Friday, March 31, 2006

On bicycles

My mother recently told me an amusing story about my father and his bike.

When he was a mere undergraduate, toiling away at Kent State University, my father rented a house with some friends of his. He also rode a bike to school, as he had no car. Of course, being the trusting individual that he is, my father used to just leave his bike on the front porch of the rented house, unlocked and everything. Needless to say, he came home one day and found that someone had permanently "borrowed" the bicycle.

Now, fast-forward more than twenty-five years. My father gradated from Kent, got his master's degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and is now married to my mother, who has developed a fondness for antiques and rummage sales. One of her favorite stops is the Red Ball moving and storage company. At their outlet in a nearby town, they sell all of the items which, years after the end of the contract period, people still haven't bothered to pick up or even inquire about. A few months ago, my father accompanied my mother on a trip out to Red Ball. And what did he see?

His long lost bike. It had all the little details that proved it was the exact same bicycle. Complete with Kent State stickers and everything. My mother bought it for him for Valentine's Day, so now after a quarter century of wandering the bicycle is back in the dusty corner of its proper owner's garage.

Of course, being who I am, I immediately tried to put this episode into religious terms. I tried for a little while to match it up with the Prodigal Son parable, but I just couldn't make it work. I mean, my dad didn't pursue his bike forever and ever, as God pursues us. He gave up, and God never gives up. Then again, the father in the Prodigal Son story didn't go out looking for his boy... He just stayed at home, hoping and praying for his boy's return, and celebrated when the son came back.

I guess you could say that if Providence arranges for something silly like my father getting his college bicycle back, Providence will also surely arrange for souls to be saved, etc. :)

On a side note, here is Papa receiving one of the gifts which people always bring him at private audiences and Wednesday general audiences. It's... A racing bike. Can't you just tell the Holy Father wants to hop on it and ride away to a vacation spot in Bavaria? Except he can't because

A. He's the Pope

- and -

B. You can't really ride very well in a cassock, can you?

Oh well. I'm sure Papa appreciated the sentiment of the givers, anyway!

In this photo released by the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper, Pope Benedict XVI receives a racing bicycle as a gift from the Bata-Seep di Martino di Lupari racing team, during the weekly general audience in St. Peter's square at the Vatican Wednesday, March 29, 2006. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

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