Recent Posts

Friday 13 December 2013

Story Part 9

James held on to the natural optimism of the politician, that politics could and would unravel the increasing hatred and persecution of the Catholic Church. He, a prominent Catholic in a pagan city, was popular and rising in stature in Congress. He was on the key committees, being the youngest man ever to be on the select committee on Intelligence, and he was on the Appropriations Committee. He was rumored to be the next chairperson of the latter committee. That he was from a western state held him back from other considerations, but the fact that he was the leader of the new Amendment Party made him an interesting duck in city of conformists.  That he was a genius as well as charming, was acknowledged even by, or especially by, his enemies. James could also "play" the media game. He was being called the new Buchanan, smart, sharp, respected, yet quirky to some. He was a regular on one main stream media panel on Sunday mornings.

He had a website, three books on the Bill of Rights in great detail and reflection, and a collection of essays from various periodical and magazine articles he had written in the past ten years. Most people either did not know, or forgot how young James actually was.

That James' father was a famous general was being forgotten as well. That James' ancestors were Irish was always recalled by the press. Some compared him to Jack Kennedy, except for the fact that his new party sat firmly on the far right. The Amendment Party was the brain child of those who split with the GOP and the Tea Party. Most of the members were young and bright, and of course, conservative. The split had occurred over the impeachment of the former president. The GOP was left licking its wounds when this new party rushed to number one over both the traditional Dems and GOPs.

James symbolized the growth of the Amendment Party in two years, from an idea in someone's living room in West Virginia to a major, indeed, highly successful national party.

That James was a bachelor was a problem for the right. Why was this handsome, talented young man not married with at least one child or one on the way? Some Evangelicals who voted for him had brought this up on the election trail. James merely said that he did not have time for a family, which would have to sacrifice too much for his manic work schedule.

The truth was simpler. James knew he had a vocation, a call from God, to be a celibate. Like his brother, Father Andrew, James felt the call to love God with his whole heart, whole mind and whole soul. That James loved Christ and His Church with a passion underlined all the politician's work. That James was one of the "new men" in the Catholic Church, totally orthodox and liturgically traditional, made him more attractive. Many hearts of young women who attended the TLM in a suburb of Washington D. C. sighed over this too eligible man.

That James was so politically successful had surprised him as well. He was, unusually for a man or woman in Washington D.C., incredibly humble. Success had always surprised this young man, in school, at university, and in his chosen career. Father Andrew had remarked years ago that James was more humble than he was. Andrew said that was why God trusted James in Washington instead of Rome. They had both laughed.

To be continued....

Story Part 8

The fines hovering over priests who refused to witness same-sex-marriages varied according to state. In the western states, the fees were set at 400 to 800 dollars per fine. In the northern states, the fines varied between 1,100-3,000. In the southern states, most states had yet to cooperate in prosecutions and judges dismissed cases to date. While in the northeast, fines began at 5,000 per crime. The crime was the refusal to bless ssm.

After three sets of fines, priests were imprisoned. Father Andrew led a group of priests to Rome with statistics on imprisonments.

So far, there was a clear pattern.

Father's list resembled this one:

Vermont, three priests jailed.
New Hampshire, one,
New York, forty
Massachusetts, fourteen,
New Jersey, three
Minnesota, three
Wyoming, two
Washington, twelve
Oregon, six
Iowa, four and one bishop
Illinois, sixty and two bishops
Nevada, nine
Utah, two
California, twenty-seven
Hawaii, four
Ohio, seven
Missouri, three priests and one bishop...
and so on....

This was an incomplete list, and as far as Father Andrew knew, there were more fines and more imprisonments daily. His sources could hardly keep up with the closures of dioceses and chanceries.

The main reason for Father Andrew's trip was the coming schism of the Ecumenical Catholic Church of America.  That two cardinals seemed, at least according to some sources, to be spearheading this schism was more and more obvious to some.

That the Supreme Court decision gave an impetus to those wanting the American church to state boldly, to throw down the gauntlet concerning Humanae Vitae, and the newest encyclical on heterosexual marriage, Consilium Dei coniugium, written by the newest pope, Francis II, was Father Andrew's idea.

No longer did liberal, disobedient Catholics have to work inside the Church, as the culture would support a new church. Father Andrew thought that the supposed union with the Episcopalians was totally ironic. A new church joining another false church caused by an invalid marriage.

Nothing was new under the sun, mused Father Andrew, as he walked to the Papal Apartments with his guide, Msgr. Miller, formerly of the NAC. Francis II was the first pope from the United States and many of his staff were from America. Fr. Andrew felt at home, as some of the clergy he had met in his brief time here were old friends from the NAC.

That Father Andrew was accompanied by, perhaps, the youngest deputy of priests ever to be called by the Pope, was the topic of conversation in the Vatican, and, indeed, in Rome. All the priests representing various dioceses, colleges, universities were under the age of fifty.

Father Andrew was one of the youngest in the group. But, he felt very old. His bishop, now in North Dakota with another bishop waiting the decision of Rome as to his position, had insisted on Father Andrew's going with the deputation. Father Andrew's bishop was over eighty years old, a holy man with long years of service to God. Father Andrew was not sure he would see this saintly man again.

Msgr. Miller and Father Andrew had work to do. They had to convince the Pope to let emergency sacramental rules be applicable in all dioceses in North America. This would alleviate much stress and tension among the priests and bishops going into hiding.

Fr. Andrew wanted a complete relaxation of all rules concerning use of altar ware, vestments, candles, but most of all, he wanted the Pope to completely support the use of the Extraordinary Form only.

He also wanted the Pope to immediately changed diocesan procedures by shutting down all chancery marriage tribunals and by issuing a clarification on the necessity for Catholic marriages, as the new laws which were coming out of Washington D.C. would confuse millions of Catholics.

Father Andrew also wanted a clear document stating the rules for excommunication for all Catholics who contributed to the persecution of any priests, bishops regarding ssm. Father knew that obedience was the way to holiness, period.

