Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fell asleep in the office again

I had finally finished this long book on matters of theology and of the Holy Trinity, and was going to write down my insights but...I fell asleep.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cardinal Fratelli's Sunday Sermon

For as lightning cometh out of the east, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” 
I ask you, who are gathered here, if you have seen God’s might proudly displayed upon the earth or skies? Do you recall that on the first day, the Almighty declared: Let there be light!? What is the light to us? Verily, Christ spoke of those who see the light before them and deny it. John, the Beloved, wrote: The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. Light drives away dark, dawn marks out a path, the hosts of blackness flee from light and the light exposes all deeds of men. We expect nothing less than for the doers of dark deeds to flee from and despise light. We know the children of dark despise the children of light.
Yet, who is so foolish as to say: The sun is naught, no one created it? Only a fool says in the heart there is no living God, only a person lost in darkness denies the Light Giver. Truly some walk amongst us, roaming about, declaring that God is an illusion, that men shall rule the earth, that faith is wickedness. Woe to them! Just as the sun, at high noon burns everything useless, so shall Our Lord God throw all that is dross into the fire. Be attentive! Know the wisdom of God! Walk in faith and not by deceitful sights! Consider yourselves why the Son of Man, when he cometh, asks shall he find faith on earth?

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Vacation for Cardinal Fratelli, ch. 13,14-15

Chapter 13.
                        A Restful Day.

Lazily, Cardinal Fratelli woke the next morning. He crawled out of bed, dressed and said morning-prayer out on the room’s small balcony. He was staring at bustling streets below when Gianni’s voice interrupted him.
                        “Let’s go swimming!”
                        “No,” Fratelli said quietly, “It is not proper for me.”
            Mario emerged into the room holding a plate of food as an anonymous servant carried in a teapot. He left, taking Gianni with him. After the boy’s scuffle, they wouldn’t leave him unattended. Fratelli sat down to breakfast and silently ate. He wished for a nice, quiet day. Suddenly, Gianni came back in.
                        “Can you come swimming with us, please?” he begged.
                        “No” was Fratelli’s final answer.
            After finishing his meal, Fratelli grabbed his broad saturno, walked downstairs and snuck outside. He knew Jan and Mario would be upset about this but he needed to get away. That, after all, was the point of having a vacation… He easily slipped between the crowds, happily unnoticed and crossed the street. The sun climbed higher, looming over him. Though Fratelli’s head stayed cool from the broad hat, his body felt warm and he loosened his buttons. Just when he decided to sit down in a shady area, Rodolfo, the archbishop, approached out of nowhere.
                        “Good morning, Your Eminence!” he cried.
                        “Good morning,” Fratelli replied, nodding respectfully.
            Fanning himself from the sun’s heat, Rodolfo fidgeted with his glittering cross and then spoke;
“It’s a hot one today! So glad to find you… Can you come with me to the cathedral?”
Fratelli nodded again. It wouldn’t be right to refuse; he concluded but followed very hesitantly. Rodolfo noticed, turned around and eagerly gestured with his hand for him to hurry. Fratelli groaned. Seeing Fratelli’s frown, Rodolfo figured to start up a conversation.
                        “Did you enjoy the dance last night?”
            Now smiling, Fratelli answered, “Yes I did. In fact, I dreamed that I was dancing…”
                        “With Lydia?” asked the archbishop, suppressing a grin.
                        “No, with Michele.”
                        “Who is Michele?”
                        “Oh, she is a friend of mine.”
                        “A pretty friend?”
            Fratelli nodded a third time then replied, “Yes, she is married now… thank the Lord.”
Both men smiled. The sunlight and sounds of the lively city were pleasant. Two large seagulls flew overhead squawking. Salty air wafted around them. When they reached the green bank around the cathedral, Fratelli looked towards the oddly leaning bell tower.
                        “Would you like to go up there?” Rodolfo asked.
                        “Why, yes I would,” said Fratelli.
            Rodolfo looked awkward, reaching beneath his purple robes to snatch a key-ring. It jingled as he searched for the right one and unlocked the tower’s door. He gestured for Fratelli to go in first. Inside, cool air relieved him and damp dark. He removed his hat as Rodolfo followed after. Fratelli glanced up with amazement at the wide, looming bells. Morning dew still dripped from the cold metal. One drop landed on his nose and he snorted. Slowly, Fratelli climbed the spiral staircase and stopped, looking out an arched window at the city square. Several carriages shuffled past, people milled about. Some, probably vacationers like himself, paused and pointed in their direction.
Resting his hands against the cold, stone wall, Fratelli sighed. He thanked God for this restful moment. It was perfect up here. Eventually, however, he stepped back down the stairs, slowly as he’d come, and emerged outside. Keeping thoughts inside, he simply smiled while they strolled to the cathedral.
When they reached the central aisle, a thin priest appeared with several white-robed choir boys in tow. Rodolfo wanted more help with them. Instead of frowning or groaning, Fratelli patiently sat down. Standing next to Rodolfo, the priest looked as his exact opposite, lean and gaunt while the archbishop was plump and rosy-faced. The boys squirmed and stared at Fratelli as he rose.
                        “Let us learn to properly chant today,” he began.
                        Their little eyes fixed on him.
            Delicately lifting one hand, Cardinal Fratelli opened his mouth and intoned a chant, “Kyrie Eleison…”
                        The boys haphazardly repeated it. The cardinal cringed then tried again:
                        “Kyriiie, Eleeison…”
            They responded better this time. Fratelli stood there and worked with them for about an hour. When the boys learned to properly chant the Kyrie, albeit rather roughly, he slumped down in a pew and sighed with relief. Rodolfo laughed, watching the weary boys leave then turned to the equally weary cardinal.
                        “A handful aren’t they?”
                        Fratelli wiped his forehead, expressing silent agreement.

