I went pheasant hunting with our Bishop and a group of Catholic Priests. The one thing I really noticed about them is how much they like to laugh; and how much more they like to laugh with us. These are men so full of life and so full of responsibility; the opportunity to share a moment thru an adventure with them, and laugh, was the sugar in God’s grace. But don’t think for an instant that you could pull a joke on them. They like Pope Sixtus V understand man’s shenanigan’s!
One day Pope Sixtus V was invited to witness a “miracle” of a Bleeding-Cross in one of Rome’s churches: he requested a hatchet. Standing before the cross, he said, “As Christ I adore you; as wood I cut you.” he had realized the deception; within the cross were sponges soaked in blood.
Even in a setting like a hunt, when the day is hot and men chew tobacco while dogs pant profusely and flies are abundant amid the smell of gunpowder and sweat, these men have a spirit of humility that rocks your attention. As Pope John wrote in his journal, “I live by the mercy of Jesus, to whom I owe everything and from whom I expect everything.” I recommend that you should share an adventure with one of these special men. The strength in their humility will overpower you, like John Paul XXIII said,
“It often happens to me that I wake up at night and start thinking about a whole list of grave problems. So, then I make the brave decision to go in the morning and speak with the pope about these things. Then I wake up completely and remember that I’m the pope!”
At the October 1994 synod, six months after his hip surgery, all eyes were on Pope John Paul II as he slowly hobbled to his place. Looking up at the bishops amid his slow journey, the pope dispelled the awkwardness with a quip: “Eppur’ si muove.” The quote was from Galileo, and it referred to the earth’s rotation around the sun. But John Paul was smiling at his own creeping pace: his words translated: “And yet, it moves.”
These men wear the appearance of neither thinking too little nor too much of themselves. They inspire a need in us to know what it is to be loved like treasured children, yet frail in constant need of God’s grace, authentic humility.
I was reminded of the Matthew Kelly title “And I heard God Laugh” as these Apostolic Ministers shared their personal anecdotes on the day, a day of the very, very, very human-kind.
When Pope John Paul II was given the honor as, “Man of the Year” by TIME magazine. When the magazine made the personal honor to the pope, he replied: “I see that in the past you have given this honor . . . also to Stalin and Hitler!”
at a banquet. In the course of the meal, Pope John XXIII offered an apple to his neighbor, a woman in a dramatically low-cut gown.
“Do take it, Madame, please do,” he urged in his typically genial way. “It was only after Eve ate the apple that she became aware of how little she had on.”
It was an adventure where I’ve never felt more alive, and more mercy. I saw God smile and I heard Him laugh. Our Bishop was the leader of this band of Brothers and this story by Scott Hahn best describes the spirit of the Bishop and his Company.
An American priest who was in Rome for a conference and group meeting with John Paul II. Shortly before the audience, the priest noticed a man begging on the steps of a church. He looked familiar. It turns out that the two men had gone to seminary in Rome years before and had been ordained priests together.
Deeply shaken by the encounter, the priest blurted out the story to the pope when he met him later that day. John Paul promised to pray for the beggar. Then he invited the priest and the beggar to join him for his evening meal.
Near the end of supper, John Paul asked for a few minutes alone with the beggar. After it was all over, the beggar revealed what happened.
“As soon as you left, the pope clasped my hands and said, ‘Father, would you hear my confession?’”
“‘I’m a beggar,’ I said.”
“‘So am I. We are all beggars.’”
So, the beggar-priest heard the pope’s confession. And then, dropping to his knees, he tearfully asked John Paul to hear his.
We all need Mercy, Ain’t it so!
Anecdotes not attributed in the story are from materials by Henri Fesquet, Marco Nese, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Tad Szulc, Greg Tobin, and George Weigel.
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