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

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.


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