Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cardinal Fratelli's Christmas, ch 2-3

  Chapter 2.
Family Traditions

A tall, rather handsome man trekked through tall grass and entered into his cottage. His muscular shoulders set down a bag of grain. Approaching, a woman with black curls tied back her white skirt and smiled, brown eyes shining in noonday sun.
“Thank you, Ernesto dear,” she said sitting at their polished, wooden table.
Ernesto came near, took her hand and kissed it. He walked towards the kitchen, pondered a moment then turned asking, “Michele, did you plant those tomatoes?”
She replied tiredly, “If you went into the backyard, you would see them.”
Michele shook her head at his obliviousness.
They readied and prepared lunch. It was a simple meal: rolls, roasted tomatoes and cold pasta. Autumn sun streaked through the windows, few birds chirped and Michele could hear a rabbit scurrying outside. After eating, they drank sweet wine. Ernesto got up and wiped the table clean until its wooden surface shined while Michele put dishes away in a basin.
Things were quiet; neither had much to say but simply went through their household duties. Sudden tension began rising from this silence. At once, a sound came at the door. Ernesto answered and found of all people, Cardinal Fratelli standing there. Behind him, an elaborate carriage circled and parked on the grass yard.
“Your Eminence, it’s unusual for you to be here. Is everything alright?”
Fratelli grinned and said, “Everything is fine. I couldn’t wait for you to visit me this weekend so decided I’d come myself. There is something I wish to share with you.”
The cardinal awkwardly clutched a box under his arm and Ernesto took it from him. He carried it into the front-room. The object didn’t feel too heavy but he wondered what it contained.
“It’s nice to see you,” Ernesto then admitted, removing Fratelli’s flowing, scarlet cloak and hanging this by the door.
His visitor looked about the small house, small but open. A wicker basket, given as a wedding gift, hung on the nearest wall. Pine sap’s sweet scent wafted and smells of fresh bread and boiled stew came out of the kitchen. This was a lived-in house, a family house.
Hearing their voices, Michele entered and exclaimed, “Angelo, you’re here!”
Cardinal Fratelli made himself comfortable in a wide chair then gestured for the box which Ernesto set on his lap.
           “Can’t I open it?” Ernesto asked.
           “No, I will, there is something here I must show you.”
           “Angelo, would you like something to drink?” Michele chimed.
           Though his face expressed slight frustration at being addressed so informally, Fratelli gently spoke, “No I am fine.”
Carefully, Fratelli removed his pristine, white gloves, siting them on the table beside him and pried open the box. Under layers of thin, gauzy paper were revealed two, tiny statuettes: One of Saint Joseph in brown garments, glaze brightening his tan skin, a tiny wooden staff in his hand and the other, a ceramic lamb.
         “They are so beautiful!” Michele cried.
         Delicately, she took the lamb into her hands examining closer. Fratelli handed Ernesto the Joseph figurine.
         “There is a tradition in the Fratelli family,” he began, “Every year, when we meet to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity, each of us brings part of the family crèche and we put it together and display it in the house where we are feasting.”
         Michele gasped, delighted.
          “Our own family is just beginning and how thoughtful of you to give us a new tradition like this!” she stammered.
          Ernesto smiled but said nothing. He didn’t want to break the light mood which settled over them. His wife spoke truly, their new family had just begun and he anticipated this first year together. The cardinal’s voice broke his musing:
           “For years, it was my duty to place these two figures- along with the baby Christ, which I now keep. However, you two are now part of the family and so shall have a part in this…”
         “Thank you, Your Eminence, I am proud to be in this family,” Ernesto responded.
           The cardinal laughed, “Well, you always were actually. Thanks be to God for the wonderful fortune of discovering you are my brother.”
           Ernesto glanced down, overcome with humble joy. Sudden emotion swept over Michele and rather than betray her feelings, she unseated and darted into the kitchen pretending to fetch wine. So many thoughts flowed through her mind, thoughts of the recent wedding, her happiness, joy and worry. Looking out a small window, she noticed storm clouds gathering. Distant, city towers grew dark.
           Walking back into the living room, she placed an open bottle of wine between them and three glasses. She poured and they sipped listening to faint thunder. As Fratelli stuffed tissue paper back into his box, a little bell rang and he looked at his feet to find Michele’s Siamese kitten pawing and tearing one sheet.
         “Bella, no!” Michele cried snatching the paper away.
         Fratelli calmly grabbed the kitten and placed her on the chair next to him. Seeing her playful, pale-blue eyes sparkle, he lifted one end of his silk belt, dangling its tassels above the kitten who swatted at them. He laughed in amusement. A rumble sounded outside, growing louder.
         “Perhaps I should be on my way?” Fratelli then suggested.
         “Yes rain is coming and it sounds fierce,” Ernesto said.
         Soon as he spoke, loud thunder clapped and clouds above released a torrent of rain. Through the dripping windows, they watched driver outside quickly move beneath a tree.
         “That poor man…” Michele sighed.
          Fratelli nodded in agreement, betraying silent remorse and went to the door retrieving his draping, red cloak. Wrapping the fine fabric around him, the cardinal granted farewell then moved to open the door. He froze, peering outside with apprehension.
         “You won’t get too wet,” Ernesto remarked, “I’ve been working on the roof, fixing the gutters.”
         He smiled proudly and that pride assured Fratelli who opened the door, stepping out. Soon as he fastidiously straightened the red cap on his head, a rush of water trickled upon him. He shrieked, dancing away from the leaky roof as Ernesto hid his face in embarrassment. Apparently, he’d forgotten to fix one spot. Garb dampened and dripping, Fratelli sulked towards the carriage then removed his shoes and wrung them before stepping inside.
         “Lord, is this because I coveted the garden?” he dismally asked aloud, “Yes, I have learned my lesson. I see now that it is your creation, which I have only tended- please forgive me and shelter me from more rain!

