Monday, October 7, 2013

Recollections on a Rainy Day

             It is raining outside, a dreadful pour that blocks the streets. I hear carriages trot past but cannot see them and can't help but wonder if the roses are being well-watered. Unfortunately, the cold weather and my plentiful duties have long kept me from the garden. How I should love to walk there!
Folding my hands, I pretend ever so successfully that the thunder doesn't frighten me. My mind recalls a storm this bad, many years ago, when I was only nineteen years old, an ambitious seminarian, completing my 2nd year. I had been staring out a cloister window, fascinated by heavy rain that beat upon the bottled glass. Glass back then was made from cheap, green bottles. From behind came Renaldo, who quickly shoved past me to peer out. Catching sight of a couple fleeing the waterlogged road, he pointed and laughed:
“Look how that pitiful man must go back for his wife! I’d maybe go back for my breviary…”
Soon, some four young men gathered there, pushing and shoving. They longed to see the couple but grey clouded everything. Leonardo, the oldest, straightened up and rather predictably, intoned a sharp C in his deep, tenor voice. Catching on, the others joined their eager youthful voices.  Between old, stone cloisters, rang a new song, trying to sound ancient- but altogether silly: the chant of the seminarians. That year, it went like this:

           When I was a young man, I dreamt my wedding day...
            But there was no bride in white.
            and it would last forever!
            Oh my beloved is Chastity!
She won’t nag or ask for things.
            nor drag me from place to place!
         I’m a seminarian- soon to be ordained…
            Thomas Aquin my best man,
Blest Mary bears the ring.

            Poor Clare supplieth roses,
            and good Joseph, the rod breaks.
            On the day I’ll say forever!

            Oh, sweet chastity, she is my bride.
            Oh, sweet chastity, so free! 
            Celibacy but a small price to pay.

            Yes, a woman’s tempting, very nice.
            Her eyes and lips all made up nice,
            But on that day, I’ll swear forever.
            Of Latin our tongues are burdened,
              all day long: Amo, amas, amat.
              In principio Verbum erat!

               The Matin bells we ring,
              over the mountains, Te Deum sing,
            early, early, to the choir scurry!

            In cassock and surplice, 
             shew yourselves clean, alert
            and ready, like angels on the wing.

                In deep philosophy, our minds swim,
             at morn we ponder, St Ambrose
               and Augustin.
                 And at eventide, theology runs a race,
                  like hounds of heaven,
                 corrected over and over.

              Joy makes no dull boy,
            our tongues shall let loose:
            O sweet chastity, shall be my bride!
            Say, I’ll be a priest.
            Death comes for wives and children
but the altar’s always there…

Introibo ad altare Dei,
Io, io! ~the rest you know!

Now that I think back on it, this was a very frivolous song, made up by frivolous youth and "perfected" over the years- but perhaps containing several grains of truth? I am not sure. I must watch the rain a little longer and decide... 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Recent Happenings

I have noticed my relative scarcity of updates on this blog and I apologize. Let me tell you what has been going on in my life...oh yes... and at the cathedral.
We recently acquired a new priest, Father Bertone. He is native to Florence and used to more hustle and bustle than what Lucca offers. Though musically-inclined, he butts heads with Deacon Gregorius, who has more traditional tastes. During his third Mass, poor Father Bertone only needed hasten the tempo of "Aquae Babylonis" to get Gregorius in a ruffle!
A woman, named Priscilla, held her husband's funeral at the cathedral. After the requiem, I sat with her and offered condolences. In turn, she asked me permission to upkeep and straiten the sacristy, which has been rather disorganized of late. Last Sunday, maniples of all colors were laying around- except green ones. I admit it, we have trouble finding things... so I gave permission. Priscilla is very good at organizing. She makes sure that the correct maniple can always be found...even ensures they match my chasuble. However, the altar boys are uneasy around her.  Giuseppe, our oldest server, has developed a liking to her and follows her around, causing a ruckus among the other boys.
On August 15, I met with various clergy and discussed many things. After two hours of serious discourse, Dina served us the most-delicious, pepperoni calzone and red Moscatto wine. I'm ashamed to admit, we drank too much... Monsignor Barolo ended up singing the full overture from "Don Giovanni" while Father Simone fell asleep on the couch. Of course, this was where I wished to sleep. It didn't go over well... Arguments about who got there first, who had the biggest shoes and who took vows of obedience ensued. I'm not proud of this...