That Father Andrew was the priest for the job was obvious. He was highly intellectual, but flexible. He had the mind-set of a military chaplain. He was a good man in the trenches. Msgr. Miller had known Fr. Andrew many years ago.  Msgr. Miller also knew James. All these young men were on the same wave-length regarding the time of trial, the time of tribulation.

It, that is the time of trial, was in the final stages of preparation for the complete destruction of the Catholic Church in America and the West. Msgr. Miller sensed that only two men in America could stem the tide, if that was possible.

To be continued...

The short story on line

My little story is becoming longer and longer. I think it is a little book. Enjoy reading the first seven parts.

Taking a break and will be back soon.

Story Part 7

The assessors finally came almost exactly three months later, on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation. All the churches were either condemned for earthquake or water damage, or sold. Most of the movable goods had disappeared immediately after the earthquake. No one, at least this was said, really knew where all the chalices, patens, candlestick, ciboria, vestments, Missals, relics, etc. had gone. Someone did. Some families did. Suddenly, in a few months, there was a underground movement of recusancy. Mostly, the younger families took charge of certain aspects of home prayer groups, home catechesis, and home rosary groups. There was a rumor that one house had a make-shift Adoration chapel, which some knew about, perhaps.

The diocese was forced into bankruptcy as well, and the Bishop's letter on this indicated that for all practical purposes, there was no longer a Diocese of Seaview. All administration would be done through the diocese east of this one. The Vatican would decide on a formal merger.

The Bishop and his Vicar-General were in hiding, some said. It is true that no one actually knew where Bishop John and Fr. Andrew actually were. That the Bishop had ordered all churches to become shelters after the earthquake was well-known. The official stationery had to be used for months as no communication by phone was being implemented by any priests or the Bishop. The Bishop had ordered this rule for all his priests under obedience.

James knew where his brother and the Bishop were. No one else seemed to know.

In February, Carole and Tomas had moved successfully to the Florida condo. Carole's shop in Seaview had been declared unsalable, the other one missing, and so she had to tell her good assistant the Seaview sites were not to be recreated. The girl moved into her parent's house in another town. Carole took Tomas and a truck-load of worldly goods and moved out of the area.

Parts of Seaview simply did not exist anymore, like the town of Waveland after Katrina, houses just disappeared into the sea.

Without churches, without a diocesan structure, many Catholics felt abandoned, but the regular letters of the Bishop encouraged them. Those in the TLM group had quickly created a small, low-key community. Others, not trad Catholics, were joining them. Someone said there was a TLM weekly, somewhere.

Some priests had been arrested for supposedly refusing entrance into the churches. Seven out of the 38 remaining priests in the diocese were in prison. Two had died in the earthquake. The rest were ministering to people almost unseen. Novus Ordo Masses were intermittent in someone's home somewhere. Phones were not being used by the new recusants, as they called themselves. Some whose houses had been ruined, moved in with other families. At least one priest was living with a home schooling family.

All the seminarians of the diocese had been moved to the Denver seminary. But, there were only six for the entire State. However, they were being trained for Washington.

James had eventually flown back to Washington D. C. working to get more aid for his constituents back in Seaview. His face, for weeks, was on the main stream media as The Senator from the heart of the earthquake.

David and Anabelle had moved to Arlington. But, the ramifications of the Supreme Court decision left Catholics in many areas without hope for protection in the future. Other dioceses had gone bankrupt and the Vatican was beginning to merge dioceses.

At least twenty dioceses were in the process of disappearing. In Iowa, for example, where four dioceses had served the Catholics for over a hundred years, there were now only two. Lawsuits undermined even the largest diocesan endowments.

In Wyoming, the Diocese of Cheyenne was absorbed back into that of Omaha. In Nevada, Reno and Las Vegas joined to form one mega-diocese. In Montana, where the bishop had died, there had been a seat vacant for over a year. Catholic rumors buzzed, stating that the diocese was to merge with Portland. These scenarios pricked the consciences of some Catholics, and a sizable number of fallen-away Catholics came back to the Church. Conversions were reaching extraordinary levels in the southern states. The Catholic Church was experiencing a spiritual revival while seeing a physical decay. Many Catholics woke up to the fact that their government was no longer a friend of the Church.

The worse thing, however, and James had confirmed rumors,  was that the entire group of dioceses in Massachusetts and New York were about to enter into a schism, creating the Ecumenical Catholic Church of America. One bishop had objected. Catholics in those areas were in the process of deciding, through their parish councils, whether to join the new church or not. Two Catholic Colleges, once both Jesuit, were considering allegiance to the new church. After all, the Vatican had never understood American intellectual Catholics, so why not?

There was also a rumor that this church would join with the Episcopalian congregations in some eastern states. Carole was glad that her parish was made up of Cuban refugees in Florida. At least for now, she felt safe, and was considering setting up a new shop and hire some great young people in the area. And, to Carole's surprise, a man phoned her from Seaview. He identified himself as the mysterious man who had come to the shop so many months ago, in another age, before Christmas. His name was Mark Levi. Carole knew who he was. They were to meet up in Florida in June. He had a business proposal for Carole. She was intrigued.

In April,  James heard from Father Andrew. He was in Rome...

To be continued....

Story Part 6

The cracks in the highways into Seaview prevented traffic from coming in and out. Some of the ferries to Baytown had been pushed onto the land, tearing into the marinas, by the fierce tidal wave which came with the earthquake. Downtown Seaview was underwater.

The police reported deaths in the areas near the fault line. Over 1,000 people were missing just in Seaview alone. But, all this news was word of mouth, as all the media coverage stopped because of severe damage to the grid.

Carole had gone to the shops the day after Christmas and put most of her stuff in Anabelle's car. She suffered much less than her neighbor shopkeepers. But, the boutique had been ruined, as it had stood on edge of the marina shopping area, the cutest and most popular area for tourists.

Nothing remained of those shops. The ocean had come in like giant hands, grabbed them and took them back out to sea, as if to say "These are now mine." David and Anabelle's apartment was on the far east side, which experienced the earthquake, but not the tidal wave.

