Monday, December 8, 2014

Father Anthony G. Bosco, Bishop, Greensburg
St. Patrick's, Canonsburg, Pa.

Remembering Bishop Bosco

My First Meeting with Father Bosco, in 1963.

He was born in 1927, like my mom. He grew up on the North Side, like my stepdad and me.

He was our retreat master in 1963, at St. John the Baptist High School, on Liberty Avenue, in Pittsburgh. He was a very great orator.

This retreat was during school hours only, in our magnificent church. One lecture was in the rectory
I would like to find some pix
of Father when he was younger, as
when I knew him
 when he was only 35, no grey.
For this lecture in the rectory, we had to stand up in a circle. I don't know why. Perhaps the regular
parish priest was saying a funeral Mass or something like that.

I did not really know what a retreat was, but it sounded pretty good if it could get us out of regular classes. My parents were not Catholic, and there was no religion in my home at all.

My mom and dad had been forced to be Catholic, but abandoned the Faith as soon as possible, as I explained on my intro page. My stepdad was vaguely Protestant --- Lutheran, in particular, but never really practiced.

A Brief Background


When my brother committed suicide, my stepdad developed a strong relationship with a Lutheran community in Spring Garden, the church where my brother's funeral service had been, in 1982, even though nobody had any connection with that church, or parish. (Do Protestants call themselves a "parish?")

My brother's funeral service was in the evening. It was dark outside, and the stained glass windows were lighted from the inside. I remember an elderly lady standing outside, looking at the light shining through the windows, saying, "What's going on in church tonight?"

I wanted to punch her in the face and say, "Give my brother back to me, you old bat." (Not that she had him or anything. Grief makes you kind of insane.)

Either that, or tell her that it was the funeral for my little brother who had committed suicide at age twenty, and ask for her prayers. I could not decide which, so I asked Our Lord to decide for me.

I did not do or say anything.


More About that Retreat in 1963.

I asked one of my classmates what a retreat was. She said, "Sittin' in church, prayin' your life away."

H m .m.m.m.  Sounded great!

Perhaps I should have asked another classmate, but that first girl probably would be offended that I didn't believe her or something like that?

One of the major problems with this retreat was that we would be leaving our purses upstairs, which was the school, as I've explained in another post.

Another wonderful thing that happened at St. John's:  

Our literature book had a poem by Archy the Cockroach. It was not in our list of required readings, but I read it and liked it anyway. (Don't the non-assigned readings seem better? Forbidden fruit or something?)
The particular poem was the one where Freddy the Rat dies, killed by a tarantula who was raised in a bottle of Tabasco sauce. I found it quite captivating, witty and rhythmically haunting. I had to find out more about Archy and his "boss" ---- Don Marquis, a reporter at the New York Sun in the '30's.

Here is a small part of  that poem I loved so much:
you want any of my game i was
raised on red pepper and blood i am
so hot if you scratch me i will light
like a match you better
dodge me when i m feeling mean and
i don t feel any other way i was nursed
on a tabasco bottle if i was to slap
your wrist in kindness you
would boil over like job and heaven
help you if i get angry give me
room i feel a wicked spell coming on
 . . . .
throw a late edition on the floor i want to
keep up with china we dropped freddy
off the fire escape into the alley with
military honors


If you're wondering why there are no caps and no punctuation, you'll have a great time finding out. Any search engine will do.
This page claims to have HTML for the webmaster, but it hasn't been working for me. Here is the link to the website anyway. I hope to display that adorable sketch of Archy when I get this tech problem straightened out.


But, we kept our cigarettes in our purses --- at least those of us who were foolish enough to smoke . . . like me. So, now what? We had to find a way of smuggling cigarettes into church in case we had a chance to sneak away from Sr. for a quick one. We devised a way to sneak packs of cigarettes into the bodices of our jumpers, so that Sr. would never suspect.

Father Bosco was a smoker, also. Maybe that's why he only lived to be eighty five, like my mom who died of lung cancer in 2012, at the age of eighty four. But, I digress.

I remember especially one of Father's homilies was about love. Father said that one teenage boy had asked sneeringly, "What do you know about love?"

I was not so glad that kid had said that, because I knew the boy was talking about lust, not love. Yet, perhaps I was a little glad, in a way, because I was also fifteen myself, and sometimes it was not so easy to remember the difference.

Father discussed the sacrifices that priests and nuns make when caring for the sick or imprisoned and sitting in the chapel praying or saying the Rosary, or some of the many other things that religious do every day.

He also talked about the sacrifices that moms and dads make for their kids, or that soldiers make for the country.

Then he said that this kid liked to sit in a car smooching with a girl because "it feels good."

Therefore, Father implied --- this kid should not be sneering, as the kid had no reason to feel that he really knows what real love really is.

Parallel Construction

Father was using the rhetorical device I know now is "parallel construction" --- as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King (two other great orators) had. I think it's from Shakespeare.

So, each time he mentioned one of these groups --- the parents, the soldiers, the priests and nuns --- he would say what they did to show their true, selfless love, and then he would contrast it with this kid sitting in a car smooching with his girlfriend --- "because it feels good," he ended each time.

Real love is the love of Our Lord, who died on the Cross for us, so that our sins maybe forgiven.

But no chocolate.

When I first went to Mass with Father Bosco, I realized he reminded me of that guy on the commercial for Chunky candy bars, who said,  "What a chunk o' chocolate."

I did not think that was a flattering resemblance, so I didn't say much about it. Then, my classmates all started noticing it as well. "He reminds us of the 'What a chunk o' chocolate,' guy in the commercials," whose name I know now (because I just looked it up on YouTube) is Arnold Stang.

