The New Springtime

El Indigente was a simple diocese basking in the new springtime of the Church following the Second Vatican Council. The Vatican sent the diocese two liturgical experts to update the liturgy yet again for the 60th anniversary of the Novus Ordo Missae. The diocese would never be the same again.

Location: Jacksonville, FL

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The New Springtime: Table of Contents/Foreword

The New Springtime

Written by Jeremy Dobbs
Proofread by Barbara Wallace
A commentary on the Liturgical Revolution in the Catholic Church since the 1960s.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Diocese of El Indigente
Chapter 2: 27th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Chpater 3: The Apostolic Visitors
Chapter 4: The Novissimus Ordo
Chapter 5: Filling Happy's Shoes
Chapter 6: A Carousel of Presiders
Chapter 7: The Monastery
Chapter 8: The New Rector
Chapter 9: Angelica
Chapter 10: Acquaintance and Epiphany
Chapter 11: A Super Sunday
Chapter 12: The Dream

Many thanks to go around. Thank you to Mary Bourbeau and my friends in Minnesota for teaching me what Catholic culture is supposed to look like. Thanks to Dr. Brian Kopp for his idea about the “former Jesuit,” without which, Chapter 5 would not have existed. Thanks to Sheriff John for allowing me to post this book on and Anthony for allowing me to post an earlier version on Thanks also to Barbara for generously and well proofreading TNS.

This book is dedicated to the greatest two groups of heroes I’ve ever come across: faithful priests and generous Catholic mothers. Because of them, this new springtime we now suffer through will pass and we will arrive one day at the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. I’m sorry I can’t belong to either group, but I hope this book will help in some small way. May God bless you and Our Lady of Fatima protect you.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

TNS Approbations

TNS approbations

Approbations: mostly from, except where noted.

“OUTSTANDING, JDobbs !!” - Selous

“Great! Hilarious!” - Former ECUSA now Catholic

“Your writing is quite good. I see a perfect picture in my mind when you write.” - The Doctor

“I LOVE this book!” - sacrumconvivium

“All I know, Dobbs, is that if I attempted a parody of the current situation in 'new church', it would not come out as good as your effort.” - sevry

“I thought that satire was supposed to be exaggerated. Sadly, this isn't too far off from ‘liturgies’ I've actually seen. Nice work. You've got me on the edge of my pew for the next installment, as always.” - etcumspirit220

“You have captured in words what I have always pictured "the spirit of Vatican II" to look like. Great job!” - latinmass

“Beautiful chapter ... I have to admit, it made my heart pound a little, too.” - TradCathYouth

“Let me just say that while your comedic chapters are hilarious, your sober writing is quite moving. … It should be an underground book, one shared by Catholics all over with some nifty Jack Chick like cover. To paraphrase Stan Lee, ‘Make Mine Springtime!’” - Ferrer

“Wow! what a great story! It should be published !” - Braveheart

“What is the judge of a good book? I don’t know. For me it is did the book hold my interest. I have started to read many books that I don’t get much past the first chapter. Your book held my interest and I read it all the way through.” - Crusader

“Very well done and certainly applies to these times. Unfortunately.” - Marybonita

“It’s a fun read” - Anthony Gonzalez on

"I finally read the New Springtime, Jeremy, and I just have this to say: Damn, it's funny" - Sean Conner

“I've read your book. I've liked it very much. It's incredibly funny at times. There are so many things that made me laugh. … Angelica is such a moving character. I liked bishop Sugarloaf too. The last scenes made my think of St. Jerome's dream.” - Bruno on Patrick Madrid’s Envoy Magazine Blog

"I finally got a chance to look at THE NEW SPRINGTIME. It is quite funny. As a man who detests smarmy Alan Alda, I found certain moments delicious... I do not think much of anything could be more offensive than what is going on in reality in most 'Catholic churches' today since the unleashing of the novus ordo mass.

The real problem with attempting any kind of comedy today is the world keeps outrunning the wildest imagination of the creative artists. Waugh used to say that he did not write satire, as satire demanded a stable and coherent social order that could grasp the extensions of comic presentation for corrective purposes. We live after the age of Absurdist Comedy which seems pretty tame compared to anything going on in the morning paper. Today's world makes the Marx Brothers look like relics from the Age of Reason.

In any case, thanks for some good laughs. We need them these days!" - Dr. David Allen White

“I'm not sure whether to classify this one as ‘disgruntled and misinformed’ or ‘just plain stupid.’” - Anonymous on liberal priest Joseph S. O’Leary’s blog

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Chapter 1 - The Diocese of El Indigente

In the País de las Hadas mountain range in California, on Unidad Hill, lies the city of El Indigente. The area was first settled by the Toloranta Indians. The Jesuits came to this land in 1702, and set up San Francisco Javier Mission soon after. When the United States took over California, falsely believing the town and mission were named after St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the town, Rich Digger, who was quite the novice in Spanish, renamed the town El Indigente, believing that was the Spanish term for “poor man”, St. Francis’ favorite nickname.

Despite the rich Catholic history of the diocese, the New Springtime proclaimed by Bl. Pope John XXIII, and heralded by St. John Paul II the Wonderful and Paul VII has yet to settle into the diocese with the full blessings of the Second Vatican Council. While vocations are down, they are not nearly as destitute as some of their more enlightened neighbors. Far fewer people are leaving the Catholic Church in this diocese than normal. Also, unlike many places throughout the country, the diocese has yet to experience the manifold benefits of diocesan consolidation. Worst of all, it is said that in some parishes, there are still lines for confession.

The blame for this vigor can be laid squarely at the feet of Bishop Surley, the Ordinary at the turn of the Century. His malpastoral preaching and administration of the diocese has been blamed for an unfortunate upsurge of vocations, from which the diocese has yet to recover fully. Pope Paul VII has since apologized for this influx of new priests.

That all changed in March 2013. That month, Bishop Enrique Junoz brought the New Springtime to the diocese. Under his leadership, lawsuits ravaged the diocese and vocations dried up.

His first act as the new Bishop of El Indigente was that he decided to move out of the Cathedral and build a new one. The Cathedral of St. Francis, built in the 1920s, was still structurally sound and in good repair, but its orientation toward the sanctuary and visual clutter compelled Bishop Junoz to look for a new home for the Cathedral. With property values particularly high at this time in the city of El Indigente, this presented a problem.

Fortunately, there was a man with the acumen of Bishop Junoz on the job. He closed Cathedral High School in June, and decided to use the gymnasium for the new Cathedral. He immediately went about the task of renovating the gymnasium to make it a fit building for the worship of God. After taking out the basketball hoops and putting in the chairs and a platform, the new Cathedral of Alan Alda was up and running by the beginning of July.

Since the resignation of Bishop Junoz in 2019, the diocese has been in the capable hands of Bishop Michael Tsygolov, better known as Bishop Sugarloaf. A supreme administrator, he seeks at all costs to make peace among the various factions in his diocese. It is said that there is no enmity in his diocese where has not made peace. In his diocese, Catholics of every imaginable stripe have all become united in brotherhood - Maple Leaf Catholics and Canadien Catholics, Dog and Cat Catholics; PETA and Hunter Catholics; Christ and Belial Catholics; Feeneyite and Universalist Catholics, Tastes Great and Less Filling Catholics: Catholics of every shade of belief or none - except the Society of St. Pius X. Every kind of spirituality has found a home under his care, but these reactionaries seem to want the party all to themselves. Their loss.

The diocese at present has 25 priests and 60 active retired priests ministering 75 parishes, three hospitals, and four schools.

At the Cathedral of St. Alan Alda - in case you’re wondering, he is not yet canonized, but Bishop Sugarloaf has taken the liberty to rename it in anticipation of his imminent canonization. After all, he is 92 years old and will likely die soon. Then, it is only a matter of time. Anyways, I digress.

The Rector of the Cathedral of St. Alan Alda is a priest named Fr. Happy Smiley. Hap has been a priest for 65 years, ordained during the Second Vatican Council. He is in remarkably good health for a man his age. He never misses a turn to say Mass. He is able to ride his bike for fifteen miles on days off, and he goes golfing religiously on Friday afternoons. At Mass, he is a bundle of energy, shaking hands or hugging every parishioner during the sign of peace - sometimes crashing other celebrations of the Eucharist just to do it again. Yep. Fr. Hap is still the picture of health - except, as I’m sure you can understand, he does need eight extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist to help him get by at Communion time.

Fr. Hap can be seen dancing to his favorite liturgical cantors: Groovy Gary Dowdy and his wife, Far-out Francine, who have been gracing the Eucharistic liturgy nearly as long as Fr. Hap has been presiding at it. While neither is the picture of health, Groovy Gare still strums the guitar with the best of them, and they bring their upbeat, folksy brand of liturgical music now to their fourth generation.

Fr. Hap was the only child of Hi and Joy Smiley, isolated from his cousins and without any close friends. As such, he grew up with alternative forms of common sense, which has proven a blessing throughout his ministry. Without it, he would have perhaps have scrapped such a meaningful ministry as the Dowdys. In the primitive days before Vatican II, a priest like Fr. Smiley would have incurred the ecclesiastical censure doofus maximus, and been relegated to the 6:30 am liturgy. The New Springtime of the Church has been a flowering for priests such as Hap.

The Cathedral of St. Alan Alda was further renovated by Bishop Sugarloaf. He put two devotional areas at the front of the church: one on the left, the other on the right.

The left devotional area is dedicated to the late William Christopher, who played the ineffable Father Mulcahy, an inspiration to Catholics everywhere. One notices that Father Mulcahy leads a Protestant service for the Christians of the 4077th. Keeping in mind that the TV series M*A*S*H is set before the Second Vatican Council, good Catholics everywhere venerate him as a priest ahead of his time.

In this area, one finds a wax statue of Father Mulcahy, with exquisite attention to detail. The ever-so-slight favoring of his right foot is portrayed, as is the precise facial expression he exhibited in episode #86 at the point when he learned the Korean orphan he was caring for was killed while he was away. Real human hair was used, and the area is even kept at a temperature so that the wax ever so slightly melts to simulate human sweat. Behind the wax statue, digitally engraved into the marble walls, are images from M*A*S*H, featuring William Christopher.

On the other side, on a stool, there is a faceless statue of a woman saint of the individual faithful’s choosing.

