The Republic of Texas built 5,454 check points and towers on its long borders. The citizens of Texas owned more guns than the entire rest of North America. These men and women had refused to register these guns in 2014, and now, they were the only democratic body in the entire old United States. The citizens knew their existence was precarious, but precious and worth defending.
All people had to show their national or republic id cards at the check points. Antonio had both a national card and a Republic of Texas card, gratis of a conservative, mostly Catholic populace. In the aftermath of the nuclear blast, millions of conservative Catholics fled to Texas and were welcomed by all. Conservative millionaires of all religions, afraid of the complete take over of assets of the new government in Washington, had fled to Texas and were pleased to live under the Lone Star flag. Many invested in Texas industries and businesses. New churches were being built across the republic.
The Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to the United States left 3339 Massachusetts Avenue, lock, stock and barrel and moved to Houston under the protection of the new president of the Republic of Texas, someone who looked a lot like Jeb Bush.
The only area in America to have a free and working grid was Texas. The only place to have freedom of religion was Texas. The only place where abortion was outlawed and same-sex-marriage declared a non-issue, causing the Congress of Texas to pass a Defense of Marriage Act, was the Republic of Texas.
The only place without a national disaster of health care was Texas. The population of Texas grew 1000% in three years, creating new towns in the desert and a healthy economy. Texas was the Old America.
Antonio was working in northern Louisiana but, was called to speak with the Apostolic Nuncio personally. Antonio, a real parish priest at heart, a real missionary, did not want to be in a chancery office or in any position of administration. He was very concerned that this visit would result in some sort of non-pastoral position. But, he had to go. One month had passed since the ordination of the bishops and already Anselm in Rome had quickly declared one a saint. Bishop James Carter of Jerome had been killed by an anti-Catholic mob two weeks into his new position. He had been ripped to shreds. The cause was hatred of the Church and Her stance on homosexuality. James was now Blessed James, martyr. He was only one of the first, but not the first. The community of Jerome would not get another priest, unfortunately, and the glacier advance daily, slowly but perceptibly.
Antonio had grieved until he had an extraordinary experience in the northern corner of Louisiana, when he was saying Mass for a small group of about 32 Catholics who lived on a farm in a remote location near the border of Arkansas. After Communion, in the quiet of the small barn, Antonio thought he heard his name being called, softly, but firmly. The good priest looked up, and there, in front of the altar, was James, in brilliant white, with his hands open towards Antonio. The vision lasted but a few minutes, but long enough for Antonio to understand that James was in a much happier and glorious place of love and peace. In fact, Antonio felt a new peace enter his own mind and heart after this "vision".
James was still with him. And, Antonio had not received another traveling companion, as there were no priests in the area but himself. He did not mind, now, and kept up with his prayers and peripatetic mission work, knowing that somehow, James was with him.
Walking to the border meant crossing open land which was dangerous for a travelling priest. But, Antonio could see the towers in the distance, towers placed so that one Texas Ranger could see the next in the closest tower. Antonio was about ninety feet away from one tower when he saw dogs running towards him. Then, he saw military men, but he could not tell which army they represented, the Chinese or the new government's. Antonio was not a fast runner and the three dogs bearing down on him were large mastiff hounds. He "froze". Shots rang out-three shots, and the dogs lay dead on bare ground. Antonio heard some one shout, "Padre, here, run, now!" And, the young priest obeyed. The four foot soldiers began shooting at him, but again shots came from two towers, just as Antonio reached the gate at the check point. The gate opened and he ran in, crashing against the armed guard. "Slow down, Padre. You're ok now."
"How did you know I was a priest?" Antonio was confused. "We have orders to look for a lone priest and we figured out you were him. Those thugs are from the national army not the Chinese, so we took them out. Sorry, if we offend you, Padre, but we were ordered to defend you at all costs." The young Texas Ranger smiled a big toothy smile.
Antonio took a deep breath. "Thank you, thank you. I understand."
"We have a car to take you to Houston, Father. Follow me." Antonio could not believe it. He had not seen a car for three years. But, then, the oil and gas in Texas was legendary, and the Republic held the offshore drills against both the Chinese, who were out of ammunition, and the national army, called NATS or GATS, for global army troops, for short, by those who hated the new regime in the East which was ruled from Greenland-the underground global government.
Antonio was given a quick drink of coffee, another rare treat, and escorted to a small car. It was one made in Texas, on the border with Mexico, where two automobile factories had started up in the last three years. Texas and Mexico, still free, though suffering from incursions from the Chinese, had an agreement with Texas. Steel and other needed materials were exchanged for defense. This was called the Texas-Mexican Defense Treaty. Mexico had broken all treaties and agreements with the new national government, which was openly anti-religious.
Once in the backseat of the military car, Antonio noticed a rosary and a scapular hanging from the rear-view mirror. Antonio felt strange, as if he had fallen, like Alice into a wonderland, into the set of a movie, an old movie. But, this was Texas.
To be continued....