In appreciation, Rodolfo took Fratelli for a lunch of baked bread, cheese risotto and roasted crab soup. Arriving back to the hotel alone, he saw Mario standing near the doorway, worried and frowning.
                        “I needed to be alone,” Fratelli explained.
            Though still upset, Mario decided not to speak. He escorted Fratelli back to his room where the cardinal laid down for a nap.

A nearby chime announced the hour of one ‘O’clock as Fratelli stirred and rose. He combed his messy hair then strolled downstairs. He spent most of the evening milling about the hotel’s small library. Most of the books there were fictional but either romantic or about war. He vaguely flipped through them then began straitening the shelves. Later, he joined the others at supper.
Gianni, who had just returned from swimming, continued bothering Fratelli to swim. At last, the cardinal walked away. Mario followed.
“No, please stay. I am just going to stroll by the seaside,” Fratelli said, “I will be back soon.”
                        They understood and let him go.
            Trekking over soft sand, Fratelli eyed the moon, which formed a perfect, white circle, almost floating atop the waves. Silver light hit his smiling face as he listened to murmuring waters. The beach was entirely deserted. Fratelli gazed around, looking for a sign of life. Nothing but the moon, sand and sea accompanied him. Sitting upon a smooth rock, he removed his socks and dipped one foot into the sea. Its coldness startled him yet soothed after such a warm day.
His mind turned to swimming. Could he? Maybe he would just wade a little? Once again, Fratelli gazed around and saw no one. Quickly, Fratelli removed his outer shirt and pants, folding them neatly and waded almost waist-deep into the water. An abrupt, swirling wave soon knocked him off balance. He fell completely in! Spitting and squinting, his head emerged, still looking very surprised. “Well, I suppose I’m swimming whether I like it or not,” he mused to himself. In playful fashion, Fratelli spread out his arms and paddled in a circle. Then he dove, touched the sandy sea floor and re-emerged. His laughter echoed into the night.
He came out of the water, sat on the rock to dry off and spoke a grateful prayer:
O Precious Lord, thank you for this day, for this restful day. I suppose swimming isn’t as bad as I first thought…this night was perfect for me. Truly, the sea is full of wonder, your creation full of wonder.”
Suddenly something sticky and rather cold touched his leg. Seeing a tiny octopus wandering onto his foot, he jumped, shouting and shaking it off.  He snatched a stick and warily prodded the gooey creature back into the water.  When Fratelli returned to the hotel, still slightly wet with his hair dripping, Jan rushed forth with a dry towel.
                        “Oh, Your Eminence,” he gasped, “Did you fall into the ocean?”
                        “Sort of…”

Chapter 14.
                        The Rush.

On Sunday, Cardinal Fratelli rose early to celebrate Mass at the cathedral. He tried to give Rodolfo’s breviary back but the archbishop told him” Please, keep it.” Morning sunlight poured into the hotel bedroom as he began packing for the trip home. Gianni watched him carefully fold his clothes, including his red cassock along with an assortment of stockings. Gianni had previously shoved all his wrinkled clothes in a suitcase. He was ready to leave this place with its taunting locals and impatiently waited for the cardinal.
                        “I’m missing a stocking,” Fratelli suddenly said.
            Gianni snickered but one look silenced him. Fratelli began searching around and finally dug a scarlet stocking from beneath the bed. He sighed and packed it with the others.
                        “Can we get some gelato before we leave?” Gianni then asked.
            Mario glanced at his timepiece and gestured to indicate they had to leave soon. Fratelli began speaking but Gianni interrupted, “Please, we’ll be really fast.”
The cardinal shrugged. He too yearned for one last taste of the cold, savory treat. Mario took their bags while Fratelli departed with Gianni in tow. They promised to be back very soon.
Jan appeared, holding a large handbag. He peeked into the room and asked, “Where is his Eminence? We must be going soon.”
“He went for one last cup of gelato,” Mario answered.
Jan set the bag down and groaned.

