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Friday, June 19, 2015

Right Now

I am speechless, but I won't be for long. We will not stop shouting about this until we face it, name the demon, and face it down. This is hate. This is terror. This is racism. This is evil. NO MORE. IT ENDS HERE. This thing called America must become something new--a place where our history of enslavement, death, and hatred to people of black skin is not us. Right now, it IS us. I will face it. I will mourn it. I, I! as far as I can in my own piece of fleshy turf, right now, am doing something about it. I am not speechless. Now and forever, I will shout it to the rooftops. WE WILL NOT BE ENSLAVED TO OUR HISTORY. WE WILL NOT ENSLAVE OTHERS IN OUR HISTORY. I stand with the 9 martyrs, in love. I will continue to stand in the face of lies, and guns. I'm just one. But, that's what I am doing. Right now. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Harry Potter Blotter--What's A Catholic To Do?

©2011, Randall A. Beeler

Will the real Christ stand up? Whom do you pick from this line-up?

Since L'Osservatore Romano published kudos for the last Harry Potter film, the response has read like a police blotter, with criminal accusations a-fly. Decriers of Rowling's wizardry series have quoted Michael D. O'Brien, Pope Benedict (who commented on the Potter series when he was Cardinal Ratzinger), and the Vatican's Chief Exorcist, Father Gabrielle Amorth to demonstrate that the Harry Potter series represents an inroad for witchcraft and demonic influence, or at least the paganization of Western Civilization.

However, many faithful Catholics have read the series and wonder why the to-do? Some even go so far as to posit the Harry Potter of the Seventh Book (The Deathly Hallows) as a Christ figure, which scandalizes others who are trying to publish the implicit dangers of the Potter series.

What to do? If you're like me, you probably wondered what all the hoopla was about when the series caught fire more than ten years ago and actually picked up the books to see what it was about. I read them and, as a then-evangelical-United-Methodist pastor, I at first proclaimed the many problems with the book, most notably what Michael D. O'Brien points out:
All too often, when cultural material arrives in intense pleasure-inducing forms, and contains some positive ‘values’ mixed with highly toxic messages in its role modeling and its anti-values, we are easily seduced. To believe that the Potter message is about fighting evil is superficial. On practically every page of the series, and in its spin-off films, evil is presented as ‘bad’, and yet the evil means by which the evil is resisted are presented as good.
But, as I read all the books in the series--even as I converted to Catholicism in 2005--I allowed my children to read the series and to share with me about it. Nonetheless, I always qualified any enthusiasm for the books with what seem to me to be two major difficulties with Rowling's works:
  1. What O'Brien notes in the quotation above--namely, that the fight against evil in the series seems hopelessly riddled (yes, the play-on-words is intended) with the evil power Voldemort himself wields; and

  2. The writing itself, which, although employing all the techniques of the fantasy genré invented by MacDonald, Tolkien, and Lewis, falls far, far short in literary merit of the great works of these authors.
Both these problems still gnaw at me, making me sympathize with then Cardinal Ratzinger's and Michael D. O'Brien's well-seated criticisms of the series.

And yet … and yet …

… that seventh book, The Deathly Hallows, is by far, the most admirable of the series, and, although it never rises to the level of great literature, it does make me understand why some, like L'Osservatore Romano gush over it and why others, even Catholics, see Harry as a Christ figure …

… and yet … Harry is not the Christ of this story. No one is. For Rowling's tale springs from an implicitly pagan worldview.

Before anyone out there writes off this blog as merely a summation of Harry Potter as neo-pagan, new-age Hogwarts hogwash, you ought first read what I mean by pagan.

Paganism persists because it is remains the only historical alternative to faith in Christ--that Faith which proclaims reliance on God's grace and mercy, dependent on no gesture, action, effort, or offering we can render.

Underneath the Zeuses, Zoroasters, Odin's, and Baal's is a mercantile relationship--namely, that we can appease the uncontrollable powers of the cosmos by rendering a fitting offering from our own wherewithal. In it's worst form, this tit-for-tat, I-can-buy-my-own-security-with-right-sacrifice mindset devolves into demonism, wherein our power-rendering sacrifice entails making ourselves fit to be fodder for demonic powers. Witness the Azteca and Maya of Central America, or the Carthaginians and Phoenicians of the Mediterranean who made human sacrifice, especially of children, the coinage of power.

In it's least malignant form--the paganism of Greco-Roman culture--represents an almost playful, imaginative encounter with the magic springs of the universe. Indeed, that is why the ancient world admitted no reconciliation between its great mythologies and its great philosophies. Even when a virtuous pagan would put some stock in Aristotle's "First Cause/Prime Mover" or Plato's realm of ideals, he couldn't speak to those abstractions. Simply put, there could be no imaginative encounter with the conclusion of a philosophic argument. How then to explain the magic of the universe? The fact that, despite its setting, the sun does come back again? The joyous realization that, though Autumn wends its way to Winter's ever-longer, colder nights, the light waxes with a finality revelled in during the Summer Solstice?

What do men do, in lieu of the revealed final truth, but personify such things in the form of mythic encounters with the gods? Though much mischief and demonic trickery comes of such mythos, the demons themselves are not capable of myths--only of gross parodies of the True Good that only God creates. Thus, even in the most lie-riddled myth of, say, Zeus forcing himself upon Leta lies a tiny truth that springs out of man's own goodness: his encounter with the supernatural--a goodness and an encounter authored only by the One True God. Demons can't do that; they can only lie about and warp our vision of God's authorship of our story.

Truly, in the Christ, we become men who put away the childish things of myths. When the True God arrives in the creche at Bethlehem, the half-gods (and their demonic puppeteers) are put in rout. We now have a personal, societal, civilizational, natural, supernatural encounter with God in the Eucharistic that blows away all myths--not because it is solely true and they wholly false, but because it is the Real Presence that they can only dimly, awkwardly, and mischievously pantomime, like a four-year-old's stick-figure points to the Mona Lisa. If it never occurs to us to immediately conclude to the Mona Lisa after viewing a child's stick figure, it is not because the stick figure is flat-out evil but because DaVinci gives us the real thing.

So even the most benign of the myths seem in comparison to the revelation of Christ. And so vain and fruitless might it seem to us that some Catholics would gush over the Christ-figurine of Harry Potter. Indeed, we might as well praise Orpheus as a figure of the Christ--but only if we strain our eyes and grant a lot of leeway and suspension of disbelief to our hearing of the myth. Harry's world is one in which the coinage of power is the "magical" use of magic--something Voldemort fails at and Harry succeeds in, primarily because Harry is willing to offer himself to death and Voldemort not.

