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Monday 6 January 2014

The Hour Glass Part Fourteen

Antonio did not stay long at Our Lady of Walsingham parish. He was taken out to dinner daily and realized what a gift of a community resided in this place of the Ordinariate home parish. The liturgies lived up to expectations and the choir soothed Antonio's nerves. He was on a sort of retreat. Besides, the missionary priest, like St. Paul knew  both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound: (everywhere, and in all things I am instructed) both to be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need.  This was a brief time of abundance and how Antonio wished he could share this with his new flock in the Chinese territories. When his time of r and r ended, the Archbishop sent him a note indicating that two soldiers of the Republic would escort him deep into enemy territory, and leave him there. He would meet another priest who had been working in the San Tan Mountain Regional Park. Antonio and the two Texas Rangers would travel dressed like "bums", except for the soldiers sophisticated weapons and night vision goggles. Antonio was given a flak jacket. 

One thing which Antonio read in the letter surprised him. One of his goals was to find a small community of Benedictine nuns who had escaped the purges of the monasteries and be their chaplain, adding an interesting ministry to his missionary work. One of the letters, all now in Antonio's pocket, was from a Sister Methodius, the Mother General of a group of eleven nuns who had managed to get out of Oklahoma before both the nuclear blast and the Chinese invasion. They initially were accompanied by a Benedictine monk who had since died. Antonio hoped sincerely that he would find them. The Rangers would take him to the edge of the Park and leave him there. He was as ready as he ever would be. The idea of finding a group of contemplative nuns in the middle of nowhere did seem like a stretch of the Nuncio's imagination, but the letter from the Mother General was one of four in his inner pocket. 

The route, by necessity, was across open land in places, but the Rangers took Antonio farther south than he would have gone, approaching the desert park from the south. Traveling at night and resting briefly in the day was not a new experience for Antonio. It only took ten days to cross over from the tower at Las Cruces to the desert park. Once a thriving tourist area for hikers and bikers, this mountain area and scrub land were largely deserted. The Ranger knew of Chinese army installations on the north side, which is why they came in from the south.

"To be honest," said Ranger Smith, I cannot imagine anyone living out here for long."

The three were standing at the edge of a small scrubby bunch of unidentified bushes on the north side of the Malpais Hills. Antonio was being given instructions on how to get across the trails, some of which were partly in washes, up to the edge of the Goldmine Mountains. The letter, dated six months ago, indicated the nuns had a cave, or some type of shelter. Antonio felt a bit like Frodo going into Mordor without Sam. The priest he was to meet had indicated he would be at the pond and windmill area, close to the entrance of the park on the east side. That was too close for comfort in the minds of the Rangers for Antonio to go, as the other side of the road up by the entrance was dotted with housing developments. The Chinese used Thompson Road. However, Antonio had no choice but to continue to this rendezvous, set up by the priest and communicated to the Nuncio two months ago. The date was a full-twenty-four hours hence, so Antonio had plenty of time to cross the terrain. The Rangers had been instructed to give Antonio supplies for one day, maps of the trails, maps of the mountain area, a gun, and a knapsack of other survival essentials. In addition, he had his Mass kit-the only identification that he was a priest. The idea that three men would be more obvious than one created the orders that these two Rangers had to turn back at this point.

They knelt on the rocky ground and asked for Antonio's blessing. He had two St. Michael medals which he gave to both men. Then, Antonio turned and faced his walk. He, too, had doubts about finding a lean-to or cave monastery of Benedictines, or even the lone priest. For some odd reason, Antonio was overwhelmed with love and home sickness for his dead mother. Perhaps, he thought, she was watching over him in this extraordinary walk into the unknown. Quickly, he sent a prayer to her, and to his Most Blessed Mother Mary, and stepped onto the trail just north of Rock Peak.

To be continued....

Are you shocked yet?

2014 Worldwide Abortion Deaths Jan 6 689,220 unborn children killed so far this year.

Poor Little Robin

I forgot to mention that on January 4th, in the afternoon, I saw a large young American robin in the neighbor's tree. It stayed on the snowy branch for a good ten minutes so I could see him clearly.