Reaching the gelato-stand, Fratelli quickly ordered one chocolate cup and one cherry.
“I’m sorry sir, we are out of cherry,” the vendor said.
Fratelli shrugged.
            “I suppose I can try something different… I’d like chocolate then.”
Squinting in the sunlight, Fratelli leaned against a wall and ate the creamy dessert. Gianni suddenly tugged at his sleeve.
“Your Eminence,” he said, now pointing at the clock tower, “It is time to go.”
“Don’t you remind me what time it is,” Fratelli snapped then started towards the hotel. Gianni darted ahead of him and they increased their pace to a steady run. Gianni arrived first just as Jan and Mario were exiting the hotel. Fratelli lagged behind panting.
“Come on, Your Eminence, we will miss the noon train,” Jan cautioned.
They boarded a carriage and Jan urged the driver to go fast. Fratelli had barely sat down when the carriage bustled forth at full speed. He fell over onto Mario who steadied him. Gianni laughed, his body being tossed about. It was fun for him! Fratelli on the other hand, clenched an armrest and frowned. Within a half hour, they reached the train station. Fratelli was last to step down as Jan pointed and cried out, “Look, the train is preparing to leave!”
Indeed, curls of white steam rose into the air as heavy, metallic pistons began to churn.
“Oh no!” Fratelli shouted, making a headlong dash.
The train hadn’t started moving yet, so they still might make it! Gianni outran him and quickly jumped aboard the train, signaling the conductor to stop. His voice lost amidst an increasing clatter, the conductor mouthed the words: “Hurry!”
Mario reached the train next and handed over Fratelli’s bags. Suddenly, there was a jolt. A loud screech rang out and the huge wheels came alive. The train was leaving! Jan’s feet scrambled for a lower step, Mario helped him aboard and Fratelli lastly approached, running frantically. He shouted in frustration, knowing the pavement was scraping his fine shoes, gathered strength and leapt up. Mario’s strong hand caught him. While Jan patted his back reassuringly, Fratelli went inside the cabin. He breathed heavily from exertion, wiped his sweaty forehead and smiled faintly.
“Thank you O Lord!” he gasped “but I do not want that to ever happen again!”
The conductor took their tickets and led them to a private compartment. It looked very much like the place they sat before, probably was the same place. Saying nothing, Fratelli sat down in a plump seat and sighed with great relief. He lifted up his shoes and saw deep, scuff marks in the polished, black leather.
“Oh, my shoes…” he moaned.
“It is okay, Your Eminence,” Jan said, handing him a steaming cup of tea, “here.”
“Why, thank you,” Fratelli replied, taking small sips. The hot beverage calmed his nerves and he rested, staring out the window as trees and buildings blurred by. Now, he opened the crinkled pages of Rodolfo’s breviary and recited noonday prayer. Yes, he was rather late but remained content and at ease. Lateness seemed to be the tone of the day…

Chapter 15.

The train rhythmically clattered over the tracks. Fratelli leaned his head on one hand and stared out the window. Then gently, he reached for one of his bags and checked inside to make sure Dina’s teapot that he’d bought was still in one piece. Peeling away paper padding, he saw it looked fine. He checked the other gifts, careful not to reveal the licorice tin, and saw they were also safe. Sitting back in his seat, he sighed contently.
 Gianni, growing restless, asked to explore and Mario escorted him from the compartment. Now, it was just Jan and the cardinal. They eyed eachother but said nothing. This continued for several moments until Jan spoke,
            “Thank you, Your Eminence.”
                        “For what?”
                        Jan answered, “For being so gracious to me.”
            Fratelli suppressed a groan at the flattering words but knew that Jan truly meant it. Four months ago, when they’d met, Jan was serving the arrogant Lamberto II, son of the Duke of Tuscany. He practically begged Fratelli to hire him instead and the cardinal obliged. Since then, things were well. Feeling idle, Jan stood up and offered to fetch more tea.
                        “I would like that,” Fratelli said.
            Jan returned followed by Mario and Gianni. The boy began prattling about train wheels and steam, obviously amazed at this mode of travel.
                        “I want to be a train conductor when I grow up,” Gianni said.
                        “I thought you wanted to be a cardinal?” Mario replied.
            Fratelli straitened in his seat, smiling, secretly delighted at hearing this. Gianni gave him an apologetic look then concluded, “I’ll be both!”
They ate a light, satisfying lunch. Fratelli took the bowl of olives and mixed them into his bowl of cold ham salad. The hours dragged by into evening and then into night when at last; Lucca’s walls and flickering lamplights became visible from the window.
                        “Oh, we are home!” Fratelli shouted excitedly.
            The train began slowing and Fratelli prematurely jumped up, ready to leave. Suddenly the train stopped and jolted him. He tumbled back into his seat.
                        “Oh, Your Eminence!” Jan cried, rushing to help him.
            Fratelli nudged him away, stood and dusted himself off. Then, assuming a dignified air, pretending nothing happened; he opened the compartment door and led them out. Lucca’s ornate station greeted them. Tiredly, Fratelli stepped down onto the platform and yawned. Jan grabbed his arm to steady him.
                        “I’m fine,” the cardinal mumbled.
            They bid Mario a farewell and began walking to a stagecoach that waited. Wordlessly and wearily, they boarded, even Gianni making no sound. When they arrived to Fratelli’s dimly lit villa, the hour already drew past midnight. Dina came outside, carrying a bright lamp as Fratelli stepped onto the grass.
                        “Oh, Your Eminence, we’ve missed you!” she said.
                        “I missed being home as well,” Fratelli answered.
            He followed her inside and the smell of stewing vegetables hit his nose. His sides started aching…he didn’t realize how hungry he was. Gianni, of course, darted into the dining room and helped himself to the warm pot. Fratelli whispered a short blessing as the boy scooped food onto his plate. Then, he also ate. Rodrigo came from upstairs, himself looking very tired and met them.
                        “Oh, am I glad to see you!” Fratelli cried, “And you too Dina!”
            “I am very glad to see you, Your Eminence, it’s been hard work running this place without you. Now I may be in need of a vacation,” Rodrigo replied.
They laughed together. Dina took Gianni and went home for the night. Fratelli secretly wondered how she would react once learning of Gianni’s scuffle and the ruined suit. The hour was getting too late for thinking. Sitting at the table, he stifled a yawn.
“I must retire,” he said.
“Go on, go on,” Rodrigo said, “Your bed is waiting.”
Cardinal Fratelli readily went upstairs, washed his face and then lay down. He fell asleep fully-dressed, not bothering to put covers on. The next morning he awoke along with the rising sun. Yellow light warmed his skin as he sat up and stretched. He felt relaxed, vivified and very content, ready to face a new day. He washed, dressed in his usual red cassock and then went downstairs.
Oh, a beautiful morning indeed!” Fratelli said to himself, “Thank you Lord for such a restful vacation! It has restored my strength and whatever this day holds I shall meet with anticipant vigor!”
             While excitedly rushing to breakfast, his feet slipped on the hall’s Oriental rug. Hearing a clatter and a thud in the hallway, Dina smiled. He was back.