Carole was safe, for the moment. In her area, the problem was the horrible damage to the streets. Suddenly, the day after, which was December 27th, looters appeared out of nowhere. The governor declared martial law. But, all up and down the coast in Oregon, Washington and even Canada, the damage could hardly be appropriated. This was the largest natural disaster since Katrina as far as deaths were concerned. And the area affected was larger than the disaster area in the Gulf.

David and Anabelle were away, on their honeymoon, as David insisted on taking Anabelle out of the town before the day of visitation, as they called it. Cell phone towers were down, so Carole had no way of knowing how they were, but she assumed OK. The couple had gone east to Coeur d'Alene and were due back on December 31st. Father Andrew was sequestered somewhere unknown with the Bishop, as planned. The assessors could not come into any of the churches, as the roads were mostly closed, even in the countryside, as were airports and bus depots. It was as if, thought Carole, that nature had revolted to the violence planned by men and women and had become a thing of vengeance. But, she knew that was not true.

James had miraculously decided to visit Carole and take her out the day of the earthquake, the 26th. But, it happened before they left the apartment. Being a warehouse, made of steel and concrete to withstand earthquakes, the building had swayed and incurred some damage, but survived almost intact. There was no electricity or water, however. Carole was thankful that Anabelle had been one of those survivor types. The hall closet was chock-a block with packets of food, large bottles of water, odd ways of cooking things without gas or electricity, and a generator.  Tomas had disappeared before the first shock, but emerged after the worst was over. He was following Carole around everywhere, crying loudly. She gave him some cat treats.

The two heard sirens. "Well, some streets must be open. That is an ambulance." Carole nodded. She was eating some type of berry breakfast dinner with granola and drinking juice.

"The president has made this an official disaster area." James said. "And, I think it is time for a move. This disaster will not put off the original plans for shutting down the churches, and the damage done, moves against diocesan properties will be made. I know that." 

"Good grief, James, will they go ahead with all this when so many people are already suffering. I mean, churches which are are providing shelter and food, I am sure."

"You do not understand the bureaucratic mind," James answered. Carole nodded again. "You can say that, again. Should I just take Tomas and move now. I have lost one shop and the other, well, to be honest, it would take too much money and time to fix it up again, and my heart is not in it. It looks like nature helped me make a big decision."

James reached over for coffee Carole had mysteriously made with some of Anabelle's military canteen type apparatus. He was enjoying the incongruity of the pink tree and the military camp like take over of the living room. Tomas was begging for more treats.

"I have a temporary solution. Andrew and I have kept the condo in Florida my parents left us. I have used it once or twice. You can stay there until we see how these new plans against the Church take shape. If you can move, that is, and you can have one cat there."

"Hmm," Carole replied. "I do not think I am in a position to refuse anything. Insurance claims on the shop will take months. I have most of my stuff here. But, moving things is impossible. What did people do in Katrina?"

James took another health breakfast bar. "I do not know for sure. I think people just did what they could do at the time."  A cell phone rang. Both James and Carole looked for theirs. James had turned his off a day ago.  It was Carole's ringtone.

"Anabelle, how are you and where are you?"  Carole, relieved, sat down. "OK, just stay there, then. I am fine and James is here. We are camping out."

James laughed. They were camping out. "Bye, sure, do not worry. We are talking about how to get out of here. No problem."

"They are going to stay where they are and will come back only to move again. David has a job offer."

James became interested, "Where?"  

"You won't believe this. Arlington."

James smiled. Life was becoming a bit too predictable.

To be continued....

Story Part Five

The usual congregation for the TLM never grew above 50 people, with 20 of those being under the age of ten-the children of the large, home schooling families, but at this particular Christmas Midnight Mass, over 200 people attended. David and Anabelle, lost in their happy world of love, had brought the lady who made the blue rose bouquet. She remained curious and pleased throughout the High Mass.  James and Father Andrew shared professional level tenure voices, so that the Men's Schola out-did themselves this night, singing the Gregorian Chant, Purcell and others as if they had been inspired, while the priest seemed to be in another world of grace and calm. In fact, in had been passed around in the TLM gossip that Father had been offered a complete voice scholarship as a college student, but turned it down in order to go into the seminary.

Carola, in her new mantilla, prayed as if this would be the last Mass in this small chapel. The news was spreading through-out the diocese of the "visistators", as Anabelle had labelled the assessors. Therefore, some people, who had put off attending a TLM, came as if summoned by a silent voice to see the Mass of the Ages one more time.

Over the small chapel, one of the few which had withstood wreckovation and was full of statues from Germany and Austria, a quiet expectancy had fallen, like the small snowflakes outside. Carole felt she could see shimmering lights above and beyond the altar, but she was tired in her spirit, realizing her world, shrouded in mystery and darkness, may not see such a Mass again for a long time. Yet, the strange lighting lifted her spirits eventually and she pushed dark thoughts out of her mind. She was learning to concentrate on the hope of things unseen.

Father Andrew spoke of the Holy Child, Who had come into a hostile world to bring hope and healing to those who would accept His Love. But, almost immediately, this Child, this God, faced His enemies and the death of the Holy Innocents followed quickly the beautiful Birth. Father asked all there to pray and to listen, to listen to the angels who wanted to speak to us, to our holiest dreams and aspirations, to the words of Scripture.

"Memorize the Bible. Memorize as many of the great author-saints that you can manage to do. Memorize all your favorite prayers and novenas. Memorize the Mass."

The congregation became restless after this exhortation. But, the calm beauty and focus of the Mass brought all to the reason why they were there-the true worship of God.

When the Mass was over, Carole invited the little group back for the usual special late/early breakfast she and Anabelle had shared all the years as flat mates. Father Andrew said as he had to say two more NO Masses in the morning, he could not attend, but that he would try and come by in the late afternoon.

The night was very cold for Seaview. Blackness in the sky met blackness in the sea. The night sounds were muffled by the cold, so unusual for this bay town. Carole and James rushed back to set things up. David and Anabelle hung around to receive congratulations from the supportive "regulars".