Next summer, I will be ordaining seven priests and three deacons. Very exciting! We also will be accepting four new seminarians. Please pray for our young men who seek priesthood- it's very important. Joyfully, I write this... not only does Giuseppe promise to become a priest (that is, if Priscilla doesn't marry him) but Dina's own adopted son, Gianni, has expressed wishes to enter seminary. How splendid!!

My, my, it has grown rather late. I suppose I shall write more when the proper time comes. Please know that everything is good here. The cathedral is vibrant as ever. Our boys' choir will be preparing for the season of Advent and three, young women are soon entering St. Martha's convent. There is really nothing more to say. I conclude with thanksgiving for the Lord's goodness! May He be praised forever, who has set the stars into place. May He be exalted above all, who has divided the sea. May glory be forever unto Him who has sent His Only Son for man's salvation!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Note on Celibacy

            Yesterday at the local bakery, while waiting for a loaf of baguette, a woman approached me and asked where my wife was. She meant well and was rather flustered, perhaps overly concerned with my apparent loneliness. Very quietly, I told her “We clergymen don’t take wives. I am celibate.” My verbiage left this woman rather confused! Poor dear, scratching at her hair, she answered, “So then, what do you celebrate?”
              Since my baguette was taking longer than I expected, I figured to explain: “No madam, I said celibate, it means that someone does not marry and chooses to remain chaste for their lifetime.” At last, she understood. In horror, the poor dear cried out, “Oh, how unfortunate!”
          After I received my baguette, while walking home, I realized that this woman’s attitude resembled most everyone else’s. And when dinner was finished, I decided to write something on this matter so others may be taught:

           Do we not hear the Gospel and how Jesus passed the devious tests of the Pharisees? While the Jews concerned themselves with earthly things, who shall earn the wife of many deceased husbands, Our Lord drew towards heavenly matters: “For when they shall rise again from the dead, they shall neither marry, nor be married, but are as the angels in heaven (1)”.  He does speak here of earthly unions, saying death shall dissolve the marriage bond… yet this does not dissolve the sanctity of marriage but beholds a new reality. In eternity, our human souls become espoused to none but the Lord God who crafted them.  From His time in Eden, God had crafted holy matrimony for the blessing of humanity made in His image. He had sealed the marital bond with His charity and bestowed the gift of family, generations beyond, who will glorify His name.
                Yet despite this great good, and let us declare it such great good, not all need belong to a husband or wife in this earthly stay. Hear the apostle: “The married man is anxious with pleasing his wife while a virgin is anxious with pleasing the Lord.” Think ye of such holy examples who undertook this: Mary Magdala who fled from impurity, John the Beloved, virgin and celibate, Joseph, Father of Christ, who lived out of godly fear, in marital continence. John the Messiah’s Forerunner and the prophet Jeremiah also pledged their flesh to God. This, the burnt-offering of the Levites prefigures: all is consumed, the whole body turned to ashes. Thus, Lord Jesus hath said: “He who loses his life shall gain life.” Many deem it gravest misfortune to be made a eunuch or mutilated, yet the one who who injures self for sake of the Kingdom is instead blessed, called “As the angels in heaven.”
                May we say, “He that can take, let him take it (2).” True oblation is never forced. Duty cannot selflessly give, thus the error of the Pharisees who bound up sacrifice with law.  The cross of Christ was never duty, no, Calvary’s offering was always love. Likewise, the man who forgoes marriage and creation of young does so from love. With a burning passion, he lays himself on the altar of chastity, ever hoping to consummate that supernatural union in heaven. In heaven, no marriage is known beside that with the Lord. A consecrated soul alone becomes as the bride of Solomon, choice, whitened, a heady wine, a hidden chord of sublime music, clad in gold, sweet as the lily, fair like the dove. Know, every brother, who delights in psalms rather than children’s’ laughter, is full of God’s delight. Know, every sister who gives not suck, goes out weeping yet returneth rejoicing, singing songs of joy. Know, every father who belongs to none, raises up by word of the Gospel, numberless descendants!
Blessed are the barren trees of Our Lord’s garden! By bowing down, they shed good seed and tend the saplings. They go to the sheep, made food for life anew. By restraining the flesh, they show us the angels. They mirror eternity, forever beloved and wedded to God, melded like wax beneath a burning flame, to Love Itself.