Poor little robin, I hope it is in Missouri. Today is is actually 10 degrees F less here than in Nome, Alaska.

Fun and Games

What villagers in Blackheath, Surrey do for fun in the winter.....

The Hour Glass Part Thirteen

The Thetford Forest Park held back some of the fierce winds and snow which increased during the day. Columcille felt a sense of unreality seeing the snow blow up in high waves. The think pines and beeches held the worst back, and, like a little Hansel and Gretel cottage, a small house stood at the edge of the part, far from the high road.

The cottage had been given to the priests years ago by a woman who was known as a hermit, a contemplative, who died alone, but in grace. She was related to Samuel, and he inherited her cottage, but let a young couple stay there and take care of it. This couple, two of the new generation of traditional Catholics, had been artists until the supplies dried up and the light grew dimmer because of the winter conditions. They had been painters of beautiful landscapes as well as portraits. But, in these days of survival, art was not valued except by the very few. They had tried making paints from the earth, but water was too valuable to use for paint.

Sonja Jens was from a Swedish family which had come to Great Britain when she was a toddler, over 20 years ago. Her husband, Aidan Parker came from a family in Bury St. Edmund's. For years, he did pottery, but switched to painting, which is why he met his wife, in a shop buying brushes. That was six years ago. They were married by Samuel last spring. They both bartered for food and necessities, making signs or decorating, until supplies such as paint could no longer be found. At this time, the young couple were in a survival mode, living off the land, and relying on help from Aidan's Catholic family. Sonja was a convert. She and her husband, with the spiritual aid of Samuel, had decided for a celibate marriage. They had dedicated themselves to God in this way in a small service at the cottage last year, only a few weeks before they were married. Despite the canon of Trent on this subject, some young Catholics had chosen this way after prayer and fasting, under spiritual direction. Sonja and Aidan had felt called by God to protect and harbor priests, dedicating their lives to the remnant. Samuel felt this call was genuine and accepted, as the alter Christus, their life-long commitment to a Josephite Marriage. This state gave both young people a focus and a burning desire to help each other serve the surviving Church. Such was their call.

They both loved Samuel and Columcille, and the four considered each other as family. The cottage had been used a few times for Mass. Some of the seminarians used the cottage for "desert days", which was a bit of a joke, as all Catholics lived in desert, isolated conditions. But, to go up to Thetford was a bit of a treat. Diss had an odd spiritual cloud hanging over it.

The roads were in terrible shape as a small earthquake had split the motorway. It could not be mended until the global government allowed cement and tarmac to be used for roads not used by the military. Stanford Training Area had been abandoned after the troops loyal to the King had been defeated by the GATS. 

The once important army base, built up for the old Afghan wars,  basically in ruins. Some Catholic families actually lived in some of the old huts. Eastmere, likewise abandoned, was a stronghold of recusants, but many had left after a stand-off with the GATS resulted in deaths. That was several years ago. Some families came back to the ruins and were living in the odd village. STANTA, ironically, was now in the hands of poor, starving, Catholic families, living much like the Romanies of old. 

Samuel remembered the hay-days of the English army facilities, but the younger priest and the Parkers only knew ruins and refugees. How odd it was that the old base and village had become places of relative peace after months of fighting, when some Catholics had weapons and the idea that such rebellion would create others to rise up against the GATS. That hope faded quickly.

The forest was actually encroaching on the old base. Trees grew in old fields, making new copses. Like marching men, the firs grew up on old, unused roads, albeit small and still young trees. The whole area seemed haunted by WWII soldiers and the returning vets of the Middle Eastern Wars. In reality, it was haunted by Catholics on the edge of disaster.

The great advantage for the refugees were water supplies and wood for fuel. If Great Britain had been more organized, the globals would have destroyed these make-shift Catholic refugee camps. But, small pockets were being ignored until the GATS regrouped. GATS were much more successful on the continent. France was under martial law, as were the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and other countries east of the Danube.

