Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 13 – You are out for his blood
Don Hash repeated himself: “I would not like to see Father Alexámenos burned.”
“Nor would I,” answered Cardinal Fidèle, smiling. “Nor would any of us here.”
“But…” said don Hash, trying to get the Cardinal to give some hint of where he was going.
“But there will be a trial with a death penalty,” said Cardinal Fidèle.
“I am overwhelmed,” replied don Hash.
“Don’t worry, Hash,” said Cardinal Fidèle in a lighthearted manner. “It is not as if he will not repent. He will not be harmed, just put on trial. We want what is best for him.”
“What is best? It’s just too dangerous, Fidèle,” said Cardinal Francisco.
“Apparently, our wanting what is best for someone is not the same as what you want, Fidèle,” Cardinal Froben said, continuing to defend Father Alexámenos despite himself.
“Besides,” said Cardinal Francisco, “the doctrinal oversight of any trial would belong to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, not you.”
“Everyone knows you are the Grand Inquisitor,” replied Cardinal Fidèle, “a Torquemada redivivus.” This comment lightened the atmosphere as a round of laughter went around the room. No one could imagine the meek, Cardinal Francisco – a perfect gentleman given over to the more extreme refinements of diplomatic etiquette – as the head of any Inquisition, a term which, in itself, to him, begged for copious apologies. He was convinced that his job was to keep his more zealous inquisitors in check, not letting them work, keeping everyone else happy.
“Enough of all this fooling around, Fidèle,” interjected the Cardinal Secretary of State, finally saying something. “Tell us about your conveniently off the record conversation with the Pope.”
“I thought you would never ask, Elzevir,” replied Cardinal Fidèle.
“Don’t tell me you have spoken to the Holy Father about Alexámenos,” said don Hash, becoming ashen as the reality of the situation started to hit home. As an historian, don Hash had seen this quick turn of events time and again throughout history, in any country, and in any culture, and had already concluded in prayer that he himself would always be the one lighting the fire unless it was the Lord who would give him the strength and Charity to be the one who is, instead, burned. He was pushed to rant, precisely what Cardinal Fidèle wanted of him: “This kind of thing happens precisely when people say: ‘Peace and security!’ and congratulate themselves with the words, ‘We would never do that kind of thing. We would never, ever burn anybody again. Never again! We’re nice people! It’s unimaginable today! We’re better than people of the past! The Lord was surely wrong about us, predicting that when we say ‘peace and security,’ there will be none. We’re nice! The Lord was wrong to ask that if we brutalized Him as we did when the wood was green, what would we do when it was dry? The Lord was wrong, because we’re nice! It can’t happen today! Never again! Nice! Nice! Nice!…’”
“The Pope is most interested,” interrupted Cardinal Fidèle. “Elzevir is a witness.”
“Is that true, Elzevir?” asked Cardinals Francisco and de Colines incredulously, but Cardinal Elzevir held his tongue. This was not his project.
Don Hash was both out of breath and stunned with this new information about the Holy Father. He stared into the fire, which had now burned down to a calm blaze. The sharp odour which hung in the air of the study was now from the burning of the copies of Father Alexámenos’ study. It was the laser-toner used for the printing of the multitude of graphic images of ancient manuscripts of the Scriptures which the copies of the study contained.
Carpe Diem was also staring into the fire, which was a new experience for him. “Jesus, carpe diem! Burning… Burning…” he softly repeated again and again, lost in his own world underneath the protection of the Word of God, to whom he was ‘listening’ intently.
“Go on, Fidèle,” commanded Cardinal Elzevir once again.
“I think you should summarise the meeting, Elzevir,” said Cardinal Fidèle purposely staring hard into the fire, imitating don Hash.
“The Holy Father agrees that a public trial is to proceed,” stated Cardinal Elzevir flatly. “The penalty hanging over the result of the trial for any unrepentance is to be… burning at the stake.”
After some seconds of everyone staring into the fire, Cardinal Froben broke the stunned silence and stated, “So, all our fears have come true.”
“On the contrary, Froben. It is now that all our hopes for ecumenism are clearly seen on the horizon,” answered Cardinal Fidèle.