       ~ The End.

A Vacation for Cardinal Fratelli, ch. 11-12

Chapter 11.

Fratelli awoke the next morning with a terrible itch on his back. Trying to reach it, he tossed and turned. Finally, in frustration, he threw off the linen bed-sheets. He craned his arm around, trying again and unexpectedly rolled off his bed. Jan emerged as he lay there, rubbing his back against the wood floor.
“Your Eminence- what on earth are you doing?” the utterly perplexed servant stammered.
 Fratelli scrambled afoot, dusted himself off and nonchalantly dismissed the whole affair.
“Do not bother asking,” he said.
Jan didn’t.
Come noon, Fratelli shared lunch with Gianni, Jan and Mario. When a cool breeze from the nearby, open window brushed his face, Fratelli longed to go outside. He checked the wood-framed clock perched beside him on a fireplace which read: 12:12. There was still much of the town he hadn’t seen.  He finished eating, walked upstairs and donned his casual attire. Gianni stopped him at the door, begging to come with.
“No, not today Gianni,” Fratelli answered.
“Now, I need some time for myself,” Fratelli insisted, pausing to grab a scarlet cloak and likewise-colored, broad hat.
However, he felt sorry for the boy and turned back. Handing some coins over to Jan, he asked him to take Gianni out and perhaps buy him some badly-needed new clothes.
Noonday brought crowds to the main piazza where Fratelli wandered, looking at the many market stalls and café’s that lined the street. Mario followed in the distance but was easily ignored. Touching his chin, he wondered what to buy… Seeing him pass, a large man shouted and held up a shiny vase. Fratelli became more interested however in a stall brimming with religious statues. He had wanted to get gifts for everyone at home. A bronze statuette of St. Michael the Archangel, fiercely gleaming in the sun, caught his eye.
A small-framed man with grey hair greeted him, “Hello, do you see anything you like?”
“Yes, I would like this St. Michael,” Fratelli answered.
He paid for the statue, put in in his cloth satchel and smiled. This would be perfect for Ernesto who needed heavenly protection when on his patrol duties. “Now, what shall I get for the others?” Fratelli asked himself.
A woman nearby was selling jewelry and Fratelli remembered how much Michele loved exotic hairclips. His hands quickly chose a nice barrette made of coral, inlaid with pearls. It reminded him of the sea. Michele would love it! Fratelli suddenly turned at hearing a loud voice:
            “Beautiful dinnerware and napkins, unlike any in town, sold here!”
Fratelli couldn’t help but investigate.
“Oh, greetings fine gentleman,” the vendor said, twirling his mustache, deep in thought, “Perhaps you would like these red napkins to match your coat?”
Fratelli shied away from the red bundle presented to him.
“Oh, no, I’m tired of red. My shoes are red, my socks are red, my hat is red, my gloves are red, my buttons are red, merciful goodness, I do not want red napkins!”
“Perhaps blue is your color?” the vendor asked.
“Yes, I like them much more,” Fratelli replied, accepting the blue bundle of soft, silky napkins.
These were perfect for Francine…
Afterwards, Fratelli found a nice teapot for Dina and a tin filled with glistening licorice candy for Gianni. With satisfaction, he smiled. Everyone now had a gift.
Nearing the edge of the palatial piazza, Fratelli wiped some sweat from his brow. He sat down on a bench beneath a shady tree, collecting together his things. Feeling thirsty, Fratelli stood and wandered to a café where he sipped fresh lemonade. Sitting, eyes closed, he sipped the cool, tart beverage.  It was nice being here in regular clothes, without the hordes of people who usually assailed him asking for blessings, advice and attention. Vacation…
His back began itching. Fratelli squirmed, trying to reach the itch with one hand. Oh, why now! Seeing him in such torment, a young man approached.
“You look like you may need one of these,” he said, lifting up an ivory backscratcher.
“Oh, yes, yes!” Fratelli said.
He stood up, eager to snatch the useful tool.
“Ah, ah, you must pay first…”
Grumbling, Fratelli handed over some coins then took the backscratcher and furiously drew it across his back. At last, the itching was relieved! He strolled from the marketplace and thanked God.