All well and good … sounds Christ-like, doesn't it? … until … until …

… until we look at Harry's mug-shot a little more closely. I admit that the Harry Potter series appeals to me, and I can therefore understand why it appeals to so many others … it fits the characteristically pagan and characteristically human view of the cosmos--one in which we finally, with the right gesture, the right mixture of virtue, effort, luck, and the self-defeating nature of the evil powers of the universe, make everything right and still get to do it our way.

None of this is to belittle Harry, any more than it would be to belittle Odysseus for finally making it back to Ithaca the pagan way. For those old pagan ways were the faint shadows, distant echoes, and hand-shaped-cloud forerunners of the Truth that was to come. When Odysseus does return home, Homer makes sure it is due to the intervention of Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Now that Christ is at home with us in the Eucharist, we can see that even the folly of man's old pagan myths was all along the wisdom of God.

In this way, the Harry Potter series is not evil in itself nor do its characteristics and story necessarily breed demonism or lead children to witchcraft. It does represent a throwback to an outmoded worldview--the idea that we must find the right magic to unlock the trapdoors of the universe. And to that extent, it is deceptive. But what about generations of Christians who have read the classic myths and epics as a way to marvel over the mysterious footprints in the sand and fingerprints of God in history?

Should we be horrified over Catholics who might see in Harry's use of the Resurrection Stone a sketchy footprinted path to the Communion of Saints or in his "first death" at the hands of Voldemort an evaporating fingerprint of the Passion?

Why even note such things when we do have the Communion of Saints with us (without the conjuring of the Resurrection Stone) and when we do have more than a mere fingerprint but all of Christ in the Precious Body and Blood?

The answer has something to do with what Michael D. O'Brien and others have astutely called "the twilight of the west." We are living in a time in which many of us have already slipped back into a pagan worldview without the backdrop of Christendom … for many have already abandoned the Christ.

The only reason we can dimly see, as if in a warped mirror, saintly and Passion-ate glints of truth in a work of juvenile fiction is because we already have received the Truth of the Christ. The Faithful can take comfort in the Truth that, if anyone finds anything good in the Harry Potter series, it comes from the Author of all good--God Himself. For the devil makes no good (and, if history and the Scriptures are any indication, he does a stumblebum job of parodying God's goods--for his parodies always lay the groundwork for grace; indeed, one gets the feeling that, though Satan is horribly earnest in his efforts, he is indeed the only power who does not see that his worst plots are little more than parodies--Milton has caught some wind of this).

That we often fall for such parody says more about original sin than it does about stories, myths, and life itself.

But what of modern pagans? I don't mean that ancient Greeks and Romans are walking among us again today. Oh, would that they were! There were souls, conscious of our fallibility and tragic bent, who flocked to the comic story of the Christ at a time when civilization was crumbling. Only such a myth-glutted and Truth-starved civilization could produce Lawrence, Sebastian, Helen, and hosts of others!

No, in the time of our would-be tragic civilization, we are besieged by a growing population of would-be pagans who might put their ancient counterparts to the blush. For these modern pagans not only reject the Christ but also the old pagan mythologies. To what, then, would they flock but a juvenile literary series that throws off faint, dying embers of the Christ Whom they shun (but still innately need) and the magical cosmos (that they desperately miss), which they have technologized into nothing but dead matter?

I say "they," but I should rightly utter "we." If some Catholics praise Harry Potter as a Christ figure, what are we the Church trading upon that makes a Harry Potter so charismatic in the Real Presence of the Resurrected Christ? L'Osservatore Romano's review seems at best to say that we should embrace Harry because his story is not overly evil. Faint praise? Or a damning admission that we Catholics are very wanting some real good?

And what of fools like me who have read the entire series and allowed his children to do so? Have I been inviting them to sup in a septic tank (as Michael D. O'Brien has coined it) only because I've scented some honey in the cesspool?

Well, I am a fool. I know it. For, in the past, I rebelled against Christ and His Church because I thought I could navigate and negotiate good and evil on my own terms. Now that I am back in the fold, could I not be committing the same error in, well, actually finding the Harry Potter books entertaining even if they are not literary triumphs? Redeeming even if they throw off only faint sparks of the real Christ and the real Passion?

Perhaps. But I take some comfort in this thought: namely, that the ancient mythologies were testimony of God working even in the cesspools of human imagination. We always need to recall that our imaginative capacities are indeed cesspools in comparison to a Beloved who can utter "LIGHT!" and there is light. Nonetheless, our imaginations remain created sparks of that Light which has shone forth in the darkness. Our honey is not transformed into septic water, no matter how choking the filth and fumes of the waste surrounding it.

You and I as Catholics don't need Harry Potter in order to encounter the Light that overcomes the darkness. But is it not magical in the sense of the ancient myths that, even in the midst of what appears a cesspool of culture (and of what appears to be a decaying civilization that can't even parody its pagan forebears) that Harry Potter, amidst the muck, STILL points to, even dimly, the Christ?

God's Truth and Beauty shine forth in all things, no matter how warped they are by evil. Evil is the parody. God is the Truth. And for a parody--unwitting or intended--to be a parody, it has to flash a faint flicker of the thing it parodies.

Harry is no Christ. We--pagans and Catholics--all of us--live and breathe in the same culture, we trod through the same muck. Many, many unChurched souls, yes, are deceived by the Harry-Potter-like parodies that abound in our culture, the false Christs, the anti-Christs that seek to lure our eyes away from our Beloved, the One True Christ. Sadly, many Churched souls willingly trade the Christ in for a Harry Potter or two. I've done it myself.

But just because Harry Potter can be a means of error does not mean that one author's attempt to tell a story and millions of readers adherence to those stories are a damnable thing. Truth be told, I like the Seventh Book of the Harry Potter series. And I have willingly engaged with my now-adult children in their reading of the series. But like the pagan myths of old, this new, diminished pagan myth can't help but point to the Christ, even amidst its confusion. Perhaps its willing use of evil means to triumph over evil is the cause of its less-than-literary-classic quality. Or perhaps the limited imagination of its author's literary ability leads to an ethically, philosophically, and mythologically crippled worldview (namely, that we can fight evil with its own powers).

Despite all that, Harry's triumph over Voldemort is likable and entertaining--somewhat in the same sense that Perseus' triumph over the Medusa and Kraken is likable and entertaining. And in the same way that Gran Torino's Walt Kowalski triumphs over the villainous Hmong gang is entertaining. Despite that, I am not converted to Harryism. Even if some take Perseus, Deepak Chopra, or Clint Eastwood as their saviors, I will have only the Christ.

