Friday, September 04, 2009

WHERE IS HEAVEN, ANYWAY?

OK, perhaps it is time to lighten up a bit from all this deep spiritual and political talk. There's no better way to do that than with some classic Indian humor. So here's a story.

St_Peter's_Square,_Vatican_City_-_April_2007
Vatican City Photo by David Iliff

Once there was a young Native American traveling Europe. He was interested in learning something about the roots of European religion and spirituality so he had visited many of the great cathedrals and shrines. He saved a visit to the Vatican for his last stop.

He arrived to its great plaza on a non-festival day and the courtyard was nearly empty. He wandered around a bit scanning the great edifice that he had heard so much about and looked up at the balcony where the Pope sometimes appeared to address the faithful. But the door was closed.

Thinking that no one was home, he struck up a conversation with a guard saying, "I guess I came on the wrong day. It looks like no one is home." The guard responded, "Oh, the Holy Father is there. He's taking advantage of the quite day to catch up on some of his office work."

Then Indian said, "Well, if he is not too busy, do you think that I might visit him? You know, have an 'audience' or something like that?" The guard looked at him skeptically and said, "Wait here and I'll go ask." Soon he returned and said, "This is most unusual but he said that I should bring you up to his office."

At the office, the Indian exchanged pleasantries and the stood in awe of the great room with all of its fancy appointments, it was decorated with some of the world's greatest art and craftsmanship. When his gaze turned to a bookcase wall, he was surprised to see that the shelves were lined not with books but with telephones, one after another.

He asked, "Pope, what are those phones for?" The Pope responded, "Oh that's how I stay in touch with the Church's spiritual empire. Each phone is a direct line to the Bishop of an Archdiocese. That's Santiago, Chile over there, and Paris is here. This one is for Los Angeles."

As the Indian surveyed this central communications network, his gaze stopped at a single ornate telephone finely crafted all in gold. He asked. What's that one for?" The Pope responded, "Oh, that's my direct line to Our Heavenly Father, to God." The Indian became very excited and asked if he might talk with God. The Pope answered, "Sure, go ahead. He is having sort of a free day like me. Nothing much is happening."

The Indian had a marvelous conversation lasting nearly 45 minutes. When it was over, he was truly radiant. He thanked the Pope profusely and said that he didn't want to impose on the Pope anymore and turned to leave. The Pope halted him, saying, "Wait. That was an expensive long-distance call. The bill comes to $657. We're on a tight budget this month with lots of unexpected expenses. Can you pay the bill?"

The Indian said that it would take most of his remaining money but since he was leaving for the States in the morning it was OK and certainly worth it. He then says, "Pope, if you ever get near to South Dakota please come visit" and he scribbles directions to his home on the Reservation.

Well, it so happens that the Pope is soon in Minneapolis for a conference of bishops. He has a free day when he arrives, looks at a map and sees that South Dakota and the Reservation are nearby. He summons his driver and says, "Let's go find that Indian."

They locate the Indian's home in a classic shantytown. Clapboard structures and yards full of junk cars, chickens, cats and dogs everywhere amidst incredible poverty. The Indian, totally shocked to see the Pope, invites him into his humble home which is a big mess. The Pope surveys the situation and sees a small table that is immaculate. On it sits a cell phone that is all decorated, Indian-style with fancy beadwork. The Indian explains that it is his direct line to Great Spirit.

The Pope asks if he might talk with Great Spirit, noting that it would be a fine culture and spiritual exchange for the Indian's conversation with God. The Indian is thrilled with the Pope's request and hands him the phone.

The Pope has a marvelous conversation, similarly lasting about 45 minutes. When it ends the Pope is radiant. He pulls out his wallet and says that he knows how expensive cell phone calls are. He wants to pay the bill.

The Indian says, "Forget it Pope. It's no big deal. Out here talking to Great Spirit is a local call."



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