Along the sides of the building, at intervals, one finds scenes from M*A*S*H in stained glass. Different scenes are presented from different eras to incite various sentiments, and also to increase one’s veneration of St. Alan Alda.

Harry Morgan came to the Cathedral this past summer to witness the blessing of the window with his image which can now be seen on the Christopher side of the church, toward the back of the church. Still spry at 113 years old, we were thrilled with his presence, and Bishop Sugarloaf used that occasion to announce the opening of the cause for his beatification.

Along the walls, one can see the Stations of the Series. There are televisions, and at each, one can view clips from M*A*S*H: thirteen stations, each with clips from a different season, and a fourteenth station with clips from the computer commercials the actors made in the late ’80s.

In some parts of the Cathedral, it can be somewhat inconvenient to view the liturgy, particularly in the back. That has not been a problem at the Cathedral of St. Alan Alda, as it has never really been filled.

Still, these seats - even in their darkness and obscurity - are usually filled during the Eucharistic liturgy. Young couples attending to the worship of God have “chosen the last seat,” as Our Lord taught us, to contemplate intimate joy as a foretaste of Heaven, and persons of indeterminate domicile use this area to seek to rest in the Lord. Even this is a blossoming to be found in the Springtime of the Second Vatican Council. In less enlightened pre-Vatican II days, judgmental people would have sneered that “bums” came to sleep off their hangovers and juveniles to make out in church.

The seats are linked side by side. They are made of light oak, with a colorful blue/orange fabric covering luxurious cushions that makes one forget he’s on earth. In the back of every seat, obviously, one can unfold a footstool to aid reclining during Mass. Between each seat is a dual armrest with a cupholder. There are five columns of seats with four aisles. These seats run from the back of the Cathedral to the platform.

Ah, the platform! The (check dictionary) saynkchayrey... Sanctuary! In the center of this saynk… this platform is the altar, which is the presider’s dinner table. It is about three and a half feet high, six feet long, three feet deep. It is draped with a floor-length green cloth, to mark Ordinary Time, and has flowers and two vanilla candles on top, with an open book on a stand.

Prominent to the left is a podium with a single light on top, with a book. Prominent to the right is a guitar, stool, three microphones, one considerably lower than the other two, and sheets of paper strewn haphazardly on (and falling off) a music stand.

To the left and right, there are rows of chairs and portable footstools. Behind the altar are chairs for the presider and two servers. To the left (looking at the platform) of these chairs stands a processional cross. On the processional cross is an image of Jesus lounging on a recliner giving the thumbs up sign.

On the back wall is a wall-sized image of St. Alan Alda and Servant of God Mike Farrell at the scene when they broke the b***h barrier for television. Because of regulations and all, they did hang up a one inch wall crucifix, but the diocese hid it in a shadow, so that no one would notice unless he was looking specifically for it.

In front of the stage, one can find a Bible on a stand. At any time, one can go to the platform and read the New Edited Kosher Version of the New & Improved Revised Standard California Bible for 2028. This particular version saw more edits from Bishop Sugarloaf.

Oh, I almost forgot. Out of pastoral solicitude, the Eucharist is kept in a closet in the sacristy, in a wooden box that says “Bread”.

It is here that the doors open at 9:00am on Sunday October 16, 2028.

Chapter 2 - The 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

It’s 9:25am. A smaller than usual crowd has gathered, about thirty or so. This is not alarming, as there are five Sundays in October, so it is normal for meeting the three Sundays a month obligation to be a little less than usual, and stragglers will be coming in throughout the liturgy. In fact, at Father Happy’s Mass, some faithful have made it a tradition to wait until after the sign of peace is over before they approach the church.

There are young couples and persons of indeterminate domicile already here doing their devotions. Mrs. Sofran and her two daughters, aged 17 and 12, are by the ambiguous statue, each wearing what looks like a lace end table covering on her head and saying her beads.

From a room behind the platform comes Blanche Page. Blanche is a lovely woman, around 35 years old: tall, with her hair worn up in a conservative manner, wearing a pinstriped pantsuit. She is the daughter of one of the leaders on the parish council, Dr. Turner Page.

She is carrying a paper in her left hand, most likely to make the parish announcements, as it is part of her job as lector for the Mass. Blanche steps up to the microphone and gives a little wave. “Hi everyone,” she said with her distinctive nasal voice.

She is greeted with a smattering of “Hi Blanche!” “Wonderful to see you, Blanche.” “Good morning.” One man responded with a whistle.

Then Blanche began the announcements: “Today is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, year cycle D, adult liturgy/child optional, Eucharistic prayer # 37, folk Mass, home vestments, alcohol-and-drug free, except for the wine. Oh, and Father Hap’s heart medication. And the stuff that the person of the flexible dormitorial arrangement lifestyle is drinking now. In fact, a couple of you are finishing your beers right now to make your twenty minute Eucharistic fast. Forget I said that.

“Announcements. Nick Classics is running a M*A*S*H marathon this week from Wednesday night at six o’clock in the evening to Thursday afternoon at two o’clock.

“A reminder, we are having a full-contact Bingo tournament starting Thursday, October 27. Sadie McGillicuddy, last year’s champion will be looking to defend her crown. There are still openings for the tournament, but they are sure to fill up fast. To sign up, meet with either Mrs. Leary or Father Hap after Mass. Or you could talk to Father Hap during Mass, if he doesn’t look too busy.

"The parish is sponsoring a pilgrimage next summer to Woodstock, New York, the site of the famous protoliturgy performed sixty years ago this coming summer. Travel and accommodations will cost $2,750 dollars, including two nights in the mud listening to the spiritually enriching music of the era. If you’re interested, please see Father Hap.

“On Sunday, November 26, the Feast of Christ the Presider, St. Alan Alda will be here to sign his autograph for the Faithful of the parish in the narthex after the noon Mass. The suggested donation will be $20.00. This is a once in a lifetime chance to get a personalized second class relic from this Saint. Tell all your friends to come, as well.”

With that, Blanche took her papers and returned to the left sacristy.

This last announcement caused a bit of a buzz in the parish, which was quickly drowned out by the sound of wheezing. To the right of the stage, Groovy Gary and Far out Francine were struggling with the steps on their way up to their microphones. Gary is wearing his usual tie-dye collared shirt, quite a contrast to his shock white, thinning hair. He still gets around, though with the help of a walker. Francine’s health has taken a hit the last several months, and she can never be seen without her IV hookup. She can still sing well enough, but at times, the hose that runs from the IV to her nose bumps into the microphone. Still, these are Father Happy’s favorite minstrels. What they lack in tonal accuracy, they make up for with enthusiasm.

One could still hear Groovy Gary and Far out Francine gasping for breath when the opening procession started. Gary, while still recovering, started strumming the chords: G C G D. Ah! It must be the classic of Vatican II spirituality….

“Hi God, how are you today
Can you hear us, God?
What is it you’d like to say?
Be good to your neighbor, be good to yourself
Who me? Yes, you. OK!
Hi God, how are you today
Can you hear us, God?
You’re our best friend, God”

By the end of the song, Father Happy has processed to behind the altar, which would have been a tad inconvenient in the days before Vatican II. The altar boy, Gregory, after he had led the procession, put the processional cross in its place and went back to the sacristy for a smoke. Blanche followed Gregory in the procession, holding aloft the book of readings.

The procession included the six extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, and concluded with Fr. Hap shaking hands with the parishioners on the way in. He is dressed in a green suede chasuble, floor length all the way around with holes for the head and arms. Fr. Happy’s chasuble features a rhinestone smiley face on a white background.

Fr. Happy began the liturgy, “Good morning, everyone.”

Some parishioners responded, “Good morning, Father.”

“Now is everybody ready? Altogether now, ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ Well done. We were all together. Now let’s give ourselves a hand.”

After the self-congratulatory applause, Father Hap said, “Before we get ready to celebrate the Eucharist together, let us call to mind our sins.”

After two seconds, Father Hap continued, “Now that felt bad, didn’t it? I know it felt bad for me. But you know what, God still loves you. Yes, He does. And here to sing the Lord Have Mercy is Groovy Gary. Gary?”

The familiar refrain of Gary’s guitar harkens to a by-gone era; the older parishioners remembered it was from Billy Joel. Gary then begins to sing.

“Don’t go changing to try to please me
Just because you let Him down before.
Don’t imagine you’re too big a sinner
That I don’t need you any more.

"Oh, God won’t leave you in times of trouble
Because He seen you come this far
You gave Him good times He’ll take the bad times
God loves you just the way you are”

Father Happy then joyfully announced: “And now for the Glory to God. Let’s see what fantastic ditty Groovy Gary and Far out Francine have for us.”

Groovy Gary played for the congregation an arrangement of “Glory to God in the Highest” he penned in 1967. At the opening chords, Father Hap started clapping his hands and encouraging the people to sing and clap their hands. He would sporadically do this throughout the piece. Despite the people’s reticence to join in, Father Hap clapped throughout and sang (and often danced) throughout the whole piece.

Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in the Highest. Everybody, now.
Glory to God, and peace to His people on earth

Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Everybody sing.

Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in the Highest.
Glory to God, and peace to His people on earth

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. Lift up your voices, now.

Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in the Highest.
Glory to God, and peace to His people on earth

For You alone are the Holy One, You alone are the Lord, You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen. Let’s hear it now.

Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in the Highest.
Glory to God, and peace to His people on earth. One more time.

Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in the Highest.
Glory to God, and peace to His people on earth.

At this, Father Happy, visibly exhausted from the dancing, wipes the sweat from his brow. “Woo! Aren’t they great, people? Let’s give Groovy Gary and Far out Francine a hand. Yeah.” With the enthusiasm he displayed, Father Happy did not act like he realized he was the only person clapping.

Father Happy continued: “Let’s pray, everybody. The Lord be with you.”

“And also with you.”

“Thank you so much. Anyways, let us pray. Father, you have made us worthy to serve you in all our worthiness. Increase in us the reflection of Your Image and Likeness, that we may meditate on our worthiness for all of our days. We ask this through Jesus. Amen.”

With this, Father Happy sits down, and Gary and Francine collapse in their chairs.

Blanche steps up to the podium. “The reading from the Old Testament is from the Book of Numbers.” This was Numbers 7:11-83.

“The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nashon son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah.