And I will take Christ as he peeks at me in my muck, even in Harry Potter.

Having read the Harry Potter series, and having allowed my children to do so, I can tell you that I am better equipped to greet Christ--not because Harry is a Christ, but because Christ is Christ:

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:        
                  Praise him. (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

So, the next time we walk down an Emmaus Road with a modern-pagan or Catholic fan of Harry Potter, let's none of us worry about which one of us is Cleopas or Christ. Though the two of us might be strange to each other, let our hearts be on fire even if the only thing we have in common is that we've read Harry Potter. Christ will reveal Himself to us in the breaking of that bread (which is all the mug-shot sorting we need.)

And, if you've no intention of reading Harry Potter, then trot with Philip down a desert road and help an Ethiopian or two with Isaiah 53:7-8.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Bishop Tripped, Episode 9

©Randall A. Beeler, 2011
This installment of theComedy is part of an original novel I am writing, called The Bishop Tripped: the story of a man, who, disillusioned, seeks to escape his life, only to be mistaken for a bishop--all the way to the miter, crozier, and diocesan bureaucracy.

None of this writing is edited. It is written as it happens, with every post I blog. No premeditation, other than a story trajectory in my imagination and the characters who will take it and run with it.

To start at the beginning of the story, either scroll down to, or click on, Episode 1.
So, live and as it happens, here is the next installment of The Bishop Tripped …

Carmelo Cardinal Pastore, the Apostolic Nuncio, ladled out his third bowl of gumbo with relish. The man was gaunt (though not in that Shakespearian-villain-"Yond-Cassius-has-a-lean-and-hungry-look" way). It was all Michael could do not to utter the old witticism, "Where'r you puttin' all that? Ya got a hollow leg?"

But the food did not keep the Cardinal from observing everything he could about the new Archbishop. "Archbishop Christopher, when you were in Santa Fe, you did not host the Nuncial delegation to Diocesan cooking. No, only the finest of Santa Fe's finest restaurants. Yet here we are, just you and I this time, in the humble Archdiocesan kitchen, eating microwaved gumbo--delicious gumbo nonetheless."

Michael swallowed the last of his second bowl. "Your Eminence, Naomi made the gumbo--she is a master chef in her own right. But she also has a husband and grandchildren to cook for. I take the microwave as a trade-off for having the best home-cooked food in the Bayou City. You don't seem to be suffering, eh?"

The Nuncio paused over his spoon. Michael wasn't sure if he'd made the old scarecrow choke. Then a bellowing Pavarotti laugh bubbled up from his frail-looking chest. "Si! I'm not going to say that the Nuncial accommodations are wanting, but I do fast quite a bit--sometimes, however, on my visits, the local cooking makes such fasts obligatory! Ha!"

The old man was cagey, and Michael was not going to take this little joke as a reason to back down one inch from that gaze that took in everything. "Well, you are certainly welcome for a Houston layover any time that such penances strike you unawares."

Again, the good Cardinal bellowed, then grabbed his stemware of wine. "But you do not--how do you say?--skimp on the wine. It is not Italian, but it reminds me of my hometown, Gubbio."

"Actually, your Eminence, it's not that expensive at all. I never was a wine lover until my w--, I mean my--my best friend introduced me to it as something not just for snobs. This is a surprisingly inexpensive Malbec Terazza from Chile. The Italian notes in it are well-earned--the vintage is from a family and vines that emigrated from Perugia to the terraces in Chile, the same way they did back home."

The Cardinal again paused, this time smiling as he relished the wine. "You picked this for me, I see. I am no 'snob' as you say. And neither are you, Bishop Christopher. You never have been."

"Thank you, Your Eminence."

"But other things have changed since we last dined in Santa Fe."

It was Michael's turn to pause. "Oh?"

"Si, you are more guarded, like you protect something. But you have completely dispensed with the foolhardy attempt at romanitá. It is not that I prize the habitual cunning pursuit of intrigue that some unfortunates wield in Rome; there is a reason I am in America, eh? It is just that, when not in Rome, American bishops would do well to not do as the romanitás, shall we say."

Despite his wariness, Michael found that he could not help liking this man.

The Cardinal continued, "You are more yourself, but you are not yourself. It is as if you have arrived home safe only to find that it is someone else's empty home, like Chesterton's Manalive."

Michael's brow arched. "You read Chesterton, Your Eminence?"

"And Belloc. And Lewis. And Newman. These English today are not what they were. But then, perhaps, we nuncios are not what we should be today. Chesterton reminds me of what I am made to be. I fail, but so do you, eh?"

"Frankly, Your Eminence, I fail to see why I am here."

The Nuncio took another sip of the vine, then waved his hand. "Ah, the usual question--'Why me, Your Eminence?' All of you ask it, and it is a good question. More to the point, though, is how you are here."

"You mean you are going to reveal to me what led you to recommend me to Rome as Archbishop?"

Smiling, the Cardinal dipped back into his gumbo. "Perhaps." Loud slurp. The man was not worried about showing his enjoyment of the meal. Naomi was right--they all are really men. "I refer to the curious means by which you entered this city--a curiosity that has not escaped the clerics at the Nuncial offices."

Michael's stomach dropped, then a wave of relief surged over him. "Uh, Your Eminence, I was hoping you could shed more light on that for me. I was at the airport, then I blacked out. No one here seems to be able--or to want--to tell me any details."

"We are, how do you say? 'sketchy' on those points. You were found unconscious in a Dallas airport bathroom stall. We might have thought you had been assaulted and robbed, yet all your personal items were still with you, and the medical tests show no signs of a blow to the head. You remained comatose until in Houston. You know the rest."

"Sadly, Your Eminence, I don't. Much, if not all of my previous tenure in New Mexico is opaque to me. I have been reading all the minutes and records--including my personal journal--that I retrieved from Santa Fe. I feel like I am reading the life of another man. So, hopefully, you can see why I have been reluctant to immediately assume my duties here in Houston. I am not the man I was, and I'm hoping you can tell me who I am supposed to be as the Archbishop … such a question is obviously not romanitá but a frank admission that perhaps your expectations of me can no longer be what they were, Cardinal Pastore. I am not fit for this work, and that is no mere dose of humble piety. Why am I here?"

Michael wanted to tell him so badly, but he literally could not form the words to say "I'm not who you think I am!" And even if he could say such a thing to the Apostolic Nuncio, wouldn't it have the same effect--even on this astute and holy soul--that it had had on everyone in Houston? They all thought he was such a humble servant, patiently admitting his unworthiness.

