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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Chapter 9 - Angelica

The January 9 Curial meeting was supposed to start at 12:30, but it was already past 1 o’clock, and the bishop and the new Cathedral Rector had not yet come to the conference room. Father Vail also hadn’t arrived yet.
The seven remaining clerics sat around the table, playing Uno, already well into the game. Deacon Luvmuffin put down a card. He said, “Pick up four, Godfrey.” Godfrey responded, “Jackass,” as he picked up his cards.

Now it was Les’ turn. He had two cards in his hand. With a smile, he laid down one card and squealed, “Uno.”

At that moment, the bishop came into the meeting with the new pastor of St. Frannie’s, Father Benedict.

Jovial as always, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “Sorry we’re late. I hope you got a lot of work done while you were waiting.” This last sentence caused a bit of discomfort to the Curia, except for Terry, who calmly said, “I was down to three cards.”

Sugarloaf responded, “No matter. I have an exciting piece of news. George has been offered the See of San Francisco-Seattle. Rome wants to know if you’ll take it, George.”

After relaying that piece of news, the other clerics patted George on the back and congratulated him. But George looked concerned. “I don’t know, boss. Can you give me a few days to sleep on it?”

Reaching into his shirt pocket, Sugarloaf pulled out a cell phone and said, “I’ve got them on hold, George, and they need an answer.”

Immediately, Terry, Red, and Seymour started begging him to stay. “You’re indispensable, George. Don’t take it.” “The diocese can’t go on without you, George.” “You’re the bedrock of the diocese, George. Don’t go.”

George Yessman resolved, “OK, I won’t go.”

After saying that, Godfrey, Luvvy, Les, and Red chimed in that he should take the job. “George, this is a chance of a lifetime.” “They want you, George. You’re the right man for the job.” “You have to take it, George. This is a prestigious position.” “C’mon, George. You have to take it.”

The Vicar General of the diocese then resolved, “That’s it. I’m going.”

Immediately, Terry, Red, and Seymour begged him to stay. “All right, I’ll stay.”

Then the side in favor of the promotion chimed in. “I’ll take it.”

When an argument broke out, George said, “I’m so confused. What do you think, Bish?”

Sugarloaf then said, “Well, George, you are pretty indispensable here in the diocese. But still, I would say that you really should take the job, so that the good you’ve done as my right hand man for so many years, you can do along the West Coast, from Vancouver to San Francisco Bay. I think you were born for that job, George, and I’m willing to make that great sacrifice to make it possible for you.”

Standing up, George spoke firmly and with authority, “All right, I’ll take it… I think.”

Sugarloaf replied, “Atta boy, George.”

Speaking on his cell phone, the bishop said, “Hello? He’ll take it. No, Your Eminence, thank you. Grazie, prego.”

George was still receiving congratulations when the bishop extended his hand to George, saying, “Congrats, George. I don’t know how I’ll make it without you, but I’ll manage somehow. Now let’s get on to… Where’s Noah?”

Seymour responded, “We don’t know. We were expecting him to be here, just like you were.”

Sugarloaf said, “No matter. Before we start, I’d like to introduce the new Rector of Frannie’s Cathedral, Father Benedict Sheppard.” The new Rector waved shyly, “How do you do.”

Each of the veteran priests shook hands with Benny when they were introduced. “Benny, you know George. This is Red Policy, Godfrey Church, Seymour Cash, Luvmuffin, Les Manley, and Terry Long. Are we ready to start?”

They all reached into their pockets to start the meeting when Noah came in with a little girl about nine years old: very pretty, but filthy, wearing the telltale signs of extreme poverty.

Noah explained, “Sorry I’m late, guys. This here is a little girl I met in the streets. She asked if I was a priest, and then asked if she could meet the bishop.”

Sugarloaf, bending over to greet her, said, “I’m your bishop, little girl.”

At that, the girl genuflected and kissed his ring. Sugarloaf, commenting to his brother priests, said, “Now isn’t that the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, fellas?”

Angelica now knelt down and said, "May I have your blessing, Your Excellency?"

Patting her head, the bishop said, “You're so cool. And what’s your name, little one?”

While getting up, apparently disappointed, she said, “My name is Angelica.”

“Angelica. Why that’s a lovely name. So… Angelic.”

At that, Bishop Sugarloaf sat down and gestured to Angelica to sit on his lap, which she did. They spoke to each other tenderly and with great ease. “I feel just like Santa Claus.”

“Well you should. St. Nicholas was a bishop, like yourself.”

“Isn’t that the sweetest thing? But I think you’re old enough to know the truth. Santa Claus is a jolly old elf, not a bishop.”

“I have two things to ask you, Your Excellency.”

“Ask me anything, Angelica.”

“First, when I go into a church, why is it that the churches make it so hard for me to pray? I can’t even find a statue where I can talk to Our Lady, or the Tabernacle, where I can talk to Our Lord.”

After a few giggles and a loud “Aw, geez” from Godfrey, trying to find the right words to say, Bishop Sugarloaf answered, “Well, Angelica… It’s just that… you know…. Now, what would Jesus say if He were to walk into a church and everyone was kneeling at a statue? We don’t worship statues - or even Saints for that matter. Shouldn’t we rather give Our Lord a joyous atmosphere to greet Him? If this is the Lord’s party, why not make it festive?

