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 01, 2006

Chapter 7 - The Monastery

Out at the edge of the diocese, on the easternmost rim of the Paí s de las Hadas mountains is Sacred Heart Benedictine monastery. At its height in 1963, the monastery had as many as 500 monks. Father Bernard, the abbot of the monastery from 1936-1970, died with a reputation for immense sanctity. But despite that, he resisted the appeals of the Second Vatican Council to renew the Benedictine life. His successor, Father Hannibal, implemented the conciliar reforms, and by the turn of the Century, the rejuvenated monastery was down to 75 monks.

Today, it is a thriving community of 11 monks, but it is the three priests that most concern Bishop Sugarloaf. The priests are: the abbot, Father Art Lodge; his talented assistant, Father Patrick Drone, who Father Art affectionately calls Patsy; and a young priest, not a very impressive man, but well liked by the faithful, Father Benedict Sheppard.

After the curial meeting of January 2, 2029, Father Art got a call from Bishop Sugarloaf that there was going to be the first diocesan inspection of the monastery since Bishop Surley did one in 2005. But the bishop calmed his fears by saying he was only checking the priests, looking to find a new Rector for the Cathedral. This news caused the three priests to hold a meeting that evening.

Father Art welcomed his two assistants and told them to take a seat while he explained the situation to them. “Now the bishop was very careful in explaining to me that this is not an inspection per se…”

Father Patsy spoke up, “What do you mean by ‘per se’?”

Father Art replied, “It’s a Latin term that means he’s not really going to inspect the monastery.”

Patsy replied, “You have to stop using pre-Vatican II terms like that. I’m starting to think you’re an integrist.”

Father Art continued, “All the same, it is my desire that we show Bishop Sugarloaf that this monastery is completely devoted to carrying out the prescriptions of the Second Vatican Council. And to that end, Benny?”

Father Benedict replied, “Yes, Reverend Father.”

“Cute. Have you ever read the documents of the Second Vatican Council?”

“Bits and pieces. I never sat down to read all of it.”

“I want you to do it now.”

“All of it, Father?”

“Yes, all of it, Benny.”

“I’ll get right to it, Father.”

“Oh, no, not yet. I’ll need you to help clean the monastery for the next couple of days.”

“Yes, Father.”

“So right now, I want you to clean the kitchen.”

“Yes, Father.”

“I want it spotless.”

“Yes, Father. Thank you, Father.” And with that, Father Benedict left to clean the kitchen.
Father Patsy asked, “You want Benny to clean the WHOLE monastery, Father Art?”

“That’s right, Patsy.”

“And then read the WHOLE Second Vatican Council?”

“That’s just a ploy, Pat, to get him out of the way while the bishop visits us. Like I said before, I want to show the bishop that we do things in the Spirit of Vatican II. Benny’s OK, but he’s a bit old fashioned, you know.”

“Have you ever read the documents of Vatican II, boss?”

“Are you listening, Pats? I said the SPIRIT of Vatican II. That ain’t so hard. Just take the way things were done before and do the opposite.”

“Oh, I see.”

“So, you know, denigrate the old Latin Mass here, pick up Eastern philosophy there, question a dogma somewhere else…”

“I think I’m reading you loud and clear, Art.”

“You’re my pride and joy, Pats. I’d like to always have you here, but I’m an old man. I’d die happy if I knew you were going places. If you make a name for yourself at the Cathedral, you’ll be on the short list for bishops, and through you, I’ll be there at Vatican III some day. That’s my dream for you, Patsy. Just make sure you impress the visitors with your zeal for the Second Vatican Council.”

“You can count on me, chief.”

Two days later, Father Sheppard was leading the Community in Eucharistic adoration as the Sweetmobile rolled into the monastery parking lot. When Sugarloaf and George got out of the car, Father Art came out to meet them along with Brother Lester, a deaf and mute brother who did many of the menial tasks around the monastery.

Father Art started the introductions. “You must be Bishop Sugarloaf,” he said, extending his hand to George.

George was taken aback and said, “Uh, Bish, what do I do now?”

“I’ll handle this, George. I’m Bishop Sugarloaf.”

It was an easy mistake to make, as the Bishop did the driving and was dressed in lay clothes. Father Art knew he had made a bad first impression. “I’m so sorry, Bishop,” he said as he twitched and extended his hand.

“Ah, a Sicilian, I see. You should meet one of our priests, Red Policy. He’s up on Sicilian customs.”

“Ah, yes. Simon ‘Red’ Policy. Codename ‘Sipol,’ Code number 21736, Initiated February 27, 2015, 7th degree member, Scottish Rite. I mean, I understand he’s up on Sicilian customs, like I am. Can Brother Dumbo take your bags?”

Brother Lester took their bags. Bishop Sugarloaf said, “That’s not how you treat someone.”