Chapter 12.
The Scuffle.

Arriving back to the hotel, Fratelli was abruptly greeted by Mario who held a crumpled letter in his hand. With patience, Fratelli set down the various gifts he had bought at the marketplace, took the letter from Mario’s waving hand and unraveled it. He read aloud:

To the Most-Reverend Cardinal Fratelli,

I deeply apologize that this news has come with such short notice and promise to make it up to you.  The last time we met together, I entirely forgot to mention that on this night, I’m attending the Primate’s ball and that I’m allowed to invite one guest. Please, if you can make time and energy, come as my guest. Needless to say, I hope to meet you at the grand foyer of the Primate’s estate, at 7’O’clock this evening.
Your friend,
Rodolfo Fierri, Archbishop of Pisa.

Fratelli paused, stricken by this sudden turn of events. All he said was:
“7’O’clock? Gianni won’t even be in bed yet…”
Hearing his name, Gianni strolled in.
“What is it?” he asked.
Ignoring him, Fratelli asked Mario:
“What shall I do?”
Mario answered, “I would go- it’s a rare opportunity.”
“What’s a rare opportunity?” Gianni continued.
“Who will watch after Gianni?” Fratelli then asked.
Waving his arms in frustration, Gianni cried out: “I’m right here!”
“Okay…okay…” Fratelli mumbled, sitting down and pondering, “Though I feel quite tired, I can’t risk offending the Archbishop of Pisa, despite his short notice, and I certainly can’t make it seem as if I’m avoiding the Primate of this fine city.”
“So, you’ll go?” Mario inquired.
Absolutely annoyed at being ignored, Gianni jumped between Fratelli and Mario. He put one hand on Fratelli’s knee, peered up boyishly and asserted:
“Please tell me what is going on!”
Hiding his irritation, Fratelli finally answered the boy:
“We are going to a dance.”
Gianni moaned and stuck out his tongue.
“I don’t know how to dance,” he grumbled.
“Well then, we’ll have to teach you,” Fratelli said.