(1)    Mark 12:25
(2)    Matthew 19:12

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Finally left to himself, Cardinal Fratelli falls silent. He kneels, turns eyes towards an old, wooden crucifix, and prays aloud: “Have mercy on me, Oh Lord, according to the greatness of your mercy. In your compassion, blot out my sins…”
Admitting wrong deeds done and right deeds undone is difficult- especially for a cardinal who is supposed to be holy. Knowing he had been proud, slothful, selfish… intemperate… concupiscent, Fratelli dared not stare too intently at that hallowed representation of Christ. Indeed, the cross seemingly loomed over him, its painful curves and rugged lines almost crying out for justice. Yet, the Savior’s death didn’t bring well-deserved justice but mercy. The blood of the cross pleaded for pardon rather than condemnation.   

Sacrifices do not delight you, but a contrite heart you will not spurn,” the cardinal said, “Hear me, Oh Lord, and be pleased with my sorrow.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cardinal Fratelli's talk for Altar-Servers.

The Mass is a very special occasion- like a wedding. Now we are always on our best behavior at weddings aren't we? Don't we say: “please” “Thank you” “Yes sir” and “Yes ma'am” ?

            -Do we dress sloppy for weddings? No we don’t. We comb our hair, wash our faces and clean our hands. There shall be no gummy ears, runny noses or dirty fingernails. It is very important we are presentable.

            -Long, un-groomed hair isn't befitting of an altar server. Don’t even try to tell me its okay because Jesus had long hair. The only thing more insufferable than messy hair is a sassy mouth!

            - There is no excuse for ruffled surplices and cassocks. If your parents have not time to wash them, wash them yourselves. I will have no more mud-stains: stop playing in the dirt! Neither will any of you wear scruffy shoes. If your shoes are worn out or you can’t afford new ones, come and see me.

- Any one of you who smells like grass or cigar-smoke, shall be made to wait outside the sanctuary. “My poppa smokes” you say- but you are the one with stale breath! If you don’t have enough respect to keep from your vices on Sunday morning, you do not deserve the respect of the sanctuary.

-One of you brought a frog to Mass last Sunday. No one here is the next Francis of Assisi. This will not happen again!

-I know some of you are sleepy, having woken early and walked all the way to church. That is fine and I am pleased to allow you time to liven up. However, tiredness is no excuse for inattention and sloppy form. By now, you should be able to fold hands in your sleep and lift your head at the smell of incense.

- For those of you with too much energy; please run around outside before coming to Mass. Stretch your legs- but do not fidget or dare pinch the younger boys! Even worse should I ever catch you fighting… Servants of Christ are not rabble-rousers... Your mothers taught you better. We stand as equals before God and shame on you for claiming any kind of rank!

- Some of you are clumsy and cannot help it. It is best for you to kneel and ring the bells. Take nothing beyond your ability.

- Stop holding hands. This is a nuisance.

    -Yes, we have heard over and over again that Paolo has a girlfriend. Not every altar-server is called to be a priest. Stop picking on him.

- Slurred Latin is shameful. “Escum spirtu tu” is NOT an acceptable response! If you don’t have enough discipline to practice your responses at home, you should not have the privilege to stand up here and say them!

- If you have anything in your mouth, spit it out at home! I am tired of finding crumbs and discarded gum in the sacristy!

- This is the last time I tell you not to clang the sacred vessels and patens together. If you would not dare do this with your mother’s best china, you shouldn't dare do it here.

- Stop talking after Mass. The sanctuary is not a boys-club. When you have changed back into your regular clothes and left the church, you may resume conversation.

-I know it is fun swinging the thurible and watch smoke come out however this is no grounds to make loops and spill coals everywhere. You are to be offering prayers to God, not showing off!

- Anyone caught smoking on the church steps will not be allowed to serve that day. The same with swearing. Dirty mouths are for heathens!