"Besides, it was He that prayed that His disciples be one. Now, there are some of His disciples who would be offended at the statues, and the genuflections, and all of that old medieval stuff. So, Jesus wouldn’t want us to offend our separated brethren, now would He?”

Angelica looked down and did not answer.

“Would He, now Angelica?”

Again, no answer.

“Well, what was the second thing, Angelica?”

Getting off his lap, she said, “Never mind.”

“No, no, Angelica. Just because your first question is silly, doesn’t mean your second question will be. I’d love to hear your second question, Angelica. Please?”

After some time, she finally spoke up. “Your Excellency, you know that the King of France was given a command to consecrate France to the Sacred Heart. He did not, and after disobeying God for one hundred years, the once invincible monarch was stripped of his authority by the Third Estate, one hundred years later to the day. That was the prelude to his execution.

“In June of 1929, Our Lady of Fatima said to Sister Lucia that the moment has come for the Holy Father to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart, together with all the bishops of the world. Jesus told her two years later that what befell the King of France would happen to His ministers if they disobeyed Him likewise. Your Excellency, your time is very short: what are you doing to bring about the consecration of Russia?”

There was a little bit of hubbub when she was finished. Visibly trying to keep his composure, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “Well, Angelica…” Then mocking her, he said, “Look at me. I’m scared of Phantom Jesus.”

Each of the priests then mocked her and the Fatima apparitions.

“Oh, no. The Boogie Jesus is going to get us!”

“Big bad Lucia says Jesus hates us. Oh, no!”

“Look at me. I’m the Virgin Mary. ‘Pope do this; Pope do that. Popey, listen to me.'”

“Hey prophetess of doom! Didn‘t you hear? We’re in the New Springtime.”

“Nnyah! (Raspberry)”

“God wants His precious Consecration of Russia. Does He want us to wear amulets to chase off evil spirits, too?”

“Pray your Rosary. Zap! Consecrate Russia. Zap! Do what I say. Zap!”

Amidst this mockery and laughter, Angelica ran out of the room. The only priest not joining in the mockery was one Father Benedict Sheppard. Benny was confused and a bit disgusted at their behavior, but perhaps the good influence of his brother priests will help him come around eventually.

Chapter 10 - Acquaintance and Epiphany

Although he wasn’t much of a showman, the people didn’t seem to mind Father Benedict. In fact, they seemed to appreciate him. Luvvy tried to work with him, but as much as he tried, Benny just wasn’t fulfilling the job of showman, like a good priest should. But still, the people kept coming, despite his faults on that end, and the collections were healthy. So any inadequacies he had as a showman were smoothed over by the financial situation of the Cathedral. So, it was settled that he would stay at least for the short term.

Not that the early going always went smoothly for Benny. On Monday, January 15, Benny presided at an ecumenical service in honor of the centenary birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. He presided with Greek Orthodox, High Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist clergy from the El Indigente area.

Noah, the ecumenical guru for the diocese, decided that they should concelebrate the liturgy. It actually worked fine until it came time for the Consecration. At that time, the Orthodox priest spoke up: “Please, my separated brethren, be quiet while I say the words of institution.”

The Baptist minister objected: “Why should we?”

Orthodox: “Because none of you are real priests, except for Benny, who is a stooge for the Great Satan Pope of Rome. No offense, Benny.”

Benny: “None taken.”

Lutheran: “This is my body.”

Orthodox: “I told you not to say it. This is my body.”

Lutheran: “No, it isn’t, it’s the body of Christ.”

Baptist: “This is a symbol of Christ’s body.”

High Anglican: “This is my body, no matter what Leo XIII said.”

Methodist: “This is a mystical signification of Christ’s Body.”

Presbyterian: “This leads to Jesus’ Mystical Body: the Church”

Benny: “Look, why don’t we…”

Orthodox: “Look, I consecrated It, so that’s that.”

Lutheran: “No, I beat you to it. It’s Christ’s consubstantial presence.”

Baptist: “Yous two aren’t trying to sell me on that Real Presence rubbish again…”

Benny: “Look, can’t we just…”

Orthodox: “Whatever, Jesus is now truly present. I already consecrated It.”

Anglican: “You mean WE consecrated It. I’m a priest like you.”

Orthodox: “What? Did you ordain yourself?”

Anglican: “I am too a priest. I dress like one, don’t I?”

Lutheran: “Let’s stop fighting and adore Christ’s Presence in and with the species of bread.”

Methodist: “I’m sorry. I don’t feel His presence. Maybe we should consecrate again. This is my body.”

Baptist: “This is my body. Get your own.”

Lutheran: “Yo! I called dibs. This is my body.”

Anglican: “No, this is my body.”

Presbyterian: “No it’s not, it’s mine.”

Orthodox: “Look, I consecrated the Host, no thanks to any of you, so just shut up!”

Anglican: “Yeah, well at least English women don’t come with matching thick armpit hair and unibrow.”

Orthodox: “Are thems fighting words, Protestant?”

Anglican: “Don’t call me that!”