Surprisingly, the Cardinal was not surprised. "Pfaw, Bishop Christopher! Do you think I think myself worthy of the work? None of us are qualified. Your admission smacks of no humility but is an observation of the obvious. All of us are frauds, right down to Saint Peter himself, sinking in the Sea of Galilee. You would do well to forget your past struggles and dive into this work like we are doing with this gumbo. Delicious!" He drank the rest of the bowl, shrimp and all.

Dabbing his mouth with the napkin, he pushed aside the bowl with a loud scrape on the kitchen table and eyed Michael, staring straight into his heart. "I recommended you, but His Holiness chose you for good reason. We have problems in Houston and America. Many thought that you were not the man for the work here--you played things too straight, too American, in Santa Fe, they said. But I see differently, and you are showing me now that I was right and that the Episcopacy committee in Houston was right about you."

Michael put his head in his hands, exasperated. "Right about what? I'm-- I'm--empty, Your Eminence. I'm alone here. I know nobody. I have no auxiliary bishops. I have a Diocesan Vicar who's very sure he knows every move I should make, right down to what clothes I should wear. I know nothing about 'how things are done' in Houston, nor what the problems are to which you refer. This isn't what my life is supposed to be, isn't what it had been … and I'm caught here, in the middle."

Something lit up in the Cardinal's gleaming hazel eyes. "Ah, what a place to be, Father! Like in your first pastoral appointment! There is a trite saying, my friend, but trite does not necessarily mean 'untrue': 'The present is a gift--that is why it is called the present!'"

Michael stared bewildered at the empty bowls on the table between them.

The Cardinal dove into the breach. "You need not explore your past--it is no precedent here. You need not look at the Archdiocese's past--for that is its problem. You need not worry about the future--auxiliaries will come; after all, the word, 'auxiliary' in the Latin means 'help.' And you do know somebody here. You are quite sensitive to the dignity of your housekeeper, Naomi, her family, and the truth that she is a human being. You know her as a Shepherd should."

That struck a chord in Michael, a tiny little ringing as of Christmas bells, signally the Light's breaching of the darkness he had been in. He had never thought there could be any other way with Naomi--it was natural to him to receive her blessings as eagerly as he would a bowl of her gumbo.

He looked up with a flash in his eye at the Nuncio.

"Yes!" urged the Cardinal. "Give yourself away. You are a present to Houston and the Church. Now be present to us all while staying in the Presence of our Lord. Let's go, you and I, bellies full of gumbo, to kneel before His Presence in the chapel, and you and I, my brother, will know that no matter where we are, He will always give us, His prodigal brothers, a bowl of soup."

After they knelt for what seemed hours, the two brothers talked of things until the light of dawn peered into the chapel. Later that morning, the Nuncio left, and Michael knew something of what he had to do.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Bishop Tripped, Episode 8

©Randall A. Beeler, 2011
This installment of theComedy is part of an original novel I am writing, called The Bishop Tripped: the story of a man, who, disillusioned, seeks to escape his life, only to be mistaken for a bishop--all the way to the miter, crozier, and diocesan bureaucracy.

None of this writing is edited. It is written as it happens, with every post I blog. No premeditation, other than a story trajectory in my imagination and the characters who will take it and run with it.

To start at the beginning of the story, either scroll down to, or click on, Episode 1.
So, live and as it happens, here is the next installment of The Bishop Tripped …

"Your Excellency, you do realize that the Papal Nuncio will be in attendance at your installation Mass." The Diocesan Vicar's eyebrows were raised. "You have to at least concelebrate. And I still don't see the wisdom in having me preside."

"Let the Papal Nuncio concelebrate. I will kneel at the Altar rail as an unworthy servant should," said Michael, waving his hand in the air, weary of the discussion.

"But Archbishop, I-- I-- it's not my place to celebrate this Mass. Let the Nuncio preside."

"No, Mat--I mean, Monsignor Morelli. I am setting a precedent for my visits to the parishes of the Archdiocese."

Matt, apparently also wearied by the debate rubbed his brows and murmured, "Well, Bishop, it's certainly not a precedent you set in Santa Fe. You said all your own Masses there, at every visit. And you are known for your preaching--"

"I will still preach a word for the weary, Monsignor. I just don't need to be front-and-center."

Matt sighed. "I just don't understand, Your Excellency. This is highly irregular. Rome will inquire."

"These are highly irregular times, Monsignor. And if Rome inquires, I will obediently answer. Subsidiarity is still a hallmark of the See of Peter."

At the Mass of Installation, the Nuncio did indeed show a reaction--which was no reaction. He stared straight ahead, but his eyes saw everything. Even when the Nuncio's gaze seemed to be taking in the congregation or the mosaics that lined the far-away vestibule, Michael felt they were looking straight into his lie.

The only time Michael was relieved of their yoke was when he preached, as he had said to Matt, "a word to the weary." If only the gathered knew how much of it was a word preached to himself:

Fresh from the waters and resplendent in these garments, God’s holy people hasten to the altar of Christ, saying: I will go in to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth. They have sloughed off the old skin of error, their youth renewed like an eagle’s, and they make haste to approach that heavenly banquet. They come and, seeing the sacred altar prepared, cry out: You have prepared a table in my sight. David puts these words into their mouths: The Lord is my shepherd and nothing will be lacking to me. He has set me down there in a place of pasture. He has brought me beside refreshing water. Further on, we read: For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall not be afraid of evils, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff have given me comfort. You have prepared in my sight a table against those who afflict me. You have made my head rich in oil, and your cup, which exhilarates, how excellent it is. 
It is wonderful that God rained manna on our fathers and they were fed with daily food from heaven. And so it is written: Man ate the bread of angels. Yet those who ate that bread all died in the desert. But the food that you receive, that living bread which came down from heaven, supplies the very substance of eternal life, and whoever will eat it will never die, for it is the body of Christ. 
Consider now which is the more excellent: the bread of angels or the flesh of Christ, which is indeed the body that gives life. The first was manna from heaven, the second is above the heavens. One was of heaven, the other is of the Lord of the heavens; one subject to corruption if it was kept till the morrow, the other free from all corruption, for if anyone tastes of it with reverence he will be incapable of corruption. For our fathers, water flowed from the rock; for you, blood flows from Christ. Water satisfied their thirst for a time; blood cleanses you for ever. The Jew drinks and still thirsts, but when you drink you will be incapable of thirst. What happened in symbol is now fulfilled in reality.
After Mass, one of the acolytes, a young graduate engineering student named Daniel, kept staring at him as they disrobed in the sacristy. When the other celebrants had left, he approached Michael, tentatively. "Int-teresting hom-m-ily, B-bishop Christ-t-t-opher," he stuttered.