Chapter 3.
          The Cardinal’s Bible

          When Cardinal Fratelli returned home, he removed his cold, wet garments, took a hot bath and went downstairs to eat diner. He felt warm and comfortable in a dry cassock and his dull red house-slippers, almost sleepy, but knew there was some work he had to do yet before resting. After finishing his plate of chicken and roasted potatoes, Fratelli went into his office to read over several documents that arrived that afternoon.
          One of these documents a theological treatise, something he had to examine and approve. If the book taught in accordance with church teachings and correct Christian doctrine, it would be granted an “imprimatur”, official approval from the Church. Fratelli sat down reading the book for a few hours then grew tired of it. So he set this down and worked on something else. After a while, he stood up, paced for a bit then considered going into the other room and fetching his Bible. Certainly, reading Scripture would inspire him…
          Going into his rather small library, Fratelli carefully took from the nearby shelf an old, tattered, leather-bound bible. He handled the tearing book delicately and brought it back to his office where he rested in a chair and slowly opened it. The weathered, ancient pages slipped through the torn binding, began falling out, and cascaded onto the floor.
           “Oh no!” Fratelli cried, trying to catch them.
            Hearing his lament, Father Rodrigo entered. Seeing the floor littered with old, yellow pages, he explained, “Your Eminence, perhaps it is time you bought a new bible?”
           “But,” the cardinal stammered, “I’ve had this one since seminary. It is so dear to me. I will just pick these up and put them in order so they can be rebound.”
           “Your Eminence, that will take days…just get a new one.”
            Fratelli furled his brows, pondering and laid one exasperated arm on the desk. Rodrigo bent over scooping up the fragile pages gathering them into a sloppy pile. He said, “I’ll go to the printer tomorrow afternoon…would you like the new bible bound in red leather?
            “No, I do not like red.”
            “You don’t?”
             “No, it is my least favorite color, you know that.”
            Observing the frustrated cardinal, leaning in his chair, bright scarlet robes draping, Rodrigo didn’t mention it. He left as Fratelli sighed and hesitantly continued working. Some days were just difficult…

               ~ ~ ~
            Thin sunlight streamed through windows, delicately brushing Fratelli’s face as he lay sleeping in bed. He lifted the covers over his eyes and groaned.
“Your Eminence…”
Fratelli ignored the voice, wanting badly to go back asleep. Father Rodrigo stood by his bedside. At once, he tiptoed closer then shouted:
“Your Eminence!!!”
             Crying out, startled, Fratelli jumped throwing the covers off himself and stared back irately.
Ignoring the anger, Rodrigo calmly said, “We are late for morning prayer...”
           The cardinal forgot his crankiness knowing that God demanded his utmost attention and efforts. He dressed and rushed downstairs into the chapel, kneeling for prayer, sleepily uttering:
           “Lord open my lips…and my mouth shall declare your praise.
            There were not truer words for this moment.