James spoke first in the car. "My brother astounds me, Carole. It is if he had a spy in Washington. I can tell you that there are bills which would shut down every Catholic radio and television station in this land because of so-called hate speech and other crimes of civil liberties. Some may affect Catholic publishing houses."

"James," Carole shrugged in the cold, "Why is this all happening so fast?"

"Well, these movements were in place long before the Supreme Court decision. Such ideas were being batted around Washington for months." James pulled up in front of the apartments. "Nothing will be the same after this next week, I can assure you."

David and Anabelle joined them, but the group could not enter into a party mode. David said an odd thing. "I want us to stay in this area, and I have a great job, as does Anabelle, but I can't see us staying here if all the churches are really closed. To be honest, I have to think ahead, you know."

Carole turned white, but she had a niggling feeling even on the night of the marriage, that something like a move would be necessary for a family.

"I have put out feelers for jobs in seven different places. Also, a friend of mine in Germany wants me to come there to help him set up a private IT business."

Anabelle put her hand on Carole's hand. "Is there a rush. I mean, can we wait a bit?"

David looked up at the ceiling. "I have to tell you all, I just can't see us staying here."

James, who was sitting down with a plate and glass, said, "Have you tried anything in the Washington D.C area?"

The younger man stared at the older one. "Is that not jumping out of the frying pan into the fire?"

James stood up. "It is easier to do things sometimes in larger cities. I don't know. But there were recusant safe houses in London, when the other towns and villages had been stripped of priests and the sacraments. We do not have the strong, large types of recusant communities in the northern part of America like England did. Remember, the great seven families which kept the Faith? Well, some were involved in politics."

James put his glass down. "It is just a crazy idea, but try."

Anabelle took Carole aside, and they stood by the pink Christmas tree. "If we go, could you come with us? I already asked David and he said 'absolutely'."

The older woman nodded. "I would still be doing well financially with the new Amazon accounts and my new website. I guess I do not need the shops. I could go on line totally, and to be honest, most of my sales are now made on line. But, you and David will need some time, some know."

Light was beginning to come through the many windows. Several seagulls flew past the west side, the side facing the sea. James spoke first. "Our first Christmas as recusants in this fair State. Merry Christmas, friends, and do not lose heart. This has all happened before-to Anabelle's ancestors, and mine. We are the remnant."

"Merry Christmas, James," they all answered.

To be continued....

A short comment

I am not making a comment on the FIs. I am sick about what I am reading.

I do not understand. God help us to be loving in all situations.

I hope some famous priest bloggers help us with this crisis.


A Sad Christmas Story Part Four

Tomas was caught in the covers. The cat wriggled and wriggled, waking up Carole, who smiled at this usual state of chaos. She lifted up the edge of the duvet and Tomas jumped out, waddled to the kitchen and began to eat its breakfast.

Carole looked at her watch. She always wore her watch to bed. She had gotten into this habit a long time ago, after accidentally sending a watch through the washing machine with her sheets. She never used bedside tables except for art supplies and sewing things. Her bedroom was full of projects. Anabelle had never gone into Carole's room, but Tomas loved being there. The cat would sleep on the pile of drawings, the pieces of material, or the unmade bed.

Light could not come through the heavy drapes, but Carole sensed that the sun was shining. The snow reflected the light in an almost unearthly, piercing manner when the woman opened the curtains and blinds.

Already, the day had begun in earnest outside. Carole noted it was almost eleven in the late morning. She rolled over and decided that she really had nothing much to do today, and would stay in bed a bit longer.

Tomas, finished with wet food and water, slowly walked back into the room and jumped up on the bed. The cat sat by Carole's head. It was time to be irritating. Tomas was a creature of habit.

Carole smiled. She needed time to adjust to a quieter life, one without her "little mum" Anabelle, who had kept her orderly and on time. Well, Carole knew she would have to deal with life in a new way. How fast her life had changed. How quickly she had to adapt to being alone. This was the first day, Christmas Eve.

The cell phone rang. "Hello? "Carole, this is James. Would you like to go out for a simple brunch? I thought maybe you would need some company." Carole said she would be delighted and slipped out of bed to get dressed. She smiled at herself. She was vain and knew it. Unlike Anabelle who dressed because she had to and did it with great objectivity and detachment, Carole loved clothes and material, hats and bags, shoes and coats. Her life's work as a designer spilled out into everything she did.

She met James downstairs and outside, for some reason she could not put into words,  and standing in the sunlight in front of the double glass doors,she saw him drive up. James was early, as Carole anticipated, and they went to a small coffee place with fantastic pastries. James, however, was fasting.

"Do you always fast on Christmas Eve?" Carole was curious. He answered, "My parents were very traditional Catholics. We belonged to a group which held the practices of the pre-Vatican II Church. In the old days, Christmas Eve was a day of abstinence and fasting, so we kept the old practice. Just habit, really."

Carole felt bold. "Father Andrew became a diocesan, a secular priest. Did he break with your parents? I had met them long ago, if you remember. When Andrew and I were teens"

James nodded. "Well, to be honest, they were not happy. They did not believe the Novus Ordo was invalid, but they did think Andrew would follow the good priests in our group. It was hard on Dad especially. But, you know Andrew. He is so humble, so charming, they accepted his decision and supported it. I am glad, as both of them died within a year of his ordination."

"I am sorry, James.I lost track of their lives when they moved away from Seaview to Florida."  The young man poured a second cup of coffee. "They died in a car accident. They did not even have the last sacrament. That was so hard on both of us. You can imagine. Dad had just retired. Because of circumstances, we buried them in their new plot in Florida. It was all so odd. The rest of the family is up here.. You know Dad had been in the military"

Carole said nothing. How strange that such two excellent men could not have had the comfort of the last sacrament for their parents. How odd.

"I have always accepted the accident as an accident, but not Andrew."  James stopped and stared at Carole.

"Don't worry, James. You should have heard some of the conversations Anabelle and I had over the years."

James looked earnestly at Carole. "This must be hard for you. I mean, it all happened so fast. And more things are going to happen which involve us all, more than peripherally. I hope I can be of some help for you, but I am not sure how at this point."