Michael looked at him hard. The stutter was not so much out of trepidation--rather, the young man had a speech impediment. Under that sincere gaze, Michael felt more exposed to the light than he had with anything the Nuncio said or did. He answered as honestly as he could. "I felt I needed to hear it--as a reminder of what the Eucharist is. I--I … don't ever want to toy with it."

Daniel now stared at him harder. "They w-weren't your words, Your Excellence, b-but they were g-good words, and you had the c-courage to p-p-preach them to us."

Michael's brows rose higher than Matt's ever could. "You have a good ear, son. And you're well read. They aren't my words--their Bishop Saint Ambrose's from roughly 1,600 years ago. And I needed the courage to preach them to me."

Daniel paused and finally looked down. When his eyes met Michael's again, a smile curled at the corners of the young man's mouth. "I wish m-more Bishops would p-preach the Church Fathers. All of us n-need to hear them n-n-new."

Michael blushed and stuttered out, "I had nothing else to say. I'm-I'm empty."

Clear as a bell, Daniel answered, "It is in your weakness that He perfects you."

As the young man left him, the Noon Angelus bells were ringing in some universe in the Cathedral far above the sacristy. And Michael saw himself in the mirror again as a new man.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Bishop Tripped, Episode 7

©Randall A. Beeler, 2011
This installment of theComedy is part of an original novel I am writing, called The Bishop Tripped: the story of a man, who, disillusioned, seeks to escape his life, only to be mistaken for a bishop--all the way to the miter, crozier, and diocesan bureaucracy.

None of this writing is edited. It is written as it happens, with every post I blog. No premeditation, other than a story trajectory in my imagination and the characters who will take it and run with it.

To start at the beginning of the story, either scroll down to, or click on, Episode 1.
So, live and as it happens, here is the next installment of The Bishop Tripped …

The knock on the study door broke in on what he had been reading from one of the old but very well preserved books left by bishops long dead:
Be disposed to follow Jesus wherever He wants. He chose poverty, humiliations, the cross. Will I not also receive these gifts since He created me, preserves me in life and has freed me from Hell? Still better, He has suffered for thirty years all kinds of pain in order to finally die on the cross as the most foul of men, and I would not want to suffer anything for His love?
The quote was Saint Teresa of the Andes, but the visitor was Naomi, come, presumably, to do some dusting. She was checking on him more frequently. "Hello, Naomi."

"Good morning, Bishop Chris," she said over her dusting, trying not to look like she was looking at what he was doing with himself. "Mah, mah, you is de reading-est Bishop I ever saw here. De rest of 'em jes kept a goin' from dawn to midnight. And when dey wasn't goin', dey was on de computer, a typin' away."

Michael lowered the book and looked up at her from the wingback chair. "Well, I haven't had much time to read of late. I thought I'd take that chance while I had it."

"Uh-huh," Naomi grunted as she continued to dust the same lamp for the third time.

Michael might as well as let this go on. He'd been foolish enough to have even responded to her first sally. "You don't like reading, Naomi?"

"I loves to read. Das one of de things I was praised for in school. I got my favorites, and I read 'em when  I can."

"Buuuuuut … come on, Naomi, spit out whatever's bothering you about my reading."

That did it. The feather duster dropped to her side, one arm akimbo, the other hand waving like she was in the pulpit of the Church of the Wise Virgins' Lamp. "Now, Bishop, you deserves to read as much as de next man, but dere is a time to read and a time fo' doin'. Dat bump on yo' head is long gone. You has got to git doin' so that when you do read, it's a well-deserved rest!"

Michael smiled. "Naomi, why do I get the idea that several of my predecessor's regularly got the benefit of your wisdom?"

"Well now, some o' dem wasn't too keen on me talkin' at all. So I jes shut mah mouth an' let de actions do de talkin'. Some others just let me rattle on and paid me no heed till I was outta de room. Doan' matter. You bishops is men, but Bishop Chris, even a man has gots to do what he's called to do."

Laying the book aside, Michael rubbed his brow and leaned forward. "But Naomi, where do I begin? There's so much I don't know. I'm not the man for this job … I'm a fraud."

Naomi paused, her preachin' hand stalled mid-air. "Now I ain't evah heard no bishop say dat."

She paused to collect her thoughts. If Michael hadn't been sincerely asking her about what was troubling him, he might've relished the feat of having shocked her silence--even if the pause was only momentary.

Her preachin'-hand's index finger was on her chin. "Now, I'm not sayin' dey didn't think dat, but dey never woulda said it to no one, least of all de cleanin' lady!"

Michael cringed; he was exposed. Might as well happen this way--it was a deserved berating he was about to get, one that measured up to his ever thinking that he could pull off this deception. And why was he even doing it in the first place?

Naomi stared at him for what seemed like a full minute. Yet, her eyes were not focused on him. They saw something he could not see.

Then, the preachin'-hand shot up in the air again. "What you said is so true dat, it doan' bear repeating--cause it's so plain on de face. But dat's de best start you kin make! Of course you ain't up to de job! Who is?"

"Naomi, you hardly understand--I am not qualified to do the job. I can't even say Mass the right way."

A big laugh rolled out of Naomi. "Hah-haaaah! Lawdy, Bishop, ain't nobody done Mass de right way since way back when dey changed ever'thin'! I'm not sayin' we should go back to whatevah we was doin'--I wasn't even Catholic den, it was marrying mah husbad dat made me dat way--I'm jes sayin' dat all you priests seems to have yo variations and what not. Lawdy, everbuddies' heads a-spin when a new bishop comes here, 'cuz it's crazy tryin' to predict what dis one is gonna wanna do. How 'bout followin' de book, huh? Das a place to start fo' you. Dat's where you should be readin' up! Certainly would shock de socks offa ever'buddy hear if you was to do things de right way, dat's fo' sho! I doan' think anybody knows what dat is 'cuz we ain't never seen it! Hah-haaaaaaaa!"

The lamp being the only thing dusted--and that to perfection--Naomi left him there, his mouth hanging open, her job apparently done.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Bishop Tripped, Episode 6

©Randall A. Beeler, 2011
This installment of theComedy is part of an original novel I am writing, called The Bishop Tripped: the story of a man, who, disillusioned, seeks to escape his life, only to be mistaken for a bishop--all the way to the miter, crozier, and diocesan bureaucracy.

None of this writing is edited. It is written as it happens, with every post I blog. No premeditation, other than a story trajectory in my imagination and the characters who will take it and run with it.