“You had better explain that, Fidèle,” said Cardinal Elzevir.
“The Holy Father will brook dissent no longer,” Cardinal Fidèle replied.
“But what he means and what you mean can be two different things,” said Cardinal Froben.
“Which is precisely the reason for a trial,” replied Cardinal Fidèle.
“A trial you’ll manipulate to cover over differences with the Pope,” insisted Cardinal Froben.
“The facts will speak for themselves,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “The Pontiff has reserved any final decision for himself. Alexámenos is to be treated well, and, at the end of the trial, the Holy Father will visit him regularly. There will be no burning at the stake. That’s a pedagogical show.”
“Burning at the stake was a civil penalty inflicted by the state in the distant past,” padre Absj offered. “Today’s Canon Law doesn’t permit that kind of penalty.”
“You know nothing of Church Law, Absj,” said Cardinal Elizevir.
“Alia poena or iusta poena,” is the exact wording, said Cardinal Fidèle. “Burning at the stake is within the range of penalties. His Holiness can also establish law at will.”
“I was hoping that this meeting we are having would end in rebellion against the Pope, but you’re merely trying to manipulate him,” said padre Absj. “I want nothing to do with this.”
“It’s a good thing you are not the Confessor of His Holiness, Absj,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “Yet, you are at the Pio Decimo Centre, are you not?”
“I’m a free and accepted member there, yes,” he replied.
“And part of that membership is taking a vow to be obedient to the Holy Father, is it not?”
“I took that vow under the previous regime. What are you getting at?” asked padre Absj, clearly upset with such questions.
Ignoring him, and turning to the other Prelates, Cardinal Fidèle asked, “And we are sworn to assist the Holy Father, are we not?” They all nodded their heads in the affirmative. “Now, Hash. The Holy Father has a special role for you to play,” said Cardinal Fidèle.
“You want me to light the fire if he, in your words, doesn’t repent?” asked don Hash.
Carpe Diem kept repeating himself, changing the names, “Don Hash, carpe diem! Burning…” but then suddenly put the bible on the carpet, lay down himself in front of the warmth of the fire, and went to sleep as quickly as he was innocent.
“You rush to conclusions, Hash,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “I repeat. None of us here want to see Alexámenos burn. The best example we can get from him is his repentance. You are his friend. You are to convince him of his error. The Holy Father desires it be you who carries out this task.”
“And?” asked don Hash.
“And….” continued Cardinal Fidèle, “the Holy Father insists that it be you who encourages Alexámenos to trust in the mercy of God if, God forbid, worse comes to worse.”
“And?” asked don Hash.
“Hash… You fret over nothing. It is true that the Holy Father does not wish to turn him over to the state, and that, if there is a penalty, he desires that it be his own friend who executes it.” Don Hash’s eyes widened. “It won’t happen,” added Cardinal Fidèle. “Don’t worry.”
“You can’t do that,” exclaimed Cardinal Francisco. “The reality would be too much.”
Don Hash was thinking about what his Confessor, padre Emet had told him about reality.
“It’s damn good pedagogy – as long as nothing really happens,” said Cardinal Froben, “but the reality is that even the thought of it is impossible in this day and age. The media would not present the story from a Catholic perspective. Any severe penalty would be the object of protest from the World Court and the United Nations. The World Council of Churches would openly mock us. The trial itself would simply grind to a halt. It is just not possible.”
“Is it not possible, Froben?” asked Cardinal Fidèle, “Isn’t it really that, for you, the trial cannot go forward for the reason that you think that everyone is so nice, and that, at worst, it is better for people to pretend to be nice, even though most of them are denying the God of Life, and so contracepting, aborting, euthanatising, and then themselves dying along with their own culture of death in suicide and genocide? Without God, people are not nice, and will not be nice, in this world, ever.”
“I do not follow,” said Cardinal Froben.
“It is for these very reasons that the trial will go ahead,” replied Cardinal Fidèle. “It is precisely in proportion to how much people are lackadaisical in regard to religion that they are easily manipulated to take up a religious cause they think will do good for their kind of society.”