“His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nashon son of Amminadab.

“On the second day Nethanel son of Zuar, the leader of Issachar, brought his offering.

“The offering he brought was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nethanel son of Zuar.

“On the third day, Eliab son of Helon, the leader of the people of Zebulun, brought his offering.

“His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Eliab son of Helon.

“On the fourth day Elizur son of Shedeur, the leader of the people of Reuben, brought his offering.

“His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Elizur son of Shedeur.

“On the fifth day Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai, the leader of the people of Simeon, brought his offering.

“His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai.

“On the sixth day Eliasaph son of Deuel, the leader of the people of Gad, brought his offering.

“His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Eliasaph son of Deuel.

“On the seventh day Elishama son of Ammihud, the leader of the people of Ephraim, brought his offering.

“His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Elishama son of Ammihud.

“On the eighth day Gamaliel son of Pedahzur, the leader of the people of Manasseh, brought his offering.

“His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Gamaliel son of Pedahzur.

“On the ninth day Abidan son of Gideoni, the leader of the people of Benjamin, brought his offering.

“His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Abidan son of Gideoni.

“On the tenth day Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai, the leader of the people of Dan, brought his offering.

“His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai.

“On the eleventh day Pagiel son of Ocran, the leader of the people of Asher, brought his offering.

“His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Pagiel son of Ocran.

“On the twelfth day Ahira son of Enan, the leader of the people of Naphtali, brought his offering.

“His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed. This was the offering of Ahira son of Enan.

“This is the Word of the Lord.”

A number of parishioners had fallen asleep, so Blanche repeated herself loudly. “This is the Word of the Lord.”

“Oh. Thanks be to God.”

It was time for the responsorial.

Blanche began: “Taste and see that the Lord is sweet.”

The people responded: “Taste and see that the Lord is sweet”

The responsorial is from Psalm 2:

“Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.”

“Taste and see that the Lord is sweet”

“The One enthroned in Heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
Then he rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath,
saying, ‘I have installed my King on Zion,
my holy hill.’”

“Taste and see that the Lord is sweet”

“I will proclaim the decree of the Lord :
He said to me, ‘You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.
Ask of me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.

You will rule them with an iron scepter;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.’”

“Taste and see that the Lord is sweet”

“Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

“Taste and see that the Lord is sweet”

Blanche then began the day’s Epistle (Rev. 3:1-6) here presented with the optional parts indicated. Blanche omitted them. “Today’s epistle is from the Book of Revelation. “To the Angel in the church in Sardis, write, ‘These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, [but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die,] for I have [not] found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; [obey it, and repent.] But if you do not [wake up, I will] come [like a thief, and] you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have [a few] people in Sardis who [have not soiled their clothes. They] will walk with me, dressed [in white], for they are worthy. [They who overcome will, like them, be dressed in white.] I will never blot out their name from the book of life, but will acknowledge their name before my Father and his angels.’ Those who have an ear, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

“This is the Word of the Lord.”

“Thanks be to God.”

At this, Groovy Gary started up the guitar, and then Far out Francine sung the melody: “Allelu-ia Allelu - ia Alleloooooooia.”

Gary joined in: “Allelu-ia Allelu - ia Alleloooooooia.”

Francine sung the verse: “My burden is sweet and My yoke is light, and you shall find rest for your souls.”

“Allelu-ia Allelu - ia Alleloooooooia.”

At this, all stood, except for those doing their devotions in the back of the church. Father Hap stood at the altar. “Woo! Gary and Francine are great, aren’t they? The Lord be with you, everybody.”

“And also with you.”

“Thank you. The reading of the Gospel is from Matthew.”

“Glory be to you, O Lord.”

“Jesus said to His disciples, 'You shall find rest for your souls, for My burden is sweet and my yoke is light.'”

“Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.”

At the conclusion of the Gospel, everyone sat down, except Father Smiley, who grabbed the microphone from the pulpit and went to Gary’s stool, as per usual. He had to chase Gary off first, because he had fallen asleep on the stool. Father Hap then sat down on the stool and began his sermon over the huffing and wheezing of Gary and Francine.

Father’s sermons have been quite short in recent years, much to the delight of his faithful. In the distant past, twice he was assaulted after grabbing a reluctant parishioner to participate in his homily. He had once been known for endless sermons, but Bishop Surley suggested that he cut it down after the entire parish joined in a chant of “Shut up! Shut up!” Thus, he settled on short, sweet, sermons, usually with a story or anecdote tied in to a moral, keeping in mind that Father Hap has never seen a tangent he didn’t like.

At any rate, Father Hap started his sermon. “I was riding my bike the other day, when I stopped at a stop sign. Now, you all know that when you ride a bicycle, that you’re supposed to obey the rules of traffic as if you were a car, don’t you? It drives me crazy when I see a bicycle run right through a stop sign as if it wasn’t there, or when he drives on the wrong side of the street. Why do they think that it’s OK for them to break the rules of traffic, but not cars? If a car were to…”

At that point a buzzer sounded . Blanche has a button which she presses in case Hap get too far off topic. Apparently, this was not the point of the sermon.

Happy continued: “Anyways. I was at the stop sign. And in a nearby yard, I saw the most exquisite flower garden. And at the daffodils, I saw a beautiful black and yellow honeybee flying around to get the nectar from the flower. And I thought to myself, ‘You know, I frequently preach on the goodness of animals and our duties as stewards of the Kingdom of God to look after our rationally-challenged brethren. What about vegetation? Are they just like you and me without sensation? What rights does being alive bring with it?’

“But when I watched the honeybee, I realized that plants have a very meaningful role in society. Is it possible that just as we can recognize animal rights and avoid eating meat, dare we hope that one day science will make purely synthetic food (other than McDonald’s hamburgers) so we don’t have to eat our vegetative brethren? Even when you eat an apple, let’s say. Do you then lovingly place the baby apple trees in a place where they can grow in peace? It goes to show how far we’ve slipped as a society.

“So let us work toward the day when the rights and dignity of our less sensational brethren are appreciated as children of God and work to sow peace between all forms of life so that the world will again have the harmony we once had in the Garden of Eden. As we all know, we can have this peace only through science and dialog.”

His sermon having finished, Father Hap returned to his place behind the altar and they recited the Creed for the 21st Century.

“I believe that God exists, although I respect others’ rights to deny it.
I have some belief in Jesus Christ; others don’t, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, at least as a guiding Force for my faith experience, but it’s all good that others don’t.
I believe some other stuff, but others believe differently, which is fine, too.

After the Creed, Blanche came to the pulpit and turned to give Father Hap a piercing glare, as he’s forgotten to put the mike back after the sermon again. She grabbed the microphone from the stool, returned to the pulpit, and began the Prayers of the Faithful.

“We pray for the Holy Father, Pope Liberius II. May You enlighten him in the way of dialog, and help him to be ever more responsive to the desires of the People of God. Give him strength and wisdom to meet our needs and the needs of people of all other faiths, that we may walk the garden path of dialog. Help him in the work of diocesan consolidation, so that all may be one. For this, we pray to the Lord.”


“We pray for our bishop, Sugarloaf, that he may meet the needs of all the flock entrusted to him, that all might find a place at the table, regardless of creed, cult, or belief, except for integrists. For this, we pray to the Lord.”


“We pray for the People of God throughout the world. Let us who are created in Your Image and Likeness find ourselves, and by so doing, find You. For this, we pray to the Lord.”


“We pray for Catholic Action, that animal rights, gay rights, Leninist, socialist, and worthy apostolates of all kinds continue Your work in the world, until we’ve rebuilt the Garden of Paradise our fathers lost by dogmatic intolerance. For this, we pray to the Lord.”


Father Happy continued: “Heavenly Father, our Eternal Stick of Cotton Candy in the sky, You bring sweetness to our days and peace to our nights. Out of love and confidence, we ask also for earthly prosperity and total social justice, which we are pretty much figuring out anyway without You. We ask this in the name of Jesus.”


At that point, Father Happy stood at the front of the podium for what used to be the most uncomfortable five minutes in the liturgy: waiting for someone to rush to participate in the liturgy and bring up the water and wine. Now, Father pays someone to do it, and it is much more efficient. By the time the water and wine get put on the altar, Groovy Gary has finally reached the stool.

Father Hap, eager with anticipation, shrieks with glee when Gary and Franny start out… “I’ve… got… a…

“Joy, joy feeling down in my heart”
Father Hap always loved to do the responses to this traditional hymn. “Where?”
“Down in my heart” “Where?”
“Down in my heart
I’ve got a joy, joy feeling down in my heart” “Where?”
“Down in my heart this day

“I am so happy” “No, I’m Happy”
“So very happy
I sing aloud and clap and dance for joy
I am so happy, so very happy
I sing aloud and clap and dance for joy

“And if the devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack” “Ouch”
“Sit on a tack” “Ouch”
“Sit on a tack
And if the devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack” “Ouch”
“Sit on a tack this day” “Yaaahhhh!!”

“I am so happy, so very happy
I sing aloud and clap and dance for joy
I am so happy, so very happy
I sing aloud and clap and dance for joy”

Time to start the offertory. Father Happy wasn’t quite ready. First of all, he was still tired from dancing in a similar style that Jackie Gleason danced to “Ragg Mopp” on “The Honeymooners”. Second, when he tried to get Blanche to dance, she got pepper spray out of her purse and nailed him, which brought about his ad lib lyric.

Still, the show must go on. Barely able to open his eyes, he filled the chalice and ciborium and raised them up and said, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for we have this bread and wine to… Who the hell put the Kool-Aid in the cruet?”

“Blessed be God forever.”

No use, Gregory had left. Blanche was now getting the preparations for Communion ready in his stead.

“That’s the last time we use him. I’ll go ahead and do the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but I’m sure they’ll have conniption over this in Catholic Family News.”

He went on: “Pray my friends that our actions will have something to do with God, our Heavenly Father.”

“May the Lord receive this as something cool, for our good and for our temporal interests.”

“Father, receive this act of worship, not that You benefit from it, but just for the aesthetic pleasure of the music and to share the good vibes of the moment. We ask this in the name of Jesus.”


“The Lord be with you, everybody.”

“And also with you.”

“You’re so kind. Lift up your hearts.”

“Not likely! They’re staying in our rib cages, thank you.”

“Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.”

