaked by Patriot and Redcoat blood – there is such a different sense amid the same sacredness. The Hudson Valley of New York is where the General, with his faithful companion, Martha, stayed the longest and where he could finally unwind a bit, reflect on all that had taken place, PRAY and PRAY night and day, and write. Washington was always taking notes on life and its adventures. There is no place where the Faith of the our Father is better expressed than in a letter he meant for the whole infant nation that was about to be truly delivered. George Washington clearly had the strongest conviction that “All is Gift” and that God is the One in Charge, the Only True Commander-in-Chief. None of the thousand or so bullets, which his comrades in battle saw whizzing by Washington, ever hit a target, which God would not allow. And now this man, on grateful knees, wished to share it all with all “Americans” of all time.

WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE GIVE THESE WORDS TO POPE FRANCIS!!!!!!

who in five days will be the first Pope in history to address the Congress and the People of this great nation. i doubt that many of the knuckleheads will even be listening, but LET HIM CALL UPON THEIR FATHER and his words. Perhaps they will not listen to them either, but they certainly should HEAR them. In my humble opinion, for this “Herculean Task,” the Good and Gentle Pope needs simply to re-introduce us to our dad. This is “daddy’s constant plea:”

“How I wish that all would come together now and offer sincere thanks for the Signal Mercies which distinguish us as a nation. Preserve us, our Heavenly Father, from the Arrogance of Prosperity. Imprint on our hearts now a deep sense of our obligations, to share with the whole world the Incomparable Mercy that has been shown to us. Render this country more and more a safe asylum for the unfortunate of this world. Dispose us all to love Mercy and to do Justice and to dress ourselves with the same humility, charity, and pacific temper of Him, without a humble imitation of whose
example we can never hope to be a happy nation. Amen.”

WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOGCAST TO ANNOUNCE:

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THE STORM OF THE CENTURIES!!!!!

In late October of 1991, an extremely rare event of epic
proportions decided to pay a visit to the Atlantic Coast of
America. Basically, some giant hurricane had morphed into a
a super cyclone, mixing in the air and riling the mighty sea.
It came to be known as “the Perfect Storm.” We were given a
glimpse of just what Mother Nature is capable of. Thirty-foot
waves were common in pounding the coast from Nova Scotia to
Puerto Rico. But other waves – higher than 100 feet – were
also recorded. We still get choked up over the last recorded
sound of Captain Billy Tyne of the Andrea Gail, crying out to
his crew of five, “She’s comin’ on, boys, and she’s comin’ on
strong!” Their names are forever remembered at the Fishermen
Shrine in Glouchester, Massachusetts, telling us to always be
grateful for the work of the wise meteorologists who also saw
her comin’ and managed to keep the death toll so low, compared
to that of similar storms of history.

HEY! Do you remember that the name of the hurricane at
the center of it all was “GRACE!”

NOW almost 25 years later, an even more “perfect storm”
is a-comin’. Brewing for many months, its target, too, will be
America’s East Coast, though its proportions and effects will
be worldwide. Its elements will reach beyond Nature, Humanity
and Divinity Comingling. No doubt they will long speak of this
one in the Fall of ’15, “when Grace Returned” in the figure of
a spry old Pope, and his spiritual storm struck the Great
Megalopolis from Washington to New York – with its eye in the
City of Brotherly Love.

My daughter, Molly, and i love to study clouds. Being a
great little photographer, she manages to capture some of the
best. She got this amazing shot one day, that manages to say
so well just why we love them so. It’s because we know that
somewhere behind every storm, however frightening, there is a
“blue-eyed God,” Who is infinitely bigger and better than them
all. Just like the mightiest hurricane – let’s pretend it’s a
Category 100 – is a mere drop of dew against the Sun!! And in
much the same sense, the reason why we love Pope Francis so is
that he clearly believes that the GOODNESS of HUMANITY, the
DIVINE LOVE in US, far exceeds any evil man can devise.