To start at the beginning of the story, either scroll down to, or click on, Episode 1.
So, live and as it happens, here is the next installment of The Bishop Tripped …

… and not himself. At least not himself as he looked now--but the self he'd been when he'd taken the freeway exit to go to Love Field instead of to AmiCorp. He was the Archbishop now, an archbishop who looked incredibly like himself.

… and the gardener was … who was this gardener? Michael knew it was himself in the mirror two weeks ago. But who was that man now?

"You musta been stung already, 'cuz yer not saying a thing. What are ya in anaphylactic shock or sumthin'?"

That voice definitely was not his.

"Who are you?" Michael demanded.

The gardener just smiled and whispered to him, "Michael …"

Michael shook the scales from his eyes. "You!" he nearly shouted, then looked about to see if anyone else was in the garden.

"Don't worry," the gardener waved his hand. "There's no flaming swords around here." Then he wobbled his head and scanned the garden in a gesture of summation. "Of course, there ain't no trees of life here … yet."

"You!! You're the Bishop--from the airport!"

The gardener chuckled. "I can see that you still haven't shook off the--what'd they call it?--oh yeah, 'trauma' you suffered in the airport restroom. He's real astute, this one."

Sarcasm was the last thing Michael expected at this moment, but, then again, he'd thrown away expectations when, at that moment of truth with Matt last week, he'd adopted the rôle of Bishop. "What are you doing here?" he demanded.

The dungaree-covered version of Michael held his arms opened wide (a shovel in his right hand) and scanned the garden. "I'm the gardener!" he hollered.

"Sshhh! Maybe we should take this outside the garden--"

"Hah!" guffawed the gardener. "He wants to take it outside! Boy, we're already outside! Anyway, you don't much seem to fancy flying the cover of this coop. Of course, covers are what yer all about, eh?"

"SShhh," Michael hissed. "I mean, take it outside the garden, into my, um, study."

"Your study? Boy, he's taken on airs!" Michael got the disturbing feeling that the gardener wasn't talking to him so much as to an audience surrounding them in the clouds. "That is, if you were being honest with yourself (and others) my study. And this is my garden that yer pecking around in. You're here on sufferance, son. Anyway, I ain't too keen on goin' anywhere with you. I'm liking this little role-playing I'm getting to do a lot more than I'd liked being a bishop. That's your job now."

And Michael could never remember how it happened, but the gardener turned around and was gone. He didn't *poof*, didn't walk away. He just turned around and was gone.

From the other side of the grape arbor, he could here the snipping of clippers. He raced around to find the gardener but saw only Miguel.

"Good day, Bishop Christopher," paused Miguel over the hedge he was clipping. "Are you alright?"

"No, I'm not really feeling myself," Michael said and stumbled away, never naming himself for Miguel.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Bishop Tripped, Episode 5

©Randall A. Beeler, 2011
This installment of theComedy is part of an original novel I am writing, called The Bishop Tripped: the story of a man, who, disillusioned, seeks to escape his life, only to be mistaken for a bishop--all the way to the miter, crozier, and diocesan bureaucracy.

None of this writing is edited. It is written as it happens, with every post I blog. No premeditation, other than a story trajectory in my imagination and the characters who will take it and run with it.

To start at the beginning of the story, either scroll down to, or click on, Episode 1.
So, live and as it happens, here is the next installment of The Bishop Tripped …
The most difficult thing was going to be saying Mass, but Michael figured that he could beg off that for the time being based on his recent trauma, whatever that was. What bothered him most about this ruse was that he couldn't bring himself to violate the mark of the priesthood. Oh, he knew the Mass--how could he forget it? But to say it would be a defamation, a blasphemy. He wasn't a priest--but he seemed to be the only soul around this place that knew that!

Everyone fawned on him, except the housekeeper, Naomi. She didn't seem fazed by anybody. "Bishop Chris, I've seen mah share o' Bishops and Archbishops and what not. You all is men, with bellies and hearts and good souls. It ain't that I ain't a good Catholic or that I don't respect what de bishop do. Nope, I love you all. I jes always 'member that you is men. Y'know, I wash all de underwear, now don' I?"

He tried to stay around Naomi as much as would be plausible for "Bishop Christopher" while he "recuperated."

Speaking of which, he actually felt fine, like a load had been lifted. Yes, there was a dull ache for the mansion in his heart where Mara dwelt, but that room was locked up for the time being. He spent his time reading--mainly the General Instruction on the Roman Missal and Canon Law. Of course he said his Daily Office--he had never given that up, even when he'd left the path to the priesthood in his Diaconal year.

The Episcopal gardens were his favorite haunt. Easter was early this year, so the lilies were still blooming, and the Houston heat-miasma index had not yet reached the fourth-circle-of-Hades proportions that it would come Summer. He'd sit under the mustang grape arbor and read Morning Prayer, the bees around him humming like they had come alive straight out of the Papal Coat-of-Arms donated to the Archdiocese by John Paul II during his  papal visit to Texas. He'd refused any advances from Matt regarding the media and exposure to the flock--things he knew he couldn't long put off.

"Your Excellence, the laity will be wondering what has become of you. As of yet, no one knows of how we found you in the Dallas airport men's room, unconscious and bleeding at the temples. Thankfully, Airport Security have not allowed the matter to reach the police blotter, but the media, especially the Catholic Press, are awaiting a statement and some sign that you have taken up residence. Moreover, your installment Mass is next Sunday."

Michael just nodded as he had walked down the ochre-carpeted hall to "his" study. "Well, Msgr. Morelli, a personage as distinguished as Abraham Lincoln had to sneak into Washington in disguise and under the cover of early morning darkness. He made out fine, I believe."

Matt paused. "Your Excellence, he was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth."

Michael nodded and murmured to himself as he paused over the remembered conversation, "Well, it could've been worse--he could've been shot in the heart and bled out …"

"You'll more than murmur if one of them bees stings you!" said a voice from behind. He turned and saw the green-clothed, sweat-stained back of the gardener, a personage he'd had yet to meet. Name of Miguel.

When the gardener turned, Michael was stung by the face he saw … for it was himself.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Bishop Tripped, Episode 4

©Randall A. Beeler, 2011
This installment of the Comedy is part of an original novel I am writing, called The Bishop Tripped: the story of a man, who, disillusioned, seeks to escape his life, only to be mistaken for a bishop--all the way to the miter, crozier, and diocesan bureaucracy.

None of this writing is edited. It is written as it happens, with every post I blog. No premeditation, other than a story trajectory in my imagination and the characters who will take it and run with it.

