Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 20 – You can read about it in Ezekiel 3 and 34
Just before Father Alexámenos flew to Haïti to teach, he phoned Bishop Athanasius in the Diocese of Marécage, Louisiana, who agreed to the teaching assignment with Cardinal Fidèle. He said that Archbishop Cromeu had also phoned him promising to do everything he could to have Father Alexámenos finish his own studies quickly. Bishop Athanasius said that when he contacted Archbishop Pòv, the Local Ordinary of Port-au-Prince, he was told that they were pleased to provide a valuable teaching experience for him.
Father Alexámenos had joined the diocese where his adoptive parents were living in Louisiana, though, with the agreement of the bishop, he had intended, someday, if possible, to go back to his diocese in Benin. Since so many people in Haïti were originally from Benin, the bishop thought that this would be a good first step, however temporary.
Bishop Athanasius had followed two older bishops in two years. Cardinal de Colines was fed up with getting embarrassed over the kind of terna he had been presenting to the Holy Father, having the Pontiff choose between three candidates listed not according to each one’s appropriateness to lead the local Church in the Faith, but according to the ‘risk’ of whether or not the candidate would abandon the status quo of doing nothing. This time, he included, as a remote possibility – merely dignus – the name of Athanasius. He was young, and was one of the first bishops to be ordained who had made it through the seminary unscathed by the corruption of the Church in the United States during the era which some had named the generation of ‘Good Bye, Good Men’. He had doctoral degrees in both Theology and Canon Law.
For the training of Alexámenos, the bishop did not send him to a seminary, dismayed at the lack of formation in the seminaries he knew about, and knowing that regional seminaries were difficult inasmuch as their statutes were set up in such a way that no one bishop had effective executive power to change things for the better. Courses would be taught at a loosely federated consortium having many religious communities and dioceses – and even Protestant and secular institutes – as members, making it almost impossible to deal with recalcitrant instructors. The bishops would go through the motions of examining complaints, but the process of committees and reviews were crafted so as to put off any decision for years, at which time the problem would have changed, starting the process over. Despite ‘serious’ Apostolic Visitations of the seminaries, it was business as usual. Everyone was accountable and not accountable at the same time.
For his training, Alexámenos resided at the Cathedral parish, taking courses taught by the Bishop and the Vicar General, who both lived there as well. The Vicar General was a Scripture scholar who had a licentiate in Philosophy, and who had taught at Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi – in the centre of the ‘Holy Triangle’ – for many years. His only fault was laughing at his own endless stories of nuns who would scream in fright at the loud roaring of the lions in the nearby wildlife park. He admitted that the laughing of the hyenas sometimes kept him up at night. The young Alexámenos couldn’t have been happier. It was like home schooling all over again. During this time it was discovered that he was phenomenally good with youth, being able to make them passionate leaders in the Faith instead of passive participants in parlour games, which was the fate of most youth groups in the United States in those dark days of the Church.
Both the bishop and the vicar general knew about his life as a child soldier in west Africa, and had submitted the unusual case of Alexámenos to the Holy See at the beginning of his training. The Roman Rota wanted to be careful with the case since, at least at face value, it seemed to be too much to ask of the law to allow any ordination of such a candidate. They recommended that the case go to the Apostolic Signatura, but when the Pontiff previous to Pope Tsur-Ēzer saw it, he threw the case out because the law did not intend to exclude rehabilitated child soldiers from ordination despite any participation in killings and despite any ‘declared’ civil marriage. Since the case was ‘outside the law’, Alexámenos was not to receive a dispensation from it, nor was the case to be treated as a precedent. The letter that was written to explain this was well worth the wait. It looked to be written by someone who knew what suffering was. It spoke of the murderous persecution of the Church by a young man named Saul, who had been accused of the crime by our Lord Himself, and who, with the mercy of that grace, became Saint Paul. “If the Lord’s mercy,” the letter went on, “was enough to lift up Saul to the heights of sanctity later seen in Saint Paul, that same mercy could lift up Alexámenos, who, unlike Saul, was a victim.” It was signed by someone not known to the Bishop or the Vicar General at that time, a certain Cardinal Emet.
Earlier that morning, even before Father Alexámenos had arrived at the Nunciature, the Nuncio had written the phone number of Bishop Athanasius on a piece of paper, ready to make the call when Archbishop Pòv arrived. As the two of them sat down in the Nuncio’s office – as Father Alexámenos was still offering Holy Mass – Archbishop Cromeu hit the speaker button on his phone, and rang Bishop Athanasius.