“Give an example, Fidèle,” said Cardinal de Colines.
“Of all people, you should know, de Colines,” replied Cardinal Fidèle. “Take the sex abuse crisis in English speaking countries. How many bishops retired early? And how many of their priests have been suspended or dismissed from the clerical state, laicised? All one has to do is listen to what makes people angry, justly angry, and then show a connection between immorality and heresy, so that they see that heresy breeds immorality. Then one watches society become angry with heretics. Then we provide the heretic of heretics, and they will want to vent their anger upon him. Providing millstones for the removal of those who scandalise others is a religious cause, which has a basis with the words spoken by our Lord on the matter. Taking up this particular religious cause of the purification of the Church is a good for society. Everyone knows that already. Everyone wants to join in. No due process. Sorry Hash, but it’s all Hash-Tag MeToo. Accusation is equated with guilt. The difference is that we will provide due process, which will make manipulation of the secular media into an exercise which is profoundly credible. They’re no longer used to justice and reason and integrity and honesty coming from the Church. Our efforts will shame right wing Catholic media, sycophants to bitter souls they themselves created, as witnessed by their symbol for sex abuse being a Roman collar around the neck of a young priest, as if young priests are abusers by vocation.”
“We pray that the time of darkness will be short, lest even the elect fall through cynicism,” whispered don Hash, as if speaking such a prayer out loud was useless. But then he added with greater strength: “If they provide millstones in bitterness instead of zeal, they, in mere reaction, will also insist on the rights of Sodomites and Gomorrahites, from youngest to eldest, to rape anyone to death, saying that error has rights, that truth is relative. Today, we see that the term pedophilia is used to cover over the fact that this is all about homosexuality. The right-wingers know that but just want numbers through sensationalism just like everyone else.”
“But is any of that kind of thing true of Alexámenos?” asked Cardinal Elzevir. “Those guilty of boundary violations were mostly priests ordained around Vatican II, 1968ers, who shoved their own version of that Council down people’s throats for years. How old is Father Alexámenos?”
“How old are you?” asked Cardinal Fidèle incisively as he was suddenly nervous. “He isn’t half your age. Alexámenos will be, as he already is, a good example to follow, both morally and doctrinally…”
“Except for one heresy,” interrupted Cardinal Francisco.
“Correct,” confirmed Cardinal Fidèle.
“That’s inconsistent,” said Cardinal Francisco. “Corrupt morals follow corrupt doctrine.”
“He is teaching others his error, and that is not good, however sincere he happens to be,” said Cardinal Fidèle. Some of those who listen to him will fall apart morally in other ways.”
“But it is you who have set him up teaching in your old seminary, Fidèle,” said Cardinal Elzevir. “We heard you on the phone yesterday, and from what we heard, he is repentant.”
“We all hope that sentire cum ecclesia will be his motto,” replied Cardinal Fidèle.
“It’s surely mine,” said Cardinal Froben. “But what, then, has he done wrong if he is already so much with the Church, if he has already repented?”
“Did he repent?” asked Cardinal Fidèle. “His agreeing to go to Haïti means nothing.”
Carpe Diem, stretched out on the carpet, turned over, for the fire was too hot. Though hardly awake, he heard Cardinal Froben answer, “Alexámenos said he was a jackass and useless.”
“That doesn’t mean he repented,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “It would not mean you repented if you said it of yourself, Froben. I can easily prove that Alexámenos is not repentant.” Turning to padre Absj, Cardinal Fidèle asked, “How did your meeting with Alexámenos go this morning.”
“That was a private conversation,” said padre Absj, immediately fidgeting.
“Just give us an indication of the direction Alexámenos was heading,” said Cardinal Fidèle.
“Alexámenos seems confirmed in his ways,” replied padre Absj, “because you, your Eminence, verified everything for him in the Secret Archives.”
“Verified what he wrote, yes, but not his historical perspective. It is his viewpoint which is a danger, a limitation of the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church today. I told him that the publication of his study would do great harm to the Church. If Alexámenos is confirmed in his ways, it is entirely your fault, Absj. You should have read his study to help him understand that his viewpoint is a danger to the unity of the Church. Instead, it is you who have failed both Alexámenos and the Church. This means that there will be more work to be done in the trial. Your lack of concern, Absj, will be a stumbling block for him. You represent the Centre for him. This may harden him, embitter him. There is more pressure on Hash to convert Alexámenos.”
