Eye on Francis for this month’s American Catholic Council Newsletter

Many of you know me.  You probably sense that I am not easily stunned.  But the story , which is entitled Dear Papa Francesco, that I posted on the American Catholic Council Newsletter  for the Eye on Francis column that I have been writing for them for several month, is a true story and, yes, indeed, I was VERY stunned……Reyanna

Dear Papa Francesco……

I write a letter every month to Pope Francis, addressing the letters with “Dear Papa Francesco”.  My son who is, typical for his age, SBNR—spiritual but not religious—likes to tease me about this, saying “You know, Mom, that is the adult version of writing to Santa Claus.”  He had to change his mind after this week.  But, this story, as most stories are, is stories within stories to understand.  First, you need to know about Papa Francesco’s statue of Sleeping St. Joseph that he has kept in his rooms for years and is now in his Casa Santa Marta rooms.  When shipped to Rome from Buenos Aires, the head got broken off but I am sure the pope did not have a problem finding someone in the Vatican’s art restoration area to fix it for him.  When asked about this statue, why Joseph is sleeping, Papa Francesco explains that in the Gospels, just about the only time we hear about Joseph is when God speaks to him in his dreams.  When further asked about his devotion to St. Joseph in general, PF says that when you send off an order to a carpenter for, say, a new table or to fix something broken, it might take the guy awhile but he gets the job done.   A journalist on the way back from Strasbourg this last week asked him about this devotion.  He answered that when he asks St. Joseph for something, he gives it to him.  That is why the pope slips little pieces of paper with prayer requests on them underneath his statue of Sleeping St. Joseph.  Papa Francesco has even convinced his Swiss Guards of the efficacy of these prayer requests.  People who have visited the pope at the Casa Santa Marta say they have seen the statute with an inch or so of prayer requests under it.  The second background story is my daughter’s best friend, a wonderful young women whom I will just call “J” and who is like a second daughter to me.  “J” is a severe diabetic, initially diagnosed when she was 18 months old.  My daughter first met “J” when they were in high school as freshmen.  At that time, “J” was very small for her age, looking like a 12 year old, but a very bright, very determined girl.  After graduation, it was several years before I saw her again, “J” having gone off to college out of state.  At some point, she had an insulin pump put in.  The next time I saw her she was this strikingly beautiful, very tall young woman.  The insulin pump worked well for her and her doctors were able to help her growth by giving her hormones.   Moving back into our area, she and my daughter re-established and deepened their friendship.  When my daughter married last December in Jamaica “J” was her bride’s maid.  In late July, I received a call from my daughter at 4:30 a.m.  She was distraught to the point she could not talk.  Once she calmed down, she told me that “J” was in the intensive care unit in a coma in the city she lives in, about 45 miles away.  My daughter said that her mother did not expect her to live.  In her distraught state, my daughter wanted me to go with her to the hospital so she could see her dear friend.  On the way, I began to pray, even addressing a prayer to Papa Francesco and his Sleeping St. Joseph, knowing “J” needed all the help she could get.  My daughter explained that “J”’s mother told her that “J” had been found in a coma in her home, where she lives on her own, and could have been there for at least 3 days.  “J” was just barely alive and was on a breathing ventilator. She apparently had a small glass of wine in the evening late, 3 days previous, and knowing that could affect her blood glucose adversely, gave herself an insulin shot.  When she went to sleep, her insulin pump malfunctioned, continued to give her insulin, causing her to go into a coma.  Eventually the pump then quite working entirely.   Having worked in the healthcare setting as a clinical laboratory scientist, I was doubtful of a good outcome for my second daughter.  When we got to the hospital, “J”, although still on the ventilator, was sitting up with her eyes open.  She recognized my daughter who was allowed to visit her for a few minutes.  We were told by her mother that “J”  had also suffered a slight stroke in the night.  By the end of a week, “J” was off the ventilator and doing well.  Today, after a long recovery, “J” is her old self with no residual effects from her coma or stroke.  In September, before I left for Rome, I sent a letter to Papa Francesco telling him “J”’s story, asking him to slip a prayer request under the Sleeping St Joseph to help “J” regain her full health and to know what direction she should take with her life. Living on her own, she knows it is a risk because, as she grows older, the potential for these kinds of incidents in her life could increase.  Later, I told “J” that I had written to PF asking for his prayers for her.  One day this week, I picked up my mail from the box at the end of my drive.  As I sat there in my truck, I went through the day’s bundle.  In it was an envelope with a return address of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C.  Wondering what the heck this was about, I quickly opened it to find it contained only another envelope with a return address of the Secretary of State at the Vatican on the back.  On the front, a label had been placed with “J”’s name typed in a large font, a line of stars below it, and below that, the words “Prayer & Blessing.” At first, I was not quite clicking mentally.  I wondered if the Vatican and or the Nunciature had mailed the wrong thing to me.  So, I opened the second envelope.   In it was a picture of Papa Francesco and his signature, “Franciscus”, at the bottom. Once realization set in, I was in tears.  When I called “J” to tell her the news she said to me “I am standing here with a great big smile on my face”.  I have read many stories of Papa Francesco responding to letters he has received from people.  But, to have it happen to yourself, is a bit of an emotional jolt to say the least.  I have read he gets upwards of 6,000 pieces of mail per week.  His letter screeners have instructions on which ones to select for him, sending to his office at the Casa Santa Marta about 150 per day.   It has been reported by people who have seen his office that there are stacks of these letters on his desk.  The first time I wrote to him, I wondered how the heck do you address a letter to the pope.  I decided not to even think of him as the pope, that he is the kind of person that you could easily sit down and have a cup of coffee with and he would say, “Tell me what is happening in your life.” To write to him helps me sort through things and I think it is good for the pope to hear from us out her in the pews when he does get our letters.  I actually think he wants to hear from us, hear about our real lives, our hopes, our dreams, our struggles with our faith and the church, and our prayer requests.  So, write letters to the pope and write them often.  Don’t even consider that he will not get your letter. There are a lot of news stories about folks who get letters or calls from the pope in response to their writing to him.  Address your letters to Pope Francis (or Papa Francesco), 00120 Apostolic Palace, Vatican City.  Do not add “Italy” after Vatican City State and do not send your letters to Casa Santa Marta.  You never know, you just might get a response to this adult version of writing Santa Claus.  And it only costs about $1.60 or so for a 3-page letter.

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One Response to Eye on Francis for this month’s American Catholic Council Newsletter

  1. Regina Collins says:

    For many years in elementary & high school I prayed to St. Joseph that I would be able
    to go to college . My father was raising 4 children on his own after my mother died which meant if I got to College I was on my own . I did make it . One day it dawned
    on me that here I was at St. Joseph’s College in Bklyn , NY. When I thought I was ready I prayed to meet the right husband promising to name my first son after St. Joseph( presumptuous of me ) . I then had 4 daughters followed by my son, Joseph.

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