“Oh, it’s all right, he can’t hear me.”

Father Art took his guests to the chapel, where Benny was leading the community in adoration of the Eucharist. He was kneeling erect in perfect recollection, wearing an old faded gold cope. His server was Brother Tenderheart, who was making faces at the Host. Brother T was given the gift of feeling intense emotion and showing it, much to the irritation of his brethren.

The remaining brethren were arranged in choir. There had been as many as fifteen rows of choir stalls at one time, large enough to fill this large church with a little room for pews in the back. Now, they used only the row closest to the altar and kept two extra rows on hand, in case Brother Putrus forgets to shower, or when they get sick of Brother Tenderheart. The remaining space is now used partly for additional pews, partly for video games.

Father Art and his two guests went one by one down the stalls on the left side of the aisle, as Father Art told Bishop Sugarloaf who his monks were as they passed them by. George was taking notes on a legal pad.

The first two brothers were passing notes back and forth and giggling. Father Art introduced Brother Fric and Brother Frac.

Then they passed an old monk, bald on top with what was left of his hair long and scraggly. He was banging his head, chanting, “J.C.J.C.J.C.” Father Art announced, “This is Brother Axe. He has a headbanger charism.”

Then they switched sides. Father Art went right to the other side, as did George. But Sugarloaf took his right knee and put it on the floor as he crossed. George did it in retrospect immediately afterward. Father Art remembered that from when he was a boy; they called it a genuflection. Genuflection?! He hasn’t done one in decades. Would he even be able to do one? But eager to please the bishop, he made one. He had slight difficulty getting up, but it wasn’t so bad after all.

Coming to the other side, this time starting at the stall closest to the altar, Father Art introduced a Brother who stared out into space, who appeared not even to notice the two guests existed. “This is Brother Burnout. His vocation stems from the fact that we don’t ask him to do too much.”

The next Brother had his feet kicked up on the front part of the stall. He was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. He was also wearing a set of headphones and could be heard barking a song from the band State of Burnt Molasses. He was sipping on a cup of soda through a swirly straw and reading the latest issue of Eduardo’s Style Magazine. When Father Art coughed, he ditched the stuff and knelt upright. “This is Brother Mundum, Bishop.”

Green Smoke surrounded the next stall, together with a rank smell. The 13th Station of the Cross behind him is unique in that it was highlighted greenish brown, as opposed to the other ones, which were made of white marble. “This is brother Putrus. His particular charism is the use of natural incense.”

Father Art now waited impatiently for his pride and joy to show up. Getting nervous as Patsy was running late, Father Art said, “Is there anything else you’d like to see…”
Bishop Sugarloaf cut him off, “Maybe we should take this out back, so we don’t disturb things here.”

This was not what Father Art wanted to hear. Would the bishop be pleased that Father Benny was resurrecting this pre-Vatican II custom of Eucharistic Adoration, albeit at Father Art’s suggestion? Impossible. Sugarloaf had the reputation of being as progressive as the next guy.

Just as Father Art was about to give up, his pride and joy barged in the chapel.

Pretending not to see the Abbot and the two delegates, Father Patsy trumpeted, “Ah! Not this s*** again! It’s not as if we worship this Bread, you know.”

Then going to where Father Art and the guests were standing, Patsy, who had not even taken off his baseball cap, said, “Who are these people, Art?”

Father Art responded, “Patsy, this is Bishop Sugarloaf and his assistant George Yessman.” At that, Patsy mussed Sugarloaf’s hair and play-punched him, saying, “Hey there, Cuz.” After getting a less than enthusiastic response from the bishop, he simply put his fist out to George, saying, “Yo, yo, what’s up.” It took George about six seconds to rearrange the stuff in his hands before he laid some palm on Patsy’s fist.

Now, it was time for Patsy’s explanation. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to greet you guys. I was at my weekly Yoga meditation session. I’m glad I was able to make it, what with setting up for my Che Guevara Fan Club meeting and picketing the local meat factory. Yes, I’m all about the worthy apostolate.”

Father Art had great esteem for Patsy’s heart and his ability. Over the next two days, Father Patrick frequently demonstrated himself the model priest, very zealous for the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. A couple of his highlights happened when he instigated the firecracker war with Brothers Fric and Frac during Vespers in the chapel and when he yelled "Boring!" when the community chanted the Salve Regina after Compline.

But Father Art knew he had his best card yet to play: Father Patsy was a master of the liturgy. So Father Art switched his sparsely attend Mass time with Father Benedict’s more well attended one to give the bishop the impression that Father Patsy’s Mass was more popular. Father Art never understood why Father Benny’s plainer Mass was better attended. No need to worry, as they would surely appreciate the superior liturgist at the 8:00am liturgy.


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