           During a light breakfast, Fratelli rested, glancing out the window. Trees faded as the wintry side of autumn finally showed its chill face. Wind howled against the window’s pane blowing a few leaves around. He sipped his steaming tea, glad to be inside. Thoughts of upcoming Christmas swirled in his mind, collecting and settling. This year, he wished to do something gracious for his family and friends- something they would remember.
          Immediately, he straightened, drawing Rodrigo’s attention. The priest asked right away:
          “What, is the tea too hot?”
          “No Father, I just had the most-wonderful idea.”
Placing his teacup down, Rodrigo asked,
“What idea?”
            Fratelli smiled and replied:
“A great celebration for Christmas. I shall invite all my friends and family and we will feast and sing… I want to host a party they will always remember- with savory food, flower bouquets everywhere and music- oh, a string quartet! It will be splendid!”
          “That does sound nice…”
          “That’s because it will be!”
Fratelli unseated and walked into another room. He held paper in his hand, setting it on the table and began jotting things down. He smiled, writing more then laughed. Rodrigo felt anxious to see what was written but waited patiently. Finally, Fratelli gave the paper to him and as he read, the cardinal rushed out, his feet scampering boyishly, excitedly shouting something unintelligible.
           Later, Rodrigo went out, strolling one mile through the city and visited a printer.  He’d ordered the cardinal’s bible that morning and was told to come back for it. When he returned, clutching a shiny, black leather-bound book beneath his shoulder, he found Fratelli busily reading in the office. He looked up at Rodrigo’s footsteps.
          “That bible is bigger than my old one,” he commented, all previous excitement gone from his voice.
          “That is because I had a few pictures put in it.”
          Fratelli took the bible, opened it, smelling fresh ink, and shuffled though. His face still frowned, a bit upset at having to replace his old bible. However, he glanced back and wryly grinned in appreciation. Sitting back down, Fratelli now examined the first chapter of the first book, Genesis. He seemed happier.
         “Thank you Father,” he said without looking up.
         “Of course, Your Eminence.”
         He left the man alone, reading to himself.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cardinal Fratelli's Christmas, chapter 1

Chapter 1.
A Gardener.

Noon sun blazed brightly over trees of varying, faded hues. On paved streets, a scant breeze kicked up swirls of dust. Sunlight beamed between tall buildings upon a finely-kept garden. Where roses and evergreen hedges grew, strode a slender man, around 33 years old. He had brown hair and wore flowing, red robes which sharply contrasted the surrounding, white blooms. His right hand clutched old pruning shears. Wiping sweat from his brow, he removed the small, red cap from his head, setting it down on a nearby ledge. At once, he stooped and began pruning the roses.
Leaves fell onto the ground and the man simply kicked them aside. He shook some dirt from his polished shoe then kept working. After several minutes, the man grew tired. After washing hands in the stone, water fountain behind him, he yawned and thought to rest against the ledge, soon falling asleep.
A middle-aged woman, wearing a blue, cotton dress, came outside and finding him laid asleep there, she spoke, her voice in a hiss:
“Your Eminence…you better not be drunk!”
Cardinal Fratelli jerked awake, glanced around and timidly responded, “No Dina, the sun made me sleepy.”
Dina glanced about discovering pruning shears sitting next to an unused spade and leaves piled beneath the rose-bushes.
“You were working? You shouldn’t be doing this kind of work. Please go inside. I’ll clean this up and bring you some water.
Saying nothing, the cardinal climbed afoot, turned his back to the radiant sunlight and dusting off his fine garb, retreated inside.
In his roomy parlor, he sat wondering when summer’s heat would finally cede to autumn’s milder season. It was already November. Dina approached, handing him a cup of cool water and he thanked her. Slightly disappointed at finding Fratelli so tired in the garden after working, she huffed while putting away the shears and other tools. Coming back into the parlor, she found he had left.
“If he went into that garden again…” she grumbled irately walking down the hallway.
However, the cardinal sat in his office signing some documents. He thanked her a second time for bringing the water then asked for another glass. This was better, she thought.
Sipping his cold water, Fratelli mused about the garden, how lovely the roses were growing…and tomatoes too. He planned to go outside and fetch one for a snack- but later, after the heat subsided. His hand grabbed the quill pen beside him and he resumed writing.
Four hours passed and utterly exhausted, Cardinal Fratelli could hardly stay awake through dinner. His secretary, Father Rodrigo nudged him.
“Your Eminence.”
“Sorry that I’m not much company this evening.”
“Maybe you should retire early?”
“Yes I think so.”
Quietly they ate their supper of lamb chops and spinach soup. Some nights were quieter than others and the peaceful silence was appreciated. Fratelli and Rodrigo felt content, almost prayerful as balmy wind wafted through the windows and crickets sang to the darkening sky.