“Sure, why not?”

“It is truly right and just to everywhere give You thanks, our Heavenly Father, for You have made us worthy to partake in this celebration. We thank You, Lord, that we are not as the rest of men, like the integrists down the street. Their fanaticism and antiquarianism is repelled by the joy which we offer You. So with cute little Angels, which we believe because it feels nice, let us sing forever the song of praise:”

Groovy Gare and Francine were fighting about which Sanctus to sing while Father improvised the Preface. Father’s hearing isn’t what it used to be, as this liturgy could have used some of his famous tangents here. Faced with silence, except for the ejaculations of those doing their devotions in darkness, Gary strummed his favorite Sanctus, with a new opening verse from Frannie: “Gary, I am NOT going to sing it.”

“Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of power, God of might
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hos-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-nna in the highest

“Blessed are we who come in the Name of the Lord
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hos-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-nna in the highest”

After this, the Sofran family knelt down, and Hap began Eucharistic Prayer #37 for an Adult Liturgy/Children Welcome. “Blessed are You, O God, our Heavenly Chef, Who calls us to this Divine Banquet, offering us communion with one another in brotherly love. We have served You this bread and Kool-Aid. So may You use this meal, these comestibles, this grub to bless us in return. May we be pleased by this sacrifice which we…"

A hothead in the congregation said, “Just get on with it! The football game started already.”

Happy obliged. “This is My Body. This is My Blood - for all.”


“The Lord be with you, folks.”

“And also with you.”

“Thank you so much. Let us exchange some small token of peace to one another.”

At this point, Father Hap hugged everyone in the sanctuary, except Blanche, who found an out by setting up for the distribution for Communion. Father Hap took about five minutes exchanging the sign of peace to the thirty-five or so parishioners, though not the young couples and persons of indeterminate domicile, because they have reacted less than peaceably in the past to the sign of peace.

Returning all sweaty and tired, Father Hap gave a Host to all those in the sanctuary. Then He raised his Host, saying, “This is the Lamb of God. Cool are we who come to this supper.”

“Lord, I am so worthy to receive You. Say but the word, and we shall do it again next week.”

“The Body of Christ. Amen.”

At this juncture, the six extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist distributed Communion to the forty-three parishioners; eight took part in their wait-till-after-Father-Hap-gets-done-hugging-everybody tradition.

Other than the Sofran family, everyone received Communion in the hand. One gallant lady was carrying two large banners, a purse, several bags of groceries, and a small dog, but still somehow managed to receive Communion in the hand.

On their way back, the communicants were able to partake of one of two condiment racks, one on each side, with different spreads to put on their Hosts.

The Communion antiphon was one of Gary’s own:

“My Jesus, can it be You My Jesus, can it be true
A little wheat sifted and ground into flour
Molded into shape, in the oven half an hour
But my Jesus, I feel You, too

“My Jesus, what can I say
My Jesus, this very day
With a cross to face four directions: north, east, and south
A little taste of sunshine and magic in my mouth
But my Jesus, such is Your way”

This song goes several verses, but it was cut short, on account of the Church's obligation to get everyone home by the second quarter of the football game.

“The Lord be with you nice people.”

“And also with you.”

“My, that’s so nice of you. May our Heavenly Father bless us, everybody together now: ‘The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ Well done, everybody. Let’s give ourselves a hand.”

This time, Father was alone, as people were already filing out.

“Let us go to serve each other with gladness, the Mass has ended.”

"It’s about time.”

Groovy Gary started an upbeat ditty that was all the rage in El Indigente back in the 1960s.

“We, the People
We, the People
We, the People of God
In order to make this a more perfect Church…”

While Gary and Francine continued the song, Father Hap was trying to beat the rush to the exits. Little did he realize that observing from the choir loft were his Ordinary, Bishop Sugarloaf, and the Vicar General of the diocese, Monsignor George Yessman. Father Hap would discover this two days later, at a curial meeting of the diocese.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Chapter 3 - The Apostolic Visitors

The Cathedral of St. Alan Alda lies on Church Street in downtown El Indigente. That road runs into Despiadado Boulevard, which runs north and south, just to the west downtown El Indigente. Going north on Despiadado for about seven miles, one finds El Vago Road. After making a left on El Vago, about two miles down the road, on the left, is the diocesan chancery. It is a remarkably remote spot for a chancery office. In 2002, Bishop Surley moved it there to get away from the pastoral ministers who came to the chancery to complain. To this day, there are still a few priests who have not yet been notified of the move.

A little past noon on Tuesday, October 18, the stillness at the intersection of El Vago and the I-174 was broken by the sound of a distant car coming down the I-174, still almost a half mile north of the intersection. It is the sound of loud music blaring and people whooping it up and having a good time. As the car gets closer, one can make out that the sound is coming from the car. One eventually picks up that it is the a*****e rock (the hip style of music since the mid ’20s) band Wasted S***heads. One of their hit songs is blaring, and one can hear two high pitched barking noises matching the high pitched barking noises of the original.

Their white sedan comes to a screeching halt at the stop sign on El Vago. Then the car makes a right, and then an immediate left, to pull into the parking lot of the diocesan chancery. There are two men in the car. They parked, but stayed in the car for 45 seconds to finish barking the popular song. At its conclusion, they both got out of the car.

Out of the driver side of the car, and poking his head in to retrieve his briefcase is a black man, around 40 years old. He is rotund, sporting a goatee, and wearing reflective sunglasses. When he stands, one can also see that he around five feet nine inches tall, wearing a blue, red, green, purple, teal, white, yellow, and orange striped shirt, what looks like white bowling shoes, and on his chest a thick solid gold peace sign, about sixteen inches in diameter. This is Deacon Luvmuffin, an unmarried permanent deacon, originally from the Hyperdiocese of Chicago-Milwaukee. He has worked in Rome the last seven years as an expert in liturgical matters.

From the passenger side, having a little difficulty leaving the car, is an older man, around sixty-five years old. He is quite tan, also wearing sunglasses and also rotund, with a bald spot surrounded by mostly black hair. He is wearing a black cassock with a fancy red sash and red buttons, and a pectoral cross tucked in his pocket.

This man is Bishop Rondello di Cervello, undersecretary for the Congregation for Liturgical Innovation in the Vatican. He is on a mission from His Holiness, Pope Liberius II, to visit the dioceses on the western part of the U.S. to implement a new impetus on liturgical renewal.

As joyous as their ride to the chancery office was, their trip from the car to the front door was quite the adventure. Just outside the door was a lunatic saying wild, almost completely incoherent things to them. The two clerics met him first with disbelief, then with disdain; they stared at him for about thirty seconds. Finally, in keeping with his dignity as a shepherd of the Church of God, Bishop Cervello put his thumb to his nose and wiggled his fingers at the crazy man, and they went inside.

The receptionist’s desk was just inside the door. There was indeed a young woman behind the desk, but there was nobody there. She had her feet up on the desk, popping gum and filing her nails as a*****e rock was blaring from her radio. She did not so much as look up when Bishop di Cervello and Deacon Luvmuffin approached the counter. After several seconds, Bishop di Cervello cleared his throat.

“Go away, fellas! Can’t you see I’m busy?”

Bishop di Cervello answered, “We’re here to see the bishop.”

At this, for the first time, the secretary looked up from her nails, though for only a split second. “Yeah? And who are you, fruitcake?”

“I’m Bishop Rondello di Cervello and this is Deacon Luvmuffin.”

Then Deacon Luvmuffin introduced himself with his very deep voice, “Hey, babe.”

The secretary then sighed and slammed down her nail file, again without looking at them. “Whatever. Come this way.”

The secretary then took the two visitors to the end of the hall, to a room with a sign on the door that said “Conference Room”. She knocked at the door.

The voice on the other side said, “I can hear you knocking, but you can’t come in!”

At that, the secretary opened the door, and for the first time, the two experts from Rome were glad the secretary was discourteous. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Here’s some bishop to see you.” After they entered, the secretary left and closed the door.

Although there were several priests in the room, Bishop di Cervello immediately extended his hand and said, “You must be Bishop Sugarloaf.”

The man with the voice which had answered from the other side of the door responded, “There are nine of us. How did you know it was me?” Indeed, there were nine men seated around the conference table, but whereas eleven of the twelve chairs were identical, the one Bishop Sugarloaf was sitting in (the middle chair on the window side of the table) had a banner over top of it, saying “Da Bish”.

Bishop Sugarloaf was an impressive looking man. He had a kind and personable demeanor, good looking, with dark thinning hair and wire spectacles. He was wearing a tan Hawaiian shirt with short jean shorts, with his pectoral cross tucked in his shirt pocket. He was quite impressive: six foot three and fit, although his 56 years showed around his eyes and under his chin.

Getting up from the chair, Bishop Sugarloaf reached across the table to shake hands with the apostolic visitor. Just before they clasped hands, Bishop di Cervello’s face gave a little twitch. Then Bishop di Cervello eagerly pressed Bishop Sugarloaf’s hand. Bishop Sugarloaf at first was about to dismiss the twitch. But then he understood that this was not a twitch, but a gesture. Bishop Sugarloaf was not born yesterday. Being the bishop responsible for his diocese, he felt a responsibility to address his concerns publicly and confront the issue at hand.

“I’m sorry about my secretary, Bishop.”

“Oh, not at all.”

“I would fire her, but… you see, she’s my niece, and my sister would…”

“Yes, yes, I understand. I also have family I’m not too proud of.”

“Cervello. Cervello! You mean the…”

“Never mind. Who are the other priests?”

By this time, the other priests had come around the table to shake hands with the Curial official. Bishop Sugarloaf introduced them all to the prelate from the Vatican as Deacon Luvmuffin was getting the display ready. “Your Excellency,” he said, pointing to a meek looking man in his late 60s, wearing a blue clerical shirt with collar and black slacks, “this is my parochial vicar and right hand man, Msgr. George Yessman.” Bishop di Cervello greeted him with the same twitch. “How do you do.”

Pointing to Father Happy, now wearing a white polo shirt with an orange smiley face, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “This is the Rector of the Cathedral, Father Happy Smiley.” Bishop di Cervello did not bother twitching upon shaking his hand.

Pointing to a tall man with red hair and a beard, wearing a blue polo shirt with a collar sticking out of his shirt pocket, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “This is the head of the Diocesan Center for Pastoral Dogma, Monsignor Godfrey Church.”