We know at the Mass, Jesus and all the saints are present. Mother Mary is there; your guardian angels and all the angels are there. So it is best we show utmost respect!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Story-time with Cardinal Fratelli, part 5

The cardinal finished speaking. Six, wide-eyed boys peered up at him. Fresh in their minds were images of the grey, grinning gargoyle, the two brothers carrying home treasure, the donkey trotting amidst palm branches and of course, the white-fanged wolf who seemed less scary now. When the cardinal brushed dirt off his red robes, ready to depart, little Paolo begged: “Please tell us one more…please?”
The priest-attendant stopped to examine the sky, minding it was late and shook his head. Cardinal Fratelli strode towards him, inciting many groans of disappointment. Paolo’s small finger dug into the train of his garment and he couldn’t bear to turn away.
“Alright then, I shall tell only one more story,” the cardinal said.
The boys cheered and resumed their places at his feet, Antonio standing, behind Stefano who squatted down, Paolo fidgeting beside them. Wasting not a moment, Cardinal Fratelli began his next tale:

“Two large stones once sat on a tall hilltop. They longed to see what lie on the hill’s other side but could not move themselves. Seeing a mouse, they asked him, “Please go to the hill’s other side and tell us what is there.”
Returning, the mouse said, “Tall grass is on the other side; towering mushrooms and lofty mountains. The creatures there are gigantic.”
No doubt, the rocks were surprised. So, when an eagle perched nearby, they asked her “Please go to the hill’s other side and tell us what is there.”
Returning, the eagle said, “There’s short grass, tiny flowers and small pebbles. The creatures there are itsy-bitsy.”
Then, a man came along, dragging a huge log and the rocks asked him, “The hill’s other side is a wondrous world that we’ve never seen, please carry us there!”
The man obliged. He tied both stones together and lugged them to the other side of the hill. Once there, the stones peered about eagerly. However, they found that this side of the hill looked exactly like the other… So do not be ungrateful for what you have my children."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Story-time with Cardinal Fratelli, part 4

“I am not leaving until I hear the story about the wicked wolf,” Antonio pouted.
He stood man-like, hands clenched into fists, arms crossing his chest. Stefano glanced back at him, somewhat fearful that he would hiss or pinch again. Paolo glued his eyes on the scarlet-clad cardinal.
“It is growing late, near time for Vespers, but I shall tell one last tale,” Cardinal Fratelli decided aloud.
Ceasing his anger, Antonio sat down inches from the cardinal’s feet. Fratelli eyed him, this impetuous, mean-spirited youth and sighed. Slowly, he collected his thoughts and spoke in a voice that commanded attention:

“Oh, the wicked wolf, the wicked, wicked wolf… Everybody knows how scary he was- how wild and fierce! But do you know the way he was tamed? I will tell you then. You see, the wicked wolf prowled at night, growling and snatching away helpless people. Many people in the small village of Cocalo disappeared and they knew the wolf had gotten them. Now, outside this village lived a hermit monk. His name was Ferdo. His hair was dirty, full of clay from the river, his frame was thin from fasting and penance and his clothes hung in rags.
The wicked wolf raised such an outcry that parties began gathering to hunt and kill him. Surely this foul beast was no good, only fit to be slain! When the hunters marched out, Ferdo met them. In kindly voice, he implored, “Spare the wolf, he is just a beast and doesn’t understand. He doesn’t need to die. At least, let me talk to him before you go forth.”
Thinking Ferdo to be a madman, they laughed at him and said: “Sure, go talk to your wolf friend. But be warned, we will use our swords should we see him!”
Thus, Ferdo ventured out into the dark woods, went to meet the wicked wolf. As Ferdo sat in a glade praying, the sound of clawed feet came forth. It was the wolf, staring with bright yellow eyes, bearing his knife-like fangs.
Ferdo hid his fear and stood. Holding out his wooden staff, he spoke:
Brother wolf, you have gotten yourself in some trouble. I know you are hungry and need flesh to live but why eat the villagers? Why take lives that do nothing to harm you? The man are angry and they come to slay you but listen brother wolf, we can help you-if you only promise never to kill again.”
Bewildered, for men always came at him with sword, axe and club, the wolf shook his head. Bowing down, he replied:
            “I am sorry, my brother. Truly I am hungry and need flesh to live. If you help me, feed me, and raise not swords against me, I shall promise never to kill again.”
Right before the huntsmen, Fredo appeared, leading the wicked wolf by his scruff as if he were a tame dog. He reiterated their words, the promise made between them and instead of slaying the wolf; the villagers laid out for him a whole chicken. He ate it timidly and went away. No more people were snatched away in the night. Peace came. From now, they remembered Fredo, remembered not to make the beasts into enemies. For with kind words and understanding, war will cease.”