~ ~ ~
It was a small affair, a very private party with a harpsichord playing softly and hors d'oeuvres. Cardinal Fratelli arrived along with the Gianni and Mario to meet Archbishop Rodolfo at the door. Wearing striking, purple finery, the archbishop greeted him with a big hug.
“I knew you would make it!”
“Yes, yes…” Fratelli mumbled, taken in by the quaint splendor of the party around them.
Women paraded past, clad in blue and magenta-pink dresses. Some waved oriental fans to keep cool. They bowed slightly in greeting Fratelli and Rodolfo then kept meandering by. Gianni’s eyes widened as he saw plates of food being carried by a couple servants. Before Gianni rushed off to grab a tasty morsel, he was introduced by Fratelli:
“Your Excellency, this is Gianni…”
Rodolfo caught Gianni’s small hand in his big hand and shook it. Fratelli raised an eyebrow but said nothing as Rodolfo laughed and let Gianni run towards the food. Fratelli dearly hoped that the boy wouldn’t spill anything on his new suit. He finally followed after and nibbled on some bruschetta squares with black olives. Though he personally favored green olives, he felt very glad that they served these. He wouldn’t dare say anything to disagree with his gracious hosts.
The Primate of Pisa sat at a nearby table, donned in a black suit, red cloak and glistening chains. He rose, seeing Fratelli and Rodolfo come forth.
“I am so glad you could make it, Excellency,” he said taking Rodolfo’s fat hand and kissing his ring. Then he saw Fratelli and did likewise, saying “I’m so glad you brought the esteemed Cardinal of Lucca! We’ve met before.”
Trapped in a conversation, Fratelli stood. He nodded and smiled as the Primate went on and on about how joyous this occasion was. Finally, the Primate sat next to his daughter Lydia. She looked in her twenties, wore a coral-colored dress and had her dark hair tied back. Rodolfo urged Fratelli to take his seat while more conversation began. Fratelli had barely enough time to eat more bruschetta and finish his glass of wine before the dancing started up. Gianni stared nervously at one of the young girls in a green dress, who stared back, giggled and covered her mouth.
“I’m afraid,” Gianni mumbled.
Fratelli understood that feeling all too well.
“Go ahead now,” he assured, gently moving Gianni forward with his hand, “Remember what I taught you and all will be fine.”
Hesitantly, Gianni grabbed the girl’s hand and lead her to the room’s center where other couples danced. The cardinal smiled, watching him grow bolder and begin to dance in step with the others. Gianni had once been a “no-good street urchin”. Now, he was a blossoming gentleman.
Turning back, Fratelli bumped into the Primate.
“Oh, my apologies!” he said, bowing.
“Nonsense,” replied the Primate, “I was just coming to ask you a favor.”
Leaning against the sturdy wall, Fratelli asked, “What is it?”
The Primate answered, “Well you see my daughter over there….She wants to dance with one of the eligible bachelors but I’m not so sure about it. They’re a bunch of rascals and she needs to be safe, but she also needs a partner- and that’s why I’d like you to dance with her.”
Fratelli’s jaw dropped. He hadn’t danced in years! Twenty years to be exact. And it just wasn’t proper for a clergyman... But could he risk offending his host, offending the people in this kind city? No, he had to make do somehow.
The Primate brought Lydia over to Fratelli, who stood, nervously removing his red zucchetto and then fidgeting with it. When the cardinal did nothing, the Primate gave a glare. So, Fratelli delicately took her hand and led her forth. They began to sway awkwardly, holding hands, distant from eachother.
“Your Eminence, what are you doing?”
“Well, I’m dancing with you…”
“This is not dancing.”
Lydia grabbed his arm and put it around her waist. They began stepping in
tune to the soft music.
         “Now, we’re dancing,” she said.
          Fratelli blushed horribly and looked away. Their dance lasted longer than he liked but at last, the music stopped and it was over! Blushing and sweating, he bowed politely to Lydia then left. Watching Fratelli resume his place at the table, Gianni and Rodolfo both laughed. Fratelli pouted, folding his arms.
                        The festivities ended early. Fratelli parted from Rodolfo and the boldly
grinning Primate of Pisa. He said a timid farewell also to Lydia. As they walked outside, embracing the cool, summer night, Gianni loosened the collar of his suit and sighed with relief. However, the boy’s energy was still plentiful. When they returned to the palace hotel, Gianni started skipping; his mind filled with happy memories of dancing with the nice, young girl. He took off towards the beach before Mario could grab him.
                        “Go after him,” Fratelli ordered, “I need to rest.”
Gianni stopped on the soft sand bank. He already outran Mario, wasn’t even tired and he laughed about it. Suddenly, he grew quiet when a lanky shadow fell over him: Bruno.
“I thought I told you to get out of here,” Bruno growled, grabbing Gianni’s collar.
            Furious, seeing they were alone, Gianni wrestled free and swung at him. His fist hit square in Bruno’s face.  His eyes squinting angrily, the other boy yelled, sprinted and tacked Gianni to the ground. Mario rushed forth, found them hitting eachother and rolling on the sand and he separated them. Seeing the adult and the glistening sword at his waist, Bruno thought he was a policeman. He instantly scrambled to his feet then ran off. Gianni stood and faced Mario as he scolded,
            “Fighting! Look at you…and you’ve ruined your new suit!”
                        “He started it,” Gianni protested.
                        “It doesn’t matter now. Let’s go inside.”
            Cardinal Fratelli stood up when they entered their room, Seeing Gianni’s torn suit and the small trickle of blood on his lips, he cried out and rushed to him.
                        “He was fighting with one of the neighborhood boys,” Mario explained.
            “Oh no, Gianni, why did you do this?” Fratelli asked, dabbing at Gianni’s face with his handkerchief. Then he added, “Oh… Dina is going to kill you for ruining this suit!”
“It wasn’t my fault,” Gianni asserted, “They started it by teasing me and telling me to get out of here.”
Fratelli straitened and said, “Well, you must be very careful- and stay inside from now on.”
He heard Gianni groan. Exasperated, the cardinal ignored him and sat down near the window. Looking out at black, night sky, he sighed. He silently wondered what Dina was doing back at home- and how Father Rodrigo was faring with the parish’s work. Things had grown quite stressful for Fratelli on this vacation and for a moment, just a moment, he felt homesick.

A Vacation for Cardinal Fratelli, ch. 9-10

Chapter 9.