Bishop di Cervello twitched again and said, “Pleasure to meet you.”

Father Church replied, “What is it to you?”

Bishop Sugarloaf, with a fatherly warning tone in his voice, said, “God?”

Then introductions continued. Pointing to a short man in a short sleeved black clerical shirt and collar, about 50 years old with a combover, Bishop Sugarloaf continued, “This is the Chancellor of the diocese, Father Seymour Cash.” Again giving the twitch, Bishop di Cervello shook his hand.

Now pointing to a young man wearing a San Francisco 49ers jersey with the number 17, the Ordinary continued the introductions: “This is the head of interreligious dialog for the diocese, Your Excellency, Father Noah Vail.” Bishop di Cervello continued his method of twitching before shaking upon the introduction.

By now, Bishop Sugarloaf was nervous. He thought to himself, “I so have to fire her.”

Continuing with the introductions, now pointing to a rather effeminate looking tall thin man, about 60 years old, wearing a lavender dress shirt, not clerical, Bishop Sugarloaf introduced Father Les Manley, vocations director for the diocese. Again with the twitch, Bishop di Cervello shook his hand.

Pointing to a tall heavyset man, not very intelligent looking, with unkempt hair and his short-sleeved black clerical shirt partly tucked in, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “This is the head of ecclesiastical discipline for the diocese, Father Terry Long.” Bishop di Cervello continued what Bishop Sugarloaf had by now concluded was a Sicilian custom of twitching upon meeting.

Lastly, Bishop Sugarloaf pointed to a man with red hair and mustache, around 35 years old, wearing a long sleeved black clerical shirt, and introduced him thus: “And this is the educational director for our diocese, Father Red Policy.”

Bishop di Cervello twitched. Father Policy shrugged his right shoulder. At this, Bishop di Cervello lowered his hand. Again, he twitched. Again, Father Policy shrugged his right shoulder.

Bishop di Cervello then ran his index finger along the outer rim of his left ear. After this, Father Policy pretended to wipe his nose with the sleeve of his shirt.

At this, Bishop di Cervello, said without expression, “Reindeer farm.”

Father Policy, again without expression, said, “Spacely Sprockets are easy on the pockets. Raspberry Uganda exoskeleton.”

Then, inexplicably, Father Policy and Bishop di Cervello turned their back on each other and stuck their right hands behind their backs. They touched palms twice and then wiggled their fingers, squealing in a high pitched voice, “wiggie, wiggie, wiggie, wiggie”, again, with no expression on their face. Immediately after that, they clasped their right hands, still behind their backs, and jumped up and down three times.

Oblivious to any ulterior meaning to what had just taken place, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “Ah! A secret handshake!”

Red Policy cried out, “No!”

Immediately, Bishop di Cervello snapped his fingers, and Bishop Sugarloaf went to sleep. Don Rondello then said, “You saw nothing. When you wake up, you will forget the handshake.” He again snapped his fingers.

Coming to, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “And put another fifty on the Patriots. Say, who’s this guy in a dress?”

Bishop di Cervello replied, “I have no time. Let’s get started.”

Msgr. Yessman then whispered in Bishop Sugarloaf’s ear: “This is Bishop di Cervello, Bish.”

Bishop Sugarloaf then said, “Bishop di Cervello. Nice to meet you. This is George Yess…”

Bishop di Cervello, irritated, yet wanting to calm the situation, said, “Yes, I’ve already met your fine Curia.”

Deacon Luvmuffin had by this time finished setting up the display at one end of the room, as there was a little space there to set it up and returned to Msgr. di Cervello's side. His excellency then said to Bishop Sugarloaf, “And this is my trustful assistant, Deacon Luvmuffin.”

Extending his hand, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “Welcome to El Indigente, Deacon.”

Slapping palms, the Levite of the Church said, “Sho’ ‘nuff, Bish.”

Then again addressing Bishop di Cervello, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “I hope your journey went well.”

Cervello said, “It went quite well, yes.” Catching himself, he said, “That is, until I got here. There’s a crazy man outside the building.”

At this, the priests rolled their eyes and Father Vail put his head into his hands, crying out, “Oh, no!”

Monsignor Church said, “What were you thinking of, Noah, inviting him to the interfaith meeting? Idiot!”

Father Vail took some ribbing from his brother priests at that point. Bishop Sugarloaf explained this to Monsignor di Cervello, “That would be Fr. Peter Scott, an old Society of St. Pius X priest.”

Bishop di Cervello, taken quite aback at that revelation, said, “At an ecumenical gathering?”

Father Vail tried to explain, “Well, I thought that, you know, since…”

Bishop Sugarloaf then said to Father Vail, “Find out if he’s still out there.”

Going to the window, Father Vail opened it and stuck his head out. One could plainly hear the old integrist mocking them. “You call yourselves Catholic? Aw-haw-haw-haw-haw-haw. Don’t make me laugh. Aw-haw-haw-haw-haw-haw. You might want to think about professing Catholic dogma before you profess to be a Catholic.”

Fr. Vail, worn from dialog with the integrist, said, “Keep it down you old fundamentalist, you.” Then he shut the window. Back inside the room, there was much hand wringing over the blasphemy they had just heard. The clerics looked confused and/or disdainful.

Such comments were heard:

Church: “What rubbish!”
Policy: “Since when have Catholics cared about doctrine?”
Vail: “Sorry, guys.”
Manley: “Of all the nerve!”
Long: “He is such a scandal to the good priests!”
Smiley: “Wet blanket!”

Putting the meeting back in order, Bishop Sugarloaf clapped and got everybody’s attention. “OK guys, let’s forget about all that. Have a seat, everyone. Bishop di Cervello and Deacon Luvmuffin are here from Rome to help us in our quest to update the liturgy, to make it more meaningful to the people, in celebration for the 60th anniversary of the beautiful New Mass of Paul VI.”

At this, Msgr. Yessman said, sniffling, “That was beautiful, sir.”

Bishop Sugarloaf sat in his customary spot in the middle of the window side of the table, between George and Hap. George is keeping minutes via a handheld tape recorder. Bishop di Cervello sat across from Bishop Sugarloaf, as all the priests sat down.

Msgr. Yessman started the meeting by apologizing to their guests. “I’d like to apologize for that radical disturbing your peace today…"

Ever the diplomat, Don Rondello said, “Think nothing of it. It is they that I feel sorry for. They are stuck in the past. They hold on to things for the sake of holding on to them. If they choose to do so, they are the ones losing out.”

George Yessman replied, “Well said, Bish.”

To that, Bishop di Cervello said, “ ‘Your Excellency, Your Excellency.’ There are some traditions that we need to hold on to.”

Bishop Sugarloaf, looking at the clock on the wall, said, “Well, let’s get this started, shall we?” He stood up and moved his right hand toward his forehead. All rose with him. Bishop di Cervello began to make the sign of the Cross, but after Bishop Sugarloaf adjusted his glasses, it became apparent that they were standing to get their wallets out of their pockets.

The Bishop of El Indigente began the meeting: “First order of business, Seymour orders the pizza. Everybody give him five dollars. It’s a special at Ed’s Pizza today: two large pizzas for 44 dollars. Note that, George.” George dutifully noted on his voice recorder, “12:36 PM, October 17: Ordered pizza. 44 dollars for two large pizzas from Ed’s.” Right next to him, Father Cash was ordering the pizza on his cell phone. Father Vail was passing out glasses, while Father Long was busy getting the cooler with the beer and soda.

Father Long was passing out the beverages as the next item was brought to the floor. Bishop Sugarloaf, visibly anxious, said, “Now, the next order of business is very important, but very difficult.” George noted: “12:38, next item.”

Putting his hand on Hap’s shoulder, he continued: “Hap, I know how important the name of the Cathedral is to you.” Hap started to look frightened, but was in a state of denial about where this meeting was going.

But the bishop continued to precisely where Hap thought he was going: “I talked this over with Bishop di Cervello over the phone, at the USCCB meeting, and with the rest of the Curia while you were napping. I even talked it over with the pizza delivery guy at the last Curia meeting. It’s unanimous.”


“Hap, the old 4077 has brought much goodness to… uh, beer, Terry. Thanks. It will be remembered.”

“It must be.”

“And so it shall, in the Cathedral itself. But maybe it’s time to change the name of the Cathedral.”

Garnering his last glimmer of hope, Hap cried out, “To St. MacLean Stephenson?”

At this, Bishop Sugarloaf’s courage failed him. It hurt him so to break this old man’s heart, especially one who gave such outstanding service to the Church.

But there was one man in the curia for whom courage was never wanting. “No, you old moron. Nobody cares about M*A*S*H any more but you old hippies. When you all die off, the world will be a much better place.”

After Monsignor Church cleared the air, he received a strong rebuke from Bishop Sugarloaf. “Father God! You have no right to be so condemnatory, and I forbid you to say such things in my diocese. Now apologize to Hap.”

After a few seconds and a deep sigh, Godfrey, with an agitated look on his face, mumbled out the side of his mouth, “Sorry.”

Bishop Sugarloaf tried to comfort Hap. “Now, Hap. Thank God for M*A*S*H. But you see, they’ve done their job. It’s like dogma. Once we didn’t need dogma any more, we moved on to something better. The same thing happened with M*A*S*H. OK, Hap?”

Hap by this time was crying. Then suddenly, his tears turned to rage. He yelled, “M*A*S*H is too still relevant to Catholicism!” Rending his favorite shirt, he screamed, “Blasphemy!” Fortunately, Hap’s prissiness was greater than his outrage. “Ah! You can see my t-shirt! Oh no!” He tried to cover himself up, and curled up in the fetal position.

Father Cash asked, “What name did you have in mind for the Cathedral, Bish?”

Looking at Bishop di Cervello, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “Well, I was thinking of going back to our roots. You know, a nod to the past.”

Msgr. Church responded, “How about St. Pius X?”

Bishop Sugarloaf responded, “Don’t be morbid, God. No, the Cathedral before was dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, right?”

Still in the fetal position, Father Hap cried out, “Bunnies!”

Bishop Sugarloaf said, “That’s right, Hap. We’ll have the Cathedral renamed the Cathedral of St. Francis and renovated by the beginning of December. That will make it possible for the renovation of the liturgy.”