“Salve!” said Bishop Athanasius.
“Athanasius?” asked Archbishop Cromeu.
“Yes, and to whom am I speaking?”
“The Nuncio in Haïti. I spoke to you only two days ago.”
“Yes, Cromeu… I hope all is well.”
“Not in the least, Athanasius,” said the Nuncio. “Alexámenos has disgraced us terribly.” The Nuncio detailed the images he had seen, and said that Archbishop Pòv was with him. “We both want an explanation. I assume he was in good standing up to this point.”
Bishop Athanasius had not yet reviewed the faxes he had received. It was earlier in the day in Louisiana. “Yes, he’s been in good standing,” he said. “I’m shocked at what you are telling…”
“So, he never made waves before?” interrupted the Nuncio.
“No more than our Lord did in cleansing the Temple,” said Bishop Athanasius, indignant with the suggestion that ‘making waves’ was necessarily something that is to be held against someone.
“He’s been here less than a day, and I would hardly make an analogy of his activity with that of our Lord cleansing the Temple. But I understand that he’s made trouble before. You’ve been shifting him from parish to parish, haven’t you?”
“I shifted him from parish to parish, as you say,” said Bishop Athanasius, “because I’ve been using Father Alexámenos as a trouble shooter. After years as a Parish Priest, I put him in the most difficult parishes, the ones where there has been abuse. When it comes to guiding parishes through abuse situations, he is hailed by all as being a…”
“Perhaps because he knows all too well about abuse first hand,” interrupted the Nuncio. “You have a monster on your hands. You give the impression that you don’t know about his abuse, though you did send him to Rome for an extended period. Was that to get him out of the way?”
“Of course not. His academic ability is extraor…”
“To what did you refer when you spoke of Alexámenos ‘cleansing the Temple’ on a previous occasion?” interrupted the Nuncio.
Bishop Athanasius, proud of Father Alexámenos, and believing that he had been set up in some way, said something which, however, he immediately regretted, knowing it could be used against Father Alexámenos. He said, “When he was a seminarian, he wrote – as an exercise for one of his courses in moral theology – a critique of the methodology for the approval of catechetical texts by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying that what they had was tantamount to a structure which helped to institutionalise sexual abuse. Some of the approved texts demanded usage of integral materials, which included pornographic ‘sex-education’, presented homosexual couples as ‘families’, claimed that sex-change operations were blessed by God, advertised the availability of abortifacients, on and on. In his critique, he included child protection programmes, which, ironically, did much of the same things. Bishops were offended…”
“I see,” interrupted the Nuncio, with a condescending tone of voice, impatient with what he thought had to be puritanical reactions unjustly attacking the honour of the largest episcopal conference in the Church. “Tell me, what seminary did he attend?”
“He did not attend a seminary. I oversaw his training myself.”
“Did you now!? That’s interesting. I expect you to send me his psychological evaluation.”
Bishop Athanasius said nothing. There was a tense silence. Bishop Athanasius knew that he would have to leave any response to that demand to Father Alexámenos himself. “I see,” said the Nuncio. “Your silence, and the meaning of it, will come up later. Now, one last thing. Tell me, what Mass does he say?”
Taken off guard by these sudden changes of topic, Bishop Athanasius replied, “Well, the Latin Mass, but as you know, that is his choice. The Holy Father…”
“I’m sure he’ll ring you later. We’ll keep in touch,” said the Nuncio, hanging up.
“But I must add…” said Bishop Athanasius into the dead phone. He was upset that he didn’t have the chance to say that it was he himself who had presented Alexámenos’ study during an open session at the Episcopal Conference, upsetting just over half of the bishops at that time.
The Nuncio then rang the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who said that he had also received a fax alerting him to the web-site. The Nuncio asked that the American bishops offer a statement to Bishop Athanasius holding him responsible, and demanding an apology. The Nuncio was reassured that this would be an easy request to fulfill, given their previous experience with Bishop Athanasius and Father Alexámenos. The Nuncio said that both he and Archbishop Pòv would work with the Episcopal Conference of Haïti to see that Father Alexámenos was appropriately penalised.
When the Nuncio hung up the phone, Archbishop Pòv said, “I object to being included in something that I have not investigated. How do you know you are not mistaken?”
“You’ve seen the images, Pòv. What does it take?”
“I haven’t even spoken with him yet,” replied the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince.