The following morning, bright and early, Fratelli’s breakfast got interrupted by none other than Pisa’s archbishop. Lifting his dark purple garb off the carpeted floor, Rodolfo entered the large dining room, and stridently announced:
“Why, Cardinal Fratelli, you’re going to spend today with me!”
Fratelli couldn’t really refuse as Rodolfo laid a hefty arm on his shoulder and escorted him into the neighboring hallway. Seeing Fratelli’s plainly irritated expression, he closed the door behind them. Now ensured of privacy, he began,
“I’m deeply sorry if this is inconvenient for you… but I need your great wisdom.”
Stunned, feeling a lump in his throat and swallowing it, Fratelli answered:
“And what makes you believe I have great wisdom?”
“Oh, come on,” Rodolfo said, “Everyone knows you’re the best preacher in Italy!”
Cheeks flushing red, Fratelli glanced aside sheepishly.
“Well, I don’t know what you have heard, but I suppose I’ll try to help you,” he answered.
“Great!” cried Rodolfo.
With one hand excitedly grabbing Fratelli’s arm, he gladly led their way downstairs and outside.
Halfway to the cathedral, the two clergymen stopped into a small cafe for biscotti and coffee. Anticipation urged Rodolfo on and he suggested they finish this food while resuming their way. Not used to coffee’s strong taste, Fratelli drank slowly. Balancing a muffin in his other hand, he scrambled unsuccessfully and dropped the fine pastry.
“Merciful goodness…”
“What was that?” Rodolfo asked.
He didn’t yet discover the fallen muffin on the ground in front of them. Before taking another step, he finally looked down, saw it and frowned.
“Here, Your Eminence, take mine” he offered.
Fratelli waved his hands in a gesture of refusal then continued walking forlornly.
After about a half hour, they reached the huge cathedral. Fratelli hesitated, peering briefly at the leaning bell tower before he stepped indoors. The faint odor of incense greeted them. Wax clumped around cold candle-stands and faceless marble laid silently underfoot. It was altogether beautiful and struck oncemore by that beauty, Fratelli folded his hands and whispered thanksgiving to God.
“What did you say?” Rodolfo then asked.
Fratelli replied flatly, “I was simply praying.”
Several loudly advancing figures suddenly shattered the cathedral’s quiet grandeur. Four boys, ages between 12 and 14, wearing dusty red choir robes, came forth.
Bon Giorno, Sua Eccellenza!” they chanted, their voices melting in a discordant tone.
 Rodolfo smiled and responded:
Dio ti benedica. God bless you!”
 Fratelli paused, thinking. He then eyed the small choir. These boys struggled to remain still. The youngest wandered towards the central altar steps while the eldest crossed his arms and raptly ordered them back into formation. Pulling Fratelli aside, Rodolfo explained:
“As you can obviously see, my choir is badly disorganized and can’t hold a melody any better than a fish can breathe in a flowerpot…Please help me with them.”
“I’m not a musician,” Fratelli softly retorted.
“Please, Your Eminence?”
Rodolfo eyed him beggingly, like a puppy. His deep-set brown eyes seemed helpless.
Shifting his weight impatiently, the cardinal huffed, “Fine. I shall try.”
An hour was spent explaining psalm tones, perfect pitch and basic polyphony. At last, the inattentive boys mustered a chant which showed something of what they learned. Fratelli, though no choral expert himself, started teaching them an ancient introit. The song they repeated definitely sounded ancient- and definitely awful. Fratelli couldn’t make them stop. He eventually cringed, clasping both hands over his ears. Exasperated, Rodolfo blessed and dismissed them.  Feeling lifted from a great burden, Fratelli strode away, eager to depart. However, the archbishop called him back.
“What now?” he mumbled sharply, pausing in his tracks.
“Please, help me with one more thing? It’s extremely important,” Rodolfo pleaded.
Gazing at the side altar, where St. Joseph stood encased in white stone, Fratelli silently prayed, “Lord, grant me patience!”
Rodolfo’s next request surprised him:
“Please, good Cardinal Fratelli, teach me to preach.”
“How is it that you cannot preach?”
“Well, of course, I can say a sermon,” Rodolfo stammered, a bit shameful, “…but I don’t do very well. My flock, they get bored with my words. I know they aren’t really listening. And I also know you are famous for your preaching. So, while you’re here, I figured you can give me some pointers?”
“Yes, tell me what I can do better!”
Fratelli touched his chin, pondering. Then he asked:
“Well then, I’ll need an example of yours. Tell me a homily… perhaps preach upon Mark’s Gospel…let’s see- oh yes, chapter 6 verse 7?”
Rodolfo settled his thoughts for a few minutes. He at last, approached the altar, descended the steps, turned and spoke:
Mark 6, verse 7The calling of the Twelve Disciples: “And he called the twelve; and began to send them two and two, and gave them power over unclean spirits.”  Here Jesus calls his disciples…”
A long pause ensued. Fratelli gestured, as if saying: “go on.”
And these disciples were important because it’s important for a teacher…um… a teacher needs to have students. Good students and not bad ones. Why? Because God loves good disciples…”
Frustrated, Fratelli waved for Rodolfo to stop. Silently, the cardinal wondered what thing he had done to deserve such insufferable annoyance.  Standing beside the profoundly embarrassed Rodolfo, Fratelli grabbed his hand, touched the ring, which adorned his thick knuckles and said:
 “I wasn’t going to suggest anything at first- but after hearing such words, I feel much obliged. By God’s grace, I simply cannot allow you to preach this badly!”
Releasing his hand, Fratelli then pointed back towards the high altar, at the golden tabernacle which housed the Body of Christ. Raptly, he fetched the book of Gospels that lay nearby, opened it to Mark, chapter 6 and read aloud their chosen verse. He bade the archbishop read it. When Rodolfo finished, Fratelli could barely contain his unrest as he lectured the poor man:
“Keep away from redundancy- unless you are posing a question and never answer a question that’s never been asked…and for goodness sake, never say “um…”!”
Rodolfo launched his sermon anew. It began nicely then faded into a sea of scattered “um’s” and aimless expressions. At this point, Fratelli paced below the pulpit, groaning and seriously considering if he should hit him with the Gospel book.