To start at the beginning of the story, either scroll down to, or click on, Episode 1.
So, live and as it happens, here is the next installment of The Bishop Tripped
His eyes opened, and he saw Matt at his bedside, praying the Breviary.  The Diocesan Vicar looked up and stared hard at him, an unguarded look on his face that Michael had seen rarely, even at seminary. "Who are you?" the Vicar asked Michael.

"Where I am--I mean, where am I?" Michael responded groggily. "This ain't the hospital, so I'm trusting that I won't be sledgehammered again by another syringe-wielding doctor."

The Vicar sighed, "An unfortunate precautionary measure, Your Excellency. Obviously, the hospital was disorienting you. We thought the Episcopal Residence would provide greater comfort and a chance for you to get settled."

Obviously, this wasn't a joke. Matt was dead serious about this whole Bishop thing. "So we're in the Archdiocese of Houston, right?"

The Vicar looked cautiously reassured. "Yes, indeed we are … your new home."

Michael looked around the room--a four-poster bed, flat-light-olive walls tastefully decorated in turn-of-the-century art work and furnishings, including a nightstand, bureau, wardrobe, bookcase, and prie-dieu, from over which an icon of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel stared at him. "Genuine hardwood floors and a Persian rug. Very nice. All the comforts the faithful can provide," Michael murmured.

"Yes, Your Excellence. We in Houston are quite proud of our heritage in Texas, and I know you must be anxious about your ascendancy to an arch-bishopric. We've been worried about the confusion you showed at the hospital. I'm glad to see that transporting you here has taken off some of the edge."

Michael stared at Matt for a good ten seconds during which his old seminary friend never broke character. He was in earnest--this thing, whatever it was, was real.

"Do you have a mirror I can glance at?"

Matt retrieved a small shaving mirror from the bathroom and handed it to him.

Michael couldn't hide the flinch as he saw himself--as someone else. He stared longer at the reflected image a lot longer than he had at Matt.

It was him, and it was not him. The face staring back at him was more worn with cares than he'd remembered, as if the breach with Mara had taken a toll on him that was not revealed till now. Still staring into the mirror, he raised his left hand to his temple to touch the white hair that had never before been there … till now … he looked like Dad had just before he'd …

"Bishop Christopher," asked Matt. "Are you alright?"

Slowly, Michael lowered the mirror and prepared to meet the gaze of the Vicar. This was a moment of decision. He could again try to shake this dream--this amnesia, this nightmare, once and for all. He could get up and scream like a madman that he was no Bishop, that he was far from home, that he was married, for Christ's sake!

Or he could play along. Could be someone else for a while.

His gaze met Matt's.

After all, isn't that what he'd wanted when he'd left Mara in darkness?
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The Bishop Tripped, Episode 3

©2011, Randall A. Beeler
This installment of the Comedy is part of an original novel I am writing, called The Bishop Tripped: the story of a man, who, disillusioned, seeks to escape his life, only to be mistaken for a bishop--all the way to the miter, crozier, and diocesan bureaucracy.

None of this writing is edited. It is written as it happens, with every post I blog. No premeditation, other than a story trajectory in my imagination and the characters who will take it and run with it.

To start at the beginning of the story, either scroll down to or click on Episode 1.
So, live and as it happens, here is the next installment of The Bishop Tripped
He couldn't face Mara. So he left for work in the pre-dawn hours.

They'd set up a home for a family, living farther out of the Metroplex so that they could afford a house on his salary alone.

But the kids hadn't come. They'd tried so many doctors, with nothing precluded as to the cause of infertility. The possibilities abounded--it could be her, after all, her mother'd had a history of endometreosis. Endless sperms counts proved inconclusive--sometimes up, sometimes down. They'd even tried the most reliable method, Creighton, tracking her cycle. Nothing. No answers.

He worked hard, and she deserved better. The more that she didn't hold him guilty, that she just took it and received just his presence as a gift, the more he hated himself and stared back at her with recrimination. He could've taken blame and abandonment from her. Things hadn't worked out the way they'd planned them. But she stayed like it was … natural, like it was her duty. And that he couldn't abide. Duty, not love.

So, he'd made himself a ghost to her long before he was gone.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Bishop Tripped, Episode 2

©2011, Randall A. Beeler
This installment of the Comedy is part of an original novel I am writing, called The Bishop Tripped: the story of a man, who, disillusioned, seeks to escape his life, only to be mistaken for a bishop--all the way to the miter, crozier, and diocesan bureaucracy.

None of this writing is edited. It is written as it happens, with every post I blog. No premeditation, other than a story trajectory in my imagination and the characters who will take it and run with it.

To start at the beginning of the story, either scroll down to or click on Episode 1.
So, live and as it happens, here is the next installment of The Bishop Tripped
When Mat-the-wanna-be-Diocesan-Vicar returned, he had Dr. Barfield in tow. "Matt, c'mon!" protested Michael. "The joke's gone too far. What the heck is going on here? And I'm getting out of this hospital bed, if only to pee."

The Diocesan Vicar shot a knowing glance at Dr. Barfield, and the two conferees started whispering together while Michael, on somewhat rubbery legs trotted to the toilet to answer the call of nature. He was in such a hurry that he never closed the door and noticed that Matt hastily did so behind him.

While he stood there pondering the thoughts of a peeing man, he tried to sort things out. Was he drugged up? Did someone slip him a roofie? He didn't feel drugged. Confused, yes, but not under-the-influence. And why were those two clowns out there still, uh … clowning around? If only he could remember what the heck had gone on in the last 24. With a sharp pang, he recalled that he'd driven to Love Field instead of going to work--he'd wanted to escape … Mara.

He shook his head to clear out the cobwebs and push down the memory. Shake the dew off the lily and go out there to get these guys straight.

He stepped out and started shedding his ultra-chic hospital gown. Matt immediately tried to turn Barfield away. "For crissakes, Matt! We were on the seminary swim team together--and he's a doctor for cryin' out loud!"

He stood there in the buff, now, arms akimbo, head swinging back-and-forth, searching the room. "Where the heck are my clothes?"

He spied the closet and immediately moved that way. Matt picked up Michael's shed gown and tried to step between Michael and the closet. "Uh, Bishop Christopher, Dr. Barfield and I both think you should reconsider going anywhere today. Why not put the gown back on or, um, if you prefer, just get back into bed, um … the way you are?"

"Yes," Dr. Barfield concurred. "Although we cannot discover a blow to the head, all your tests indicate trauma-like effects to your cerebrum, especially the frontal lobe, which governs inhibitions. To put it bluntly, Bishop, you are not yourself."