Orthodox: “Protestant!”

Lutheran: “Do you have a problem with being called a Protestant, you ignorant English bastard…”

Needless to say, that ecumenical gathering wasn’t Benny’s high point in his first few weeks at St. Fran's. But he was still starting to settle in at St. Fran’s, when he walked down Shade Boulevard on Friday, the second of February, 2029, on his way to the store. It was on Shade that he came across an old acquaintance, lying on the street. It brought him joy, mixed with anticipation.


Angelica got up and hugged Father Benedict. “Hello, Father Benedict.”

Before Father Sheppard could gather himself to ask her how she knew his name, she took him by the hand and said, “Come with me. I’d like to show you something.”

Angelica took Father Benedict down Shade to Santos Senderos. Then they went several blocks down Santos Senderos, until they finally went down an alley and into an open side entrance.

Father Benedict protested, “I really don’t think we should be going in here.”

“Come on,” Angelica said, pulling him in. The room Father Benedict found himself in was some sort of a sacristy. There were pictures and Christian symbols all over the walls. There were closets and drawers full of what Benny could only assume were vestments and party gadgets. At the end of the sacristy was an open door to the church. At present, it was a dimly lit church with only the priest and altar boy present.

Father Benedict protested, “What is going on here? Are these integrists?”

“Shh! Just watch.”

“But I can’t understand what they’re saying.”

Going straight for a table in the sacristy, Angelica handed Father Benedict a book, and opened to a page, which showed where they were in the liturgy. Now, Father Benedict knew exactly what they were saying. They were finishing the Creed.

Benny wondered to himself, “Why did he say it alone? Isn’t that the prayer of the community? And nobody can understand Latin. What’s the point?”

As the priest concluded the Creed, Benny turned to ask Angelica why she brought him there. She answered only, “Shh. Pay attention.”

It was time for the Presentation of the Gifts. This, Benny didn’t recognize at all. He had always been comforted by offering God the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands. Now, so he read, the priest was offering “a spotless Host” to God, first for his own sins, then for the sins of all faithful Christians, living and dead, unto salvation. Why would they focus on this? Isn’t Mass partly the work of men? If good monks did not make the Hosts, as he himself had done for the last ten years, there would be no Hosts for Mass.

He always felt pride at that prayer, and was torn at witnessing the prayer he had always known and loved removed. But then he noticed that there was no pride at all in the prayer that was used for offering the Host. But then again, it was the priest offering. Is it not the People of God who offer the Host? He could not make sense of that prayer.

Now it was the mixing of the water and wine. “O God, Who in creating man didst exalt his nature very wonderfully and yet more wonderfully didst establish it anew: by the mystery signified in the mingling of this water and wine, grant us to have part in the Godhead of Him Who hath vouchsafed to share our manhood, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God; world without end. Amen.”

He was astonished that this prayer was superior to the one he had known his whole life. It summed up human dignity in a very wonderful way, and our ascension to the Divine Life of God through Jesus Christ. He was about to ask Angelica about this, but she was so wrapped up in prayer and reverence that he was afraid to ask.

Now it was time to offer the chalice. Again, he was disappointed to read that the “chalice of salvation” was offered “beseeching Thy clemency that it may ascend as a sweet odor before Thy Divine Majesty for our own salvation and that of the whole world.”

But then he stopped to wonder: the integrists DID hope for universal salvation. Did he hope for it, or merely assume their universal salvation. He stopped dead in his tracks. “What am I doing to bring people to God? I’ve been told that my neighbor is going to Heaven. These people are doing something about it.”

He almost missed the prayer of humility. With his back turned toward the congregation, if there was one, the priest was literally bowed down before the altar, again asking the Sacrifice to be pleasing to God. “Isn’t God pleased with us?” But then Benny thought, “At Mass, how do we know we please God? Are we just pleasing ourselves? How are we to know?” He had never thought of this before.

The next prayer helped to answer those questions. This priest was asking God to bless the Sacrifice. Silly point, he thought at first. But then he realized that it is God alone Who can make the Sacrifice pleasing to Him, and we can only make it pleasing to God by losing ourselves in the Sacrifice. But what is the Sacrifice? He was never sure about the answer to that question.

The priest was finishing washing his hands. Father Sheppard scrambled around, but Angelica helped him find his spot. He noticed it was Psalm 51, which he said during the Liturgy of the Hours. But it wasn’t the same part of that psalm they say at this point in the New Mass.
He had time to just find this snippet from the Psalm: “But as for me, I have walked in my innocence. Redeem me and have mercy on me.”

He remembered this was written by King David after he had fallen into sin with the wife of Uriah. King David had already been promised that the Messiah was to come from his loins; yet, though he returned to his earlier innocence, he was still in need of a Redeemer and Divine Mercy. He remembered the stories of the Saints he heard as a child: St. Francis put a sign that said “Hell” on his door, because to return to his previous way of life meant perdition for him. Where is the fear of hell? “These integrists both believed and feared hell. I do not act like I do. Something is wrong.”