Well, Father Bosco certainly did not sound like that guy.

Not really so funny, after all.

When I went to Confession during that retreat, it turned out that my sins were somewhat similar to the sins of that sneering kid. Except I did not sneer. Sadly, though, I also did not give any indication that I had a true desire to give up my sins.

Father Bosco was very witty. I don't remember what he said that was so funny, but my classmate said I was laughing out loud in the Confession booth, and everyone in church --- including our principal, a nun --- could hear me. She said that our principal got down on her knees. (But, who knows? Maybe that was for another reason? I hope.)

Then, Father Bosco said I should meet him at the office in the rectory.

I said, "But that would be breaking the Seal?"

He said, "No, it wouldn't because this isn't Confession."

I said, "But, this IS Confession, . . .  What do you mean?"

He said, "No, it isn't, because I'm not giving you absolution."

Ouch. That was a new one. Yet, of course, it was exactly correct.

The Lost Sheep

After that, I used to go to Father Bosco's office at Mercy Hospital, where he was the chaplain, on many Saturday afternoons, for catechesis. I asked him many questions that nobody else could or would answer for me.

I did not attend Mass regularly, and he tried to convince me to do so. I also had a strange addiction to bad relationships with men, especially men on drugs and/or alcohol. I did not really have any family or role models who encouraged me to do good or avoid evil.

I used to ask him about definitions of many different words. He gave me the dictionary that he had had with him through seminary. He frequently used this dictionary to look things up for me. The bookplate said, "Anthony G. Bosco."

(I used to wonder if this dictionary would become highly valuable if or when he became Pope. I guess that shows how "holy" I was ---- NOT.)

One day, he told me I was going to Hell.

I knew it was exactly correct again, of course.

Yet . . . No need to be so blunt, I thought.

But, I stayed away from Holy Mother Church for a solid ten years. I realize now that I should have continued to attend Mass, at least. I never could figure out if I was just angry with him for saying that? Maybe that was the only thing that kept me from Mass?

Or, maybe I would have been tempted to receive the *B*O*D*Y* of *C*H*R*I*S*T* unworthily had I attended Mass without Confession?

Those were the ten years when many weird things happened, 1964 until 1974. I tried to return to Holy Mother Church in 1975, as I say on the intro page, but that's a story for another day.


2014:   Recently, Father Robert Barron --- of Word on Fire --- pointed out in a Daily Advent Meditation that sheep get lost if they look away. They can lose their places on the path very quickly. 

Missionary of the Air

In the '60's, Father Bosco had a radio show, where people would call in to ask questions. I think it was on KDKA.

One time a guy called to ask how much he should give to people who come up to him on the street, to ask for money.

"I mean, is a quarter enough? Or can I just give them a dime?" This guy was disgusted and repelled by how these people smelled, not to mention their looks.

Father said, "No, that's not enough. You should take them home with you."

He continued explaining that we should remember Our Lord, and how He must have smelled and looked when He carried the Cross to Calvary.

Another time Father hit it exactly correctly.

Back to the '60's

My son was born in 1965, and I gave him up for adoption. My mom and grandma went to visit Fr. Bosco. I don't know what this visit was even for. Neither my mom nor my grandma was actively Catholic at the time. I guess it was all about me.

I had committed the ultimate horror during the era of segregation. I mean, what bigots would consider the ultimate horror.

My son's dad was African-American. (I'm not.)

The only thing my mom reported to me about the meeting was, "Father Bosco said, 'Diana thinks I'm intelligent. That is the only reason she listens to what I say.'"

I don't know what he meant by that. I wasn't there, but, even if I had been, I probably still would not know what he meant. (Well, not sure. Maybe I would have figured it out by the context.)

I also don't know why my mother told it to me.

Once I was highly distraught about a movie I had seen, and I could not understand what this movie meant. I called Father Bosco on the telephone.

"This is Diana."

He said, "Ah, Diana of the Ephesians."

I asked who that was. He told me about the temple to her and the connection with St. Paul's Letters to the Ephesians.

I said, "Well, this is Diana G."

He said, "Oh, so it's not Diana of the Ephesians?"

See? I told you he was witty.

I have since figured out that this movie was an indirect reference to ritual abuse, which is unfortunately often referred to as "Satanic ritual abuse." But, it can be any religion. It's not just Satanic.

A Last Meeting --- Much Too Soon

The last time I ever saw Father Bosco on this earth was on Stanwix Street, outside of Saint Mary of Mercy --- St. Mary's at the Point. I think he was on the way from St. Mary's, actually. It was during one of those two and a half years (i.e., 1981 through 1983) that we lived in North View Heights.

I passed him up at first. Then did a double-take.

"Father Bosco?"

I though he was just pretending to remember me, but he said, "Your father is a writer. . .  your mom and grandma came to talk to me at my office. . . in 1965. . .  "?

Then he asked me what I was doing at the time. I told him about my kids, and school.

He said, "Well, what do you do between 2 pm and 2:10 pm each day?"

{See? I told you he was funny.}

All of these years, I have been meaning to get back in touch with him. Once, I finally had the chance to try that, but I wrote a letter, and he did not remember me by name. That was around 2003. I always meant to write back with an old picture of myself, to jog his memory, but never had the chance, --- or the picture, printer or stamp.

Father (Bishop) Bosco died last year, July, 2013.

One year later than my mom, who was also born in the same year as Father.

Perhaps you wonder why I'm not writing, "Requiescat in Pacem." 

I really don't know. Maybe I'm still in shock and denial.

Or, maybe I'm upset that he did not acknowledge receipt of that letter in 2003. I do not know if he ever quit smoking?