The Prodigal Son

          On 9 March 1986 in Berkeley. John went to mass in Oakland cathedral. The Bishop officiated at mass and gave a beautiful homily on the Gospel story of the Prodigal Son and his jealous older brother. John found myself moved to tears by the thought of God’s forgiveness and acceptance which I wanted so much from my biological Mexican father, Carlos, and from my  adopted Texan father, Tony, and never received from either of them.

He had felt anger, resentment and bitterness for years, yet God gives us the gift of forgiveness even if we are weak and fall many times. He opened his heart and felt those tears were like a spring rain irrigating the freshly tilled earth of his heart,  hardened by unforgiven rejections, and by his resistance to God’s infinite love.

                                “In The Name of the Father”

                                a poem by John-Raphael Staude 

Hermes, you were the messenger of the gods.

Hail to you, old ancestor, shape-shifter and trickster!

God of transformations, and of boundary crossings,

god of bankers, magicians, and thieves,

your sacred blood courses through me now.

I met you first in my backyard on the Fourth of July.

inhabiting my stepfather, you held a long torch,

like a magic wand, and two round black bits of coal,

which you ceremoniously transformed into serpents,

swirling round your magical staff-like caduceus.

They looked like discarded chocolate cigarette butts to me

’till you torched them into life, like slumbering salmanders

writhing wildly, fizzing and belching dark smoke.

Those dark dragons wriggled toward me menacingly

before they died, choking in fitful gasps,

like silent farts stinking up the summer air.

I only knew you as “Tony,” my ever-loving stepfather.

I had not yet seen your shape-shifting powers,

your magic tricks, and your enchanting arts of seduction.

I was an innocent child, adoring you, ripe for your rape.

You were the caring devoted father telling me the facts of life,

while waiting to initiate me into your pedophallic fraternity,

when I was old enough to please you.

In awe, I watched you unsheath your wand, rub it vigorously,

and become Hermes, Mephisto, Lucifer, truly a god manifest

as your engorged wand blossomed in your hand,

spewing its milky substance all over you,

you gasped in ecstasy.

Meanwhile I sat transfixed on the toilet

filled with admiration, and terror

choking down my fear and disgust,

revolted, yet too scared to protest.

From the beginning of time, old one,

you were lurking in the shadows.

a dark angel, waiting to seduce me,

Then I saw you through a glass darkly;

I believed your protestations of love.

Now, disillusioned, I can see you more clearly!

You USED me, as you did my mother, to please yourself,

gaining extra points with Lucifer for deflowering me.

For many years I carried a burning resentment

against you in my heart.

How could I ever forgive you?

As your “victim,” I hated you for what you had done to me.

But in time I came to recognize my own part in our melodrama,

how I enjoyed feeling the power that I wielded over you,

how you became my “victim” when I rejected your love-calls!

I finally realized that you did “love” me

in your own twisted way, Dad.

And finally, before you died, 

we agreed to forgave each other.

for letting each other down.

But the heart has its own deep feelings,

that go beyond–and may contradict– our words.

I am grateful to you for having  shown me

the power of the mind, of music, and of words.

And how truth and illusion, faith and fear,

lie in the eye of the beholder.

Thus began my lifelong fascination with the imagination

and with the power of magical illusion-creation which

I could put to use in all my own creative activities.

May you rest in peace now, Tony!

“There is none other beside me–I call your name,” John read in his psalm book.

“Turn to me, O turn, and be saved, says the Lord, for I am God.” 

John bowed his head in prayer.

“I am your God who comforts you,” he read.

         John felt like a homeless waif, a lost child, but he wept tears of joy upon realizing God’s amazing grace. He felt he was being initiated into another phase of his life, characterized by a strongly spiritual vocation, which he had avoided recognizing up ’till then. But God is very patient. He plants seeds, waters them, and then waits until the time is right for them to take root and grow.

       How could John truly know God, the Father’s, love if his picture of God, as a judgmental and punishing Father, was shaped by his  experiences of rejection from both of his earthly fathers? John had internalized rejections from both of them, and had rejected himself as well. Yet through all this pain of rejection God still loved him. 

       The experience of his rejecting father, Tony, in Los Angeles, when he was growing up, overshadowed and colored the image of God, the Father, in his psyche.  This selfish man had programed his adopted son for failure, so Johnny would never be a threat to him, and so he could avoid confronting his guilt for sexually abusing Johnny when he was a young boy.

When Johnny was growing up in Hollywood Tony, drank a lot. He often came home soused from the office with alchohol on his breath. Every night after work, Tony drank several martinis or scotch and sodas, which he took pride in making himself, despite the availability of his servants.

As the child of an alchoholic Johnny strove to please him, to keep him happy, and avoid his anger. One way of being obliging was to  sit obediently naked on the toilet as Tony commanded Johnny to do every morning while he shaved and then masturbated. Johnny felt both power and fear as Tony performed his daily ablutions and ejaculations. Tony would get all red in the face, puffing harder and harder, his brown eyes, like Lucifer’s, becoming fiery coals. Then Tony would ejaculate triumphantly into the sink and wipe his dripping cock off with his handkerchief, grinning with satisfaction. 

Sometimes he asked Johnny to put his mouth on his cock and suck on it. Johnny did that very unwillingly, because it made him choke, but he wanted to be obliging, and he was afraid of Tony’s anger if he refused. Sometimes Tony put his penis between Johnnys legs from the rear for a dry fuck  moving back and forth  faster and faster  ’till he’d come. Johnny hated it when Tony came all over him.  It was gooey and sticky, warm and wet. He decided then and there never  to become a man like his father, never to let himself go and come like that. This decision caused him difficulties later in his married life, as he found himself tortured with guilt whenever ejaculated.

When Tony first seduced him, he was ten years old. At that time he was in the fifth grade at Black Foxe Military School in Hollywood. There the young student officers were sadistic and cruel, and Private John Staude suffered a lot at their hands. That year his mother was away in Europe; so he was a boarder at the school. He was only allowed to come home on specified weekends, and he felt terribly homesick much of the time. 

Throughout his life Tony won every battle with John, maintaining complete control over him and leaving him feeling weak, crushed, and without self-confidence. It took John forty years of psychotherapy to overcome this damage to his ego and to his self-esteem.

          John  broke into sobs when he heard the psalm and sang the following words:

“Could the Lord ever leave you or forget his love? 

Though a mother might forsake her child

 He will never abandon you. 

Should you turn and forsake him 

He will gently call your name.”

John felt He was being called Home.  “Home” had been associated in his mind’s eye with pain. “Home is where the hurt is,” he liked to say, grimly.

But Our Lord offers a different kind of “home,” one with joy, love, acceptance, and forgiveness, one  with the Holy Spirit to protect us.

One day John attended a workshop led by John Wellwood, a spiritual teacher and psychotherapist, who maintained that sometimes expressing our anger can be a necessary stage in our psycho-spiritual development, and can bring us closer to Enlightenment. At first John reacted against Wellwood’s statement that “sometimes we must feel and express our anger,” but in time he saw the wisdom of Wellwood’s position and let out some of his angry feelings.

“The challenge of the heart” said Wellwood, “is to stay open in the midst of wanting to close down. You may feel angry, but nevertheless you must remain open. The challenge is to not run away but to stay and work through your difficulties.” 

This is the challenge that John decided to take upon himself.  It meant nothing more nor less than changing the fundamental attitude structure and behavioral patterns of his life. It took him many years of further inner work and, ultimately, his father’s death before he could fully let go of his anger and resentments towards Tony.

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