Again bowing low to the altar, the priest offered this Sacrifice in memory of the Mysteries of the Redemption and in honor of the Saints, calling upon them to aid our journey to Heaven. Again, the priest seemed to hide himself in the liturgy, as if it was not he, let alone the congregation which wasn’t, that is primarily offering the Sacrifice. “But what Sacrifice?”

The next prayer was more familiar to Benny, except for one detail. “Why say, ‘Pray, brethren, that my Sacrifice and yours be acceptable…’ Why not just say, ‘Pray that our Sacrifice.’ Is it not one Sacrifice offered?”

Then, as if she could read his mind, Angelica said, “Do you remember why you were chosen to be Rector of the Cathedral, Father Sheppard?”

He couldn’t answer at first.

“If the deacon was to say Mass, would there be a Mass?”


“Why is that, Father?”

“I… Because Rome said there needs to be a priest.”

“No, Father. Every high priest is taken from among men, ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sin. St. Paul told us that. That is why a simple, even sinful priest can call Jesus down by saying ‘This is my body’. Even a whole host of holy laymen, deacons, Angels, and even the Mother of God Herself, who first called the Son of God to be among us, cannot do that. Think of that, Father: you have a dignity that was denied to the Mother of God herself. The Faithful and Heaven itself offers it through the priest who offers the Sacrifice. The priest offers it directly, in the person of Christ. It is one sacrifice, but the celebrating priest offers it in a different manner than the rest. St. Francis said that if he were walking down a street and were to come across an Angel and a priest, he would bow first to the priest and then to the Angel. I agree.”

This was a bit too much for him to comprehend at first. So he again watched the Mass in silence. Angelica helped him find his spot. Bells were ringing just as she handed the book back to him. It was the Holy, Holy, Holy. He had prayed this prayer many times. Only this time, he prayed with such a reverence that it felt as though he was saying this prayer amongst the Angels.

Benny again wanted to speak to Angelica, but she was by now kneeling with her hands folded, paying very close attention to what was happening at the altar. Benny, remembering how his grandmother taught him to say his prayers on his knees, knelt down and searched for the spot in the Mass. He recognized Eucharistic Prayer #1, though with some changes. Now, he found himself praying for “all who are orthodox in belief and profess the Catholic and Apostolic faith.” Why should those who have the fullness of truth be the recipients of this prayer? Isn’t the Church about spreading the light of Christ?”

“You are salt of the earth,” Angelica said. Benny didn’t know what to make of this.

After praying for the faithful, the liturgy now prayed for union with the Saints, listing off a number of them. “Why list them?” Whenever he said this prayer, he always omitted the ones who were optional. It took him some time to come to the conclusion that he didn’t know some of these saints, and some others were mere names to him. Perhaps he needed to increase his “communion with” and “veneration of” the Saints; they are friends of Christ, like he hoped to be.

The priest now put his hands over the chalice and the bell rang. Benny reasoned that this must be an important clue to what Sacrifice the priest offers at Mass. He found the prayer: “Wherefore, we beseech Thee, O Lord, graciously to receive this oblation which we Thy servants, and with us Thy whole family, offer up to Thee: dispose our days in Thy peace; command that we be saved from eternal damnation and numbered among the flock of Thine elect. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

In all his years as a priest, Benny never understood this prayer. “What? I thought we were the People of God! What purpose is there to ask God to be numbered among His flock: we are his flock! And again, the priest seems to be losing himself in this Sacrifice. But what is this Sacrifice?
“‘Bless, Consecrate, and Approve our oblation…’ Oblation? Doesn’t that imply a victim? Are they going to sacrifice an animal? ‘… that it may become for us the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Jesus Christ? In oblation? What does this mean?

“Now the gospel narrative. Why is it in silence? The priest stops the narrative and bends over to say, ‘This is my body.’ This isn’t just the priest’s personal thing. It says right here in black and white that he stops and says these words with a special solemnity. Jesus’ Body? We were offering it in OBLATION? How absurd!

“The Consecration of the Wine: same thing. He says the words of institution…. Wait a minute, they made a mistake in this book: it says ‘for many.’ Of course Jesus shed His Blood for all.”
Then Benny understood. Consecrating Jesus’ Body and Blood separately meant that the priest offered Jesus in Sacrifice. Jesus’ Body and Blood were separated on Calvary, when He redeemed humanity from their sins. This act was repeated on the altar. He was a priest to bring the Redemption to men. The realization that God had given him such an honor humbled him immensely. He was scarcely able to lift his eyes when confronted with such a thought.

But then he remembered. “This can’t be true. Paul said that Jesus died once for all.”

“Pay attention,” said the waif, her eyes fixed on the altar.

Reading again, Benny said, “Vouchsafe… to accept them…” Looking up “them,” he found, “the Holy Bread of life everlasting and the Chalice of eternal salvation”. Then the text spoke of the sacrifices of Abel, Abraham, and Melchisedech.

Though he has said this prayer several times in the past, still it attracted his attention for some time. “The sacrifice of Abel. Let’s see. He offered… grapes, was it?”

Out of nowhere, Angelica said, “A spotless lamb.”

It took two seconds for Benny to realize that Angelica could read his mind. When he realized that, Angelica warned, “Pay attention!”