Scandinavia was under ice. The globalists in Greenland, the only center with electricity and computers, were trying to deal with more primitive conditions then they had expected. Pockets of resistance were found in Italy and Germany, as well as Luxembourg. The globalists were planning to set up the center of their one world government in Dublin, which was now the center of anti-religious sentiments, and a completely destroyed church. All the real Catholics in Ireland, both in the north and in the south, were "underground" again. The others, including bishops, melted away into the secular global vision and disappeared once their usefulness was over.

The anarchists had been used by the globalists and then destroyed. Some had come over to the "Catholic cause" in conversions which delighted all and showed that grace was given to all at some point. Sadly, thousands of anarchists perished after their usefulness in destroying infrastructures and churches was deemed "done". If America's situation of the four zones, and China's situation of being buried in ice because of the retaliation of the American's in destroying North (and therefore, South) Korea seemed dire, Europe's chaos seemed to be a better scenario for the Church, as armies could only hold onto scattered pockets at this time, and as the leaders of some of the countries themselves, such as in Latvia, Lithuanian, Poland and the Ukraine, openly opposed the globalists, with weapons. Sadly, some of those countries were falling into "the long winter" as the ice grew. Many Catholics had fled to Africa, where the Church was thriving except in areas long held by Islamists. Sicily was so crowded it was jokingly called The Metropolis, or The Met. Over 8 million people, at least, were squashed in that country and Anselm had stayed there for a short time. Most were living in dire poverty. 

Anselm was in Africa, so the rumors said. But exactly where was a huge secret.

Columcille had to deal with a new suffering. He was not sure when or how to tell Samuel that he was going blind. The young priest did not know why this was happening, but in his family there had been early onset macular degeneration. He now had a permanent "blind spot" in the left eye. He was concerned about becoming a burden to the cause. He was waiting for a time to share his problem with Samuel. He would wait for the right time. 

to be continued....

Know the enemy

But, as a priest said to me yesterday, we have no enemies but the satanic forces who are doomed. As long as humans are on this earth and have free will, we can, possibly, love them into the Truth. But, some will reject the Truth, Who is a Person.

When in doubt, choose the civilized men

Up to 78,000 books, including "irreplaceable ancient Muslim and Christian texts and manuscripts," were torched in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, Jessica Elgot of the Huffington Post reported Sunday.
Elgot said that the Al-Saeh library in the Serali neighborhood was set on fire "after a local gang took objection to a sheet apparently insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, found hidden in the pages of one of the library books."

The Hour Glass Part Twelve

Bishop Edward's visit was relatively short. He merely smiled at Antonio as they passed in the corridor. Then, Antonio was taken into the lovely office of  Archbishop Domingo del La Cruz. This good man, appointed in 2024, when the previous Nuncio died suddenly, was a personal friend of Pope Leo XIV, or Anselm as he was called by all. The Archbishop in the Republic was called by his proper names. One of the things Antonio noticed immediately was a huge hourglass on the desk of the Nuncio. It look ancient, possibly one of the original ones from 8th Century France. The hourglass seemed more like a work of art than a tool for telling time. The odd thing which caught Antonio's attention was that there was no sand in the glass. It was empty.

"Ah, like many others, you have noticed my treasure, the hourglass. It was made in 920, by a monk in Flanders. It had sand in it then. You may wonder, young Antonio, why I keep an hourglass which has no sand."

"Well, Your Excellency, I did wonder at it." The Archbishop showed Antonio a comfortable chair and then the Nuncio sat next to him. He took the hourglass off the desk and put it on a round table between the two chairs. Antonio noticed for the first time how old the Nuncio was. He seemed to be in his eighties.

"This glass is what I call the "hora de vidrio", the "hour glass". And, why? The glass has lost its sand, which means there is no longer any time. I believe we are outside of normal time, in, let me say, the last times, which are apocalyptic, the ending of all time. This glass of the hour reminds me that all I have is this moment, this time, and not a small pile at the top, or any at the bottom. All time is now one."

Antonio shifted a bit uncomfortably in his chair. He was a realist, a man of action and a practical man. To philosophize about the time required an imagination or a philosophic view which challenged him.

