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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Mass with Bocelli...

He did it again.

After showing up unexpectedly and performing last Easter, internationally renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli, considered by many the greatest voice of our time, made another surprise appearance at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Miami Beach during an afternoon Christmas Mass.

The Catholic raised blind superstar, who has sold over 80 million records worldwide and sung for Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, sang Silent Night during Communion and O Come All Ye Faithful at another point in the liturgy.

Although not exactly the decorum you would want displayed at Mass, many star-struck parishioners were quick to whip out their smart phones and tablets to capture the emotional moment...

Then again, I should speak.  My wife had to call my attention when, in my own star-struck(ness), I tried to whip out my cell phone at a Sunday Mass celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York earlier this year!

In a television interview, Bocelli said, "For Christmas, I absolutely want to attend Mass.  If they ask me to sing, I sing.  I'm happy about it."  He continued, "I am Christian, so for me it's the most important day of the year."

Now, whether he attends Mass outside of these two important Christian holy days, I'm not sure but he definitely made an impression on the congregation, who were moved not only by his voice but by his apparent faith as well...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best Family Quote of Season...

There we were opening up our presents on Christmas Day and our astute 9-year-old daughter makes a great observation. 

She says matter-of-factly with a smile on her face, "Look, Santa wrapped Mommy's gifts just like Daddy does."

It seems she has taken notice of the way I try to make the wrapping paper look seamless by folding it at the edge of the box, instead of in the middle, like I've seen professional wrappers do it in stores!

Do you think she's catching on?...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Words of Wisdom on Men...

“Men are like wine-some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.”  

-- Bl. Pope John XXIII, born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, was Roman Pontiff from 1958 to 1963.  Affectionally called the "Happy" or "Good Pope," John XXIII is best known for convening the Second Vatican Council in 1962.  He was a man of wit, good humor, passion, zeal and many surprises, similar to current Pope Francis.  In fact, he caused a stir from the start by choosing the name of John, which had been avoided for 500 years, since an antipope by that name in the 14th Century. 

A learned man of the people, who avoided attention and was known for his humility and "ordinariness," Pope John served as a stretcher-bearer during World War I and saw the harrowing effects of war firsthand.  It may have influenced his deep involvement in finding a peaceful solution to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. 

He is expected to be canonized alongside Bl. Pope John Paul II on April 27, 2014...

Friday, December 13, 2013

Making the Best of the Way Things Work Out...

Stan Van Gundy...
Legendary football coach John Wooden once said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”  

Of course, making the best of the way things turn out is not always easy, especially, when those things hurt the people we love.

This has been a very rough week for me.

On Monday, I got back from vacation, and, while driving to work, I received a call from my boss, who I consider a friend and, although, several years younger than me, my mentor for the past 17 years.  He asked me to meet him for some coffee at an Einstein's Bagels near the office.

Right away, I knew something was up, otherwise it could have waited until we got to work. 

Thoughts started racing through my head, knowing the stress he had endured over the past couple of years.  After 15 years of dominating the local news landscape in South Florida, a great run by any standard, management decided to change our news direction and style to adjust to an ever-evolving, faster-pace, more competitive marketplace, where TV news is giving way to the instant gratification of social media, internet and cable, and people's attention spans, lifestyles and viewing habits have adjusted accordingly. 

After ordering coffee and bagels, he cut to the chase and told me, with a knot in his throat, that he was pulling a former Heat Coach Stan Van Gundy (my words not his) and had resigned.  In fact, he was considering leaving the TV news industry altogether.   

At the risk of sounding like the "I love you man" in the old Bud Light commercial, I'll admit, my eyes watered.  He is the biggest reason I have enjoyed working in our newsroom for so long and why I never even considered pursuing other options.  I had told him that in the past but when I repeated it that morning, as my voice cracked, it came across more poignantly and we both choked up, and just as  quickly started laughing, as we looked around wondering what people at other tables were thinking about the two fat guys crying over coffee.

It was tough.  He had been with the station for twenty-three years.  That's about half his life!  Twenty-three years of missing his kids' games, activities, homework and growing up (his oldest two are now in college), holidays at work instead of with family, hurricanes and long hours spent at the office during breaking news, elections and live specials, constant stress and worrying about stories, budgets, planning, schedules and dealing with employees' egos, idiosyncrasies and personal problems (always handled with grace and a great sense of humor), and it all came crashing to a halt, a few weeks before Christmas. 

He said he wanted to tell me before making an announcement later that afternoon in the newsroom, which caught our entire staff by surprise and left many people in tears.  As one co-worker wrote in a piece of paper she handed me after the announcement, "And now what?"