Hap said, “And what’s wrong with the liturgy?”

Bishop Sugarloaf responded, “Nothing. Nothing’s wrong with the liturgy. That’s what these gentlemen are here for. They will explain to us what Rome wants to do with the liturgy for the second quarter of the 21st Century.”

Sadly, Father Hap asked, “How many more weeks will we have the Cathedral of St. Alan Alda?”

The bishop put his arm around his shoulder and said, “Six weeks, Hap. We’re going to have a special celebration for the First Sunday in Advent, Hap.”

Happy said, with hesitation, “But, what about G-G-Gare and F-F-F…”

Bishop Sugarloaf said, “Now, Hap. We have to make the liturgy relevant for young people, right?”

Happy replied, “What’s irrelevant about folk Mass?”

Godfrey muttered, “What’s not?”

At that, Happy stood up and made a threatening gesture all around, and proclaimed, “I will not allow you to destroy such a beautiful liturgy. The kids love Groovy Gary and Far out Francine. I’ll defend the way the liturgy has been done here with my life!”

While Bishop Sugarloaf was trying to get Hap to calm down, Monsignor Church tried to comfort him by saying, “Yeah? You and whose army? You’re 90 years old and 85 pounds, Hap.”

After giving Godfrey a piercing glance, Bishop Sugarloaf again put his arm around Hap and said, “Actually, Hap, the kids haven’t liked Gary and Frannie for fifty years.”

At that, Happy screamed, “No! It’s not true,” and began sobbing.

Bishop Sugarloaf then told him, “Hap, I want you to think of something. How old are you, Hap.”


“OK now, think back to when you were a teenager. What were 90 year-old people listening to when you were a teenager.”

Happy didn’t answer the question, although his face gave away that he knew the answer.

Hap’s bishop then said, “What? I didn’t hear you, Hap. What were they listening to?”

Father Smiley then mumbled something. “What was that, Hap?”

With frustration and denial written all over his face, Hap cried out, “Tin Pan Alley”.

Bishop Sugarloaf, being as gentle as ever, said to his wounded priest, “Good, Hap. Now if they played 'Down by the Old Mill Stream' at Mass…”

Happy broke in, “I would have died.”

Bishop Sugarloaf then gently said to him, “Yes. You see, Groovy Gary and Far out Franny aren’t what they used to be. People are sad to hear them struggle. Let us remember them for the greatness they brought to the liturgy for many, many years. OK, Hap?”

There was no answer.

“OK, Hap?”

“I won’t like it.”

“That’s the spirit, Hap. We’ll meet their needs by playing some… some… different music that speaks to them, all right?”

Visibly agitated, Bishop di Cervello cut in, “Now are we ready to discuss the changes?”

Bishop Sugarloaf, still comforting Hap, replied, “All ready, Bishop. What did you have in mind?”

Bishop di Cervello then began, as Deacon Luvmuffin went to the display at the end of the table. “Well, Luvmuffin and I have designs on a new, exciting liturgy, that will relate to the people. You see, the people need to be, how you say, dazzled…”

The results of that meeting were seen on Saturday, December 2, 2028: the beginning of the 60th liturgical year with the Novus Ordo Missae.

Chapter 4 - The Novissimus Ordo

It’s 4:30PM, Saturday, December 2, 2028. The renovations are complete at the newly renamed Cathedral of St. Francis, the Really Nice Guy Who Talks to Bunnies and Hugs Trees: St. Fran’s for short. The platform has been extended, the devotional sections in front taken out, and separate stages put in: the one on the left is for the lighting and sound men; the one on the right is obviously a second stage, perhaps for the musical ministry. There is a dark curtain hiding the back half of the main platform.

The lights all go off, and spotlights run back and forth across the main platform. With the sound of a tympani roll, canned music begins. A spotlight focuses on Blanche as she comes to the middle of the stage, smiling profusely at the people and carrying a book up high. She is wearing her hair down, and wearing an elegant sleeveless blue sequined gown, looking not unlike a dark-haired Vanna White, only much younger. In fact, she is carrying the book as if she was on a game show.

As she turns to put the book on the podium, a distinctive male voice says (with the spotlights still running to and fro), “Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to present to you, live, at St. Francis Cathedral in El Indigente, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, brought to you by (Blanche comes back on stage, smiling at the people and holding/displaying a bottle of cola) Ed’s Cola. Drink Ed’s Cola, so refreshing, it’s a little foretaste of heaven. (Blanche leaves the stage) And now, let’s hear it for Deeeeacon Luuuuuuuuuuuuvmuffin”

Canned applause greeted the El Indigente’s new resident liturgical expert. Deacon Luvmuffin comes on stage with gaudy purple rhinestone vestments, without a discernable religious symbol. He is still wearing his sunglasses and he has his “peace” medal on outside his vestments, along with a wireless microphone.

Ever the showman, Luvmuffin begins the Sacred Liturgy. “Hey there, y’all. And welcome to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, brought to you by Ed’s Cola. As you can tell from my purple threads, we are in the season of Advent, which means one thing, I’m sure y’all know what I’m saying. It’s freezing out!” Drums and canned laughter met that joke.

The People of God has obviously not caught up to the Holy Spirit’s idea of good liturgy, as they look bored and disgusted. But Roma locuta, causa finita est. This pastoral directive must be from God.

Deacon Luvmuffin continued, “They say that skinny people get cold faster than fat people, not that I’d know nothing about that (canned laughter) and I guess that’s why Thanksgiving at the end of November: to fatten us up for the cold weather. Ho!” (drums and canned laughter)

Deacon Luvmuffin, realizing the monolog wasn’t working, changed topics. “It’s so nice to see y’all.” The pleasure was all the deacon's.

The three days a month obligation for December meant that this month, they had seven days to choose from: five Sundays and two Optional Days of Obligation, and it was a cinch that everyone was coming on Christmas. So the crowds for December were going to be sparse. In fact, there were only seventeen people there, most of whom looked very uncomfortable. The Sofrans were there, barely paying attention. And although the young couple chose not to come, it was good to see that the persons of flexible dormitorial accommodations were doing their devotions in the back of the church.

Deacon Luvmuffin continued the liturgy: “You know what? We got a special liturgy for you here today. This is the 60th year of presenting to you, the faithful parishioner, the Mass of Paul VI, so we gots to celebrate. That’s right. In medieval times, like, say, 1960, wo! (drums and canned laughter) they say they would come to… ‘hear’ Mass. That’s their word: they went to ‘hear’ Mass. Not even listen to Mass, just hear it. What? You hear a dog barking, you hear cars passing in the street, and I suppose they hear Mass. But we celebrate Mass. And that is thanks to the liturgical reform of Vatican II.”

At that, the sound man gave a canned ovation. “Yeah, let’s hear it.” Luvmuffin joins in the applause, and a few parishioners nervously joined in.

Luvvy continued, “And because this is the start of the 60th liturgical year with the new liturgy, we are going to celebrate it like never before.”

At these words, two professional Faithful brought by Luvmuffin began to recite the responses: “Say it, brother!”

“If we are an Easter people, the People of God, let’s act like it.”

“Amen. Yes, sir!”

“Not only are we going to celebrate Mass…”

“Oh, no.”

“We are going to celebrate God.”

“Mm-mm-mm. Praise the Lord.”

“And we thank God.”

“Why’s that, brother?”

“We thank God for the new liturgy.”

“Oh, yeah. Halleluia!”

“Thank you, Lord, for Vatican II.”

“Mm-mm-mm. Praise the Lord.”

“And for Paul VI.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“And for Bugnini.”

“Oh, yeah. Amen.”

Turning his back, but turning his head around to face the congregation, Luvmuffin said teasingly, “You know, I can turn my back on you, now.”


“You know, God can hear me just as well on that there wall. Hey God!”

“No! Lord have mercy!”

Turning around, he said, “What, would you rather have me face you?”

“Oh, yeah! Lord, have mercy.”

“We’ve been facing you sixty years, now.”

“Praise the Lord.”

“So today, we are not going to celebrate Mass.”

“No? Say it brother.”

“No, we are going to partay!” Canned applause greeted this last announcement.

Luvmuffin continued, now with piano accompaniment, with Blanche coming in carrying a tray with a bottle and a full glass, still fizzing, of Ed’s Cola. “Let’s not forget, while we partay, that when we partay, there is nothing” he said grabbing the glass, “quite as refreshing as an ice cold Ed’s Cola.” Taking a sip, Luvmuffin said, “Ah! Its refreshing blend of flavors makes the world a more heavenly place." He put the glass back and said, “Don’t forget, Easter people, to grab some Ed’s Cola on your way back home.” At that, Blanche smiled at the people and left the platform.

Luvmuffin continued, “Now let’s hear it for the man who is going to bring the house down today and lead the celebration: the legend himself, Father Happy Smiley.”

Canned applause greeted Hap, who came on with tacky purple vestments. Luvmiffin greeted him, “Hey, how’s it doin’, man.”

Father Smiley, now having embraced the Novissimus Ordo, smiled and said, “Doing well, Deac.”

Grabbing Father's chasuble, Deacon Luvmuffin said, “Dude, you has gots to lose those threads.”


“We’ll hook you up. Are you excited, Hap? Sixty years of liturgical renewal."

“Yeah. And I’m old enough to remember the Old Mass.”

“We’ve come a long way, Huh?”

“We’ve come a long way, Deac.”

“Sho’ ’nuff. So let’s get the party rolling, brah!”


And with that, the lights came on, and the curtain drew back. Now, the Faithful could see a platform on the platform, several steps higher than the first. On the top step was a table with a purple cloth on it, set up like usual. The two clerics went up the stairs along with Blanche. Happy went to the center of the table, with Luvmuffin on his right, Blanche on his left.

It was time for the Penitential Rite. Father Hap began the Penitential Rite. “Let us now recall where in our lives we have done things less well than other times.” After a brief pause, Father Smiley led the people in the Confiteor. “Lord, Oops! My bad.”

Father Smiley then introduced the Kyrie. “Let us have the traditional version of ‘Lord, Have Mercy.’ ” The three ministers closed their eyes and folded their hands for one traditional Kyrie Eleison recorded by the monks of Solesmes.