Story-time with Cardinal Fratelli, part 3

“Tell us another, Good Eminenza!” cried little Paolo.
His sweet, babyish eyes sparkled with delight. Patting Paolo’s messy brown hair, Cardinal Fratelli laughed.
“This next tale is about a donkey…”
“Come on,” Antonio suddenly blurted out, “A donkey? How boring and stupid!”
The cardinal frowned for a moment- then he grinned and chuckled to himself.
“Perhaps Antonio, you can learn from this story…”
Antonio kept silent, not necessarily feeling rebuked but curious as to how a story about a donkey can be anything exciting. As the priest-attendant sighed tiredly and leaned upon the stone railing nearby, Cardinal Fratelli began:

“A long time ago, in a distant desert land, there lived a donkey. His fur was grey, his eyes big and brown and his hooves wide like dishes. He lived on a farm with other animals: cock, ox and horse. They laughed at the donkey and mocked him.
I wake our master in the morn so he may plant the crops we eat,” said cock.
I pull the plow so that the crops planted may grow and we can eat,” said ox.
I carry our master to the market so he may sell the crops and we can have more to eat,” said horse.
Thus, the donkey tried to wake their master at morning but he made an awful braying noise. He tried pulling the plow but it fell loose on his narrow shoulders and would not move. He tried to carry their master but horse pushed him aside. “I am useless, mean and ugly,” said the donkey, “I will run away.”
The very next day, the master left for a journey. He brought with him cock and ox. He rode off on horse, leaving the donkey alone, tied to a fence. Sadly, the donkey hung his head. “Now I shall run away” he said.
However, just as the donkey began chewing through his rope, some strange man came forth and untied him. “Just as well” said the donkey, “If I am stolen and killed so be it…” Suddenly, another man in a red cloak approached. The donkey felt peace. With kind eyes, he beheld the donkey, patted his mane and whispered. Then in one quick leap, he mounted. The donkey had never been ridden before, that was horse’s duty, yet he easily supported this man’s weight. Great noise arose as the donkey was urged forth. Many people appeared in the streets. At once, the donkey raised his head. Crowds of men women and children clamored round, hailing this man: this seeming prince who had borrowed him. Crying out: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they strewed palm branches about and laid down their cloaks.
The donkey’s master suddenly arrived- along with cock, ox and horse. They halted before him. Yes, his former tormenters gazed in amazement, for the one deemed useless now carried a King. The one not good enough for the master was now goodly for a Lord. The one, ugly and mean, was now a bringer of beauty, nobility and Truth. Ignored, mocked and esteemed not, this lowly donkey bore aloft on his back, the very Son of God, the exalted King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords, Jesus Christ!”

Story-time with Cardinal Fratelli, part 2

Church bells rang in the distance, echoing over fields and trees. Delicately, Cardinal Fratelli signed a cross upon his chest.
“That reminds me…” he then said.
“What!” the children collectively demanded.
“I have another story to tell you: a story about two brothers.”
The boys chimed, “Go on, go on, hurry!”
“There once were two brothers, who lived in the country of Parma, who had an old, dying father . Before he left this earthly life, the old father gave his two sons one request: “Please go to my grave and pray every day. Do this and I shall be happy.”
Both brothers said: “Yes, always dear father!”
After the funeral the two brothers faithfully arrived to their father’s grave to pray. They would sing one Psalm: “Domine Pastor es meus…” pray “Ave Maria” seven times, a “Pater Noster” and then the readings of the hours. In time, however, the older brother became an illustrious merchant and fell in love with a beautiful maiden. He told the younger brother one day, “I don’t have enough time, not even a spare hour, to pray at father’s grave, you do it.”
The younger brother happily obliged. Over many years, even in storms and snow, he trudged up the hill where his father laid and said the daily prayers. By himself, he would sing one psalm, pray “Ave” seven times, a “Pater Noster” and the readings of the hours.
One summer day, news came that a wealthy prince had lost a rare jewel, while traveling through the countryside, lost amidst his great company, and that he searched for it without avail. Upon the cathedral door, a decree was posted, that whoever finds this treasure will be rewarded with riches beyond compare. Now the older brother busied himself in search of the rare jewel. He went out day and night and did not find it. When the younger brother went for his daily prayers, he spoke to his father: “If I find this jewel, I shall be happy and content to the end of my days but if not, my father, I still have you.”
Suddenly, a voice came from heaven. It said: “My son, oh, my dear son, it was you who faithfully climbed this hill every day, wither in storms or snow, to fulfill my dying wish. In heaven, I see everything and I know where the Prince’s treasure lies. Go to it now.”
The young son followed his father’s voice and arrived in a field of wild hay. Beneath some dead grass and dirt, he dug and took in his hands a diamond that looked as if made of pure gold, having many faces, glowing with many colors and hues. He rushed and returned it to its rightful owner, the prince. Blushing joyously, the Prince did as promised and bestowed the younger brother with great riches. Suddenly his older brother stormed into the palace, jealous and angry. “I searched day and night for that jewel and you find it without even telling me!”
Dear brother, don’t be upset. Had you gone with me to pray at father’s grave, you would have found the treasure. No small and meaningless labor goes without reward in the eyes of heaven. In my faithfulness, I was blessed. By giving up my time and earthly comfort, I found favor. But know this: my reward is yours also- whatever is mine, is yours.”.”