The woman smiled. She had been correct in her assessment of this good man. A Single for the Lord, if she knew how to read people. "Thanks James, but you will have to return to Washington, and I am up to my ears in my work here, as you know."

James smiled. "You have my phone number and do not be shy about calling me. Really. You have my private number. Anyway, the Congress is on break, as you know, and I shall stick around here for a month. I am concerned about Andrew's business. I shall make sure we meet a few times, if you would like that."

Carole felt genuinely relieved."You know, I think I need a new friend right now. Thanks, James, really."

"Well, let's go, and I shall see you later." The two left and James dropped Carole at her main shop. She had two. She had to make a sign that the shop would be closed until January 2nd. Her shop assistant wanted time off and Carole did not need to be open the week after Christmas. No one had ever returned any of her beautiful hand bags or other things.

The other shop was already closed, as Carole had shut it up for the holidays yesterday. It was very small, like a boutique, carrying a sampling of her larger collections. But, she did sell many things from that shop. It was called Bijou DaisyChain.

Today, under normal conditions, both shops would have been opened, even the main shop at least until noon. But, the assistant did not mind staying until about five, so Carole was content for her to be there. The assistant was not a Catholic or a Christian, so this day was not special to her. But, as her family always vacationed after Christmas, the girl was happy to work at a place which was never opened for the twelve days of Christmas. Carole knew her clientele. They would not be around the town either, and all the mail items were being handled by another company who bought her things.

Today was very different. Carole messed about the shop for awhile, but really had nothing to do there. She would be working on new designs over the holiday and making new things. It was a "down day".

"Hi Carole, someone was in here looking for you earlier. A man."

Carole looked surprised. She was surprised. She really did not have any male friends. She had been with James and, David, well, he was on his honeymoon day.

"Did he leave a name? Was he a buyer?"  The young assistant answered no to both questions. Carole grew a bit uneasy. After all the talk last night and ten days ago, and a month ago, she did not like to think of any event out of the ordinary.

"I am going home. Make sure you lock up and cover everything for the break. I made this sign for the window. And, here is a present for you, dear." Carole handed the assistant an envelope with a sizable financial gift." The young woman gave her boss a quick hug. "Thanks, Carole. I know the routine. See you in January."

"Make sure you turn on the security system."  Carole yelled as she left to go home. The walk to her flat was just a bit more than a mile. Yet, Carole felt that she just wanted to get home as soon as possible. She took a bus and in minutes was in the elevator going up to her flat.

She unlocked the door and saw that Tomas had been waiting for her by the door. Another new thing---the cat had never done that before-a new life, Carole thought, but not an easy one.

To be continued...

A Sad Christmas Story Part Three

"We do not know all the details, but for some reason, it seems that in three days, on the 27th, assessors will visit all the churches in the diocese. Every priest who is a pastor must be at his church by the times given and meet the persons who will conduct a financial examination of all assets. If there are cluster churches, the pastors have been asked to meet the assessors at one and them accompany them to the other churches. As you know, in this diocese, each parish is a separate financial entity, independent of the diocese. Therefore, this intrusive action will occur in all 44 parishes, at the same time."

James shook his head. Carole felt goosebumps on her arms. Father's words were heard as in a nightmare-far away but vivid.

"Although I have been pastor of Sacred Heart, the Bishop has asked my assistant, Father Harrison, to take my place, as the Bishop wants me to meet him at that time. Father Harrison is now, officially, the pastor of Sacred Heart. I shall meet the Bishop in the next diocese for the sake of secrecy. I am not telling anyone but James my location. The Bishop is extremely worried."

James looked at his cell phone and turned it off. He made a mental note of not bringing it to further meetings with his brother.

David noted James' action. He had left his cell phone at his flat, where Anabelle and he would go after the small party. David fell into deep thought. He was miles away, thinking of his new life and what it would mean to protect Anabelle and any children. For a moment, David felt fear, but quickly, out of years of a habit of prayer, he turned to God and peace. He knew he was not in control, but that he had to depend totally on Divine Providence as never before in his short life. He was 27, three years older than Anabelle. He felt a lot older tonight, and yet, his happiness made the hour, the day, like one in Spring. He bent over and kissed Anabelle on the forehead. She was sitting on the floor.

As she turned up and smiled at him, James stood up. "I want to close all the curtains and blinds, please." Carole got up quickly and drew the long curtains. The flat was full of windows, which were quickly covered in the brown and gold lined draperies. Father Andrew continued in his quiet, low voice. "The Bishop wants me near him as soon as the Christmas Masses are finished. I shall leave with him on the 26th and I shall not see any of you for several days. I hope you pray for all of us."

No one said anything, but the young people sensed a closeness, a unity, which made them feel stronger.

The room felt closed in, but in a good way, as if the little group was wrapped in a blanket of peace. James noted that at this time, Joseph would have been leading Mary to the stable, unable to find a room at the inn.

David stood up. "Father, bless us once more. I am taking my bride home. We shall see you at Midnight Mass."  Father Andrew again blessed the couple. Carole had to pretend she was cleaning up to not show Anabelle her tears, but Anabelle knew better.

"See you at Mass. James will pick you up. Then, we shall all come back here again, as usual, for the Christmas breads and champagne."  Carole nodded and the two left. James began to help Carole clean up. Father Andrew, sitting on the brown sofa, began to pet Tomas. Both creatures seemed pensive.

"James, you know where my will is and all my personal things?"

"Father, I am prepared to do anything you want me to do, but I think you are thinking too far ahead of yourself. This is not necessary, is it?"

James poured himself and Father a small whiskey. He sat down next to his brother, but Tomas felt cramped and jump out of the way, settling on one of the green chairs. "I guess you know best, little brother. You always did."

Father Andrew looked straight ahead as if he saw something standing in the room, beyond the furniture into a space where Carole had easels of some of her latest designs. She also was working on an icon, which lay on a table in a dark corner. Paint, brushes, and other bits used for the writing of the icon lay in every which way on the floor and on smaller tables next to the largest one, on which the icon of Mary lay, unfinished.