Then Benny remembered. Abel offered a lamb, while Cain offered grains and fruits. He remembered the jokes in the seminary about Cain offering “the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands.” The spotless lamb: the Lamb of God from the Mass: Jesus Christ?

The sacrifice of Abraham… his son Isaac. It was the father who offered the son. God looks upon the Sacrifice of His Son, which the Father offered. Benny had meditated on Abraham’s sorrow before, but was God a Father indeed? “Indeed,” he thought. “Didn’t Paul say that all paternity in Heaven and on earth was named after Him?” Although He could not sorrow as Abraham did, surely He could love as Abraham did in offering that Sacrifice. And He was here offering His love again, for a simple priest and altar server, and for a couple of strangers who wandered in here. And that love was poured out on us every time he said Mass. A tear came to Benny’s eye when he thought of that.

And again, the sacrifice of Melchisedech. Benny remembered little about him, but he did remember that he offered a sacrifice of bread and wine. At that, Benny could only stop to adore the Mystery. The Sacrifice was right in front of him in the form of Bread and Wine. Benny offered it several times a week; he could offer it every day if he wanted to. This “communal meal” as he understood it, was so much more. No wonder this integrist even went to such lengths as to genuflect before touching the host and to not separate his fingers which had touched Jesus. What treasures were kept from him all these years. With this realization, Benny wept.

He wanted so much to speak to Angelica, but she was gone. He didn’t know where she went. He didn’t see her leave or go into the church. Coming to, Benny looked all over downtown El Indigente for Angelica. He didn’t come back to the rectory until late that night, not ever finding her or even making it to the store like he set out to do that afternoon.

Chapter 11 - A Super Sunday

The day after he ran into Angelica, Father Sheppard took the day off, spending the day in prayer, even saying a Mass in private for the first time in his life. The day after that, Sunday, Luvmuffin had a special liturgy set up. Benny was wearing his normal green vestments, while the other clerics were wearing special vestments for the day. Luvmuffin wore his special green and silver vestments, waiting to go out into the dark sanctuary, when Father Sheppard came to speak with him quietly, visibly shaken.

“Deacon, don’t you think this is a little irreverent?”

Luvvy responded, not as discrete as Benny, “C’mon, man! We’re just having a little fun.”


“Excuse me.” With that, Luvmuffin went out into the sanctuary.

The entire sanctuary was dark, except for a spotlight on the podium. Luvvy walked up to the podium to begin the announcements.

“Today is February 4, 2029. Some more scholarly liturgists would call this the 5th Sunday in Ordinary time. But we all know it as Super Bowl Sunday. Now, I know what a sacrifice it is for you all to miss the game and come to church on Super Sunday. Do we have a treat for you.”

After he said this, a fully dressed football official jumped in front of the podium and blew a whistle. Luvmuffin put on a football helmet and said, “It’s game time at Frannie’s Cathedral. Let’s play ball.”

The lights went on and the curtain peeled back, revealing the whole sanctuary decked out in a football theme. The procession started. Blanche led the way, wearing a cheerleading outfit, replete with pompoms. Bishop Sugarloaf followed, carrying a football and wearing a Detroit Lions jersey. George Yessman followed him, wearing a New Orleans Saints jersey, and Fr. Sheppard sheepishly followed, clearly nervous and uncomfortable. They threw the football around as they processed up to the altar. Finally, from the altar, Bishop Sugarloaf threw the football into the congregation.

Bishop Sugarloaf began the day’s liturgy, saying to Luvmuffin, “What a special day it is, Deac.”

“You mean Sunday, the Lord’s Day?”

“No, I mean Sunday the football day. (canned laughter) Of course, the theme for today’s liturgy will be Super Bowl LXIII. George here has the game on his radio, and he’ll give us updates from time to time. Won’t you, George?”

Unfortunately, George is preoccupied at the moment, as he is barking and moving his body to music.

Nudging him, the bishop said, “George?”

Taken off guard, George got the game on the radio and said, “Oh! Sorry, Bish. They have just kicked off.”

Changing subjects, Sugarloaf said, “Well, we need to take care of something before we start, though, George.” A melancholy piano came in. “You know, ever since I’ve taken over this diocese, you’ve been my right hand man, the man I could lean on for advice and support over the years. It is my privilege to announce…”

“Well, thank you, Bish. I want to…”

“Not yet, George.”


“It is my privilege to announce that this mountain of firm leadership, this bedrock of principle, this man, who puts the good of his flock before all else, is being rewarded for his good work.”

Luvmuffin chimed in, “You don’t say, Bish.”

Starting to cry, as did Luvmuffin, Sugarloaf said, “That’s right, Luvvy. George has just been appointed the new Bishop of San Francisco-Seattle.” This announcement garnered some real applause mixed with the canned stuff.

George began his speech. “Thank you, Bish. I couldn’t have done it without your help, big guy. I would just like to say…”

Sugarloaf interrupted, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. What’s the score?”

“Oh.” George again listened in until he had a score. “New Orleans has just punted. Detroit has the ball at their 43, no score early in the first quarter.”

Luvvy continued, “Thank you, George. Now here to announce the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, here are Marv Albert and Dick Vitale. Take it away, fellas.”

