When you are an enthusiastic Catholic and live in the New York City area, running into Fr. Groeschel is no great accomplishment, the man had a punishing schedule for decades. I remember running into him at the pro-life prayer walk on the Feast of the Holy Innocents December 28 one year and asked him a question which made his face light up. I said,
can you tell me the story of the Jewish mother who got ashes on Ash
Wednesday?" With a twinkle in his eye, he answered in his fluent
Broolynese, "When her son asked her why she got ashes, she say, 'So
listen, it can't hoit!'"
Fr Groeschel was a mixture of a teacher,
psychologist, storyteller, and of course first of all a Franciscan
priest. The stories he told about little old black ladies at Adoration,
the depth of his writing about suffering and his unswerving dedication
to Christ made me seek out his endorsement of the book of stories from
Catholic parents of children with special needs. So I began seeking
opportunities to speak with him about my book. Stalking him.
first time was at a high school on Long Island, where "The Human
Experience" was screening. He kindly told me "I do blurbs." I am going
to set up a website entitled "I do blurbs!"
I reminded Fr.
Groechel who I was when my family were at a rest stop on I95 near New
Haven, CT. He was tired but attentive as his companion Father Terry
introduced us and I informed him of the book's progress.
I was farther along in my writing I found him in Connecticut where he
was the keynote speaker for a pro-life conference. No snappy responses
and no twinkle in his eyes. He looked tired but still took the
manuscript and put it in his bag. I felt awful.
But then a few
months later, when he called my home to tell me how he loved the book
and how he thought I should publish the 30 plus stories in two volumes, I
felt wonderful. Father offered to write the foreword and said that with
that, I would have no trouble finding a publisher. Sadly, his punishing
schedule kept him from getting to my book. I can only imagine that he
had a pile of such manuscripts waiting, so finally I called him at
Trinity Retreat House. Father Benedict sounded very weak on the phone,
and a realized that it was not possible for him to do it. He was willing
but clearly overwhelmed and there was a pleading quality in his voice.
asked a good friend of his Mother Agnes Mary superior of the Sisters of
Life whom I stalked at the Villa Maria Guadalupe on the Fourth of July
Life Fest in 2009, certain that she was not as busy as Father Groeschel.
I bet that would make her laugh!
Her foreword was perfect and
made me realize that I was meant to be encouraged by Father Groeschel
but that Mother was the perfect person to write the foreword.
saw Fr. Benedict one final time. We had dinner together at a banquet for
a pregnancy shelter and he was our keynote speaker. The PA system
failed, and by the time we asked him to resume his talk, the wedding
next door was blasting "La Bamba" and he could barely be heard. He bore
it with patience, but I couldn't bear to bring up the topic of my book
after all he'd endured at the banquet.
So we just enjoyed pleasant dinner conversation, and my book never entered into the discussion.
Father is my favorite Catholic writer, speaker and priest. I was honored
to have spent time with him and to have his verbal endorsement for A Special Mother is Born.
He knew, as I do, that the spiritual beauty which emanates from these
children would be a powerful means of conversion of hearts. May he enjoy
the greeting from Jesus, "you fed me, clothed me, visited me when I was
in prison, now enter into the home of my Father."
Benedict, the bad news is that I hope to follow you there someday. The
good news is that I won't be bringing my book for you to sign!