To many of us, he was more than our leader.  He was our friend and part of our work family (which we often spend more time with then our real families).  If I were to best describe him, I would say he is, above all, loyal, big-hearted, fair and professional, to the point that he decided to resign but hang around for two more weeks to say goodbye to his team, despite how painful it is for him.

During this week of constant phone calls, visits from well wishers, not only on our staff but from other departments, competitors and friends from across the country, and clearing his belongings, he  took time to give us advice on some of the pressing decisions we will need to make in the upcoming weeks without him; a true class act.

If there is a takeaway from all this, which I had learned many years ago after resigning at a previous company and, despite feeling I was carrying the workload at the time, realized they were able to carry on without me (go figure!), it is that jobs may come and go but family lasts forever.  As of that point, I have tried to approach my life with that in mind (Although, please, don't ask my wife, if that's the case!).

Fortunately, for my boss, he has an amazing and loving wife, kids and extended family to support him (not to mention those of us he leaves behind at the station) and he is a man of faith, who knows God has a plan for him and will get him through this, even though it won't be easy. 

At the end of the day, things worked out for Van Gundy, who was hired by the Orlando Magic shortly after leaving the Heat, and I'm certain they will work out for my friend as well.

As I responded in the email that was sent to announce his resignation, we may never be the same without him because he leaves a huge imprint in all of our hearts as leader and, most of all, as a man, but there is no loss worth lamenting that doesn’t inevitably bring victory in the end...


Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandela; a Sign of Contradiction...

During Pope John Paul's visit to South Africa...
Each one of us, no matter how genuine and sincere we claim to be, is a sign of contradiction.

We may yell at our kids to pick up their room, but keep our own room a mess, or complain about overspending to our spouses, then frivolously spend like there's no tomorrow (You probably guessed, I'm talking from experience!).  Or, we may want to do good for others but then make any and every excuse not to do it when it's inconvenient, which reminds me of the St. Paul verse, "For I do not do the things I want to do but do the things I hate."   

In any case,  Nelson Mandela was also a sign of contradiction.

To millions worldwide, the former President of South Africa, longtime political prisoner (27 years) and leader in the fight against apartheid and racial inequality in his homeland, who died on Thursday at the age of 95, was one of the most beloved larger-than-life iconic figures in recent history and an epitome of hope, love of fellow man and humility, in the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Theresa, as I heard a radio commentator say Friday morning.

Yet, to others, like the member of my parish council, who knows I work in TV news, and cornered me after a meeting to tell me, "Can you believe the media is glorifying Mandela as a saint-like human rights hero?  The guy was notorious for rubbing elbows and supporting some of the most notorious terrorist leaders in the world," maybe, not so much!

Yes, Mandela was a man known for his grace, gentleness, good humor and faith.  After being released from prison, he forgave his captives.  He became South Africa's first black president at the age of 75, met with world leaders, including Pope John Paul II in 1995, received a Noble Peace Prize and represented the struggle for equality and peace that most people admire. 

Wherever, he appeared publicly, people rose to their feet in applause and, many times, even chanted his name.  Hollywood made movies about him, which wouldn't you know it, the latest one, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, was just released!  I'm sure the producers were saddened by the news of his death but, at the same time, went chi-chin! (Another contradiction!)  

Good friends...
But, some, including thousands of exiled Cubans in Miami (which may not be a big deal to others but, as a Cuban, it is to me!), will never forget his public support of Fidel Castro, who among his many atrocities against his own people and the world, imprisoned a little known figure named Mario Chanes de Armas for 30 years (three years longer than Mandela was imprisoned), who was kept in deplorable conditions after turning on the regime for violating their democratic promises, or his embracing of Yasser Arafat, the then leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which hijacked planes, massacred the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich and children on a school bus and committed several other bombings and savage killings of innocent civilians, and Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator known for harboring and assisting international terrorists.

Not to mention, his 2003 denouncement of President George W. Bush as a warmonger and allegation that the U.S. "committed unspeakable atrocities in the world."  (Which I'm sure endeared him to many more people around the globe!)

In other words, as someone near and dear to me poignantly pointed out when the news on his death was reported on TV, "He was a communist!" which may be debatable but sure captures the essence of how some people felt about him.

Sure, there will be a state funeral and world leaders will attend and praise him for all the good he did for racial equality, freedom and peace around the world.  History will inevitably remember him this way, and maybe, deservingly so, but, like all of us, he too was a man of dichotomy, which, despite all the accolades, some won't easily forget.

Mandela once said, "Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace."

May God rest his soul and bring peace to his family, friends and homeland...