“Must the trial go on under these circumstances?” asked Cardinal Francisco.
“Now, more than ever,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “Alexámenos is increasingly dangerous.”
“If Alexámenos is held up as an example of what is responsible for the world’s woes, won’t everyone want his blood unfairly?” asked padre Absj. “There are countless people like him.”
“It is interesting that you should say that, Absj, but you are wrong. Only Alexámenos has gone to the heart of the matter, however incorrectly, and must be dealt with.”
“So you are out for his blood?” asked Cardinal Froben.
“Not in the least. Just the opposite. When the trial threatens to become violent, everything will be reversed in favour of a much more effective pedagogy,” answered Cardinal Fidèle.
“Meaning?” asked Cardinal Francisco.
“His repentance, of course,” replied Cardinal Fidèle. “Not only will Hash help him to repent, but the Holy Father has insisted that his Confessor, Cardinal Emet…”
“Emet!” exclaimed Cardinal de Colines, disturbed with Father Alexámenos’ choice.
Carpe Diem looked like he was going into slight spasms as he slept, and then started ‘talking’ in his sleep. “Ee-aagghh, ee-aagghh, ee-aagghh,” he said, in a fairly accurate rendition of jackass.
“As I was saying,” said Cardinal Fidèle, “Emet will be available to Alexámenos throughout the trial. He will come around with many others and be forgiven. Unity will be established…”
Cardinal Froben interrupted, saying, “Well, if it’s for unity, and no one gets hurt, I’m for it.”
Having successfully manipulated the others, Cardinal Fidèle turned to finish off don Hash, saying, “You would agree with repentance and forgiveness, wouldn’t you, Hash?”
“I agree,” said don Hash, “that we are all in need of repentance, forgiveness and absolution for the sins by which we have crucified Him who is the Living Truth. It is one thing to speak of these things while at the same time throwing stones at someone who is merely accused of being an adulterer, but it is quite another thing to know the mercy of Christ in one’s own life, that mercy with which there is no room for anything apart from God’s victory of Truth.” He could not tell if his statement registered with them due to the blank stares he received.
“Ee-aagghh, ee-aagghh,” Carpe Diem said again, looking like he was stamping his feet.
“The Day will belong to forgiveness and mercy,” said Cardinal Fidèle, categorically, trying to make it seem that he and don Hash agreed, claiming victory by proclaiming victory.
Don Hash was relieved when Cardinal Fidèle addressed the others: “Each of you are important to the successful outcome of the trial. The public must be educated.”
“If they must be educated, as you put it, they will never accept it,” said Froben. “You have to learn to live with the lowest common denominator, where no education is possible.”
“When I say educated, Froben, I mean guidance of the lowest common denominator of irrational emotions. There is a values clarification process by which the muddled thinking of society is brought to the truth. At any rate,” Cardinal Fidèle continued, “Francisco has already stated that he will be in charge of the doctrinal aspects of the trial…”
“I did no such…” interrupted Cardinal Francisco, but Cardinal Fidèle continued unabated.
“De Colines will be busy instructing episcopal conferences and any individual, troublesome bishops, while Elzevir deals with civil concerns. Froben can handle the ecumenical front with ease, so passionate is he that the present way of ecumenism is the quickest path to unity.”
“Well, that’s true, anyway,” said Cardinal Froben.
“Meanwhile, all of you can take your cue through the press conferences I will be presenting in preparation for the trial and in summary of each session of the trial. Since the matter is particularly difficult, I will try to facilitate the outcome of each session.”
“I must object,” said Cardinal Francisco.
“What is it now?” asked Cardinal Fidèle.
“How am I supposed to run an Inquisition if I don’t know what the charge is, and if there is no evidence? Have you forgotten? You burned everything.”