“I have,” declared the Nuncio. “He didn’t even have a shirt. I had to give him not only a shirt, but even a pair of trousers.”
Even though the Nuncio had not mentioned that Father Alexámenos was wearing his cassock, Archbishop Pòv thoughtfully said, “Still, take the case in communist Nicaragua years ago. The priest who was the right hand man of Managua’s good Cardinal Obando y Bravo was kidnapped by the government of the time, stripped down, thrown into bed with a prostitute… all of it on film. They then paraded him naked through the whole city, tied like a dog to a truck by a rope.”
“I remember it vividly,” said the Nuncio. The Cardinal of Managua was not known for his diplomacy, forever insisting on having an auxiliary bishop free of government influence.”
Archbishop Pòv looked at him, astounded, not knowing what to make of the remark. “The same thing happened to one of your predecessors in this Nunciature. You know that, don’t you?”
“I didn’t… No…. But, damn it, Pòv! Look at the images! You can’t tell me that Alexámenos wasn’t enjoying himself. He’s hardly a martyr of circumstances!”
“Still…” continued Archbishop Pòv.
“Don’t be so naive!” interrupted Archbishop Cromeu. “It’s time to get him a plane ticket and get him out of here as soon as possible, back to Rome, whence he came. It’s best for everyone.”
Archbishop Pòv looked at him incredulously.
“Let me rephrase that,” said the Nuncio impatiently. “It’s best for everyone, whether he’s guilty or innocent. Agreed?”
“If he is guilty, it is better that he face justice here. If he is innocent, it is better that his name be cleared here,” said Archbishop Pòv.
“It’s a good thing that I’m the diplomat, Pòv. I will have Jidit arrange a ticket for him immediately. There should be no problem. The plane won’t be full after the shooting.”
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Archbishop Cromeu asked Jidit to summon Father Alexámenos to the office before she arranged for the ticket. When Father Alexámenos came to the door, the Nuncio said, “I’d like you to meet Archbishop Pòv of Port-au-Prince.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said Father Alexámenos.
The Nuncio knew that he would have to control the interrogation, keeping the topic away from the arrangements which led to Father Alexámenos to go to the shantytown, even though he left himself wide open with his opening comment: “That area of the city is a ‘no-go zone’. I find it incredible that you didn’t know that. No one goes there. It’s in the control of the rebels. It is our diplomatic practice to deal with the government to solve problems, not with rebel groups. We don’t want to give the appearance that we are dealing with rebels by entering their stronghold.”
“In this unique case, ignorantia legis excusat,” began Father Alexámenos. “Violence, it is true, only breeds violence, but there are times when something more than passivity is required.”
“What you really think,” Archbishop Cromeu surmised, “is that some violence is sometimes necessary, and that the Church should interfere in local politics, agitating rebel groups as you have just done. Haïti has suffered enough with the interference of priests. Why must you bring the wrath of the government down upon us? You have only just arrived.”
Father Alexámenos shook his head at the Nuncio’s lack of understanding, and said, “I was thinking along the lines of Solidarność, your Grace.”
This comment made Archbishop Pòv lean back in his chair and chuckle loudly enough for the Nuncio to hear, for he knew that the Solidarity movement in Poland had been encouraged by the Saint John Paul II from it’s very first beginnings.
“Besides,” continued Father Alexámenos, “those who suffer need to be supported. The flock must be tended. We are not hirelings.”
“You have shown that you are unwise and imprudent, putting yourself in a situation in which you could be compromised. They are not believers. They are not sheep. That kind of person does not convert,” said the Nuncio, enunciating what he really thought, almost beside himself that he had again opened himself up to being accused of collusion with père Jacques in having Father Alexámenos sent out on this ‘sick call’.
“I suppose that you will tell me next,” replied Father Alexámenos, “that our Lord was imprudent in coming into this world, that some might rightly consider Him to be a fool, a kind of jackass. He knew, after all, that the chief priests and scribes would plot to have Him put to death. Tell me what you think is more dangerous to the spiritual life, your Grace… is it giving witness to our Lord in front of a brothel or being nice in a Nunciature? Which one will make a priest more into a jackass, who is as much despised by the world as was our Lord?”
“Those kind of people do not belong to the flock,” repeated the Nuncio, trying to avoid being accused himself.
