A Puppet Who Learned To Pull His Own Strings
by Rev. Robert J. Hermley

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I feel sure in saying that every child alive has enjoyed reading the story of Pinocchio over and over.  Perhaps deep inside they see in the long-nosed puppet glimpses of themselves.

According to the story, Gepetto, the wood carver, had spent a lifetime creating happiness for other people.  All the children in the neighborhood were fond of him because the old wood carver fixed their broken toys.  He painted fresh faces on the girls' dolls and mended the limbs of the battered tin soldiers that the local boys roughed up in mental military campaigns.  Sometimes, as Gepetto finished a piece of work for the children, he secretly wished that the doll or soldier could come alive.  That way, he would have company and would not have to live alone.

The blue fair godmother who frequently hovered over the puppets once overheard the old wood carver's wish and thought to herself that certainly he deserved to have his wish come true; after all, look at all the happiness Gepetto had brought to others.  Now it was time to bring a special gift to the old man in return.

One evening, Gepetto carved a little wooden boy puppet and named him Pinocchio.  When he had finished, he looked at the little puppet and was pleased with his work.  Again, he thought aloud how wonderful it would be if the smiling little puppet could talk, be real and keep him company.  After a moment of gazing at Pinocchio wistfully, Gepetto put the puppet on the shelf and began to ready himself for bed.

That night, as Gepetto slept, the blue fairy godmother came, touched Pinocchio with her magic wand and, low and behold, Pinocchio jumped down from the shelf and began to talk and walk about.  The blue  fairy godmother then gave the wooden puppet some very important advice:

            Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish.  Be a good son.  Then some day you will wake up and find yourself a real boy. 
                The world is full of temptations.  You must learn to choose between right and wrong.

She then gave Pinocchio Jimminy Cricket to be his conscience, to help him to know right from wrong, and suggested that the puppet should, "Always let your conscience be your guide."

The next morning, Gepetto was beside himself with joy when he saw that Pinocchio was alive, could talk, and could walk about.  He decided then and there that his new son would have the best education and he even sold some of his prize possessions to get fine clothes for Pinocchio and to buy him school books.

Pinocchio somehow knew that he was different from the other children and wanted desperately to be just like everyone else.  Some of the evil boys at school told him to follow their example and they would show him how to become real.  Pinocchio followed their example and always got himself into trouble.  Once the bad boys even set him on fire.  Meanwhile, poor Gepetto waited at home for Pinocchio to return.

One day, some bad boys, led by their leader Lampwick, convinced Pinocchio and several other boys not to go to school, but to go on an outing to a place that was paved with cookies, lined with doughnuts and where fountains spouted lemonade.  They went by way of Tobacco Lane.  Jimminy Cricket warned Pinocchio, but the puppet listened to Lampwick instead.

The boys entered Pleasure Island and had a bit of fun, but in a short time, the bad grown-ups on Pleasure Island began to round up the children and turn them into donkeys to be sold.  Pinocchio jumped to safety just in time, but only after he had grown donkey ears and a tail.

Only then did he realize that instead of becoming real, he was still being a puppet, letting evil boys tell him what to do and lead him around pulling his strings.  He vowed to follow Jimminy Cricket, his conscience, and o go back to his father to ask forgiveness.  On returning home, he found a letter from Gepetto, who said that he has learned that Pinocchio had gone to Pleasure Island that that he has heard of the place and its consequences and that he has gone there to rescue his son.  In the meantime, Pinocchio finds out that a giant whale has swallowed his father.  Pinocchio in an attempt to save Gepetto, is also swallowed and together they set off a gigantic fire inside the belly of the whale.  The whale coughs up Gepetto and Pinocchio, and in the rescue mission Pinocchio is at the point of death.  Poor old Gepetto picks up the dying puppet and takes him home and stands guard over him.  The blue fairy godmother comes and sees that Pinocchio has proved himself "brave, truthful, and unselfish."  In a dazed and semi-conscious state, Pinocchio remembers her admonition:

          And some day when you have proven yourself brave, truthful and unselfish, you will wake up and find yourself a real boy.

She touches him with her magic wand and Pinocchio wakes up and finds he is no longer a puppet, he is a real flesh and blood boy. - And Gepetto and Pinocchio embrace and live happily ever-after.

A fairy tale?  No way!  This is a true story and that is why we all love Pinocchio.  It is a story of ourselves.

God is Gepetto.  He goes about fixing the broken souls we bring Him.  He paints new faces on our hearts and mends the limbs of a broken, sinful life.  He wished that we would listen to his Commandments and knows that we would come to true life if we did.  Instead of listening to Him and the conscience He gave us, we are always trying to be something or someone else.  We listen to our evil friends who tell us how to be "real" people.  In doing so, we cavort with the Lampwicks who tell us of Tobacco Lane, Drug Alley and Sex Boulevard.  We even make donkeys of ourselves and keep our puppet status by letting evil direct our lives while others pull our strings in the mad rush to Pleasure Island.  But sooner or later, we see the stupidity of our actions.  We remember the teachings of our old mothers and fathers who showed us right from wrong.  We remember the happiness we once had when we lived and practiced the faith we learned from the catechism.  We remember the joy we experienced when the priest absolved us of our sins.  Our souls become on fire again and we refuse to be swallowed by sin.  We return to our Father's house and ask Him to put a new face on our soul and mend our limbs. - And And off to the side Mary smiles as we come home to our Father and she says:

          Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish.  Be a good son.  Be obedient to my son.  The world is full of temptations, but I will help you to
                choose between right and wrong.  Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish and you will be real!  I promise it!

What a story!  I believe it so much that I have a replica of Pinocchio in my office.  I keep it there to remind me that I have a loving Father in heaven who carved me in His image and who wants me to become "real"  . . . and how I pray I will never let Him down.