Story-time with Cardinal Fratelli, part 1

Sua Eminenza!” cried a small, brown-haired boy, “Tell us a story!”
Holding back folds of red finery, Cardinal Fratelli paused. Several children rushed forth to meet him, one breaking past the attendant priest. He looked down and smiled but his silent thoughts were again broken by the crying voice,
“Alright, little Paolo, I shall tell you a story,” the cardinal agreed.
Instinctively, all the other children gathered around him, each asking for a story.
“I want to hear about the winter witch!”
 “Tell us about the gypsy tramp, the one that turns into a goat!”
A boy with blonde curls begged:

“No, tell us of the dueling prince of Florence!”
Another boy named Antonio easily pushed him out of the way.
“No that is stupid, let’s hear about the mean wolf!”
Being tall and 14 years old, Antonio was arguably just as mean as the wolf.
“Now, now… calm down,” assured Cardinal Fratelli, “There is time yet…”
 He searched for a proper place to sit and saw nothing but a stone railing. It was likely dirty and cold. He simply stood there, raised one hand and stroked his chin in amusement. The children sensed his thoughts and quieted. Six pairs of eyes stared expectantly. At last, clearing his throat, collecting himself, he began.
“Let me tell you about the statue that came to life… On a cold, blustery night, we gathered to say Vespers in the cathedral…”
“What’s Vespers?” blurted out the blonde boy.
Cardinal Fratelli, not irritated at all, answered, “Little Stefano; that is our evening time of prayer when we recite the psalms and ask for God’s protection.”
Antonio hissed and pinched Stefano- lest he dare ask another question and keep them waiting. After some minutes, things quieted again. Fratelli continued:
“How cold and stormy it was that night! The clouds wore cloaks of grey and rain danced about. After we finished our Vespers, one of the priests must have heard something and he gave me a fright. Jumping up and down, he said: “There’s a bat in the belltower! I saw it!
 Now, I told him any bat would surely be gone by morning but he still seemed so frightened, asking what should happen if it flies into our windows at night.  
If I catch it myself,” I said, “You shall have to dust and polish the high altar”
That altar had been dusty for a while…
Without an answer, I marched up into the dark bell tower holding nothing but a tiny candle. My light fell on this large grey face, open-mouthed, snout-nosed, garish and toothy. How I jumped! It was only a gargoyle, carved into the cathedral wall ever since olden times. I continued my away and kept searching for the bat. Suddenly a winged shadow flew overhead and I reached to grab it. Flapping wings brushed my hand- how dreadful! And worse so, it escaped! Swooping in a big circle, the bat dove out into the grey skies. Good, it is gone. Now came time to retire and sleep well. However this strange night would not end yet! When I passed the gargoyle again, I noticed an eerie black space where it once stood. Wasn't it just here? Where had it gone? Gargoyles don’t just get up and walk away, do they?
My terrified feet flew down the stairs and to the sanctuary where my bewildered priests stood. “The bat is gone, do not worry anymore,” I gasped. Then as I ran from the church, they followed, not asking a question. Early the next morning, almost compelled, I again climbed the bell tower and saw the grey gargoyle sitting there, wrinkling his nose and smiling as usual. Good, it was just an illusion, a trick of the eyes played at night. Or so I thought- for as I turned to climb back down, I heard a quiet voice lean over and whisper: “Make sure good Father dusts me off as well!”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Vacation for Cardinal Fratelli has been published!!