Michael opened the closet to find black clericals and the same pectoral cross the Bishop had been wearing. Turning to them, he held out the clothes and said, "Fellas, you certainly are thorough, all the way down to the civvies. Look, I don't know what's going on here, but it's no longer amusing. I've got a life to live, alright? And it has nothing to do with being a Bishop. Now, dammit, let me call Mara, and get the hell back to Dallas."

At the mention of the name, Mara, Matt's eyebrow shot up, and he glanced at Dr. Barfield who was already swinging into action. "You're right," said Barfield. "We aren't amusing, are we? Here, let me take those clothes away and get you your regular ones."

Michael started to hand over the clericals to the Doctor, but instead of taking them, Barfield simply grabbed his left arm and injected a syringe into the valve protruding from Michael's IV tape. Too swiftly, the blackness returned.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Bishop Tripped, Episode 1

©2011, Randall A. Beeler
Greetings to all those who follow The Catholic Comedy. As many of you know, this site has been less active than normal due to busy-ness in my work and family life. However, in an effort to renew the Comedy, I am trying something different.

This installment of the Comedy is part of an original novel I am writing, called The Bishop Tripped: the story of a man, who, disillusioned, seeks to escape his life, only to be mistaken for a bishop--all the way to the miter, crozier, and diocesan bureaucracy.

None of this writing is edited. It is written as it happens, with every post I blog. No premeditation, other than a story trajectory in my imagination and the characters who will take it and run with it.

So, live and as-it-happens, here is the first installment of The Bishop Tripped
As Michael Shephard waited for the now-late Jet Blue Flight #J1016 to arrive at Love Field boarding gate 19A, he knew a Bishop was staring at him. From across the row, he saw the pectoral cross, the Roman collar, the spectales, and the whitening hair at the temples. The presbyter stared at Michael like he knew him in some beyond-this-world way, knew him completely.

But that was all Michael could remember.

He awoke to a clean-shaven, scrubbed, stethoscoped, mint-fresh breathed man shining a pen-flashlight into his eyes. "Pupils no longer dilated," the doctor said to himself as if a scribe inside his head was marking a case log inside his brain.

"Can you hear me, Your Excellency?" he said in the same monotone to Michael.

Was he talking to his mental note-taker again?

"Bishop Christopher, can you hear me?" The doctor was staring straight at him. Why was that Bishop's name familiar?

"I know you must be able to hear me, Your Excellency, because your eyes are reacting to the sound of my voice."

Michael looked around the room for the Bishop, but only he in his bed and the doctor on his rolling stool occupied the space.

"Bishop Christopher, you are in the Head-Trauma unit of Saint Maria Goretti Hospital. You have suffered what appears to be the results of a blunt-force trauma to the cranium, but we simply cannot find any physical trauma. Your head looks untouched and x-rays, CAT scans, and MRI reveal no internal injury. However, your brain patterns are radically different from the last MRI you had two years ago in Santa Fe."

"Are you talking to me, Doctor?"

"My name is Dr. Barfield--I'm the Chief Neurologist at SMG. The disorientation you're experiencing is certainly not uncommon to those experiencing cranial trauma. In fact, I warn you that you may undergo some significant temporary--or even permanent--personality changes. Do you understand what I'm saying to you, Bishop Christopher?"

The Bishop! The Bishop at the airport--that was where he had heard that name before. "Uh, yes, I am feeling confused, but perhaps there's been some mistake--I'm not a Bishop. I met a Bishop Christopher at Love Field, but I'm the last thing you expect to be a Bishop. I was once in seminary … but that was long ago."

Dr. Barfield's brow furrowed. "I was in seminary, as an undergrad, for a short time. In my Sophomore year, I knew I had to be a doctor. Your confusion should clear up after a bit, for none of the tests demonstrate anything consistent with long-term memory loss. Do you need the Sacrament?"


"The Diocesan Vicar has been waiting here all night. Perhaps talking with him will help you gain your bearings."

Before Michael could stop him, the Doctor was out the door. Michael looked down at himself. He seemed the same--mole on the back of his right hand, childhood scar on the inside of his left forearm, above which an IV pumped some clear fluid into his left arm. But where was his wedding band? He looked around for his personal belongings on the nightstand but there he found only a plastic cup and pitcher of water.

What is Lord's name was going on? Saint Maria Goretti Hospital? Wasn't that in Houston? Had he forgotten an entire plane ride and how he landed in a hospital bed? He felt around for bumps or wounds to his head but found only his usual hair. A taste like iron stuck to the roof of his mouth and he was starting to realize that he needed to go to the bathroom.

The door opened and a soutaned man with a worried expression stepped in, his face lighting up when he looked at Michael.

"Thank God you've come around, Your Excellency! You've been unconscious for nearly 24 hours."

Michael looked searchingly at the man … something was undeniably familiar about his face. He could see it and recognize it but only a man gradually infers the image of a person when looking only at a shadow.

"Bishop Christopher, are you alright? Can I get you some water?"

Michael tried to speak, but he couldn't form the words. He squinted his eyes and made a few abortive attempts to say what was being dredged up from deep memory before the Diocesan Vicar poured some water and placed a cup in his hand.

Almost as if the water carried an electrical current, Michael dropped it tumbling to the floor and at the same moment shouted "Matt! Matt Morelli!"

The man had darted into the bathroom to retrieve some paper towels to mop up the water. When he returned and finally raised his head up from dabbing away the spill, his face was level with Michael's gaze, and Michael was sure--"Matthew Morelli! Son of a--"

"Yes, Bishop. I'm Msgr. Morelli. We met last month, after your appointment to the Arch-Diocese had been officially announced."

"So your the pranskter behind all this!" Michael laughed. "I might've known it would be you. But after all these years--why go to these lengths? I mean, we haven't seen each other since I left during my pastoral year!"

The would-be Monsignor cocked his head and looked at Michael with renewed concern. "Um, Your Excellency, I'm going to talk with Dr. Barfield for a moment. I'll be right back."

To be continued …

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Are You Courageous Enough to Be A Priest?

NEW YORK - APRIL 15:  While his brother Bob Do...
©2011, Randall A. Beeler

Given the saturation of media attention aimed at Catholic priests for the criminality of the few who abused others and that of those who hid their crimes, it should come as no surprise that the backlash is an abuse of the vast majority of loving, courageous priests through a spate of false accusations. So the heinous crimes of a few reverberate to scar the innocent, as well as make a mockery of those who really were abused.

The word "courageous" comes from a root word, cor, meaning "full of heart." Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan is indelibly marked, heart and soul, as a priest in persona Christi. His response to being publicly accosted—merely for being a priest—demonstrates the heart of Christ.

Please read it at:

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