Though he found it very easy to sleep, Cardinal Fratelli woke up early before dawn the next morning. The sky still loomed inky black as he crept downstairs and began fixing himself some tea. Truth be told, he didn’t know a good ways around the kitchen as Dina usually made the morning tea. After five minutes, he eventually found the canister of dry, fragrant tea-leaves. He poured cold water into a brass kettle and searched around for the mesh, tea ball. At first, too much tea was scooped in and so he put some back, then too little.  Fratelli sighed and trying a third time, he poured the perfect amount of tea.
Everything seemed right as the water began boiling and Fratelli poured it over the tea, sniffing its robust, floral scent. He closed the tea-pot and carried it to the wooden counter. Now, he needed a cup. Where did Dina put the cups? His hand felt around in an above cabinet and suddenly sent a stack of small pans clattering to the floor. He leapt from the noise, froze then turned around to find Dina surely entering with a tired and frustrated expression on her face. She yawned, looked right at him then the fallen pans.
            “I apologize… it was so early and I didn’t want to wake you…” Fratelli began.
“It is fine…I’m awake now, you can go,” she answered.
Fratelli stepped past her gingerly, like a schoolboy who had been caught making mischief, and darted out of the kitchen.
When finished with breakfast, he proceeded to morning-prayer alongside Father Rodrigo then walked to the cathedral, which loomed next door. There, he celebrated Mass for the first week of Advent, a time when Catholics reflected on Christ's coming in the flesh. Although he felt excited, donning rich, violet vestments and reciting the entrance chant loudly, Fratelli kept his sermon short. Distant rain clouds gathered faintly, cooling the air as the cardinal trekked home with Rodrigo following close behind. They dallied and talked on their way, watching people and carriages pass by, but suddenly hearing rumbling thunder, they quickened pace.
However, no rain fell. The clouds threatened overhead but passed on by. Sitting in his office, reading a letter, Fratelli glanced at them and saw sunlight pierce through. Feeling warmth touch his face, he smiled. He instantly stood, hearing people in the hallway and walked out to see Dina speaking with a tall, thin man. His very tan skin contrasted bright eyes and he gestured towards the window.
“Who is this?” Fratelli asked.
“Oh, Your Eminence, I was just coming to fetch you. This is Paolo. I just hired him to care for the garden.”
After Paolo left, Fratelli took Dina’s sleeve, gently pulling her aside, saying, “Why did you hire a gardener?”
“Because you are too busy for that kind of work…”
The cardinal clasped his hands then replied painfully, “No, I cannot stand the thought of some other man touching my roses…and putting his hands on my tomatoes!”
He seethed with obvious jealousy.
“This bothers me.”
“Everything will be just fine, the garden will be fine. Your Eminence,” Dina assured.
It still made Fratelli anxious. When Paolo went outside to finish pruning, the cardinal couldn’t help but linger and watch, making sure he did everything right.

Cardinal Fratelli's Christmas is coming up!

The 2nd Volume of the Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli! Cardinal Fratelli's Christmas.

