Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Part of the family now

I crawled out of bed at 4:30 Monday morning.

I don't know if I'd say I did it voluntarily. I could almost say I did it because of the mob.

My boss assigned me to cover a 6 a.m. event where Michael Franzese, a former captain with the Colombo crime family and author of the book "Blood Covenant," (Whitaker, 2003) spoke. Let's just say, it was an offer I couldn't refuse. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Now, I've always been a sucker for stories of redemption, where unsalvagable lives are miraculously transformed by the glory of God. Up until yesterday, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas was in the lead for the best modern-day-scoundrel-turned-good-guy story. In his memoir "Crossbearer," Eszterhas admitted to doing some pretty terrible stuff. A bout with cancer led him to surrender to God's will, and he no longer lives for himself. Through his surrender, he found reconciliation for what he'd done.

But what Eszterhas did couldn't hold a candle to the sins about which Franzese spoke.

Vanity Fair magazine once listed Franzese as No. 18 in its list of the 50 biggest Mafia bosses. (Right behind John Gotti.)
He made a blood covenant with the boss of the Colombo crime family. Allowing drops of blood to pool into his palm, they placed a picture of a saint in his hands, lit it on fire and said: "Tonight MIchael Franzese, you are being born again into a new life, into the cosa nostra. If you violate what you know about this life and betray your brothers, then you’re going to die and burn in hell like this saint is burning in your hand. Do you accept?"

Franzese said, "I do."

And in his heyday with the mob, he was one of the biggest money earners the mob had seen since Al Capone. We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars.

Franzese called the lifestyle "very violent." As gut-wrenching as that sounds, I believe that may have been a gentle euphemism.

But God placed a Christ-loving woman, who later became his wife, along Franzese's path of life and turned him around. But Franzese had made a blood covenant with the mob, and he knew the only way out was death.

As he lay in his prison cell feeling hopeless and lamenting the trap in which he'd found himself, Franzese said a guard slipped a Bible through the door. Not having fully surrendered to God's mercy, Franzese became angry and threw the Bible across the room.

He realized, however, that the rest of the world was angry with him; he didn't need to anger God as well.

Franzese told God, "If you really are merciful, give me something to make me feel better tonight."

Opening the Bible, Franzese found this verse staring back at him: "When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." Proverbs 16:7

Franzese knew if he was honest with himself, his ways were anything but pleasing to the Lord.

He fully surrended to Jesus and turned away from his old lifestyle to live in ways that are pleasing to the Lord. Instead of delivering testimony in a court of law, he now delivers testimony to the saving power of Jesus Christ.

In reconciling the sins of his old life, Franzese said he has found comfort in something a wise pastor once told him: "Don't allow Satan to remind you of what God's already forgotten."
Pretty profound, huh?

And his enemies? Well, remember that Vanity Fair list I mentioned earlier. Out of the 50 people mentioned on that list, 47 are now dead, two are in prison and the other . . . is Michael Franzese.


Anonymous said...

Very nice post Kat!!!

Rosslyn said...

Great story! Thanks for the good news.

And wonderful closing thought, too.

Rena said...

Very positive experience indeed. :)

gzusfreek said...

Wow. . .this is amazing. Thank you, thank you, Kat :)