How interesting that the Biblical Name for God can be
translated into English as “WIND,” and what wondrous currents
have been stirring in the hearts of humans all over the globe,
Catholic and non-Catholic, ever since that 3/13/13 when a wave
of God’s Spirit scooped up this humble, happy, holy little guy
from Argentina and made him “the Great Shepherd.” His Spirit
now beckons the Spirit in us all and calls us together, whether
in flesh or just Spirit, to Philadelphia, many waves, many
currents, but ONE SPIRIT, ONE STORM, bent on “renewing the face
of the earth.”

The great William Penn’s noble yet failed attempt at many
many people trying to live as brothers and sisters, one family
under God (as Jesus offered in the Gospels), stirs this patient
man to say, “Yes, we have all failed gravely, but it’s okay.
Now, let’s get up and try it again!”

The “meteorologists” calling this Baby are not out to scare
anyone away – in an attempt to save lives. Quite the contrary,
these forecasters (like myself) mean to cry out to every ear
that can hear, “Come on. Dive in. Let yourself be swallowed by
this Cyclone of Grace. Her waves will be immeasurable. She’s
comin’, boys! Let’s lose our old selves, and start anew.” i
imagine that the whole administration of Pope Francis will be
seen historically in his American message, quite simply, “Yes,
the brave experiment of Mr. Penn failed miserably time and time
again, though look at the wonderful nation that grew from its
embryo. We can only keep saying, ‘I’m Sorry,’ and then TRY IT
AGAIN, try to show the world each day what we are capable of.”

i once was a little cappuccino

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…not the drink, mind you, but “the real McCoy!”

One of the reform group of the Order of St. Francis. i was with the Capuchin Friars for 22 years, and it was never a regret for me. It was, rather, a genuine blessing and privilege to be a tiny part of such a beloved family. Always walking beside the “everyday people” through every crisis in history, it is only right and just that such a warm, wonderful treat was named after them. The little capuchin beauty pictured here was created for me today by my barista, NOAH, of Bank Square Cafe in Beacon, New York.

But I acquired my first taste for them while living in Italy, where i came to taste as well the “royal treatment” given to the cappuccini, known as “the Minutemen of the Popes” for their readiness to serve wherever and whenever he needed them. In the photo atop this website, Pope John Paul II was saying to me in a vast crowd of visitors, “I save my Capuchins, my favorites, for last!”

This day, September 17, is the day on which the Catholic Church celebrates the honor miraculously given to St. Francis of Assisi to bear in his own body the Wounds of Jesus Christ, God granting the little man his greatest wish, “that I might truly KNOW the LOVE that filled my LORD!” Again how Blessed was i, to have spent weeks at Mount LaVerna,the site of this miracle. In a way i can almost say that i spent my life there, as on one occasion i had wandered to the valley below in order to get my own glimpse of the great cliff on which it all happened. While i was standing in the field, mesmerized, i’ve always believed it was Francis himself who tapped me on my knucklehead and pointed it down to my feet just before they were bitten by a snake. Running faster than ever in my life back to the friary, i was stopped in the kitchen during a drink of water by a young woman who assisted the friars. Pia showed me all of the jars of anti-venom in the frig, as she screamed in Italian, “Dio ti ha salvato oggi. Egli deve avere grandi progetti per te. God has saved you today; He must have great plans for you!” These plans would include my departure from the friars, my taking a different road, marrying and raising six children. How perfectly Noah’s heart in today’s drink symbolized my heart and its desperate need to grow…in love.

And HOW GREATLY BLESSED finally that today i count among my most revered friends a very very special Capuchin, known and loved around the world as Padre Cantalamessa. Just Google him and see this 81 year young man, be blown away by his dynamic and holy effervescence, one of my surest reasons to HOPE in the renewal of this Church. While others
looked with scorn upon my “leaving my post,” Fr. Raniero sent me a
Christmas card with image of the Wise Men who followed the star to the
Baby Lord, and he played with the Italian meaning of my wife’s maiden name, saying, “Surely you yourself followed a STELLA that you might better know the Perfect Love of Christ.” And in a separate card to my mother, the Preacher to the Popes for the last 35 years said, “Your son still holds the heart of a Capuchin.”