“You are wrong, your Grace. You do not recognise the Lord’s sheep as He recognises them. They knew His voice when they heard it. Up until that time, just last night, they were the rotting carcases of lambs and sheep of the Lord’s flock, which had been slaughtered by the wolves in sheep’s clothing, your Grace. But the Lord’s flock can always be brought back to life, if only…”
Knowing he was getting nowhere, the Nuncio changed tactics, interrupting Father Alexámenos by tossing down the pictures on the coffee-table in front of them, and asking, “What’s your smart answer to these?”
Without a moments hesitation, Father Alexámenos answered, “I am not so intelligent as to be able to interpret the permissive will of the Lord, your Grace.”
“His permissive will as opposed to his positive will…” answered the Nuncio, trying to figure out the answer of Father Alexámenos. “You speak as though what you did was good, and that the pictures are a mystery of evil which the Lord has permitted so as to drag some good out of them.”
“You speak well,” said Father Alexámenos.
“But what good could you have possibly done in abusing these children?”
“You speak as though I abused the children. Instead, the Lord, through me, won their hearts and souls to Himself. Praise God. He did it, not me.”
“You speak words of blasphemy,” said the Nuncio. “The Lord does not abuse children. Don’t say that He does, not in my presence. Don’t you know that what you’ve done against these children, the least of Christ’s brethren, you have tried to do against God Himself?”
Father Alexámenos, watching the scene unfold before him, simply said, “You misinterpret my words…”
“You’re lying,” declared the Nuncio. “You interfered with these children, didn’t you?”
“You mean, sexually abused them? Of course not. How could you ever think…”
“How? Look at the pictures! You’re a pathological liar, Alexámenos.”
Father Alexámenos picked up the pictures. “Perhaps I am missing something,” he said. “I see that the photographer is certainly expert at picking the most compromising angles from which to shoot his pictures… and I see that the captions he has written prejudge the content of the images, since precisely the opposite was happening…”
“You’re not being attacked in the pictures, Alexámenos. You’re having the time of your life. There’s no room for misinterpretation.”
“I suppose that is how I will be portrayed,” said the young priest.
“Described is a better word,” asserted the Nuncio. “Be honest! These are not mere bêtises!”
“Right. Well, being honest then… as I was saying about the pictures…”
“Yes, go on,” pushed the Nuncio, thinking that he finally had a confession.
“I also see,” said Father Alexámenos, putting the pictures back on the table and leaning back in his chair, “that these pictures are themselves the sexual abuse of children, especially if they are being distributed. Are they, your Grace, making the rounds?”
The Nuncio said nothing, but looked as if he was caught out.
“If you know their source,” continued Father Alexámenos, “and that there is a risk that they will be distributed to the media, you yourself will be complicit in this child abuse by not stopping the distribution of the images if you can.”
Archbishop Pòv leaned forward in his chair, becoming more interested as the tables seemed to be turning. He admired the candid commentary of Father Alexámenos, and despised the eagerness of Archbishop Cromeu to go in for the kill before knowing the facts.
The Nuncio gasped at the audacity of the young priest. “You’re completely out of your mind, Alexámenos. You have these images staring you in the face, and you are attacking those who are trying to help you resolve your sexual delinquency by accusing them of some sort of complicity in your actions… You are even trying to suppress the evidence. You are evil, Alexámenos.”
“It is not complicity in my actions, your Grace. You act with complicity in the distribution of such images of children if you do nothing to stop the perpetrator if you can. If my memory serves me correctly – though I only saw him for a second at night in poor light – it is père Jacques, who picked me up at the airport, who took these pictures.” The Nuncio’s eyes glazed over. He did not respond. “My actions had nothing to do with abusing children,” insisted Father Alexámenos.
“Abusers always have excuses for themselves,” countered the Nuncio. “They are delusional, if not psychotic. It is my considered opinion that you are not thinking clearly.” The Nuncio, nervous that the arrangement of sick calls might be put on record, claimed victory in the conversation about the pictures by simply changing the topic. He was still upset with Bishop Athanasius’ non-answer over the phone in regard to the psychological testing of Alexámenos, and he thought he could put the question to Father Alexámenos himself. “Tell us, Alexámenos. What were the results of your psychological examination when you were a seminarian. Did they reveal that you tended not to think straight, or that you had any tendencies to abuse children?” Father Alexámenos did not answer, thinking that the question was undignified. The Nuncio waited for a full two minutes, letting the non-answer of Father Alexámenos hang in the air, making him look guilty by default. Finally, the Nuncio, making a show of shaking his head in dismay, said, “You’re a sick man, Alexámenos, a sick man, indeed.” The Nuncio had prepared other questions about voodoo, the possessed man, the cuts on his face… but they all ran out of his head. He turned to the topic of what Father Alexámenos had written in his study.