“And tell me, Francisco. What has the problem with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith been all these years? Isn’t it true that you have been delaying, sometimes for very many years, the correction of any heretic because your protocol goes out of its way to avoid the spoken word of a heretic? And isn’t it true that any process, including this one, will move ahead quickly because of dealing with the spoken word?”
“But what has he said except that he’s a jackass and useless?”
“It is what he will inevitably say, and sooner than later,” replied Cardinal Fidèle. “The topic is not one he can simply not talk about. He knows that there is a great deal riding on this. The charge, as I told the Holy Father, is the denial of the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium to guide the Church. It is not so much what he wrote in his paper, as his attitude.”
“Oh, I see… I guess,” said Cardinal Francisco, upset with the unusual, ungentlemanly process.
“It won’t take long to gather enough testimony to get him to the trial. He will condemn himself out of his own mouth the first chance he gets,” insisted Cardinal Fidèle. “Now, we are almost finished here for now. Don’t forget that we are to keep the Holy Father out of this as much as possible. There is just one last matter…” He then turned and exclaimed, “Absj!”
“Yes?” said padre Absj, dejectedly.
“Tell us some good news about Hash,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “Will he have something to keep him occupied in the coming months?”
“He has three courses to teach this Semester, starting tomorrow,” said padre Absj.
“Good,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “You will be busy, Hash. I realise it is only your second day on the job as my private secretary, but I am sure that you understand. Your job is over. Your pay is two good meals.”
“Don’t be such a miser, Fidèle,” said Cardinal Froben.
“I didn’t want to say, but you will find an envelope waiting for you at the Casa, Hash.”
“Thank you, your Eminence. May I be excused now?”
“We will be seeing you soon anyway, friend,” said Cardinal Fidèle, who, as don Hash left the study, repeated in a disquieting, sarcastic, familiar melody: “Friend, friend, friend…”
Once again, Carpe Diem, still sound asleep, said, “Ee-aagghh, ee-aagghh.”
Carpe Diem woke up with a start when he heard don Hash walk on the wood floor near the door. Being woken in this fashion left Carpe Diem very tense. He jumped up, ran to the door, and started turning on and off the light switch. Cardinal Fidèle, ignoring this, listened for the front door but had only heard don Hash’s footsteps in the corridor. He grinned wryly, thinking that he had stopped in the chapel. In fact, don Hash was rifling through the vestment cabinet, and soon came upon the key for the tabernacle. He opened the tabernacle and… it was empty… The unburnished metal inside the tabernacle had not been covered with damask. There was only dust, a few dead bugs, and a small card which hung down from the top of the inside of the tabernacle, declaring the names of the artists and workmen who had been involved in its creation, along with the address of the religious goods store from which it was acquired. “It’s never been opened,” Don Hash whispered to himself. “The Blessed Sacrament was never here.” The “Friend, friend, friend” melody came back to his mind, confirming for him that that part of his ‘vision’ at the Basilica had diabolical origins. He heard a noise coming from the study, not knowing it was Carpe Diem. He swiftly closed the tabernacle door, returned the key, closed the cabinet door and made his way through the front door of the apartment, closing it after himself. He rounded the corners of the spacious covered walkway on the roof and started going down the steps, too impatient to wait for the lift. He couldn’t fathom what he had just been through. It was just then 3:00 p.m., so he took out his Rosary and began praying the Mercy Chaplet as he hurried down the steps. It struck him that there were much worse things in the world, and that our Lord would use someone, like a jackass, to ride into the soul of the Cardinal, the Lord taking up residence by grace, as in a living tabernacle. Amidst all the deception, the one thing that was real was the biting memory of his empty heart. It did not make him despair, but turn to the Lord, who was now having him begin to know the suffering of a heart of flesh.
Up in the apartment, Cardinal Fidèle excused himself to go to the toilet. When he was gone, the other Cardinals and padre Absj complained to each other that the whole thing was just too much, and that they had to confront Cardinal Fidèle before everything went out of control. “He’s obviously senile,” said Cardinal Froben loudly just as Cardinal Fidèle entered the study once again.
“Who would that be, Froben? Are you talking about yourself again?” asked Cardinal Fidèle.
