|Journeys: Tony Loffredo|
|Date: February 25, 1999|
|I was a cradle Catholic. I was baptized at about five days old and I can remember going to church at a very early
age. My father was a career man in the army so as a child I traveled around a lot. I very rarely finished a full
year in the same school. This made it very difficult for me to make friends.
When I was seven years old my father was stationed in Japan and my mother, my sister, my brother and I joined him there. The army chaplain (Catholic) there took a liking to me. He made me his first alter boy. I also received my first Communion during this time. Back then, before you could receive Communion, you had to fast from food and water from mid-night. On the day of my first Communion I had a very sore and dry throat. My mother told me that surely it would be ok for me to at least drink water, but I wouldn’t do it.
You see, at that time in my life I had a very deep love and devotion for Christ Jesus. My father abused my brother and I while we were growing up, both mentally and physically. He used to call us morons and beat us with a belt. I grew up hating him. When I was fourteen I sneaked out the family car and got it stuck in the mud. I was so afraid of what he would do to me that I ran away from home.
This trend continued and the year I was sixteen I ran away eight times. The last time I stole about $900 in savings bonds that were supposed to be for my college education. I moved into a motel and went on a spending spree. My father called the police and I went to youth hall. When I went to court I was ordered to leave the State of Florida for one year to go live with my Uncle Vinnie and Aunt Suzy in Brooklyn.
My uncle was an electrician and I was to be his apprentice. My Aunt was a very good cook, so I gained a few pounds in the process. After I had lived with them for a few months they got fed up with the company I was keeping and sent me back to my father. Since I was supposed to stay out of the state for one year I was ordered to either return to school or join the military.
In September of 1962 at age seventeen I joined the Air Force. I did not do well in basic training and almost got an unadaptability discharge. For some reason I felt that the reason I was having so much trouble in my life was because I was relying on God to take care of me. I decided that from then on I was going to do it on my own without God.
When I finished basic training I went to Technical School and became an Aircraft Mechanic. After I finished Technical School, I received a thirty-day leave, which I spent at home in Miami. During that leave I got back together with an old girl friend, Linda? In fact we became engaged. My first permanent duty station was Eglin AFB, Florida. Although Eglin is in Florida, it is in the PanHandle and 650 miles away from Miami. Since I had no car I hitchhiked back and forth to Miami on weekends. Linda and I had sex frequently. After this went on for about six months, Linda’s father said something to make me angry and I wrote a letter to Linda to break up with her. She wrote me back saying how she had been a fool and that she would never trust another guy again. I felt really bad.
A few months later, I met a local girl, Emelia. We also had sex regularly. I still felt guilty about what had happened with Linda so I married Emelia. She was fifteen and I was eighteen. Nine months later our first son was born. Anthony Paul Loffredo III. As I remember I was very happy. Before Anthony was a year old I was transferred to Kadina AB Okinawa. Because of my low rank and short time in service I was forced to go alone. The first night on Okinawa, I went down town to the bars and went home with a prostitute. I felt very guilty but the more often I did it the easier it became.
While stationed on Okinawa, I went TDY to Korea and to Thailand. We were in Thailand to bomb Viet Nam. Once I watched a reconnaissance film on a napalm bombing we had done. There were people running out of huts with their backs on fire. I wondered how many people I had helped kill that day.
When I returned to the States and rejoined my wife and son nothing was the same. I had built up in my mind how everything would be, living as a civilian. However things were not wonderful. In fact my new job, as a life insurance agent did not pay enough to make ends meet. I ended up getting a second full time job working in a gas station. I was working sixteen hours a day and got burnt out very quickly. I missed the life I had had overseas of working a little and partying a lot. I discussed this situation with a friend who I worked with and he wanted to party too. I left my wife and son; he left his girlfriend and we took off for New Orleans for the Marti Gras. What a jerk I was!
When I returned to Miami, Emelia and Anthony had, out of necessity, moved in with my parents; also our car had been repossessed. I felt remorse for what I had done and begged Emelia to take me back. For some reason she did. My father agreed to help us out only if I re-enlisted in the Air Force. So I did. Emelia and I agreed that I should ask for a duty station far away from our parents so that we would become closer to each other. I was stationed at Williams AFB, Arizona.
A short time after arriving at Williams AFB, I had saved enough money to buy an old car and to rent an apartment. I sent for Emelia and Anthony. We were very happy to see one another, and life seemed good! We had two more children in Arizona, Michael and Nancy. However it wasn’t long before I started going out with my friends to the local bars trying to pick up women. Once a friend and I did pick up two women. Unbeknownst to us, our wives had gone out looking for us, and, they found us. What seemed to up set Emelia the most, was the fact that they weren’t even pretty. Again Emelia forgave me.