Perhaps, ironically, this young priest was a man of the hour, but he did not see this.

"We are people of the hour, people of this time. What we do with this time makes us a saint, or a son of perdition. There is no longer a middle way. The Hour Glass, my hora de vidrio, also reminds me to be sober, courageous, temperate, prudent, just."

The Archbishop put the hourglass back on his desk. He turned back to Antonio. "You are my main hope for the lower states, but the global armies have crossed the Mississippi River. They intend to invade the Republic soon. The Chinese cannot fight as the glaciers in the north have stopped their supply routes. They cannot ship or fly anything to the troops. Sooner or later, these men will disperse or be overcome by the citizens.

Mexico and the Republic shoot down any supply drones or planes which come into Texas or Mexican air space. For a short time, we are free of Chinese incursions. But, the threat from the East grows."

The Archbishop got up and served water to Antonio. For the first time, Antonio noticed the secretary, another young priest, standing in the shadows in the corner.

"I am going to give you a choice, Antonio. You may go back to serving the Catholics in Louisiana and Mississippi, or you may take on another challenge I am offering you."

The Archbishop stood up and handed Antonio folded sheets of paper.

"We are moving out of the northern regions because of the glaciers. We are not in The Wilderness because of the radiation. We are not in the East, because of the schismatics who kill our priests, and, indeed, our bishops. But, we are in the occupied Chinese territories of Arizona and New Mexico. I have these letters from Catholics there, who are begging for a priest. Will you consider going to Queen Creek? I shall then send Bishop Edward to you old territory in order to re-organize and encourage vocations there."

Antonio wondered if the Archbishop knew that the Guzmans, now all with God, has originated on the borders of the very state where he would be going. Most likely, the Archbishop knew each priest's family history. Antonio Guzman-Costello could not say no. Some of these people could be his own. But, he grieved at leaving his small, barn communities of Louisiana and Mississippi. But, he also knew that Bishop Edward would find thriving, but small communities in places not yet daily harassed by armies.

"Your Excellency, may I ask what you told Bishop Edward?"

The Archbishop smiled. "Ah, yes. I told him he would be sent to Louisiana and Mississippi as a flying bishop."

Antonio felt relieved, as his heart and the Archbishop's spirit had determined God's Will. The Nuncio stood up and Antonio knelt for a blessing.

"Dear young priest, I have two more things to say to you. The first is to never forget the Hour Glass. The second is that I shall never meet with you again."

The priest looked at the floor. Tears came to his eyes, tears of sadness and uncertainty. The Nuncio waved for his secretary who led Antonio out of the office.

Outside the building, Bishop Edward was waiting for Antonio."Do you know you must take time for a briefing? I am staying at Our Lady of Walsingham and I am instructed to take you there to stay for a few days. Can you go now?"

Antonio said, "I have no other place to go until I leave for the Chinese territories. Let's go."

The two got into a black official car and left for Shadyvilla Lane.

To be continued.....

The Hour Glass Part Eleven

Samuel had two decisions to make. The first decision involved the question of carrying on the bi-weekly and daily Masses while the mystery of the murders went unsolved. No one in authority were searching for the dead couple. No one in the area wanted to talk about their deaths. Similarly, no one talked about the disappearance of Harry Kedge. Most thought he was dead as well.

Samuel did not want to risk putting any of the faithful in danger. Yet, while there were priests, Mass should continue.

His second decision had to go with a confession he had heard. He knew who the murderer was but he could not tell anyone because of the seal of confession. All he could do was to give counsel to the person to give himself up and to repent and not repeat his crimes. He had heard this confession two days after blessing the now-deep snow covered graves. Thomas Howard had gone back to the house, picked up the dead cat and buried it in the forest behind the field. No one would care about a dead cat's grave. The snow fell for over a week, and the winds kept people inside. Therefore, the first decision of Samuel's was put off by the weather.

The second was more serious. He had asked advice of  Columcille, who agreed that the man would have to give himself up. The seal of confession was sacred. And, as the authorities wanted the demise of the Catholic Church, no one was following up on the whereabouts of missing Catholics.