The young priest stared for a long time into the darkness. James and Carole waited.

Father Andrew made a sign of the cross and stood up. "Carole, I am afraid we are all leaving you and Tomas. I wanted to talk more about the next few days, but there is no need. Thank you for all your work. You are our Martha."

Carole laughed, "Anabelle says I am the Mary here...but thanks for the compliment, Father."

James stood up as well, "Carole, I shall phone you, but be ready by 10:30, if that is fine with you. Singing starts at 11:30 and I am going to help out in the choir."

Carole said fine and the two men left. Carole felt the loneliness of the early morning and shrugged off dread. She felt as if her life would never be comfortable again. If Anabelle had dreams, Carole had odd premonitions. She cleaned up, picked up Tomas and went to bed. But, before climbing under the duvet, under which Tomas rushed to the end of the bed, Carole prayed the St. Michael prayer and the one to her Guardian Angel...she needed to know she was protected in a new way.

To be continued....

A Sad Christmas Story, Part Two

Carole had almost finished setting up the drinks table. She lined up the champagne substitute bottles of Paul Cluver Gewurztraminer, David's favorite, Prosecco, Anabelle's favorite, and Martin Codax Albarino, her favorite, in the matching wine coolers. Father Andew's favorite, The Macallan, was on another small table. Carole figured it was his favorite since he was in seminary in Rome. James was bringing something as well.

David and Anabelle were now man and wife, both civilly and in the Catholic Church.  A very hasty wedding had occurred at midnight on December 23rd. Midnight, because Anabelle wanted to be married like Louis and Zelie Martin, and December 23rd, because Father could not do it on any other day.

Carole had been the maid of honor and Father Andrew's political brother, home for Christmas from Washington D.C. and happy to oblige, as it were, was the best man. David did not mind. He was an only child. His parents dead and no other Catholics in the family...besides, he had met James Longley before and liked him a lot. And, his uncle had been married secretly on a Saturday morning long ago at Notre Dame, with the cleaning lady and the maintenance man as the witnesses, as the uncle and new wife were converts, outcasts from very atheistic, intellectual families. At least there was sort of a precedent....

James was one of these men who one could not help but like. He had been the youngest Senator from the State of Washington ever and the first conservative for over sixty years. He represented the new right, a group swelling up into a political storm in Washington, Idaho, and other western states.

James was only 35, but people were talking about him as a potential  presidential candidate for the new party of social conservatives, the Amendment Party, which had started in 2015, after the impeachment of the president who had refused to leave office. But, that was history.

Fr. Andrew was slightly younger than James. No one really knew how old he was because he was one of these young men who look middle-aged at twenty-two and would look middle-aged until seventy-two. Carole knew, however, that he was her age, 32. She never told Anabelle, but she had dated him, three times, in high school. Basically, Carole had spent the three dates convincing Andrew to follow his heart and go into the seminary. The whole thing had been just plain weird, but Carole had genuinely liked Andrew and felt sisterly about him. That was all. 

Well, it was about one o'clock am and the flat looked like Narnia Always Winter, Never Christmas-all white ribbons and generic Christmas decorations Carole had managed to get quickly in order to make the rooms look festive and wedding-like. The only incongruous thing was Carole's huge pink retro tree with gold ornaments, all made by her, in the far corner of the huge living room.

No one would notice the pink tree, as the bride, who just came in the door, stole the show. Carole had never seen Anabelle so happy, so beautiful. Carole had made her dress in three days and embroidered it with silk thread which was over 100 years old. It had been Carole and Anabelle's great-grandmother's thread.

David had worn a suit he had already. He looked great. It was grey and not quite as formal as perhaps Carole would have liked, but Anabelle did not care. She was now Mrs. David Collins.

The small party would only include the happy couple, Fr. Andrew, James, and Carole.  A small dinner had been ordered, which was hard this time of year with all the Christmas parties, but Carole had picked it up earlier. 

She also purchased six or seven pale purple orchids for the tables and white roses as well.

But, Anabelle's bouquet, amazingly ordered and received hours before the wedding, was made up of the Japanese blue rose, Applause. This was Anabelle's favourite flower. And the ring. oh my goodness. David had phoned Anabelle, after he talked with Fr. Andrew ten days ago, and said he would pick her up immediately-David had taken the day off and the two were going to Bellevue to David's choice of jeweller. Anabelle, shocked but delighted, let David practically push her into the Toyota and then practically carry her into the shop. There, waiting for her, was his choice of engagement and wedding rings. Both were perfect. The Cartier wedding rings, graceful and simple, simply jumped out of the boxes into their hearts. Then, Anabelle had to try on the green garnet, the tsavorite, Anabelle's favorite jewel. "How did you know, you, I mean... ?" She was speechless. 

"Well, all those hints last year did not go unheeded, Anabelle. I remember everything." It was a simple bezel solitaire, totally natural, set in platinum-very modern. 

"Can you afford this?" Anabelle was a bit embarrassed. David smiled his big Western smile. "Yes, but it is your Christmas, birthday and Easter present, OK?" They laughed and sped back to their home town in time to find Carole and go out for coffee.

Carole hid in her room with her sewing machine for two days, and another day slouched over the green chair with her embroidering things for hours and hours. Simple, but elegant...and that was all Carole had time to do. She also made Anabelle an extraordinary mantilla and one for herself.

Even James noticed the mantillas, as he was a TLM guy. 

Now, the five people bowed their heads for a little prayer and settled down for dinner and drinks.

It was already Christmas Eve morning, but James had phoned Carole two days before with the menu he wanted. No meat, all fish, simple. He paid for it, so Carole gave in to all his requests. She liked him, but...she was not the marrying type, nor was he, she suspected. Celibacy runs in families, she mused. Just as she sat down, Carole noticed that Tomas had emerged from her closet. Good sign. The weather would be warming up. The cat jumped up on the brown sofa and curled up in a ball and promptly fell asleep. All was well with the world of Tomas.