The right stage has been turned into a scorer’s table. Here we see two men with headsets. Marv has a dead raccoon tied to his head with duct tape, while Dick is balder and smilier than ever.

Marv began this part of the liturgy. “Thank you, Deacon. Now before we explain why we’re still broadcasting well into our 80’s, Dick, let’s discuss the x’s and o’s of the liturgy.”

Dick continued, “Thank you, Marv. Well, the liturgy is broken down into two parts, the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist…”

While Marv and Dick were explaining the liturgy to the peeps, Bishop Sugarloaf took an interest on Benny, who seemed to be very reticent to participate. He said, “Benny, are you OK?”

“I’m not feeling so well, Your Excellency.”

“Then just sit down and enjoy the show.”

With that, Benny returned unnoticed to the sacristy, visibly shaken with what was happening. In fact, he disrobed and refused to watch. He said a Rosary behind the Church instead. He returned to the sacristy after the Rosary.

When he returned, Benny took a peek into the sanctuary. While George was listening to the game, Sugarloaf elevated the ciborium and the chalice, assisted by Luvmuffin and narrated by Marv and Dick. Then he turned for the washing of the hands.

Marv said, “Not much of a cleaning job, there, Dick.”

Dick said, “It may not seem like much, but the symbolism is fantastic. ‘O Lord, cleanse me of my sins.’ It’s like he’s saying, ‘Sins, go away! It’s Eucharist time in the Big House! You’re not wanted here!’ It doesn’t get any better than that for the prep work, baby.”

Marv said, “I believe Bishop Sugarloaf would like to say something right now.”

Indeed he did. He said, “Can we get a score, George?”

answered, “Yeah, boss, uh… Detroit is leading New Orleans 31-3, early in the third quarter.”

Luvmuffin responded, “Sounds like the Lions are slaughtering the Saints.”

Sugarloaf took the bait, “It’s a good thing it’s only football, huh?” The clerics found that amusing, as did the sound man’s equipment.

Dick Vitale then chimed in, “That was a nice piece of pastoral work to prepare the faithful to receive the Eucharist.”

Marv said, “Now Dick, what is needed for the Host to turn into the Body of Christ?”

Dick responded, “Well, Marv, for a valid consecration, it must be a pure wheaten Host. I checked it before the liturgy, Marv, and we have the right matter here in the Cathedral.”

“What else does it need besides the right matter?”

“Besides matter, it takes the right form, which is the words used at the Consecration, and the right intention. The intention needed is to confect the sacrament as the Church would have us do, and the form is the words, ‘This is my body’.”

The Mass had gone on as usual, and Bishop Sugarloaf had chosen Eucharistic Prayer #26, which is used for football emergencies, so he was already at the Consecration. Bowing at the altar, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “This is My Body, which will be given up for you.”

He then lifted the Host in the air. While the Host was still lifted up, Dick said, “The form is good, Marv, but what about the intention?” At this, while holding the Host in the air, Sugarloaf gave a toothy grin and a thumbs-up sign.

Marv said, “Yes, and it counts!”

This announcement is met with canned applause. After the Consecration, the clerics on the altar gave each other high fives and Luvmuffin and George exchanged headbutts at George's expense, seeing as he wasn't wearing a helmet.

Dick responded, “Awesome, baby. The Big Guy is in the house. Welcome, Big J. Sugarloaf is a confectionator extraordinaire, baby.”

At this scene, Father Sheppard walked away from the sacristy door, visibly shaking. It took him another ten minutes to garner the strength to return to the sacristy door to watch. When he finally did return, the ministers had already received the Sacred Host, and now Bishop Sugarloaf was drinking the Precious Blood. He finished the cup and handed it to George.

George said, “You didn’t backwash this time, did you?”

Sugarloaf said, “Shh!” Then to the congregation, he said, “Now, to distribute Communion, we have a surprise for you.”

True to the Feast Day, two vendors come down the middle two aisles, just like at a sporting event. One had a sign saying “Consecrated Hosts” and the other had a sign saying “Consecrated Wine”. The Hosts vendor was saying, “Get your Consecrated Hosts here. Crunchy, bite sized morsels of Divinity.” The Precious Blood vendor had cans with pictures of Jesus, and said, “Lord! Lord Lite!” This was more than Benny could take. He ran out the door back to the Cathedral rectory.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Chapter 12 - The Dream

Luvvy, George, and the Bish didn’t get home until late that night, as they celebrated their fantastic liturgical endeavor past midnight. Benny decided to pray until they returned. He had gone through an entire Rosary and a Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a Holy Hour, several novenas and part of the next day’s Liturgy of the Hours when the still celebratory trio returned on the front doorstep.

He could hear them whooping and hollering, and eventually, a drunk Sugarloaf saying, “Shhh! We’ll wake Benny up. He’s feeling under the (burp) weather.”

Luvmuffin said, “Later, fellas. I’d better be out of here.”

Sugarloaf said, “Good night, Luvvy. Great liturgy today.” George also wished him a good night.