Sitting by the warm pool in the cavern, Columcille and Samuel prayed to the Holy Spirit for advice. Then, Columcille heard the secret bell, a small bell carried by Thomas Howard, who was requesting entrance to the caves.

To the surprise of Columcille, who rolled back the stone, two Thomas Howards stood at the entrance. They were wearing Canadian snowshoes to hide their tracks.

"We must come in." Columcille closed the door and led them to the warm large cave room. The men sat on the wicker chairs, looking a bit ridiculous, as their large frames hardly fit.

"Another death. Another dead Catholic. Abby, our dear Abby."

Samuel blanched. This was not unexpected. "Go on, tell us."

"Well some people say it was suicide, but Abby was so Catholic, she would never do such a thing. And, the children, her daughters, she would not leave them, would she now?"

The second Thomas spoke up. "We have been talking and we think we should move all the Masses to the caves. We think the Beach House is no longer safe, and we know the pub on the Lion Road is not safe. We need your advice."

"Where is the body, Thomas?" Samuel asked. "The family buried her in the old Anglican cemetery. I mean, her husband is or was Anglican. He was really broken up." Columcille wondered at this, as Abby had told him and others that there was no love lost between the two. The older Samuel fell into a deep silence, his head on his hand.

Columcille took the lead. "Howards, we had been talking about suspending the Masses completely. Do you believe the cave is safe? Should we move even farther away, perhaps up by Thetford Forest Park was a safe house, a small cottage known by both priests. Maybe they should go there for awhile. They had been in this area for two years. Maybe that was too long to expect not to be followed or anticipated.

"What do you think of the Thetford area? It is far and our families would not have the sacraments for awhile, but we could come back?"

Thomas One answered, "We were talking about the same thing. You know the safe house there and so do we. I can move and Thomas here can as well. No one cares if we stay. We have no families but the Catholics."

Samuel finally spoke. "What about the caves? Do we abandon this good hiding place?"

Thomas Two answered slowly, "It is no longer a hiding place. There are tracks, and dog tracks all around the outside, and up on the top of the hill. Someone knows you are here. The policeman has been tracking you two"

"We shall go, tonight. Will you go and tell all the people we are leaving, but do not tell them where?"

"We can still serve the seminarians outside of Diss from the Park."

Thomas One looked at Samuel. "This brings us to something else. Thomas and I were talking about our own selves. Well, we decided that we think God wants us to be priests. Will you take us with you?"

The two priests could feel a great peace come upon the place where they sat. "God is good. Yes, of course. I think two Howard priests are just what we need. We shall leave at midnight. One of you send word to the house in Thetford Forest, and the other go and tell all no more Masses in this area for awhile. Be ready at midnight, no, wait. Let us all meet at the seminary house outside of Diss, not here. We shall leave within two hours, and you can get there as soon as you can."

"Good idea, Samuel, as then I can come from Thetford Park and be there sooner. I feel bad about Abby, though, and the children."

"God has His ways, Thomas. Let us pray for her, her husband and children."

The two cousins left and immediately the two priests gathered their small bunch of belongings, putting on layers of clothes, leaving no trace of human habitation. The last thing to pack was the Crucifix in the cupboard in the wall. Columcille took the cupboard off the cave wall, took it apart and through it into the deep pool. They had dismantled the few wicker chairs, and one small wicker table and threw the wooden pieces into the warm, deep water. These would never be seen again. The caverns chemicals would destroy all the wood and the pool was incredibly deep. They were ready to go.

Outside, Columcille damaged the door in the closed position so that no one could get in easily, if at all. He shook the branches of the heavy fir trees to make the fresh snow drop over the front. No footprints could be seen at the entrance.

Then, the two priests hurried towards Diss. On the Old Roman Road, covered in snow and ice, the two saw a black dog in the distance. Then, they saw the policeman. The stocky man called to the dog, and put it on a leash and muzzle.