Done....but the black church destroying cloud had to be discussed, even on this white occasion. Father Andrew began the hard conversation.....

To be continued...

A Sad Christmas Story-Part One.

Anabelle looked out the window at the snow. Small flakes covered the pavements-streets, sidewalks, parking lots. She could see these from her apartment windows. Her large, loft conversion overlooked a small park on the south side, a large parking lot on the north side, and a series of circular walks to other apartments on the west and east sides.

She could barely see the shops up the street from the parking lot, as the snow began to fall heavily in winds which obviously were growing stronger. Anabelle snuggled up into her duvet, waiting for the intercom to announce the usual arrival of Carole, her flatmate and cousin. The two worked different hours, but usually managed to cook and eat a late dinner together. Tonight was Anabelle's turn to cook. She was preparing Hungarian Goulash, fresh clover-leaf rolls, and a small salad.

Anabelle sighed. She was concerned about Tomas, their mutual cat. He was hiding somewhere again, most likely in Carole's walk-in closet, behind the extra quilts and duvets. Bad sign. This meant the weather was changing for the worse.

The young woman stretched out her legs, covered in Dooley's Irish black leggings. She was thinking of Christmas and David, her soon to be fiance. Would he give her a ring for Christmas? Would it be the one she picked out or would he surprise her? Surprises were a hallmark of David's personality. He was an "IT guy" and the two had been in love for exactly two years, but waiting for David's new position to begin at the end of this year to plan a date.

A loud buzz interrupted Anabelle's reverie. Ah, she thought, Carole. Anabelle went to the intercom. Carole could never find her keys in her huge embroidered bags, which she made and sold in her own shop. Carole was artistic, not practical, and her bags sold like hotcakes this time of year. Each one was different. Her brand name was DaisyChains....Carole had survived every recession in the past ten years selling her bags. She even sold them as an undergraduate at Somerville in Oxford. Carole was "doing well" and had begun to sell her stuff on Amazon.

Carole was almost eight years older than Anabelle.

The voice on the intercom sounded choppy, odd. "Carole?' Anabelle stopped a minute. She decided to grab her keys, lock the flat and run downstairs. The flat was only on the third floor.

Anabelle rushed down the stairs and ran to the double-fronted glass doors. Carols was standing there in the snow. She was wearing a trendy hoody under her short fake-fur coat. She looked distraught.

"Carole, come in. Where are your keys?"

"Anabelle, I think I left them in the sacristy. You know I had to help put things away after Mass. But, let's go up. I have horrible news. Horrible."

Anabelle bent over and picked up a small bag of groceries Carole had dropped. They took the elevator up and in a few minutes were in the cavernous flat. Carole threw her coat and hoodie on one of the orange chairs in the kitchen.

"Carole, I saw Father Andrew after Mass. He waited for me after he said his prayers. I had to clean some wax off the floor in the sacristy where one of the boys dropped a lit candle. All confusion. No fire.

He told me something shocking. Can we sit down?"

"Sure, Carole. Look, I have some Fontana, you know the Frascati, left over from the party You look like you need some."

Carole slumped on the green retro-sixty chair. She always sat sideways. Anabelle was use to this.

"Father said the diocese is closing Sacred Heart, in one month."

Anabelle practically screamed. She and David talked about getting married there. It was her parish for three years now.

"Listen, that is not all. The diocese lost the law suit- you know, the one with Carfore and Jamison-the gay couple who wanted to get married there. The diocese LOST. This was, Fr. Andrews said, the last appeal to the Supreme Court. It is all over the diocesan grapevine. The diocese has to pay 47 million dollars in fines, legal fees, and pay for so-called psychological damages to Carfore and Jamison, who are already married anyway in Iowa, so far away. But, they were living here when they started the lawsuit. They are claiming emotional damages due to stress and apartheid like conditions from the Catholic Church"

"But, the diocese has to cough up the money, now." Carole stopped and took the wine glass from Anabelle. Anabelle was speechless. She had heard of the lawsuit on the news and on line. But, this decision came down quickly, in her mind.

"Father said that all the churches in Seaview will have to be shut in order to pay for the fines, as the diocese is broke, after the last set of fines, which closed down the schools two years ago. I just cannot believe it is necessary to shut down all the churches. I mean, can't other dioceses help us?"

Anabelle sat down on the other green chair. She thought she was in her dream she had dreamt almost four years ago. "Carole, remember my dream, the one about the churches closing and the giant black cloud?"

Carole turned and sat up on the chair like a normal adult. "Yes, I recall you telling me about this low black cloud, like that green stuff in the old movie The Ten Commandments, going through all the churches in the city. Then, they all collapsed, one by one in the fog."

Both girls were silent. Anabelle spoke in a very quiet voice, "All the churches, all 44 in this diocese? All?"

"Father said they have to sell the properties to pay the fees. And, that will not even cover the costs. Some of the churches in the older towns are practically worthless, and with the majority of churches in the middle of nowhere in the country surrounded by wheat fields or potato fields, no one would be really interested, except to plow under..."

"Is this public knowledge then?" Anabelle felt a cold, gnawing emptiness in her stomach growing like a monster fear.

"Yes, and this is not the only diocese affected, as at least three others were connected to this lawsuit, like tags of some sort."

Anabelle worked in a law office. She was a legal assistant. She had studied for the Bar, but got ill with a crippling disease in her back, and this interfered with her ability to work the long hours needed to be a successful lawyer. She made good money, but her prospects were limited, unless she ended up in a wheelchair like a famous tv lawyer her grandparents watched a long time ago.

She knew that what use to be called MDLs were adopted for civil rights cases at higher levels than district courts, even up to the Supreme Court in recent times. That is probably what Father Andrew meant-tag alongs. This was one of the greatest changes to the legal system in years, and done to expedite lgtb civil rights cases against the Catholics, and some of the Evangelicals.

She sighed. So, it was happening. and right before Christmas. Carole most likely did not understand that this would mean that David and Anabelle would have to be married someplace else. But, where?

"Carole, how fast is this all going to happen? Did Father know?"

