I have been inspired to write an "April Fools’ Day" story for a while now. A work by an infinitely gifted author has particularly motivated and driven me to attack this genre.
That author? Well, that author is George Plimpton, one of the most accomplished and talented writers of the our time – whose oeuvre of works included a Sports Illustrated story, published in the magazine on April 1, 1985, that sent sports fans into a tailspin and episodes of “not knowing what is exactly going on.”
Now, please, remember, that back then, before the popular explosion of the Internet, the hard weekly copy of Sports Illustrated was “thee sports mag” – and nothing came close.
Also please know – for this brings everything tied tight to Easton and Easton Patch – that George Plimpton’s mother was an Ames, and George Plimpton spent considerable time in Easton, including weekends at the Borderland mansion when he was a student at Harvard University.
So – let us get back to Mr. Plimpton’s story – the story that was published on April 1, 1985, in Sports Illustrated; the title of the story is, “He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style – Sidd’s deciding about yoga – and his future in baseball.”
People couldn’t figure out this Sidd Finch. This Sidd Finch, an up and coming phenom in the New York Mets system. They still can’t figure him out.
Here is a link to that blow-away story: Sidd Finch
So, the story I have been inspired to tell? Well, I posted it late Saturday night on Facebook.
That story, the following story, is a work of fiction. But it is a work of fiction rooted in fact.
Over the next few days, in the comments section following this column, I will separate and identify fact from fiction.
The story that follows is rooted “deep in fact.” Here are some examples of that fact, "those" facts:
So, let’s begin. The photo that accompanies this column is my father, Valentine P. Muscato, in his USA warmup suit in 1951 or 1952 or 1953 in Europe – probably in Germany. That's him.
Yes, my father was an agent of the U.S. government, working along the communist border.
As my dad told me, while training, and running, he observed passage of materials across the Iron Curtain. He was a spy, whose cover was that of a runner in training.
My father did pray the rosary with his family; and, more than that, he "led" his family in the praying of the rosary. I remember my father on his knees praying the rosary with us.
There most certainly was discussion between my father and the U.S. government about him possibility pursuing a career as a CIA agent.
My father, as an internationally ranked runner? In 1952 or 1953, prior to Roger Bannister becoming the first person to break four minutes in the mile, my dad ran 4:07 and some tenths of a second in the mile, in a race in Europe. Yeah, my dad won that race.
My father and Joe Gargan, first cousin to the sons and daughters of Joe and Rose Kennedy, did attend the University of Notre Dame at the same time. At least once, my father and Joe Gargan traveled between South Bend, IN (the home of the University of Notre Dame) and Massachusetts together.
Yes, Joe Gargan told my father that his cousin, Jack Kennedy, would be president of the United States someday. This is fact.
Much of what I have written about Fr. Patrick Peyton is fact. The millions all over the globe that attended his “Rosaries Crusades,” – yes, this is most certainly fact.
Questions about Fr. Peyton being an agent of the U.S. government? Of course, the conjecture was all over the place, and that conjecture remains vibrant today.
There are so many more facts in the following story, including facts that would be surprising even to those who thought they knew my father well.
So, following is the story – it is a story that I published on Facebook late on Saturday night. Actually, what follows is an introduction to the main story, and the story itself.
As well, let me clarify, what follows is almost exactly what I posted on Saturday night, with the exception of a few edits, including typos I needed to correct.
Here is the post:
I don’t really care anymore – I’ve kept the secret for too long. The government and the Catholic Church can do whatever they want to me. My dad has been gone for more than 20 years now. It is time. That I put this out on Facebook, actually, is a way to protect myself. It’s all public now. Well, the “beginning” of what went on is public. More will be coming over the next few days. The photo attached to this post shows my dad in Germany in 1952; he is wearing his U.S.A warmup suit. Perhaps "C.I.A." should have also been written on the warmup.
Again, what I write here is only the beginning. Following is the beginning:
It was as mad as I had ever seen my father.
No, no, it was more than that. It was a combination of anger and concern and intensity that burned his eyes, those blue eyes – for in the immediate Muscato family here in Easton he was the only one who did not have brown eyes.
He had me by the shoulders. He was gripping my shoulders hard. It hurt.
“What did you hear?” he asked me, not yelling but with a potency that I could only imagine that was more resonant and concentrated than any he used to urge and inspire an Oliver Ames High School sports team to victory.
Quite frankly, I was scared.
Then again, from what I had just heard, I was already scared before he confronted me.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” I replied. But I knew that my dishonesty was all over my face.
And, again, the emotion that coursed through my father was not normal; this was far beyond what I ever knew in talking with him.
He took his hands of my shoulders – and he turned his back to me and stepped away. He put his hands on his hips and yelled a single syllable obscenity.