Following this, it was time for Father Hap to introduce the Gloria. “Now, to help make the Mass more relevant to young people, here is the uh… artichoke rock band Horse Middle Thack to play the ‘Glory to God in the Highest’”. Thus, we can see the utility of the second stage.

On there, Horse Middle Thack set up, albeit a bit cramped. In the back was the drummer. One would look in vain for his sticks, as he played drums with his face. The guitar player had a two-foot Mohawk and a six-inch spike running through his bottom lip. The bass player had a shaved head and it looked like a handsaw had worked its way several inches through his skull. The lead singer wore his (?) knee-length hair in the finest Cousin Itt fashion. Never let anyone tell you that penance is dead. This band of minstrels were now to sing the Angelic Song of Praise.

Hap got the Gloria going: “Hit it, fellas!” The sound of the first 140-decibel chord disturbed the electronics in Father Hap’s pacemaker. Amidst the sound of barking and noise, Hap grabbed his heart and fell on top of the altar. Luvmuffin and Blanche tried to do what they could, but it was too late. It was the beginning of a new era, but the end of a long and glorious one. At least Hap died while the praises of God were being barked.

Chapter 5 - Filling Happy's Shoes

This Tuesday Diocesan Curial session was not going to be like the rest. How was the diocese going to go on without the only man this century has ever had for Rector of the Cathedral? Father Hap has been ministering the diocese of El Indigente since Bishop Wolfe was its bishop during the Second Vatican Council.

In mourning, the shepherds of the diocese left Hap’s chair beside Bishop Sugarloaf empty, and they ordered Ed’s Lite Beer and pizza with anchovies. And of course, memories of Hap dominated the conversation. Bishop Sugarloaf started the meeting, “It’s too bad what happened to Hap.”

To that, George Yessman replied, “It’s such a shame.”

Father Long chimed in, “I liked Horse Middle Thack.”

Calling their attention to the duties at hand, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “Well, let’s not dwell on the negative. Let’s just cross Hap off our Christmas card list and figure out what priest should go to St. Fran’s.”

Father Church, the diocesan theologian, said, “Why do we even need a priest there? Just give the parish to Luvmuffin. He’s such a hit there.”

Luvmuffin echoed his sentiments, “Word up, my brother.”

The bishop replied, “Nah, I’d just as soon find another priest.”

To which Luvmuffin threw up his hands in disgust. “Ah!”

Monsignor Church came to his defense, “But everyone’s a priest, Bish.”

Visibly trying to think of an answer to give the superior theologian, he replied, “Yeah, but… we don’t want to take people out of their comfort zone, do we? So who do you all suggest?”

After some time, Terry Long gave his input, speaking while thinking: “Let me get this straight. You want to replace Fr. Smiley.”

To which Bishop Sugarloaf replied, “Seeing as he’s dead, I thought that might be a good idea. Yes.”

The dialog continued: “And you don’t want Deacon Luvmuffin to do it.”

“Correct, Terry.”

“Because he’s not a priest.”

“That‘s right.”

“I take it from all that that you want the next pastor at Frannie’s to be a priest.”

“I can’t get anything by you, can I, Terry?”

“Might I make a suggestion then, Bish?”


“Might I suggest that you take another priest in the diocese and place him in Frannie’s in place of Hap?”

At that suggestion, the Curia applauded, albeit sarcastically. Terry, never the genius, was proud of himself for the moment.

Bishop Sugarloaf said, “Why I think that’s a brilliant suggestion, Terry.”

Father Cash chimed in, “You’re going places, Terry.”

Bishop Sugarloaf, looking to use Father Long’s lack of operational grey matter for the benefit of the meeting, said, “Now, Terry’s suggestion seems reasonable, doesn’t it?”

With consummate enthusiasm, George Yessman said, “Yes, sir. Glad that’s solved.”

Sugarloaf then said, “This leaves us one question: Who?”

Yessman said, “Oh, my. We are in a bind, sir.”

Fr. Manley asked, “How about Fr. O’Brien? He’th good with a crowd, and he’d look darling in Luvvy’s new vethtmentth… um… not that I’d know anything about that.”

Fr. Cash replied, “Yes, but he also has the richest parish in the diocese. It would be no good to egg the goose that killed the golden gander.”

Sugarloaf then asked a question meant for everyone: “Who else would you suggest?”

Terry replied, “How about a priest?”

With a look of disdain, the Bish wasn’t about to patronize his most intellectually challenged cleric right now: the moment was too important for idle chatter. “Oh, just shut up. If you have nothing constructive to say, just keep your trap shut, OK?”

Yessman seconded that motion: “Well said, sir.”

“Thank you, George. Good point. Anybody else?”

Nobody spoke for several moments. So Bishop Sugarloaf, at his wits’ end, made a decision. “OK, we’ll go around the room, starting to my left. Seymour?”

Father Cash replied, “Um… how about George? He doesn’t have a parish.”

At that, George turned beet red and started to hide under the table. It’s not that he’s not willing, but Bishop Surley early on recognized his talents, and he has ended up doing administrative work for the diocese since 1997. It has been that long since he has done parish work, and what memories he has of parish work are not very felicitous. Sugarloaf likewise was not keen on the idea of putting George back in the teeth of parish work.

He replied, “Interesting idea, Seymour. But you realize that George has a vitally important role as my aide. I just can’t spare him for parish work. What do you think, Godfrey?”

“You know what I think, Bish.”

“Good point, God. Noah?”

Father Vail replied, “What about Les? He only has three parishes. He might be able to…”

Father Manley spoke up, “Oh, no! If you give me another parish, I’ll just thrivel up and die! I’ve got no thocial life ath it ith.”

The discussion continued, “OK, Terry?”

“I think…”

“Thank you, Terry. Les?”

“What about that darling monathtery?”

Seymour replied, “The monastery?”

“Yeth. And what’th wrong with that?”

Msgr. Cash replied, “Didn’t Noah lose the monastery in a card game to CASE?”

Bishop Sugarloaf, whose interest was piqued by Seymour's revelation, said, “Case? What case?”

Noah replied, “Not A case, Bish, CASE. C.A.S.E. The Church of Advanced Self Esteem.”

Sugarloaf answered, “Ah, yes!”

Noah explained, “That’s right. I lost the Carthusian monastery in the diocese to CASE at the all night card game last August.”

Ah, yes, the Carthusian monastery! They took the news so hard that they have taken to daily self-flagellation, reciting “mea culpa” over and over again, much to the disappointment of their new superiors.

Les corrected them: “Not that one, you thilly gooth, the Benedictine monathtery.”

Noah replied, “True. We do still have that one.”

Sugarloaf, not too keen on the idea, said, “I’ll keep that in mind, Les. Luvvy?”

“I can handle them, chief.”

“True. But Rome would like us to have a priest. You know: rules, regulations - all for our benefit, you understand. Otherwise, I would. Red?”

Red is the very quiet one in the group. He very seldom speaks. It must be a very great burden on him to be up on all the local customs, as they had just found out he was an expert in local customs when he shook hands with Bishop Rondello.

Always hesitant to speak, he said quietly, “Well, Your Excellency, I do know this very good priest, but I defer to what all these better priests say. Their ideas are all much better than mine.”

Bishop Sugarloaf responded, “Speak, Red. For the love of Christ, speak.”

Red continued, “Well, if you insist, Bishop. I happen to know this guy. He is on the priestly reserve for the Jesuits.”

Facing his theologian, Bishop Sugarloaf asked, “What’s this priestly reserve thinger?”

Godfrey replied, “Beats me - probably some Jesuit distinction. Red is very trustworthy, though.”

After much thought, Bishop Sugarloaf asked, “What’s his name, Red?”

“Sonny Feeley.”

“Call him up. Ask him if he’d like to be the next Rector of St. Fran’s.”

“Are you sure, Bish?”

“How sure do you have to be?”

He would find out.

Liturgy on Friday, December 8 was a somber occasion at St. Frannie’s. In a way, Father Feeley was lucky to be starting today. Father Hap was being laid out today, in anticipation for tomorrow’s funeral. His faithful would certainly be at Ed’s Funeral Home saying goodbye to their longtime spiritual Father. Also, with December having five Sundays and two Optional Days of Obligation, surely the pressure would be off Fr. Feeley. But then again, it was a sad day. The last time the Eucharist was celebrated here, Hap died.

Well, the pressure was definitely off of Fr. Feeley. It was 7:00, and only four people were there. Mrs. McCracken always liked going on Holy Days because nobody else went, and she liked avoiding the crowds. And the Sofran family was there, as usual.

The ministers lined up for the procession. Deacon Luvmuffin called everybody’s attention in the sacristy. “Yo! There are only four people in the pews, and we have six Eucharistic ministers. I’m going to have to ask one of you to go back to the pew.” Sally Monaghan disrobed… TOOK OFF HER MINISTERIAL GARMENT and sat down in a pew. Five extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, five parishioners. Perfect!

They decided to go with canned music, and Father Sonny got to pick out the music. The first thing the parishioners of St. Fran’s learned about Sonny was that his choice in music tended towards the oldies. As the procession began, the sound man started up Elton John’s song “It’s No Sacrifice”. One person of indeterminate domicile was stumbling through the sanctuary looking a seat up front as the procession reached the sanctuary.

After the extraordinary ministers went to their seats, it was the Luvvy and Sonny Show. Luvvy started off the proceedings. “Welcome y’all.”

The homeless person responded, “Can't a man find a place to lay down anymore?”

The deacon continued, “This is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass brought to you by Ed’s Construction. If you need it built fast and built real cheap, Ed's will get it done, and our price ain’t steep. You know, the changes made here in the Cathedral were done by Ed’s Construction. Where else could we get such quality work done in less than six weeks? Just look around you: St. Fran’s Cathedral is Ed’s best advertisement.”

Immediately after saying these words, there came a sound not unlike the sound made when breaking a branch off a tree, and a light fixture came down and crushed the person of adaptable abode.

Without missing a beat, or even turning around to check what happened, Luvvy continued, “I think y’all remember me. I’m Deacon Luvmuffin, and this is the new Rector of the Cathedral, Father Sonny Feeley. Great to have you here, Son.”