“Now, Father, I’m sure you are happy, aren’t you, that I’m now going to change the topic?”
“I was quite content with speaking about what happened last night, your Grace.”
“You are an intransigent liar,” replied the Nuncio.
“Being available for mercy no matter what the cost, including that of being misunderstood by others, is the calling of each of us here,” said Father Alexámenos. “After all, look at our Lord. There are those at every level of the hierarchy who, to this day, misunderstand Him, saying that His mercy on the Cross was, in some way, useless, a failure, something we need to correct so that we can make progress in ‘unity’.”
“That is not what I think in the least,” asserted the Nuncio proudly. “Only Christ alone knew what He was doing. It is for the precise reason that we do not know what we are doing, and the reason that we are not to be so available, as you call it, for we only put our good names and the status of the Church in society at risk. Whatever with Christ in His time, for us, image has to be everything. Your foolhardiness masquerades as ‘availability’ for the sake of ulterior motivations.”
“All I know,” said Father Alexámenos, “is that the needs of others demand action. Mercy demands action. The father of the prodigal son made himself into a jackass by running out to meet his wayward son in the way that he did.”
“That’s typical of you, Alexámenos. You’re always making yourself out to be the Saviour of the Church, of all humankind.”
“The point,” replied Father Alexámenos, “is that Jesus wants us to be His own instruments in running after mankind with the salvation He brought to us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He does not want us to get in the way of His own pastoral care of His own sheep. You can read about it in Ezekiel 3 and 34, your Grace, 3:17-21 and the whole of 34, to be exact. Include 18.”
The Nuncio went deep red at the citation of the Prophet, knowing that he had to change the topic more quickly, but couldn’t resist saying, “Those passages are in the Hebrew Scriptures; we have the New Testament. Haven’t you noticed?”
“Those passages are about New Testament times,” replied Father Alexámenos. “Christ did not come to abolish the prophets, but to fulfil them. The Scriptures must be and are fulfilled daily. Do not place yourself, your Grace, in the position of blaspheming both Christ and the Holy Spirit.”
“I am convinced…” retorted the Archbishop, who became so choked on his own words that he had to start again: “I am convinced that you will feel more at home in speaking about your special paper,” posited the Nuncio, now with studied calmness. “You certainly did say a mouthful to père Jacques on your way from the airport. He gave me a full report,” said the Nuncio, lying. “What it is that you wrote about that is so very interesting? From what I hear, you have shown your true colours with your studies as well, effectively holding the Church to be the Whore of Babylon, and claiming moral superiority for yourself. You seem to be projecting your own immoral life onto the Church. After all, what you’ve done here this morning is to provide us with an effort at damage control for yourself, instead of being concerned for the good of the Church. Have you used Scripture to play the whore as well, projecting your immorality onto the Church?”
Father Alexámenos described his study in detail, but he could see that neither of the Archbishops understood what he was saying, for they could not even come up with the questions that père Jacques had asked him. The Nuncio took notes, sometimes reading back what he had written to make sure if he had taken down Father Alexámenos’ words exactly. Father Alexámenos knew where this information would go, but he couldn’t deny his Faith. The Nuncio didn’t take notes when Father Alexámenos would demonstrate that he wasn’t holding the Church to be any Whore of Babylon, but was just emphasising the fulness of what Trent had dogmatically brought to the fore. The Nuncio was certain that he had Father Alexámenos figured out.
As this conversation concluded, Jidit rang a bell announcing that lunch was served. Father Alexámenos rose immediately. The Nuncio, who was never on time for lunch, looked at Father Alexámenos and asked, “You just don’t realise what kind of trouble you are in, do you?”
“The same kind of ‘trouble’ that all priests are in who say the words of consecration at Holy Mass,” Father Alexámenos instantly replied, deadly serious, fully expecting the condescension of the Nuncio, “for all of us priests at that very moment declare before our Heavenly Father that we are willing, at any moment, even at the height of our priestly ministry, to be falsely accused and handed over to the chief priests and scribes so as to be put to death. But that is not ‘trouble,’ your Grace; it is a privilege.”
“Clearly, you have a demon!” said the Nuncio. “Who is it that is seeking to kill you?” He did not realise he had cited the very words vomited into the face of Christ. “We don’t do that today.”