A new Cardinal Fratellli book is out!

The fifth book of “The Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli series.” A cardinal’s life is full of duties, documents, appointments and ceremonies, this young Fratelli knows well, and after a series of comical mishaps gets him to realize he’s being overworked, he decides upon a lovely vacation in Pisa to the south. He heads along the coast of Italy, reluctantly taking Gianni and several servants with him, including Jan, intent on soaking up the sunshine and lovely scenery.  
However, Fratelli soon finds that even vacations can be thorny as the friendly Archbishop of Pisa wants help with many things, Gianni soon lands himself in trouble and the pestered cardinal just can’t seem to get any time alone! Will Fratelli get the vacation he’s always wanted- or disaster?

Available on Amazon and Kindle!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mass with Gianni

Mass with Gianni, my oldest altar-boy. He looks like an innocent angel but is not. How do I know this? Because I spent most of the morning peeling chewing gum off the bottom of my episcopal slippers...

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Frustrating Day for Cardinal Fratelli (part II)

Throughout dinner, Cardinal Fratelli managed to avoid Veronica’s flirtatious glances. He hoped her father would intervene but he was already too drunk with wine. Thank goodness, Fratelli thought, he hasn’t asked for more. In order to be rid of the temptation, the cardinal quickly poured a last glass and drank it.
Noticing, Sergio laughed.
“No more wine?” he asked.
“No.” Fratelli said.
Veronica giggled at him while her mother, Julia, yawned.
“My dear, I am tired,” she mumbled, “It is so late. Should we be off?”
Yes,” Fratelli interrupted before the sluggish Sergio could reply.
Getting the message, Sergio stood. He shook crumbs off his fine attire, straitened his hair and helped his wife from her chair. Veronica unseated last. She seemed reluctant to leave, almost disappointed. Perhaps upset she cannot ogle me anymore…Fratelli mused. Of course he didn’t say anything about it. With polite smiles, he gave Sergio and his family farewell, guided them out and blessed them on their way.

~ ~ ~

 When their carriage finally disappeared from sight, he closed the door and sighed in relief. “Now, I can have quiet,” Fratelli said, “…and peace.”
However, his stomach began churning, uneasy from that last, quick drink of wine. Not yet going upstairs, he strolled into the parlor where he blew out the only candlelight, signaling that all in this house were asleep- and thus unavailable. Cardinal Fratelli realized he was never quite unavailable. The rigors of his office called at all hours. Even in the late night, someone could need him. A widow could knock at his door, a prisoner flee to his cathedral or a random penitent appear. Indeed, he could be summoned to give some poor soul final anointing…He was constantly on guard against these things.
“Oh Lord, how can the servant expect rest when he was made for work?” he asked the darkness. No one answered. He spoke again.
“Your Eminence,” a voice suddenly said, “Who are you talking to?”
“Oh Rodrigo,” he exclaimed, seeing a white-robed figure perch on the staircase, “I was just conversing with my Lord.”
“Let me know if he ever talks back,” the priest sneered. He didn’t mean to be rude and was just tired. Cardinal Fratelli hid his irritation. He approached Father Rodrigo, put an arm around him and said, “Let us retire. The morning will not be long, my stomach hurts… and now my head hurts.”

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Frustrating Day for Cardinal Fratelli (part I)