"So you are leaving. Good. You know as much as I do why I want you gone. You religious ones ruined my life, and the life of others with your harsh morality. But, you also know there will be no more murders. Get out of here before I decide to arrest you. I am sick of religion." The short man pulled the dog near his legs and let the priests pass. The two could not believe this man was letting them go. But, the policeman had his own personal grief to deal with and he was being irrational, thankfully. Further down the road, Columcille asked Samuel, "Do you know what he is referring to, Samuel?"  Samuel looked at the younger priest. "I cannot give details, but he is right. There will be no more murders." These deaths would never be investigated or solved.

What Samuel knew was that Abby had killed the Catholics who had discovered that she was committing adultery with the policemen. These good people had tried to talk her out of her sin. She felt desperate and trapped in her lies. She had lied about her home situation and her relationship with her husband. She was the one who caused the family strife. She had lost her faith and was pretending at Mass, with her children, with her own sister. But, Samuel was keeping his priestly oath. He alone knew she had, indeed, taken her own life. He would say thirty days of Masses for her soul. Abby had despaired. How she had overcome the large Kedge was with sweet talk and poison. She had probably poisoned Ann and Max. She may have poisoned the cat. She most likely poisoned herself.

Samuel had known her family for decades. They were a mixed group, all highly strung. But, despair was not in the genes. Yes, he would pray a month of Masses for this tortured soul.

The Roman Road was empty because of the worsening weather. The priests thanked God for the snow and ice and sang Vespers and Compline as they trudged along.

Before the light of evening fades,
we pray O Lord of all;
That by your love we may be saved,
from every grievous fall.
Repel the terrors of the night,
and Satan’s power of guile.
Impose a calm and restful sleep,
that nothing may defile.
Most Holy Father grant our prayer,
through Christ your only Son;
that in your Spirit we may live,
and praise you, ever One. Amen.
To be continued....

Happy Feast of Epiphany

On this coldest day for years, as we here are caught in a raging polar storm, I wish all my readers a holy Epiphany. Here is the Secret from the TLM.

Graciously look down, we beseech Thee, O Lord, upon the gifts of Thy Church: by which gold, frankincense, and myrrh are no longer laid before Thee; but He is sacrificed and received who by those very gifts was signified, Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord.Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Second Class Relic in Davenport

A friend of mine went to the Putnam Museum in Davenport today and saw the Diana Exhibit. One of the items there is this prayer book given to the Princess by Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. If you want to see more of the exhibit, check this out.

The Hour Glass Part Ten

The building housing the offices of the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See astounded Antonio, who was also astounded that he was called "Father" consistently in the Republic. His astonishment grew as he realized that the building in Houston was an exact replica of the original building in Washington D. C. Did someone bring the entire building here, or was this a public statement of pride, and well as a poke in the eye to the false, schismatic church which took over the Massachusetts Avenue address as soon as it was vacated? Texans were proud and had a sense of humor, so Antonio assumed both ideas were correct.

Antonio was also surprised by another visitor whom he met in the waiting room of the Nuncio. Edward Sczepanska, Bishop of Tehama, was sitting on a large red chair in the rather interesting room. Behind the Bishop, on the wall, were two modern paintings. One was of the infamous Manna Berry Bush, complete with berries. The other was a painting of the vinum mustum green grape used by the priests everywhere in what was America except for the Republic. Antonio mentally approved of the glorification of the staples of the missionary priests outside this wonderland of a republic. 

"I remember you at the meeting in Louisiana, Father Antonio. How are you? I am sorry about the death of Bishop James, of course."

Antonio nodded and quietly answered, "Yes, thank you I am fine, Your Excellency. Those who go before us are with us, I believe."

The handsome bishop smiled. "Yes, I agree. By the way, I am no longer in Tehama. The glaciation has forced the terrified population out with the cryoseisms and fierce winds. The town is a ghost town soon to be covered in ice. I have been called back here to serve some where else. I am getting new orders."

Antonio had heard no news of the changes in the north. He expected, however, the cold to continue and get worse. Reports from the International Glaciological Society, before the end of the grid in Britain, had indicated that the glaciation would not end until it hit roughly the 37°47′N latitude, on the level with San Francisco. Tehama was farther north, at about 40 degrees latitude. So, the studies would indicate that Tehama would be covered. The surprise for all the glaciologists working in the Republic was how fast the new glacier was moving.