In this novella, Cardinal Fratelli’s misadventures continue as he prepares for the Feast of the Nativity. Sprits run high as Michele and Ernesto go through the joys and trials of newlywed life. 
Moreso, an excited Fratelli plans a lavish Christmas party for friends and family, plans which start to fall around his ears. The whole family gets together, sharing many happenings, surprises and upsets while a young boy living on the village’s streets begins making himself at homeat the cardinal’s house! 

Tea with Cardinal Fratelli #5

From: Hernando
Su Eminencia, I am having a problem with my son. He doesn’t listen to me and when I tell him to do something, he does just the opposite. How can I get through to him?

Hernando Lopez

“Dear Hernando Lopez,
De nada y Dios te bendiga. It is unfortunate that many children do not listen to their parents these days. When I was growing up, if I so much as talked back to Momma Maria, she would slap me across the mouth. Now, I don’t suggest you do that with your son. Instead, take a firm stance but be gentle and always represent yourself as a formidable authority.
One of my parishioners, whose name I will not mention, had an authority problem. He consistently defied me. Eventually I told him that should he fail to listen to his God-given authorities, his soul may be tortured and his eyes be poked in hell forever. It worked fairly well. When your son attempts to disobey you, remind him of the consequences and spare no details.

In Christ,
Angelo Cardinal Fratelli.

Tea with Cardinal Fratelli # 4

From: X
“I don’t believe in God”

 Dear  X,
Look at the beauty of the world around you. I know when considering the evil that is in the world, it is hard to believe in a God, however do not forget the beauty and order that is in the world, in every creature, every little blade of grass and flower. Everything on earth shows evidence of a master design, even spiders as unsettling as they are.
It may seem that God is even cruel considering how many people believe that unless you hear God’s word in the Bible, you will go to hell. However, God does not damn those who through no fault of their own have never heard his Word. He may punish the wicked but He is Just. He takes into account the hearts of all men at judgment.
God is also there in the little quirks of life, those instances where it seems as if you are dreaming but you are awake. He has a funny way of allowing us to trick ourselves with our minds if we so chose but snaps us out of it by various situations…gravity for instance. Oh, you may not see God and find it so difficult to believe but there is Someone who sees and shares your every joy and sorrow. He is also present in the greatest of human emotions: Love.
Please sit alone in the beauty and silence of creation and open your heart. It is obvious something inside you is yearning or else you would have never written this. Search for the truth my brother because indeed Truth is a person and sometimes truth is found where we least expect it.

In Christ,
Angelo Cardinal Fratelli

Tea with Cardinal Fratelli # 3

From Josephine,

“Your Eminence, what is your opinion on Protestants?”

Dear, Josephine
Protestants are different. They have some strange ideas and strange notions on how the church should work. However, they are to be loved, like those odd members of our family who come around once a year, usually on Christmas, and argue with you. Sometimes, we get frustrated and want to yell “You are wrong!” – I know this has been my experience. Yet, should I have yelled, our fragile ties would be even more broken.
Yes, you may not agree with them and they might not agree with you but God says we are to love each other as we were first loved by Jesus Christ. Always remember that all Christians are children of God and believers on Christ. We all trust in the sacrifice of the cross for our salvation. This means putting up with the arguing and strangeness of our relatives and doing our best to make peace (even if we feel like locking them in the attic from time to time).

In Christ,
Angelo Cardinal Fratelli

Tea with Cardinal Fratelli #2

From: Ron Dee

(Bowing deeply.) Your eminence, I know of horrible difficulties here on the internet…you see, sometimes I think I know what I am doing, but it turns out that some of the time, I actually have no idea at all as to what I am doing, or at least what I am thinking I am doing.
And then I forget what I was doing when I got confused about what I thought I was doing, and, well, then it all starts all over again…(blush) I just so humiliated at myself sometimes, your Cardinalship…will you please say something that might help me???

Dear, Ron Dee,
There are times when all of us think we know what we are doing and then press ourselves onward thinking we can make no mistakes. I call these moments lessons from God, when he shows us how silly we are.
Computers can be very complicated but they are a reminder that we must be constantly learning new things and meeting the challenges our world offers. My own secretary had some troubles explaining the ways of facebook and google to me. I was very embarrassed by an incident when I searched for “old dolls” and ran into some very unsavory material!!
Consider it another lesson that God in his good time teaches us. Nothing makes the Lord laugh more than people who think they are important…I know this very well- especially when I trip over my own feet in the middle of the night, even cardinals end up making themselves look very foolish.