Early in the morning, Cardinal Fratelli woke up. Still yawning, he rose, washed, opened the shutters to let sunlight in and dressed. Immediately, he noticed a hole in one of his red, silken socks.
“Oh no…” he muttered, casting the “ruined” sock aside.
Standing, Fratelli hopped to his dresser drawer where he searched for another sock. There were no other socks there. Moreso, Dina just took all his dirty socks to be washed. Fratelli grumbled, retrieved the discarded sock then put it on. He hoped the little hole wouldn’t get bigger.
When Father Rodrigo knocked on the door, Fratelli came and followed him into the chapel for morning-prayer. Despite the early hour, they found it easy to concentrate and chant their praises:
Come let us sing to the Lord…and shout with joy to the Rock, who saves us…”
After the prayers were finished, Fratelli emerged first from the chapel. Already, the smell of breakfast cooking wafted into his nostrils. Now, the cardinal usually celebrated Mass at the cathedral most mornings but it was Wednesday and he would not go to the cathedral, yet would have his own, private Mass later. As the others walked off to the cathedral, Fratelli heard bells chime. Happily, he smiled because this meant he would be first to arrive to breakfast, the smell of which was by now, driving him nearly mad!
Perhaps too readily, Cardinal Fratelli strode into the dining-room and sat down. Seeing Dina just setting down a stick of butter, he asked:
“Is it ready yet?”
“No, not yet, Your Eminence,” Dina replied.
“Oh, please make it soon,” Fratelli moaned, “ I am simply famished!”
The housemaid only laughed at him.
When Dina brought back a plate of grape jelly, the cardinal absentmindedly dipped a finger in it to have a small taste. But, she had seen him!
“Your Eminence!”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said.
She shook her head then walked off. The rest of breakfast needed preparing and she couldn’t bother herself with the impulsive cardinal.
Fratelli sat there, restless and hungry for an hour. When the others returned from Mass, Dina finally laid out their meal: Eggs, spinach, hard toast and ham. With an austere gesture, Fratelli blessed the food then eagerly helped himself. When Dina poured his tea, he thanked her.
“Why don’t you join us?” he added. 
“No, Your Eminence, I’ve still much to do,” Dina said.
Fratelli frowned, feeling bad for her. Yet, Dina liked to work. He understood it was a simple thing that brought her happiness.  
Finishing his second cup of tea, Fratelli excused himself. He spent most of the morning in his office, reading documents, writing letters, signing documents. As noon sun climbed high and poured through the office window, Fratelli leaned in his chair and rested. Even though he expected an audience soon with some prominent people of Lucca, maybe he could steal a nap? Tiredly, he eyed the large, blue-coated book he’d recently began reading and for a moment, rested his head on it. Very soon, he drifted off to sleep.

~ ~ ~

After waking, Cardinal Fratelli helped himself to hot tea, grapes, rolled prosciutto and bread-sticks. Munching, he longingly looked out the window. Many birds flew by. He worked a little more in the office, grew bored with the blue book and set it aside. It was time for afternoon Mass anyway. Father Rodrigo came and fetched his green vestments. They were not his favorite vestments, the cloth was rather old and crinkly, feeling course against his hands. Yet he said nothing. Halfway through the initial prayers, one of the candles flickered and died out. He stopped speaking and stared at it.
Rodrigo patiently waited. Eventually the cardinal continued but he couldn't resist peering at that silly candle, wanting to relight it. It detracted him throughout the entire Mass.
Just as Fratelli removed his vestments and strode from the chapel, Dina met him.
"Sergio Ricollina and his family are waiting for you," she said.
Can't I have a minute to myself? the cardinal mused.

~ ~ ~

Now, Sergio and Julia Riccollina had a daughter named Veronica. She arrived to the audience late. Having long, dark-brown hair and bright, blue eyes, she was one of Lucca’s loveliest women- and it was no secret she sought for a husband. Sergio Riccollina proudly smiled as she entered the room. How he cherished his dearest daughter, clad in a blue dress that hugged her figure, smiling radiantly.
“It is an honor to meet you, Your Eminence,” she began in a rehearsed tone.
“You as well,” Fratelli answered.
The previous conversation was forgotten as Veronica sat in a chair beside her parents. Happy to have all the attention, she continued speaking:
“Oh, how glad I am to see Lucca’s beautiful cathedral! Maybe I can come there by myself some time and pray?”
“Yes anytime,” Fratelli answered.
She kept looking over at him and by now, he grew rather uncomfortable. When she winked at him, fluttering her dark eyelashes, the cardinal stood up and walked to the window.
“Maybe it is time for you to be leaving?” he asked.
“Not yet,” said Sergio, “It is time for a glass of wine.”
It was about supper time… Anxiously, Fratelli removed his red skullcap and groaned. On the way towards the kitchen, he stopped in his private chapel. Bowing before the altar, he spoke:
"Oh Lord, keep me from being irritable this evening. Give me peace. St Joseph, most kind, pray for me, that I remain pure in heart."
He crossed himself delicately then left. Supper was already waiting for him, roasted lamb with squash ravioli and greens. Sergio stood when the cardinal entered. But Fratelli was too occupied with how delicious it all smelled- and avoiding Veronica's glance. Caught in a reverie, he almost passed his seat.
"Your Eminence," Dina sighed as she helped him to his place.
"I am sorry" Fratelli replied, "It has been awhile since I ate..."