The moving ice, also, now had a name. The Kim Glacier, as it was caused directly by the nuclear blast. This name seemed too nasty a name for some, and to others, most appropriate. Some scientists wanted to call it the Colorado Springs Glacier, in honor of those who perished at the epicenter of the bomb. But, The Kim stuck. Some quipped that it was too bad he never knew of the honor he was given by the community of glaciologists.

Bishop Edward seemed preoccupied with his thoughts. And, that was proven when the Nuncio's secretary called him and he did not at first respond. Antonio said quietly, "Your Excellency...."

"Ah, yes, sorry. I was thinking of all those Catholic streaming out of the cold to what, I wonder?"

After he disappeared into the next room, Antonio got up to look at the paintings more closely. He noticed the name of the artist written in a scraggly hand-Philip Scott. Antonio has no idea the congenial bishop was an artist. The young priest wondered if that bishop had time, or the means to paint in Ventura. Things were happening so fast Antonio pondered as to the likelihood of painting and art in general being things of the past.

Could art survive in a country divided into four sections?

Who would have the leisure to paint? Who would have the supplies? No one was in The Wilderness; the GATS insured a utilitarian lifestyle of martial law and propaganda in the East; the areas controlled by the Chinese were either under the tyrannies of the generals, or in civil war; therefore, this magnificent mini-nation, the Republic of Texas, was supposedly where Bishop Philip painted these two works.

Interesting, thought Antonio, even in chaos, the urge and the need to create stay with humans, as a comfort, as an expression of who we are....made in the Image and Likeness of God...

To be continued....

The Hour Glass Part Nine

Cousin Thomas Howard, long and lanky like his cousin, Thomas Howard, had led the two priests to Beach House, where a good crowd of about forty people came for Mass. Some of those who did not come to the Lion Road Mass showed up for the Beach House gathering. One was Abby, with her four children. She was a "moaner" always complaining about her bad husband. She was never peaceful with life.

However, Max and Ann were missing. Abby came up to Columcille before Mass started, and as it was a Low Mass in the Tridentine Rite, she had her black mantilla draped over her red hair.

"Ann and Max are not here, Columcille. Things seem scary to me." Like Carrie, her sister, Abby spoke in fast, anxious sentences. But, she could not look the priest in the eye. She was nervous, very nervous.

"I am worried, and for my own children as well."  Columcille looked at the white young face. "Today, do you think your two oldest are ready for First Communion? I am willing to let them receive."

"Columcille, thank you, yes, they are. I know they are. I shall go tell them." And, she practically ran to the little group of children where her girls were talking. Columcille had made a leap into the future in his mind's eye and realized that the days for such freedom as a bi-weekly Mass anywhere could end at any time. Also, he was worried about the absence of Ann and Max, the new convert. Both had promised Samuel they would be here on this day, and they were not. He also made a mental note to talk with Abby again and calm her nerves.

He, like Samuel, had come to the conclusion that house visits may have to be planned, despite the warnings from Rome. Too many priests on the continent had simply disappeared visiting private homes instead of old reliable, established places. Too many people wanted to interfere with the ability of the Church to work in certain areas. Visits for the dying were to be carefully considered. Many house visits were actually traps.

Samuel and Columcille discussed the possibility of breaking with the wisdom of Anselm, but they had not actually made private visits to date. The business of having daily Mass in the cave for their locals, and the two bi-weekly Masses within a 40 mile radius kept them busy, as well as training six young men in a private, clandestine seminary not far from Diss.

The underground network of news and events had worked for a few years, but both Samuel and Columcille sensed a change was coming. The mysterious fear of the policeman as well as the absence of Ann and Max concerned Columcille. After Mass, the two priests decided to go to the house of the couple, as it was on the way "home". Thomas Howard, cousin, agreed to go with them. It was now night. There was no harsh curfew in this part of England, at least, not yet. In other words, the national curfews were not enforced in certain country towns and places.

London, Birmingham, York, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester had curfews of ten o'clock and anyone out after that time was shot on the spot.