Yours In Christ,
Angelo Cardinal Fratelli.

Tea With Cardinal Fratelli, # 1

“Your Eminence, I love my beautiful girlfriend very much, she is the world to me. I am Christian and I want to save you know…that “special time” for marriage. However, lately, I am feeling tempted because she wants our relationship to be more physical. What do I do?


Dear Robert,
I know it can be difficult being young and having a beautiful girlfriend whom you love. However, it is vastly important to retain your virtue, both for the sake of your immortal soul- and to avoid bodily harm if her father finds out.  Remember to cherish your beloved’s more intellectual and spiritual attributes. If you are feeling tempted, still your mind and recite some prayers. The “Our Father” works very well.
When your girlfriend tries to make your relationship more physical, I suggest you do not yield to your urges but rather slap her on the wrist and say; “No means no!”

Yours in Christ,
His Eminence, Angelo, Cardinal Fratelli.

Tea with Cardinal Fratelli

Featured here in between postings of the good cardinal's misadventures, will be a witty, mock-advice column with good Christian values and a familiar character. "Tea with Cardinal Fratelli". Sit down, enjoy a cup of tea with the cardinal and ask for advice!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sunday Sermon

"In this age, turning our backs on traditional Christianity is seen as original and a sign of free-thinking. What is truly original and a sign of free-thought is embracing tradition and love of Christ which stands in the face of this world and its idea of "values".

The so-called Enlightenment of prior centuries has badly harmed Christians. One looks at the French Revolution and other revolutions that grew out of this movement and see how they have mocked and injured Christ. Brothers and sisters, we cannot free ourselves by breaking away from God's hands, when we break away from God, we subject ourselves to the darkest form of slavery.

 Oh that we would give ourselves back to God! We were made for him to love Him and serve Him. When our service turns back on ourselves and becomes self satisfying, it is indeed slavery. But it is reward and preventable to be of service to Something greater. We are foolish to think we can ever break "free" of God. It is written in the Psalms "Where can I go from your Spirit. Where can I flee from your presence?" And the prophet Jeremiah did write "Shall a man be hid in secret places, and I not see him, saith the Lord? do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?"

He who made us will always be with us and any ideology which excludes Him seeks to take away our humanity and often does. Where else do we get our humanity but from Him. As did say Augustine of Hippo "Our hearts are restless, O God, untill they rest in you."

Welcome to the New Blog!

Welcome to Cardinal Fratelli's new blog. This blog gets its name from the fact that the world can be a very dark place but with the Good Lord- and with good humor, all things can be made brighter. You can feel free to check out his misadventures which are on the older posts. This will now become the official center for all things Fratelli!

You may ask yourself, who the heck is Cardinal Fratelli?

Angelo Cardinal Fratelli is a fictional cardinal drawn from the imagination of Catholic author, Rachel M. Gohlman (Rae Marie). Largely inspired by the whimsical paintings of Jehan Georges Vibert, which were intended to be anti-clerical but are in her view, quaint and hilarious.

                                           One of Vibert's funny cardinals.

Cardinal Fratelli appears in four, comedy novellas: “The Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli”, “Cardinal Fratelli’s Christmas”, “The Cardinal and Constable” and “The Cardinal’s Family Matters”. The clergyman’s guileless humanity is emphasized in each. Other key characteristics of Fratelli are his young age (for a cardinal that is), his excitability and stylized speech– also his lovable vanity. His qualities have been extended into “Tea with Cardinal Fratelli”, a humorous, rollicking and witty mock advice-column.
Cardinal Fratelli  is 34 years old. He lives in Lucca, Tuscany, in Italy. He has one brother, Ernesto, one aunt, Francine and three cousins, Iona, Francesca and Philomena.
Cardinal Fratelli also has a facebook page. You can access it through the links posted at the blog's right side. Take time to get acquainted with him, his misadventures and his anecdotal insights on life. You are sure to be rewarded!