We lived in Arizona for two and a half years and then I was transferred to Hahn AB, Germany. This time I had enough rank and time in service that the Air Force paid for all of us to travel to Germany together. Emelia and I really liked Germany; we did a lot of traveling to see the German towns and castles. We also enjoyed the Restaurants. By this time, I was twenty-four and still wanted to be free. I had read, in men’s magazine, about the American deserters in Sweden. This seemed like a great adventure to me. So an Air Force buddy and I took off for Sweden, leaving my wife and kids and his girl friend behind. We got no further than the Danish border. We were arrested and sent back to Hahn AB.
Emelia had had enough. She started dating a guy at the base. I sent her and my kids back to the States. The day they left was one of the unhappiest days of my life. It was then that I finally realized how much I loved them. I started to write Emelia letters trying to get her back but she wanted nothing to do with me. Then one night in a bar while I was talking against the war in Viet Nam and one of the sergeants threatened to hit me over the head with a barstool. Shortly after that incident I forged papers authorizing me to travel to Sweden and I took off again. This time I made it.
This began my life as a hippie. I let my hair grow; I let my beard grow; I got into sex and drugs and rock and roll. I had never been so unhappy in my life. I continued writing to Emelia trying to get her to join me in Sweden. I received no answer to any of my letters. In the meanwhile I had relationship after relationship. They lasted about three months and when they were over, all the pain that I suffered when I lost Emelia and my Kids came back. I lived in Sweden for about five years. During that time, I worked at several jobs and also dealt drugs. There came a time, when I decided that I was going to have the life style that I wanted or go to jail trying. I started to deal speed. My life style did change. I started eating in the best restaurants, going to the best clubs, and because I had money I attracted women.
Well, I got caught with 650 grams of amphetamine and was sentenced to two years in prison. When I entered the prison, I was made to take off all my clothes, take a shower and put on my prison uniform. Every thing I had on the outside was gone. But even then, I knew that there was one thing they couldn’t take away because it was inside of me. In the evenings at the prison there were several groups that came in the evenings. One of them was a Christian Group but I was still not trusting in God to take care of me, so I really didn’t have much to do with them.
Then one day I saw on the bulletin board: “Divine Light Mission” this kind of caught my eye. It sounded kind of Catholic. I went down to see them and they were telling me about a light they saw inside of them. I really wasn’t impressed but there was a girl with them I liked so I kind of went along with it. Her name was Jane. At Jane’s persistence I received the initiation. We were locked in our cells at eight o’clock every night, so I practiced the techniques of meditation. And when I focused inside guess who I found there? The Holy Spirit.
When I was released from prison and returned to the States, I continued to practice the meditation. I also went to all of Maharaja Ji’s major events. I even went to Rome. Then in 1982 I met Charlyne who is now my wife of sixteen years. I told her about my experiences of Knowledge and Guru Maharaj Ji. At my persistence she received Knowledge. She practiced the meditation for a while but then she started to have bad experiences and quit. Also she heard about all of Maharaj Ji’s cars and airplanes. She thought it was wrong to use the Knowledge to make money. Besides ever since she was a teen-ager she had wanted to become Catholic. She said it was ok with her if I continued with Maharaj Ji but she wanted nothing further to do with him.
I went to one more program after that in Ft. Lauderdale; in fact I did a lot of service getting ready. When Maharaj Ji showed up he only seemed interested in the aspirants and was almost rude to the rest of us. This discouraged me because I had done the service in love, thinking he was the Lord.
Then one day my sister-in-law invited me to her daughter’s first Communion. It was to be held at St. Louis Catholic Church. We went. It turned out to be a Charismatic church. Scott, the cantor was singing, the Disciples in Motion were dancing. Theresa, a girl in a wheel chair was dancing in her chair with both arms raised praising the Lord. I was really impressed. I remember thinking this is a Catholic Church where I can really come to praise the Lord. We have been going there ever since. At first I was going there and praising Maharaj Ji. Charlyne and I went to a life in the Spirit seminar where the Holy Spirit within us was stirred up. It was then that I realized that the experience of Knowledge was the Holy Spirit and not Maharaj Ji.
We went to Discipleship training. We became youth leaders with the seventh and eighth graders. The best part was when we took them on retreat. Saturday night’s and the praise and worship they would really open up. Some of them would start crying. Some of them would rest in the spirit. All of them experienced the Holy Spirit.
Charlyne and I also attended a Marriage covenant weekend where we learned how with Jesus’ help we could make our marriage work. We also go out once a month to the streets of Miami to feed and pray over the homeless. I have gone to jails and prayed over inmates. They were so hungry, and open. The tears poured out of their eyes when they accepted Jesus as their Lord and savior.
I am a Lector, which means a read Scripture at Mass. And Charlyne is an Eucharistic Minister, which means that she gives out Communion, not only at church but also to the homebound and hospital bound. I often go with her and do one of the readings. I am also a member of the St. Louis adult choir. Two week ago one of the basses was in the hospital for brain cancer treatment and some of the choir members went there to sing for him. You should have seen his eyes light up. We also did a lot of praying over him and a hospital stay that was supposed to be a month turned into two weeks. So there is life after Maharaj JI.