"Well, as he is the Vicar-General, I assume his information is correct. He said by March, that is within four months, no church in this diocese would be open. Not one."

"And, Father said something really weird. He said that another case has come up. His brother is in Washington, you know."

"What's that?" Anabelle turned off her dinner and sat down again.

"Something about the complete non-recognition of church weddings in the civil law, and only civil law marriages being recognized, meaning Catholic marriages would no longer be legal or something."

Anabelle understood what this meant. She had heard Jack at work talking about the new marriage laws as he worked on divorce and marriage laws exclusively. There would be no recognition financially or legally of religious marriages. Jack was working with a Sikh couple, and they were trying to deal with laws in Europe which made their Hindu marriage illegal. They had come to America, because the husband's mother was American. But, they had heard rumors.....Jack talked about the new laws loudly enough for Anabelle to hear in the next room. Something was happening.

She felt tired and old as if she had all along suspected that her coming marriage with David was not going to be like her parents', or grandparents' or great-grandparents'.  She had sensed that they would not have the same life as previous generations of Collineses and McKenzies. Nothing would ever be the same.

"Carole, what will happen to the priests? What about Mass, confessions, funerals?"

"Father said he would say Mass in any house at any time. He said the Bishop was already discussing special dispensations today at a special deanery meeting. Father said that all the movable things were going to be taken out of the churches, like the altarware and vestments, the day after Christmas. He said something about people coming in to "evaluate" propertied the week after Christmas."

Anabelle felt anger welling up, making her pale face red, as anger always did. The pain of her ancestors in Ireland was gathering in her bright eyes."Blasted, visitators!" She practically screamed.

"What are you talking about, Anabelle?" Carole stood up and got more wine. 

"Like in England and Ireland and all over Britain under Henry. The visitators came and took down notes. My mother did her doctorate on the visitators' letters to Thomas Cromwell. It was a brilliant thesis examining the authenticity of the letters compared to the archaeological and other legal documentation of the time."

Carole looked out the north window. Cars were slowly moving down the street in the snow. The night seemed very dark to her."Yes, I remember you talking about this. I am sorry your mother died before the book was published." 

Anabelle was silent. The death of her mother of cancer when the woman was only 47 shocked many people. Anabelle's mother had taught Medieval History for years and finally decided to get her research published when she was struck with ovarian cancer. That was six years ago now. Anabelle said nothing.

Carole flopped down sideways on the chair again. "Well, doncha think you should phone David?"

"Yes, I suppose. He will be shocked. You know how these IT guys are..."

Carole came over to Anabelle and gave her a hug. "Maybe you should get married next week." 

Anabelle smiled and left the room to find her cell phone.

To be continued....

The Last Mini-Series Post on Death and Advent: Part 15

Today, in our busy, noisy world, Catholics have less time and less quiet in which to contemplate death. I have tried to give a little time to this in Advent, as I have been reading St. Alphonsus' meditations on the last four things.

It is hard to concentrate on our own deaths. Very.

But, we must, and in this penitential time, we may well use our prayer time for such thoughts as suffering, death, judgement, heaven and hell.

Here is the last snippet I have chosen from the great saint.

The One Thing Necessary

1. One thing is necessary1: the salvation of our souls. It 
is not necessary to be great, noble, or rich in this world, 
or to enjoy uninterrupted health; but it is necessary to save our souls. 
For this has God placed us here: not to 
acquire honors, riches, or pleasures, but to acquire by our 
good works that eternal kingdom which is prepared for 
those who, during this present life, fight against and 
overcome the enemies of their eternal salvation. 
Ah, my Jesus, how often have I renounced heaven by 
renouncing Your grace! But, O Lord! I am more 
grieved for having forfeited Your friendship than for 
having lost heaven. Give me, O Jesus! a great sorrow 
for my sins, and mercifully pardon me. 

2. Of what consequence is it if a man be poor, lowly, 
infirm, and despised in this life, provided that in the 
end he dies in the grace of God and secures his salvation? 
The more he has been afflicted with tribulations, if he 
suffered them with patience, the more will he be glori- 
fied in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, 
what does it profit a man to abound in riches and honors, 
if, when he dies, he is lost forever? If we are lost, all 
the goods that we have enjoyed in this world will be re- 
membered only to increase our misery for eternity. 
O my God, enlighten me; grant me to understand that 
my only evil is to offend You, and my only good to 
love You. Enable me to spend the remainder of my 
days in serving You. 

3. Salvation is necessary, because there is no middle 
1 "Unum est necessarium." Luke 10. 42. 
[43] way - we must either be saved or lost. It will not do 
to say: I shall be satisfied with not going to hell; I shall 
not be concerned at being deprived of heaven. No; either 
heaven or hell; either forever happy with God in heaven 
in an ocean of delights, or forever trampled upon by 
devils in hell in an ocean of fire and torments: either 
saved, or lost; there is no alternative

St. Lucy of Syracuse, Pray for Us Today

The Burial of St. Lucy by Caravaggio

May the glorious intercession of the Virgin and Martyr Saint Lucy give us new heart, we pray, O Lord, so that we may celebrate her heavenly birthday in this present age and so behold things eternal. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Collect NO

Advent Thoughts on Death Part 13-The Closed Book

St. Alphonsus writes that either we shall face the Tribunal of God with fearing and trembling, hating our life and being aware of our sins, or without a care in the world, having fallen into complacency.

He also notes that if we continually fall into our old patterns of sin over and over again, instead of seeking perfection, facing Christ will be more painful.

The warning this saint gives as to not testing the patience of Christ must be heeded.

How many times have I walked away from grace? How many times have I chosen comfort over suffering?

How many times have I decided on my way rather than God's Way?

We shall see all these missed opportunities in our particular judgement. At the final judgement, everyone else will know the sins of omission and commission we have committed.

I am sure that if we each pray to Mary, Our Lady Mother, she will plead for us as well at the time of judgment.

In iconography, Christ with the open book is the Teacher. Christ with the closed book is the Judge.

While the book is open, pray and become perfect.

To be continued....