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Daddy, Does God Wear a Belt?

January 31, 2018

Daddy, Does God Wear a Belt?

.By Bob Iatesta, Man of Malvern – 

I’m writing this around a significant date which has a lot of meaning for me and our family.   Along with the anniversary of Roe VS Wade, January 22 was the date of my Dad’s death and the birth of our sixth child.

The connection with my father and Malvern Retreat House goes back to the beginning of our family’s “Journey with Jesus” and the powerful effect of a retreat at Malvern.

My spiritual life began to come alive on my first Malvern Retreat in 1964.  I was invited by Tony Pileggi, a CA-Captain and a personal friend.  Tony asked me to invite my father and father in-law to come.  While my father-in-law Dan DiBona was a church going man, my father John Iatesta had not been near a church in over 30 years.

I was shocked when my Father was interested, sharing with me that he was involved in the construction in the 1920’s at Malvern, and he would love to see the place again.  So, off we went in March, 1964 into “something new.”

Upon seeing Our Lady’s Grotto, which my Dad had helped to build, he was zapped by the Holy Spirit and asked to see a priest.  Tony and I brought him to Msgr. James Kane for what I thought would be a brief session.  Two hours later, Dad came out looking like had seen the Beatific Vision.  I was surprised to say the least.  My Dad smiled and said:  “That priest listened to me and told me that “Jesus is my best friend.”

My father’s life changed dramatically after the encounter.  Nine months later Dad died after a difficult bout with cancer.  I held his hand as he smiled and said:  “Don’t worry Bobby, I’m not afraid.  I know Jesus is my best friend.”

After Dad’s painful death, our 7 year old son shocked me when he asked:   “Daddy, does God wear a belt.”  He wanted answers about this God who would allow his grandfather to suffer and die so young.  Anna and I had no answers, but we reached out to learn.   Vatican II was just completed, and the Church was offering many courses on lay spirituality.  Beyond knowledge, we were blessed to make several new friends who were involved in the Cursillo and other Catholic Family movements.

Our lives made a dramatic shift and in 1977, I left an established business, with a wonderful spiritual director to take a sabbatical, which eventually evolved into full time lay ministry.  This year marks the 40th Anniversary of that change.  My Dad was right:  “Jesus is our best Friend.”

These years  of serving the Lord have witnessed many exciting and blessed ventures including TV, Radio, Conferences, International Adoption, trans-cultural education, Camps, writing, and other family related ministry activities.  We have sustained a wonderful working relationship with Malvern Retreat House through these many years.

Life and ministry were moving along just fine until April 2016 when I collapsed onto our living room floor.  EMT’s intervention and an emergency trip to the hospital.  Life and death flipped back and forth for weeks.  I was “out of it” following kidney failure and other dangerous outcomes.

Though there were ominous predictions, the Lord had His own plan.  I hope to share more, and what I continue to learn, in future blogs.

God Bless,  Bob Iatesta, Co-Founder, Living Bridges

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