You see, my dad hadn’t known I was home – and when he found I was home, and that I had heard everything, he became like had never seen him.
It was late morning in late summer 1987. At the time I was working as a freelance reporter for the Patriot Ledger newspaper out of Quincy, a job that often required me to work into the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes I might get to bed at four or five and I would sleep almost to noon.
Why did my dad think I was not home? Well, even though he knew my schedule – most people are out of the house and at work at 11:00 in the morning. And my car was not outside, as I had lent it to a friend; he had picked it up around 9 (I had left the key in it, which you could do back in Easton at the time).
I had listened for a full 15 minutes or so – and I knew who my dad was talking to. I recognized the voice immediately, even before I got a hold of the subject matter of the conversation.
My father was talking to a priest – a priest in the order of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
I had met this priest in the spring of 1981. I remembered his voice.
What my dad and the priest had talked about as I stood transfixed upstairs were events that stretched over almost 40 years, and which were launched at the University of Notre Dame in 1950, when my dad was a junior at the school.
They extended to Europe, where, for two years – in 1952 and 1953 – my father was in the U.S. Army and served in counterintelligence along the communist border.
Indeed, my father, a track star at Notre Dame, continued to compete in track while in the army. He was an internationally ranked runner. His competitive running career was also a cover, a way he could go undetected while observing passage of materials across the Iron Curtain.
Yes, here was just a guy out for a run – a training run. Easy to miss that he was a U.S. soldier collecting intelligence.
What my dad and the priest talked about that morning in Easton involved the Catholic Church.
It involved the Holy Rosary.
It involved the U.S. Government – right to the top, including the presidency.
It involved Fr. Patrick Peyton, the “Rosary Priest,” who spent time at Stonehill College, whose earthly remains are interred at Stonehill. Yes, Father Peyton, who will someday be canonized a saint in the Catholic Church.
And as I found out that day, there was so much about Valentine P. Muscato that his family and even his closest friends didn’t know.
The reason that my father, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, ended up in Easton, the location of the only other Holy Cross seminary in the United States other than the one at Notre Dame, was not an accident.
If I had known even a little bit of the far-ranging secret that was revealed to me on that day 25 years ago, it would have seemed only fitting that my father knew the rosary, and prayed it with his family.
It would have made all sorts of sense why during the 1970s, when my father ran summer sports camps at Stonehill College, he would disappear sometimes in the afternoon.
That my father spent so much time at Stonehill College, during the summer and throughout the year, was all tightly connected to the Holy Rosary and Fr. Patrick Peyton.
Fr. Patrick Peyton, the Rosary Priest. The priest who in 1946, in a U.S. national radio broadcast, said, “The rosary is the offensive weapon that will destroy communism – the great evil that seeks to destroy the faith.”
Go inside the Holy Cross Fathers cemetery at Stonehill College and visit Fr. Peyton’s grave – and you will see draped all over the headstone, rosaries that Catholic pilgrims traveling from all over the world have left there.
When my dad was a student at Notre Dame, there was a population of Irish-Catholic kids at the university, including Jack Hynes, the son of the mayor of Boston, and also Joe Gargan, a first cousin to the sons and daughters of Joe and Rose Kennedy.
In fact, in 1936, when Joe Gargan's mother, Mary Agnes – Rose Kennedy’s sister – died, young Joe moved in with Joe and Rose Kennedy, and they brought him up.
My father and Joe Gargan got to know each other. A couple times, while both students at ND, they drove between South Bend, IN and Massachusetts together.
My father told me how Joe Gargan would tell him how his first cousin, Jack Kennedy, was going to be president of the United States someday.
I knew about all this.
What I didn’t know, that was what I didn’t know until 1987, was that in the late 1950s, when my father coached and taught at Oliver Ames High School, he drove down several times to Hyannisport for meetings – secret meetings.
Sitting in those meetings, the ones my father attended, were Joe Kennedy, his sons, John, Bobby, and Ted; Joe Gargan, and oftentimes a high ranking priest in the Catholic Church.
It has long been asserted that Fr. Peyton was an agent of the CIA.
As Fr. Peyton toured the world on his “Rosary Crusades,” as he drew crowds of worshippers – two million in Sao Paulo, one and half million in the Manila, 800,000 in Madrid, more than half a million in San Francisco – it was rumored that he was not only promoting the soul enriching power of prayer, but also free societies.
I know now that Father Peyton was working on behalf of Uncle Sam.
I also know now that what I had heard, that when my father was serving in the U.S. Army counterintelligence in Europe – and the government asked him if he would be interested in going on into the CIA – that he supposedly told the government that he wasn’t interested … well … that wasn’t true.
You see, my father was in the CIA, and so was Fr. Patrick Peyton.
The two men knew each other.
They knew each other very well.