“We’ve agreed it’s exaggerated, Fidèle,” said Cardinal Elzevir. “We’ve changed our minds. Let people say what they want. Life will go on. End of story.”
“Father Li does not agree,” said Cardinal Fidèle, calmly sitting down.
“Damn you, Fidèle!” shouted Cardinal Elzevir, upset that he was always one step behind the old Prelate. “What does China have to do with this?!”
“It seems that Emet has played the courier boy for Alexámenos. Emet handed Tsur-Ēzer a full report on Li within hours of his election.” They all looked at him, dumb-struck. “The report includes a dossier on each of your connections with Li,” continued Cardinal Fidèle.
“How did you know?” demanded Cardinal Elzevir, “not to mention this Father Alexámenos.”
“Technology and betrayal,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “Sit down. All of you.”
“Now there’s no way that the Pope will approve Li’s nomination for bishop by the Chinese government,” said Cardinal de Colines. “Had he done it, concessions granted by China would…”
“The Chinese give concessions for business, for imperialistic expansion, for influence, but then, afterwards, it gets worse,” said padre Absj. “The government lies, saying it gets bad press because of a renegade, overly zealous Patriotic Association, which alone is guilty for torturing Catholics. Instead, the Patriotic Association and the government are one. If only we had listened to the voices of Cardinal Piccolaforesta and his successors, treat both Open and Underground Churches as but one through the government, we wouldn’t be in this mess today.”
“You speak with a forked tongue, Absj,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “If the Pope approved Li, you would all look good. Now, Elzevir looks like the greatest Judas since Judas. Li tortured bishops.”
“I didn’t know this!” Cardinal Elzevir tried to protest.
“I believe you,” replied Cardinal Fidèle. “You don’t have a very strong stomach, do you? And you, Francisco, approved his becoming, unbelievably, an ordinary professor at the Pontifical…”
“How do you know about that?” asked Cardinal Francisco.
“You approved his thesis, which I find incredible. It was entitled Fidelity to the Bishop of Rome as Mediated by the Chinese Government, and couldn’t have been more ecclesiologically perverted. You think that imprudence does not preempt scholarship. But imagine, Li flies to China to torture a bishop who is faithful to Rome and then returns to teach! Teach what?!”
Cardinal Francisco also protested: “I didn’t know. Why didn’t Alexámenos come to us first?”
“He did, before Christmas. It’s all on record, all witnessed, all irrefutably,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “He’s done the same with all of you – including Propaganda – using different people.”
“He’s got nothing on me!” exclaimed Cardinal Froben. “I only want unity!”
“At any cost, Froben? You’re the one whose been most active with him, having him attend dialogue sessions of every sort, giving him an international platform.”
“Unity with the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is important for ecumenism,” protested Cardinal Froben. “I did not know he had some missteps in his past.”
“He just now killed a bishop. He’s just now returned from China,” said Cardinal Fidèle.
“At any rate, Alexámenos’ report also makes me look evil. My lines of communication with the Chinese ‘Pope’ are well known. And as for you, de Colines…”
“Yes?” said Cardinal de Colines innocently.
“Why is it that you’ve been promoting bishops who will give parishes to the Patriotic Association in their own dioceses?” asked Cardinal Fidèle.
“You don’t know the kind of pressure I am under,” said Cardinal de Colines, flustered.
“You mean all the pressure of the free trips to China, at their best resorts?” asked Cardinal Fidèle. “You, Absj,” continued Cardinal Fidèle, “were second reader for Li’s thesis. Was that supposed to be enculturation similar to Ricci?” There was no response.
“This Alexámenos is interfering in what he doesn’t understand,” said Cardinal Elzevir. “Many people in China are at risk if this information is made public.”
“You can be sure that… the Pope… will merely refrain from approval of the nomination,” said Cardinal Fidèle, knowing that his emphasis would draw out the next comment.
“But we can’t be sure of Alexámenos,” said Cardinal Elzevir. “We have to remove him. We have to… Oh… I see… The trial… Dum ligatur asinus, we are free. Why didn’t you tell us before?”
