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Friday, April 8, 2011

Miguel's mission

An overnight stay at our 39th St. House afforded me some time to chat with Fr. Miguel D'Escoto about his recent activities. He assured me he has no great desire to be Libya's representative at the United Nations, but rather wants to put together an A-List international team of high profile negotiators who can bring a peaceful and just solution to the Libya conflict.

To that end, Miguel had to quickly change his plans to come to the Knoll this weekend. A phone call convinced him to get back to Nicaragua tomorrow.

I have to say, listening to Miguel is like going on a mini-retreat. No matter what question I asked him, he always circled back around to the gospel. Miguel certainly lets his faith illuminate his actions. Quoting Tolstoy, he said "The kingdom of God requires a radical love that exempts no one and excludes no one." This has been his guiding principle throughout his missionary life as well as in recent years when he served as president of the U.N. General Assembly. He dismissed charges that he needed a diplomatic visa to work at the U.N. and flashed a special I.D. badge he has as a former president which gets him anywhere inside the U.N. compound.

"You have no right to criticize someone unless you love them," Miguel said. "Only love gives you the vision to criticize effectively. Without love, criticism may be motivated by jealousy, anger or hatred. Such criticism will never be heard by God nor will it help the person or institution you are criticizing."

Speaking of which, Miguel is about to publish a book proposing a total overhaul and reinvention of the United Nations. Clearly he loves the U.N.

He recalled meeting President George W. Bush for the first time. "What would I say to him? We had 153 items on the U.N. agenda. Finally I offered my hand and said, 'Mr. President, I want you to know that I love you. I love your wife and I love your family.' " Miguel recalls how Bush's face noticeably softened. Probably underestimating the man he was facing, Bush later described Miguel as a pleasant, old gentleman.

I tried to gauge his reaction to the imminent dismissal of Fr. Roy Bourgeois from Maryknoll and from the priesthood. "Roy is paying the price for standing up to the institutional church which has been distorting the Gospel of Jesus Christ for 1,600 years." He then went into detailed description of how Constantine manipulated the Council of Nicea.

At about this time I got a phone call from a former superior general of Maryknoll who shall remain anonymous so as not to jeopardize his teaching position at the University of Scranton. I assured John I had not been silenced again, for the simple reason that I had not been silenced the first time. I try to give an accurate reading of what guys discuss here at the Knoll, but truth be told, how many colonoscopies and seminars on gerontology can one report on in between baseball or basketball games?

That being said, Miguel's taking a long view of things and casting his actions as working out of love to build the kingdom of God, no matter what the personal cost or hardship, helps us understand if not always appreciate what he and Roy and so many lower profile Maryknollers are doing. "What else would you expect if you're following a Crucified Lord?" Miguel said.

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