Chapter 10.
                        The Boat-Ride.          

Fratelli arrived back at the hotel, tiredly slumping. Mario faced him, widely smiling, holding his scarlet cloak and hat. Several servants flocked around.
                        “What now?” Fratelli asked.
            “Your Eminence, it’s going to be wonderful” Mario replied, “We’re having dinner on the ocean. The Primate lent us his sailboat!”
A man in a blue coat with shiny, golden buttons stepped forth. He had blue pants and a white hat, obviously a seaman of some sort. He bowed, kissing Fratelli’s ring.
                        “Your Eminence, let us take you for a boat ride,” he said.
            Before the word “okay” fell out of Fratelli’s mouth, they were leading him outside. He wrapped the cloak around his shoulders then stopped as Gianni caught up to him. The boy was grinning from ear to ear, absolutely delighted. He had never been on a boat before and Fratelli had only been in one once.
Soft wind blew over them, sending salty warmth as they reached the wide harbor. The whitewashed docks creaked underfoot and various boats bobbed up and down as waves slapped them. They stopped before a tall sailboat, its deep walnut wood sides gleamed in sunlight and white, canvas sails flapped idly in the wind. Fratelli paused and cautiously blessed the vessel before he’d dare step foot on it. The seaman graciously thanked him, bowed again then led them aboard. In an odd sort of procession, cooks and servers poured onto the boat. Gianni hungrily eyed their covered dishes. Mario and Jan came last. Sitting down, Fratelli could see the waves scattering sunlight into hues of green, pale blue and silvery-grey. He also felt them rocking the boat as it sailed from the harbor. He watched the land grow distant and shrink in his sight. However, he did not betray his stiffness, nor did he frown at the unnecessary attention he was receiving.
Jan got him a parasol and a pillow for his feet. Gianni himself enjoyed the attention. He smiled as Mario handed him a bright red ball.  The servers set stuffed clams, chicken and grapes before him. Fratelli stood and spoke:
Thank you, O Lord, for this day and for these gifts of food and friendship. In your glorious name we pray for joy and length of life...”
 Swept up in his emotions, he began praying in Latin:Gloria Patri, et Fillio et Spiritui Sancto…”
He suddenly grew frightened by the boat’s swaying, hurriedly waved in benediction then sat down. Clear skies eased his apprehension and chilled white wine. Resting his feet, he closed his eyes. Gianni watched the constantly shifting ocean. The humming sound of the waves crashing against the boat’s bow bored him. He stood up and bounced his ball. Finding it difficult to run on the moving vessel, he laughed. It was simply more entertainment. Coming to the back of the boat where Fratelli lounged, Gianni tossed the ball in his hand then threw it at the unwary cardinal.
The ball whizzed past Fratelli’s head as his eyes fluttered open. It loudly smacked the back of his chair.
“Gianni, watch what you are doing!” he scolded.
The boy smirked and mischievously laughed. Upset, Cardinal Fratelli scowled, stood up and started chasing him. As Gianni rounded the deck of the boat, Fratelli pursued, hot on his heels. Then the boy swerved. Unable to slow down fast enough, Fratelli stumbled at the deck’s edge; wildly spread his arms and fell overboard! There was some shouting. Mario dashed out of the cabin at once and heroically dove after him.  Pulling himself back onto the boat, Fratelli shook Mario away.
“I will be alright…” he grumbled.
Gianni had stopped laughing. He eyed Fratelli with an ashamed expression. Jan laid a blanket around the soaked cardinal, removed his drenched cloak and tried to soothe him.
“I am fine already,” Fratelli said again, hugging the blanket tight.
There was silence.
“I’m so sorry…Your Eminence” Gianni finally stuttered, “I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s okay,” Fratelli said, looking away towards the setting sun, feeling somewhat ashamed that his own temper had gotten the best of him. They were heading back to land. He would be dry soon and all would be forgotten.