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It turned out that the one who had been pressing don Hash about Saint Lawrence the previous evening at the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura worked as a custodian at the Collegio Chimico Farmaceutico, which housed another church dedicated to Saint Lawrence, which was almost always locked up. It was where the saint was sentenced to death. It overlooked the Roman Forum, “a stone’s throw,” thought don Hash, “from where the first Alexámenos was mocked and, surely, sentenced to death.” He had made arrangements to be let into the chapel the following morning, so that he could offer Mass there. Don Hash offered Mass for Father Alexámenos. “Father Alexámenos,” he thought, “only wanted to give the treasures of the words of the Word of God to the poor, who were themselves so treasured by God that He sent His divine Son, His Word, to give His life for them.” After receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, don Hash made a thanksgiving for ten minutes, contemplating the Most Holy Trinity, fulfilling another part of his Penance. This time, he was, in his weakness, again filled with consolation, though he was also immersed in a deep anguish. He knew he did not know how to pray – not in the least – but he also knew that the Holy Spirit was now, right then, having him repeat words which he would have had to say even if he had not learned them earlier: “Father… for the sake of Jesus’ sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Ten minutes flew by with this prayer, which, for believers, is profoundly Trinitarian. They recognise that it is the Creator Spirit who brings one through, with and in Christ Jesus to cry out, ‘Abba, Father,’ Christ’s own words in Gethsemane.
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As they walked into the dining room, where père Roger was waiting, Father Alexámenos stepped into the kitchen, saying, “Thanks, Jidit.”
The Nuncio loudly and impatiently started the standard table blessing behind him: Benedic, Domine, nos et hæc tua dona…
As lunch started, little was said. Père Roger was, for the moment, too upset to speak. He had had to pay Toma something for the car, for Father Alexámenos hadn’t been available when Toma came to the door, complaining that the car had broken down. Toma didn’t say anything about what had happened that night. Père Roger couldn’t stop himself from saying, “I wonder if our sacramental programme among the poor is proceeding. Do you know, Cromeu?”
The Nuncio reminded père Roger of his place: “I should dig out my collection of letters about you by a certain frère Josef, Roger.” This made père Roger keep his silence for the rest of the meal. The layman, frère Josef, as he was called, had, throughout the years, complained to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for the Clergy at the Vatican about both père Roger and père Jacques, sending letters and proofs of every kind against them. However, nothing was ever done. His communications had been full of bitterness and suggestions as to how to proceed. He layed out everything pedantically, making it extremely easy for those at the Vatican to do the right thing. He did not know that all of this preempted any favourable response. If one didn’t present material with canonisable humility, it was rejected without the least consideration of how serious the matter was, and how many people continued to suffer.
“Courtesy is the most important aspect of any case,” the underlings in Rome were constantly instructed. “We must keep our dignity.” Frère Josef also did not know that everything he sent to Rome was instantly returned to Archbishop Cromeu, who didn’t pay any attention to it for the reason that frère Josef had gone over his head. The Nuncio thought frère Josef himself was the problem, while frère Josef thought the same of the Archbishop. The layman had the heart of a father who loved his fellow Haïtians, and was simply frustrated at the niceness of ecclesiastical etiquette while Haïti went to hell.
Even though père Roger had been so abruptly silenced, Archbishop Pòv wanted to understand more about what happened the previous night, but every time he asked something, the Nuncio forcefully changed the topic.
After lunch, Father Alexámenos was told to gather his things, though he now only had his Liturgy of the Hour to carry. His flight to Miami, and then Rome, would be leaving shortly. This time, it was Jidit who brought him to the airport. After having arrived in Miami, he only had a short time before the flight to Rome would leave. He was pleased not to have to check in any luggage, but merely walk to a nearby gate. He sighed when he thought of the library of books he had lost, for some of the technical volumes on Sacred Scripture and Liturgy had cost well over a hundred euros each. Both his bishop and his adoptive parents – who were so proud of him – had supported him generously. “It seems you have a new apostolate for me now, Jesus,” he said silently. After reciting the Jewish psalms of Evening and Night Prayer, he sang a Marian antiphon in his mind, “Sub tuum præsidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix…” As Father Alexámenos buckled his seat belt for the transatlantic flight, he repeated this prayer: “We fly to thy protection, O Holy Mother of God…” He fell asleep, deeply at first, but then he began to dream. He was asleep even while the plane was still loading the final passengers, and remained asleep during take off and well into the flight.
Up next: Chapter 21 – They burned them in a raging fire
© International 2005-2018 – George David Byers