One priest had died that way in Birmingham, last year, answering a call to assist at the bed of a dying priest, who had apostatized and came back to Mother Church at death.. The priest who was shot and killed had succeeded in his mission, but was out too late.  Two priests died in grace that day. His body had lain in the street until morning, when some people took it and buried it in privately. Those who found and took the body could be fined "for assisting a priest".

Columcille knew that some of the local people would betray priests and others for money. He was also aware that sometimes fear overcame loyalty.

The three men walked down a country lane between hedgerows. Max and Ann's house was about four miles away. They would reach it by midnight or so. The moon was a thin crescent and the cold Arctic air reminded Samuel that most of northern Europe was under ice. Although the temperatures revealed "unnatural" cold and the "colding" trend, the ice flows moved to the east and west of the British Isles.

Samuel walked quickly for an older man. Thomas Howard's long legs could keep up. Columcille, a thin, almost emaciated scholar, willed himself to keep up with the other two. The flat lands changed to soft hills but as predicted, the three arrived at the gate of the country cottage by midnight. A light snow had fallen and the men could see no candles or oil lamps lit in the house, but it was the middle of the night.

"If we knock, will we upset them?" Samuel whispered.

"We must try and see if they are here." Columcille's soft voice sounded loud in the dark.

Thomas Howard went up to the white door and used the oval iron knocker. No response. He tried it again.

No answer.

The three men decided to go around the back of the cottage, which was detached and far from any other house on the road. The couple had a gate to the garden and the three passed into the garden, which backed onto to a large field. At one time, sheep had grazed there, but now, the sheep had all been eaten.

As Thomas Howard led the way, he walked into the main part of the garden, as if sensing something was wrong. "Stay in the shadows of the house," he whispered to the two priests. They step under the eaves.

Thomas walked a bit further and they stumbled over something. He knelt down and brushed snow off a mound. Then, he quickly stood up. Columcille spoke first, "What is it, tell us."

"A mound, the size of a body. It is a grave. My guess is that this is where Max and Ann are now."

Samuel rushed over to Thomas's side. Yes, the ground had been recently dug up and indeed, the shape of the mound indicated a grave. "Let us go into the house, as they always left the back door unlocked, just as my parents had."

Thomas interrupted, "I shall go in, and you two stay here, by the gate. This could be a trap or get you into trouble."

The Howard cousin tried the latch and the door opened. He walked into a small kitchen and then into the small sitting room. Off the sitting room was a bedroom. All the rooms were in order, but Thomas could sense something was not right. Then, he saw something which convinced him of the reality of the grave.

Max's cat lay next to the empty bowls. It was dead.

Thomas came outside."Max would never abandon his cat. Someone killed these good people and did not know there was a cat in the house. We need to leave, now."

"No, we need to pray over the grave and we need to bless it." Samuel took out his small, travel aspergillum, and blessed the mound.

Samuel and Columcille stood on either side of the mound and prayed the memorized prayers for the dead and for the burial service of Catholics. Samuel did say prayers for both Max and Ann, as his instincts told him that, indeed, they were gone.

Thomas then took them into the field and into a small woods. "We need to go a different way. If the snow stops, all tracks will lead to the cave. We need to double back and go almost to the beach again and then take another road. I know one. Follow me."

Samuel said, "I know the road as well. But, lead on. There is nothing else we can do here."

If Thomas cousin could speak at this moment with other Thomas Howard, they could share notes on the mysterious deaths of Ann and Max, and the strange fear of the policeman on Lion's Road. They would also talk about the other missing Catholic, Kedge, who now, was also lying in his last resting place until the Second Coming. Someone was killing Catholics, silently, secretly, and the policeman knew something.

The round-about way home meant that the three men did not reach the cavern until almost four in the morning. Thomas Howard had a job at a local farm, so he left the priests. He would get home for just an hour's nap before his day commenced. As a migrant farm-worker, he could come and go, helping the priests without anyone noticing. At least, this was his plan. Things might change, he thought as he made his way home, and, his thoughts continued, I might have to change as well.

To be continued....