George and the bishop went toward the library across the hall from the bishop’s chapel where Benny was praying. The chapel was very plain, with a simple cross on the wall and a futuristic metallic table set up in the middle. On top of this table sat an open Bible. There was no tabernacle in his chapel. In this room, the bishop often went either to say the day’s Liturgy of the Hours, from which he dispensed himself all but one hour per day, or to take a nap without being disturbed.

Across from the chapel, George went to the bathroom next to the library, but Sugarloaf was going to stop in the library to wait for George, when he noticed the light was on to the chapel. When he went in to turn off the light, he noticed Benny praying.

“Benny! How ya feelin’ buddy?”

Even though he had been praying, Benny seemed angry. He got up, turned to face Sugarloaf and said, “How am I feeling? How am I feeling? I just saw how you and Luvmuffin mocked the Mass and you have the nerve to ask that question?”

“Have you been drinking?” the bishop asked, missing the absurdity of the question.

“If the people wanted to see the football game, they could have had a Super Bowl party at home after Mass. There was no need to make a travesty of the worship of Almighty God.”

“Benny, you’re not making sense. You need rest. Get to bed.”

George walked in the middle of the conversation, “What’s going on?”

Bennie answered, “What exactly did God have to do with that keg party in the Cathedral?”

George innocently answered, “Yeah. Wasn’t that great?”

Benny said, “See what I mean?”

Sugarloaf, trying to make peace as much as he was trying to stand erect, said, “Look, Benny. I think if we talk this over in the morning, we’d all be better off. You know, we can’t be expected to pray all the time.”

“No, but actually praying during the Sacred Liturgy would be nice.”

“Look, Ben. Let’s just get a good night’s sleep and talk about it tomorrow.”

Distraught and, to be quite honest, very tired, Benny decided to put it to prayer and a good night’s rest, hoping his thoughts would be clearer in the morning. He said, “All right, Bishop. But tomorrow, before we talk, we say the Rosary first.”

“Atta boy, Ben.”

Ben started to walk out the chapel door, when he stopped and said, “Bishop, I have a feeling you should have listened to that little girl Angelica before you ridiculed her.” And with that, Ben went to bed.

George and Sugarloaf looked at each other with disbelief in their eyes. Then suddenly, Bishop Sugarloaf raised his hands and said so quietly that Benny couldn’t hear him, “Touchdown,” much to George’s amusement.

A little after 1:00 am, Bishop Sugarloaf got into his PJs and finally got in bed, quite ready to catch a little kip after a hard day’s celebration. Even Benny’s outburst didn’t ruin his night. He had just chalked up a successful liturgy, and the evening’s libation helped preserve the festive spirit. What’s more, the Sugar Daddy had a couple of grand riding on the Lions, and he could taste the profits.

While it was certain Benny was going to lose sleep over his problems, Sugarloaf was not. No sooner did his head hit the pillow than he announced his state of slumber. Bishop Sugarloaf was a notorious snorer, which might explain why George and Benny wanted to sleep on the opposite end of the hall.

He didn’t think he had been asleep for more than an hour when he heard a noise downstairs. Thinking it might be a burglar, he grabbed his baseball bat and crept downstairs. As he passed the chapel, he saw light creeping underneath the door. Did he forget to turn the light off? In all the hullabaloo, he probably did, although George was good at remembering things like that.

After a quick search of the kitchen and the library and making use of the facilities, he returned to the chapel to turn off the light.

When he opened the door, Sugarloaf didn’t recognize his own chapel. Benny and at least a half dozen of his friends had totally redone the chapel. First, there was a resplendent light throughout. “This lighting must be costing us a fortune!” he thought.

Next, he noticed that his own tastefully done décor and accessories had been overhauled and replaced. Front and center was a throne, and sitting on the throne was a young bearded Man wearing a crown and holding what appeared to be a little globe, which seemed to be hovering over His hand, which had a nasty gash in it. By His side bowing low were two large men with wings, wearing long, flowing robes, and whose feet were not even touching the ground.

Sitting in a chair by His side was a woman dressed in long flowing robes that covered her head, holding what seemed to Sugarloaf to be her own Heart, which had several things running through it, which looked like the swords that are used in drinks, except they were a little bigger and made of steel. The big men were almost as deferential to her as they were to the bearded Guy on the main seat.

Standing off to the side of this scene were two guys and what appeared to be a nun from before Vatican II. The nun carried a big crucifix and had more than a few dozen roses. One guy had a beard and nasty bags under his eyes, and he carried a huge set of keys around. The other guy was an old man, wearing a Benedictine habit and carrying a book and a staff.

Benny was kneeling in front of the chair like Sugarloaf found him earlier that night, and another big man with wings was levitating next to him, bowing with his forehead to the ground.

Now Sugarloaf was no theologian, but he guessed that these big fellas were Angels and these other fellas were Saints, and the bearded Guy in the main seat was Jesus Christ. It was either that or Benny had some STRANGE friends. Finally, Bishop Sugarloaf resolved that these were in fact the Son of God and the Angels and Saints. Faced with this stark realization, there was only one appropriate way for the bishop to act.

“Out! Everybody out!” Shooing everybody out, he said, “Mary, Peter, Benedict. Not you, Benny. We don’t worship you. You need to leave at once.” After evicting the friends of God from his chapel, the only three left in the room were Sugarloaf, Jesus, and Father Sheppard.

