Late spring in San Francisco, 1958, and it had been such a beautiful day! I remember this 9 year old physical body seated at a wooden desk in the back of a grammar school classroom, oblivious to the yammerings of some black-cowled nun at the front. Meanwhile, in my spirit form, I had slipped out through the open windows, expanding into the endlessness of blue, the timeless sky home of my child heart, the empty airy radiance of wordless boundless ecstasy.
Rudely drawing me back down from my happy flight, the bell that regulated time and activity at the school eventually sounded to close the day’s lessons and set the children free. As it noisily clanged, I realized once again that I was supposed to assume the form and behavior of this little person that people seemed to take me to be, and so I found myself walking with the other kids out the door and off into the sunny afternoon.
I recall that there was such a softness swirling of energies, a poignant gentleness of commingling shapes in motion, blurring colors and sounds — sound of many voices in one, whirled together in a sweet cacophony of children thrilled by life, still amazed by the appearance of anything as they raced off to wherever their feet and desire would lead them, and then suddenly I found myself at home.
I walked through the front door and then headed directly towards the back sunroom, where my grandmother was rocking my three-month old sister, Mary Rose. I was so taken with that little being I could almost burst with love — this exquisite angel in my dear grandmother’s lap — but when my grandmother looked up and saw me, she said quietly, so quietly I could barely hear: “She’s gone, Bobby. Our little Mary Rose is gone . . .”
The room was filling with a presence, and in retrospect it was not so much that the room was filling, but that everything else except this presence was falling away like filmy veils slipping off a statue, until there was only this luminous, potent presence of Love, and I suddenly burst into weeping — not at the loss, but at the magnificence of this Presence.
Then my grandmother did something that at first bewildered me, but later I understood. She took some water from a glass next to her chair to baptize my sister by her own hand “in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. Then she leaned back, at peace, and shone the most loving, tender smile, a smile I will never forget, and whispered with utter assuredness, “She is with God now, Bobby.”
“Yes, I know.”I replied. I do not know how I knew, except that I understood from the same place in which I had been taken the previous summer, the place in which all the galaxies appear as small playthings in the unspeakable delight of Love, and so I said, “Yes…”
Later that day, one of the nuns from the Convent up the hill came calling at the house to speak with me. She asked if I knew where my little sister had gone, and I answered, “Yes, she is with God.”
Strangely, the nun insisted that, since Mary Rose had not been formally baptized in the Church, she was relegated to the place where “all the little un-baptized babies go”, to some kind of lesser “Limbo”, rather than directly to heaven with God.
I protested, “No, she was baptized, and besides that, things are not the way you say! God is everywhere, and everything is with God.”
At that moment, I decided that I would become a priest, and 4 years later entered the seminary, at the age of 13. I was going to clarify this matter, so that all could know the reality of the Divine Presence that out-shines death and man’s religion.