This blog which i have initiated will share the stories of a man
who tries to pass on to his own children the secrets of the world’s most beloved saint. How do i go about a life of marriage and of fatherhood while leaving a good chunk of myself in Assisi and LaVerna?! As Tony Bennett sings, “I left my heart WITH San Francisco. High on a hill he still calls to me.”

i suppose that one main point of this blog is to counter the notion, so easily and so frequently tossed about, that the Church is in the hands of some sleepy and backwards old men. Cantalamessa and his “boss,” Pope Francis, have proven that when anyone, male or female, youth or senior, comes to know in their heart the perfect, “crazy love” of God, it renders them ageless and true instruments of the Eternal Spirit, like the ageless Saint Francis himself.0916151124a

My Opening Blog – NO BETTER DAY

What better way to launch a blog than REMEMBERING 9/11...
...and to so dedicate this site, as if it were my very own 
Memorial of the Heart, to preserving the MEMORY of GOODNESS 
in my life (yes, amid all of its ills.) Some of these good-
thoughts are infinitesimally small, as even grains of sand, 
though even they are capable of creating waves of greater 
good if remembered. A tiny stump found in that rubble still 
stands for every million Survivor who strolls by. When I was 
studying to be a priest many years ago, my best professor of
all was Rabbi Leon Klenicki, who carved it into my soul, that 
there is no word in our language more precious than Remember.
Memory restores, nurtures and expands the GOOD.
	Strange to say, there is in me no greater memory of 
GOODness than that day, 9/11. In a real sense, no BETTER day! 
The goodness arose from US in such perfect contrast to those 
passing hours of evil and the falling of the towers!! Easily 
we recall even now every aching minute of that day. At 9:58 
I stood on the porch of the hospital where I worked, 33 miles 
up river - and watched the smoke rise!
	But my own hour of hours came later in the day when I 
attended what I call “the Greatest Liturgy” of my life. Having 
been a priest, I've been part of many doozies of public prayer, 
going back to my very first - at the Basilica of St. Joseph in 
Montreal. Thousands stood before me in that incredible church,
as someone announced, “This boy was just ordained!” After Mass 
I was lovingly mauled like some rockstar! Equally fantastic 
were two times in which I stood aside the altar of Pope SAINT 
John Paul II, once at Yankee Stadium, the other at St. Peter’s 
in Rome. And yet nothing can compare to that September 11, as 
I returned home from working and crying, scooped up my little 
family and took them to our favorite getaway of Steak & Stein, 
just to unwind.
	My little boy of 5, Van, was cuddling extra close, and 
Molly, not yet 3 months old, was able to rest center-table in  
car seat. 416613_290084634406173_382317597_oLike so many other fathers on that day, I seriously 
considered gobbling her up from toes to eyes! Yes, we who had 
survived were FEASTING on FAMILY that evening. The restaurant 
was quite filled with people worn out by grief, and just as 
our hot meals were being delivered, the warmest of managers 
and waitresses suddenly approached us and invited everyone to 
pray. No one refused, no matter how hungry or how ready their 
food for eating. One sweet waitress suggested we draw closer,  
so the entire crowd moved outside to the parking lot, where we 
formed a giant circle - about 60 of us, from a baby Molly to a 
very elderly woman who took out of her pocketbook a tiny book 
of prayers with which to lead us. We were all so different, so 
many nations and creeds, and yet all the same and linked hand 
to hand and heart to heart round a fresh flowing pool of tears.
At the end we all said together “Our Father Who art in Heaven."
	September 11, 2001, had brought out the Beast in a few 
but the Best in the rest! And I dedicate my blog to its memory 
and to the memory of so many goodnesses that have come from God 
especially through the hearts of humans, who bear His likeness, 
whether they know it or not. But never was it seen more clearly 
than in our ability to turn something so horrible as the tragic
events of 9/11/01 into so much good. “No Worse Day” became, in 
a real way, “No Better Day!”

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