Now, Bishop Sugarloaf needed to speak to Jesus. “Lord, it’s great having You here, but, you know, putting You front and center - on a throne, no less! - this would offend some of our separated brethren. How about going in a closet, so I can talk to You in private when I get the…”

It was too late. Jesus already lowered His eyes and was walking out of the room. Benny gave his Ordinary a look of disgust mixed with sadness and resentment. Without uttering a word, he too left. Though Benny turned to leave, Sugarloaf wasn’t all too bothered, as he figured they would sort it out in the morning.

He turned to remove the throne and put some semblance of order back in his chapel. But when Benny left the room, the mysterious light went out, and Bishop Sugarloaf found himself in darkness again. “Jackass!” said Sugarloaf to himself. “He didn’t have to turn the lights off on his way out.”

He fumbled around for the light switch in the dark. It took him some time to find it. When he finally turned the lights on, he found the chapel was exactly as he left it before he went to bed that night, right down to the cobwebs in the ceiling. Bishop Sugarloaf was a bit spooked by this.

Needing to sort it out in his own mind, he went upstairs to Benny’s room. Just as he reached the door to knock, the door opened, and he saw the same light that he had just seen in his chapel. And again, the room was completely transformed.

Jesus was sitting on a throne, and Mary on a throne beside Him. But rather than just two Angels, there were dozens, not just men, but women and children, all floating and moving around without touching the floor. Two of these Angels grabbed a hold of Sugarloaf, who had started to walk toward the throne of Jesus. Even though they were floating in air, the bishop had never come across anyone nearly so strong before in his life.

Despite being held back by these two Angels, Sugarloaf could look on the scene fairly unimpeded. Before the throne of Jesus was Benny. He was kneeling on the floor with his forehead on the ground. The Angel who had knelt with him in the chapel was speaking to Jesus about his life. Sugarloaf knew that without being able to hear it.

There was another Angel that Sugarloaf recognized, only when he had seen her before, she was not wearing any wings. Before the throne of Mary was a little girl Angel, who looked just like that girl Angelica who asked him about the Consecration of Russia. She didn’t speak very long with the Virgin Mary before she got up from her throne to talk to Jesus.

Up till now, Jesus kept a stern look as the Angel was describing Benny’s life to Him. It took only a few words from His Mother, and the sternness changed to delight. They had a very brief conference, when Jesus called Benny to the throne, put His hand on his shoulder, and said some comforting words to him. At that, Benny wept and kissed His feet, and Angelica and the big Angel danced for joy.

Then Jesus and Sugarloaf looked each other in the eye. Jesus was stern, yet not angry. The look of Jesus was as a loving Father who was disappointed in His son. Sugarloaf was very confused. He always considered Jesus to be a close Friend, but more like a Pal than Someone who made demands on him. Does Jesus really expect much from him? He had so much to ask Jesus and Mary, who was standing by His side, looking very sad, but not diverting her eyes from him.

He noticed that the room was now empty besides Jesus, Mary, himself, and the two Angels. But now, he didn’t seem to care. All he wanted was a chance to ask Jesus what He wanted and why he, Sugarloaf - no, Michael, as he was now despising his nickname - was shut off from Him. But his mouth could produce nothing, and the Angels were keeping him from the thrones.

But the angels, who had until now been at least pleasant to see, were now hideous and smelly, and burned him to the touch. Now, rather than holding him, they were now pulling him away. He felt an immense heat behind him and heard wails and screams, as well as the laughter and mockery of these hideous angels.

Black smoke was now gradually replacing the faces of Jesus and Mary in his sight. Just before smoke enveloped his sense of sight, Mary held out a Rosary and Jesus said, “It is never too late to have recourse to Jesus and Mary.”

Just as dark smoke had completely enveloped the scene, Sugarloaf sprang to a sitting position in his bed, having sweated through his PJs. He looked around and found his bedroom as he left it when he went to bed.

His heart was pounding, so there was no sense going back to sleep. Sugarloaf reasoned that the dream happened in part because he had neglected to attend to Benny’s needs that night. It was only 4:30, but he felt an overwhelming need to talk to Benny right away.

Sugarloaf walked down the hall and lightly tapped Benny’s door. “Benny?” He knocked again, but a little harder. A little louder, he said, “Benny?” Again, no response.

He started to walk away and let him sleep. But he stopped, thinking that if he explained the dream to Benny, he would understand. After a couple of moments, he pounded on the door and yelled, “Benny? Benny? I need to speak with you.” Amazingly, this did not wake up Benny, although George did come out to see what was happening.

Having sent George back to bed, Sugarloaf opened Benny’s door and knocked again, poking his head in the door. “Benny? I need a word.” When Benny didn’t react, Sugarloaf flicked the lights on and off, and then on again. But Benny didn’t wake up. Now desperate, Sugarloaf kept calling for him. George got up a second time and said, “What’s the matter, chief?”

Sugarloaf went to Benny’s bed with George looking on. He shook Father Sheppard, calling for him to respond, but he was not going to wake up. Now that Benny had entered into his eternity, it was time for Bishop Michael Tsygolov to start doing something about his.

** FIN **