“It’s great to be here, especially after all the traffic. Ugh! C’mon, people. Just because it’s quitting time doesn’t give you a license to drive like it’s the stinking Apocalypse. And I hate it when people don't use the turn signal. Some people are so inconsiderate. Like it’s none of our business to know where you’re going. Idiots! Not like I’m nosy or anything, although SOME people might tell you that they think I am. For example, I was asking my neighbor across the street when her pig… oh, excuse me, her filthy boyfriend was going to move out. I’m telling you, he is such a dirtball…”

Trying to get a word in edgewise, Luvvy said, “OK, Son…”

“He says he has a job, but I SWEAR I never see his pile of rust - oh, sorry - his car… Why would he drive an Edward anyways? No wonder he doesn’t work. Anything is better than driving that car! Being overrun by a stream of molten lava is better than that. I’m telling you, if I need to be baptized, and the only water on the face of the earth is in an Edward, especially those lime green ones - Yecch! - then just let me die in my sins.”

“Maybe we should…”

“Speaking of sins, have you heard about the local provincial of the Jesuits?"


“Mmm-hmm. With his secretary. And he had the GALL to discipline me. Such a hypocrite. Do I have bags under my eyes?”

“Well, I…”

“I haven’t slept a wink in months. That’s because I have a next door neighbor who snores so loudly, I could SWEAR his family is getting mauled by bears.”

“Do you have an off button?”

“And he’s NEVER home. His poor wife is stuck there looking after their three DARLING little cuties for hours and hours and hours and hours, and I swear he never lifts a hind to help her out. I’d help out, too, except for my ankle bray…”

An awkward silence interrupted the Introductory Rite briefly. “My ankle gives me such a problem, especially in the cold weather.”

“Are you finished?”

“Have I told you about my other next door neighbor?"

"I had to ask!"

"Well, his dog is always getting in my yard and pooping all over the place. I didn’t know an animal could poop so much. I promise you my front yard will be just one big pile of poop by the time I get back home. If it’s true that poopie is good for the soil, I’m going to have a rain forest in my front yard next spring. I try to tell this to my landlord, but he’s too busy with his businness in…”

Father Feeley’s sermon was interrupted by two police officers with their guns drawn. “Freeze, Feeley. You‘re under arrest!”

For once, Sonny got right to the point. “Oopsy! Gotta go.”

He took off through the sacristy and slipped out a window. He got away, but the police ended up catching him that night as he stopped by an acquaintance’s house to criticize his wallpaper. It turned out he was a convicted sexual predator, suspended from the Jesuits in 2025 for getting caught.

Chapter 6 - A Carousel of Presiders

With Sonny's arrest, the Cathedral was left without a Rector for the second time in a week, and George Yessman was recruited to parish work for the first time since Bill Clinton was president.

Adding to the difficulty of George's return was the fact that Luvmuffin was implementing the new liturgy and now had less than 24 hours to get George up to snuff. Finally, Luvmuffin resigned himself to using cue cards and using George as his straight man - contrary to sound liturgical principles.

The procession carried on as usual. But when they came to the stage, George, forgetting himself, wandered from the spotlight, being manually pulled to his spot by a nervous Luvmuffin, who was wearing his new Advent vestments, which featured three Disco Angels dancing somehow on a globe, reading "Boogie Advent".

Before beginning the liturgy, the Luvmeister had a private word for George. Covering the microphone clipped to his groovy threads, he whispered, "Just read your lines on the cue cards."

As Luvmuffin began speaking, George said right into his microphone "Oh, the cue cards. Right."

Luvmuffin at this point silently told George to shut up. George said, again into his microphone, "What?"

Now ignoring him, Luvvy began the liturgy. "Welcome to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass brought to you by..."

George smiled and said into his microphone, "Oh, I get it. You were upset with me for speaking into the..."

Luvmuffin said with a quiet ferocity, covering his microphone, "Cover your mike, chump!"

After getting himself together, Luvmuffin resumed the liturgy. "The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is brought to you by Ed's Lunch Meat."

Blanche brought out a pudding for Luvmuffin and a sandwich for George. George said, "Oh, thanks." at this point in the liturgy. Luvmuffin said, "Say, George, I'll trade you my dessert for your sandwich."

After a pause, George said, "OK, that sounds good..."

Luvmuffin now yelled the first word before catching himself. "Dammit..." Now covering his mike, he said, "Just read your damn lines, fool."

George looked confused. Luvmuffin buried his head in his left hand and shook his head. After a pause, George said, again into his mike, "Oh, you mean the cue..."

Luvmuffin was by now screaming, "Will you shut the hell up!"

George adjusted his glasses, as he does often when he's nervous. After a pregnant pause, George showed that Luvmuffin's lessons were finally sinking in. Aloud, he said, "Oh, you mean..."

George caught himself and now covered his mike and said quietly, "You want me to read the cue cards."

Luvmuffin, with a look of disdain despite his pupil's progress, said quietly, "Let's try this again."

Again pitching Ed's lunch meat, Luvmuffin could get out, "Say George..." before George interrupted him, covering his mike and speaking quietly, "Try what again, chief?"

At this, the Deacon politely told the congregation, "Excuse me, folks." and turned toward George, face to face. Nobody could hear exactly what was said, but Luvmuffin emphasized his point at the end by stomping on George's foot with his heel.

The liturgy proceeded above the din of George whining and jumping around on his good foot. Luvmuffin began, first to the congregation then to George, "I apologize for that... shut up!" With that invocation, George said, "Oh," adjusted his glasses and became quiet.

Luvmuffin, again trying to patronize the sponsor, said, "George, I'll trade you my pudding for your sandwich."

After a nervous silence, George focused in on the cue cards, adjusting his glasses, and made a gesture to Luvmuffin whether he should read his lines now. Luvmuffin responded only by burying his head in his hands. George stepped forward, and after about 40 seconds of focusing in on the cue cards, covered his microphone and started to read quietly.

Luvmuffin slapped George's hand away from his mike.

George said aloud, "But I thought..."

Luvmuffin then grabbed George by the scruff of the neck, and with his voice cracking from frustration, said, "Read your damn lines!"

George again adjusted his glasses and now spent over a minute focusing on the cue cards. Finally, he said aloud with a monotone, "Luvmuffin: Say George, I'll trade you my pudding for your sandwich. George: No thanks, Loovie, my sandwich is..."

Luvmuffin threw up his hands, and said as he stormed off, "The hell with you. I am NOT going to work with this jackass again."

Now alone in the sanctuary, George again adjusted his glasses, focused again on the cue cards, took a deep breath and passed out. At this point, a voice came on the intercom saying, "The Mass has ended, let us go in peace."

The next priest to take over at the new St. Francis Cathedral was Fr. Xavier Self, a religion teacher at St. Gregory the Rich High School. Sugarloaf and George were concerned at first that he despite his sterling reputation, he might have integrist tendencies, as he was reaming out a student for using the name "Jesus Christ" after he dropped his books. Fortunately, Fr. Self was only carefully weeding out any antiecumenical spirituality in a Catholic high school.

The first complete liturgies were performed at the new Cathedral that weekend. But Bishop Sugarloaf was flooded with complaints about the new priest, so he called him to a private meeting before the Diocesan Curia met Tuesday morning. Fr. Self knocked at the door to Bishop Sugarloaf's office a little before 10:00.

"Come in," responded Sugarloaf.

Xavier asked, "You wanted to see me, Bish?"

Sugarloaf replied. "Yes, Xavier. Have a seat. I want you to listen to this."

Fr. Self sat down in a leather chair across the desk from his Ordinary. Adjusting his glasses, Bishop Sugarloaf read directly from a paper without commenting.

"Whereas of late many rebellious riots and tumults have been in divers parts of this kingdom, to the disturbance of the publick peace, and the endangering of his Majesty's person and government, and the same are yet continued and fomented by persons disaffected to his Majesty, presuming so to do, for that the punishments provided by the laws now in being are not adequate to such heinous offences; and by such rioters his Majesty and his administration have been most maliciously and falsly traduced, with an intent to..."

Fr. Self cut in. "Why are you reading me the Riot Act, chief?"

The bishop then threw the paper aside and said, "I promised some people I would. Look, I haven't gotten so many complaints in one weekend in all my time as bishop."

Fr. Self looked aghast. "What could they possibly be complaining about, chief?"

Sugarloaf leaned back in his chair and looked very uncomfortable, as he was reticent to discipline his priests. He hesitated, but said, "Oh, just a few things. First, a few people freaked about the plans for drive-through Mass."

Fr. Self, looking confused, said, "What problem could they possibly have with that?"

Sugarloaf turned red as he became more animated. "Xavier, do you know that red book they put on the altar? They call it a missal."

Fr. Self looked puzzled, "Yeah, I was wondering what that was."

Sugarloaf replied, "I think the Church would like Mass to last more than three minutes. Omitting the Scripture readings and nearly all the prayers, including the Eucharistic prayer, is not what the people came to see."

Fr. Self fidgeted and said pensively, "What's wrong with it?"

The Bishop just laughed and said, "Look. If you don't want to go rigidly according to each liturgical guideline proposed by Rome, that's fine. But you could at least act like you're not bothered by the inconvenience of having to say Mass. As the bishop of this diocese, I have to step in. This is unacceptable."

Fr. Self looked somewhat rebellious, but did not raise his voice. "So what are you going to do, chief?"

Sugarloaf replied, "What any self-respecting bishop aware of his immense responsibility would do: transfer you to a parish that would appreciate your style."

Fr. Self looked quizzically at his prefect. "So basically, you want me to go back to my old job."

Sugarloaf replied, "That's right, Xavier." With that, Sugarloaf shook his hand and sent him off, leaving the Curia to search for yet another presider at St. Fran's Cathedral.

They settled on Father Zapp, one of the leading charismatic priests in the diocese. After noticing that Hap’s old parishioners were not very open to being moved by the Holy Spirit, he utilized for Christmas a time-tested method to help parishioners to receive the charisms offered by the Holy Spirit: he hooked up live electric wire to the pews. This worked very well, as nearly the entire congregation, packed for Christmas Mass, broke out in tongues. In addition, two persons were slain in the Spirit, and fourteen others were hospitalized in the Spirit. As spiritually enriching as that episode was, the police had another opinion, and Father Zapp was arrested.

So the diocese had to look yet again for a new Rector. Just after the New Year, Sugarloaf decided to take Les’ hunch and visit “that darling monathtery” at the edge of the diocese to see if they could find a permanent replacement for Hap.