“The reason for the trial is what we’ve been discussing. I only found out about Li now. The Holy Father will say something to you if he so chooses. I am at risk in telling you, but there was no other way. You are as blind as the Reformers before the Reform, not knowing the implications either of reverencing or manipulating God’s Revelation. I now simply play on your self-interest in a good name. As it is, you know nothing of the implications of the expansion of China.”
Cardinal Fidèle walked the Cardinals and padre Absj to the door of the apartment. They said goodbye to Signora Gagno, who was just leaving for the day with Carpe Diem. Cardinal Fidèle then entered his chapel, blowing out the oil lamps, again shaking his head, complaining that the days events had been too easy. He had expected more of a fight from the Pope, and it troubled him that, instead, the Pontiff seemed too easy to win over.
✵ ✵ ✵
Don Hash left the gate of San Calisto, turned left and crossed Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. He quickly passed over the river, using Ponte Sisto, and made his way to Campo dei Fiori, there being reminded of everything by the statue of Giordano Bruno. He passed the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Damaso and, then, Piazza Navona with its fountain depicting the lost and found Garden of Eden. He was just finishing the Mercy Chaplet when, for the first time in his priesthood, he sensed that he was praying to God the Father through, with and in Christ. He thought he understood something of Christ’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, ‘seeing’ the Father through, with and in the Son, with those He saved, the members of His Body, all of whom were seeing the Father through, with and in the Son. This brought an enthusiasm to witness to God’s Charity, regardless of the gravity of one’s sin. His own Confessions would now begin to become more like those of Augustine, a thanksgiving for the mercies of the Lord.
Within fifteen minutes of having left San Calisto, he fell on top of his bed at the Casa, asking the Holy Souls in purgatory for their intercession that he might get some needed rest. He had been going non-stop since the previous day. He often prayed for the Holy Souls, and was always granted this request. “Fidelium animæ per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace,” he said.
His phone started ringing twenty minutes later. “Pronto,” he said with energy, as he picked up the receiver, thankful that he already felt quite rested.
“Hey!” said Father Alexámenos.
“Alexámenos? Don’t tell me you had trouble sending your books at the airfreight desk.”
“That’s done. I’m in a taxi, just now passing the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. We’re coming to pick you up. Can you meet us down on Corso del Rinascimento?”
“We?” asked don Hash.
Ignoring his question, Father Alexámenos said, “There’s someone we would like you to meet. If we make it through all the traffic lights, we’ll be there in just a few minutes.”
“Right,” said don Hash, hanging up the receiver. He thanked the Holy Souls, for he truly felt rested. He grabbed his Liturgy of the Hour and was soon going out the main entrance of the Casa. As he turned left, it started to thunder loudly. The doors of the Augustinian Church were being opened for the evening, so he bounded up the steps and knelt down inside. He thanked the Lord and Saint Augustine for what he was gaining by reading the Confessions. He stayed kneeling for some minutes. A particularly loud clap of thunder crashed just above. Don Hash knew he would only have seconds before it would start to rain. By the time he genuflected, left the church and went down the large staircase, the first large drops had already begun to fall. Fortunately, the end of Corso del Rinascimento was only a few steps away. A taxi pulled up beside him, dropping off padre Emet and Father Alexámenos. Don Hash asked who it is that they wanted him to see, but just then Father Lia-Fáil pulled up beside them, saying, “Cead milé failté!” The answer was obvious. Padre Emet took the front seat, while don Hash and Father Alexámenos sat in the back.
As they turned the corner, don Hash saw the same Chinese priest he had seen that morning. “Who’s that?” he asked loudly. Everyone looked, but it was Father Alexámenos who said, “That’s Father Li, from China. Real trouble. You would do well to stay far away from him.”
This put don Hash on edge. He was thankful that the car had tinted windows. No one would see them as they drove to Vatican City and then to Mater Ecclesiæ convent.
“I wish we could firstly stop at the icon of Mater Ecclesiæ in the Basilica, a mosaic of which is now high above Piazza San Pietro, but we cannot,” lamented padre Emet.
Up next: Chapter 14 – I am pleased that all my sinfulness is displayed
© International 2005-2018 – George David Byers