The New Springtime: Chapter 3
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Chapter 3 - The Apostolic Visitors Document Actions
    The Cathedral of St. Alan Alda lies on Church Street in downtown El Indigente. That road runs into Despiadado Boulevard, which runs north and south, just to the west downtown  El Indigente. Going north on Despiadado for about seven miles, one finds El Vago Road. After making a left on El Vago, about two miles down the road, on the left, is the diocesan chancery. It is a remarkably remote spot for a chancery office. In 2002, Bishop Surley moved it there to get away from the pastoral ministers who came to the chancery to complain. To this day, there are still a few priests who have not yet been notified of the move.

    Just before noon on Tuesday, October 18, the stillness at the intersection of El Vago and the I-174 was broken by the sound of a distant car coming down the I-174, still almost a half mile north of the intersection. It is the sound of loud music blaring and people whooping it up and having a good time. As the car gets closer, one can make out that the sound is coming from the car. One eventually picks up that it is the a*****e rock (the hip style of music from the early-mid ‘20s) band Wasted S***heads. One of their hit songs is blaring, and one can hear two high pitched barking noises matching the high pitched barking noises of the original. Their white sedan comes to the stop sign on El Vago, and comes to a screeching stop. Then the car makes a right, and then an immediate left, to pull into the parking lot of the diocesan chancery.

    There are two men in the car, but they stay in the car for 45 seconds to finish barking the popular song. At its conclusion, they both leave the car. Out of the driver side of the car, and poking his head in to retrieve his briefcase is a black man, around 40 years old. He is rotund, sporting a goatée, and wearing reflective sunglasses. When he stands, one can also see that he around five feet nine inches tall, wearing a blue, red, green, purple, teal, white, yellow, and orange striped shirt, what looks like white bowling shoes, and on his chest a thick solid gold peace sign, about sixteen inches in diameter. This is Deacon Luvmuffin, an unmarried permanent deacon, originally from the Hyperdiocese of Chicago-Milwaukee. He has worked in Rome the last seven years as an expert in liturgical matters.

    From the passenger side, having a little difficulty leaving the car, is an older man, around sixty-five years old. He is quite tan, also wearing sunglasses and also rotund, with a bald spot surrounded by mostly black hair. He is wearing a black cassock with a fancy red sash and red buttons, and a pectoral cross tucked in his pocket. This man is Bishop Rondello di Cervello, undersecretary for the Congregation for Liturgical Innovation in the Vatican. He is on a mission from His Holiness, Pope Liberius II, to visit the dioceses on the western part of the U.S. to implement a new impetus on liturgical renewal.

    As joyous as their ride to the chancery office was, their trip from the car to the front door was quite the adventure. Just outside the door was a lunatic saying wild, almost completely incoherent things to them. The two clerics met him first with disbelief, then with disdain; they stared at him for about thirty seconds. Finally, in keeping with his dignity as a shepherd of the Church of God, Bishop Cervello put his thumb to his nose and wiggled his fingers at the crazy man, and they went inside.

    The receptionist’s desk was just inside the door. There was indeed a young woman behind the desk, but there was nobody there. She had her feet up on the desk, popping gum and filing her nails as a*****e rock was blaring from her radio. She did not so much as look up when Bishop di Cervello and Deacon Luvmuffin approached the counter. After several seconds, Bishop di Cervello cleared his throat.

    “Go away, fellas! Can’t you see I’m busy?”

    Bishop di Cervello answered, “We’re here to see the bishop.”

    At this, for the first time, the secretary looked up from her nails, though for only a split second. “Yeah? And who are you, fruitcake?”

    “I’m Bishop Rondello di Cervello and this is Deacon Luvmuffin.”

    Then Deacon Luvmuffin introduced himself, with a very deep voice, “Hey, babe.”

    The secretary then sighed and slammed down her nail file, again without looking at them. “Whatever. Come this way.”

    The secretary then took the two visitors to the end of the hall, to a room with a sign on the door that said “Conference Room”. She knocked at the door.

    The voice on the other side said, “I hear you knocking, but you can’t come in!”

    At that, the secretary opened the door, and for the first time, the two experts from Rome were glad the secretary was discourteous. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Here’s some bishop to see you.” After they entered, the secretary left and closed the door.

    Although there were several priests in the room, Bishop di Cervello immediately extended his hand and said, “You must be Bishop Sugarloaf.”

    The man with the voice which had answered from the other side of the door responded, “There are nine of us. How did you know it was me?”

    Indeed, there were nine men seated around the conference table, but whereas eleven of the twelve chairs were identical, the one Bishop Sugarloaf was sitting in - the middle chair on the window side of the table - had a banner over top of it, saying “Da Bish”.

    Bishop Sugarloaf was an impressive looking man - he had a kind and personable demeanor, good looking, with dark thinning hair and wire spectacles. He was wearing a tan Hawaiian shirt with short jean shorts, with his pectoral cross tucked in his pocket. He was quite impressive - six foot three and fit, although his 56 years showed around his eyes and under his chin.

    Getting up from the chair, Bishop Sugarloaf reached across the table to shake hands with the apostolic visitor. Just before they clasped hands, Bishop di Cervello’s face gave a little twitch. Then Bishop di Cervello eagerly pressed Bishop Sugarloaf’s hand. Bishop Sugarloaf at first was about to dismiss the twitch. But then he understood that this was not a twitch, but a gesture. Bishop Sugarloaf was not born yesterday. Being the bishop responsible for his diocese, he felt a responsibility to address his concerns publicly and confront the issue at hand.

    “I’m sorry about my secretary, Bishop.”

    “Oh, not at all.”

    “I would fire her, but… you see, she’s my niece, and my sister would…”

    “Yes, yes, I understand. I also have family I’m not too proud of.”

    “Cervello. Cervello! You mean the…”

    “Never mind. Who are the other priests?”

    By this time, the other priests had come around the table to shake hands with the Curial official.

    Bishop Sugarloaf introduced them all as Deacon Luvmuffin was getting the display ready. “Your Excellency,” he said, pointing to a meek looking man in his late 60s, wearing a blue clerical shirt with collar and black slacks, “this is my parochial vicar and right hand man, Msgr. George Yessman.”

    Bishop di Cervello greeted him with the same twitch. “How do you do.”

    Pointing to Father Happy, now wearing a white polo shirt with an orange smiley face, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “This is the Rector of the Cathedral, Father Happy Smiley.”

    Bishop di Cervello did not bother twitching upon shaking his hand.

    Pointing to a tall man with red hair and a beard, wearing a blue polo shirt with a collar sticking out of his shirt pocket, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “This is the head of the Diocesan Center for Pastoral Dogma, Monsignor Godfrey Church.”

    Bishop di Cervello twitched again and said, “Pleasure to meet you.”

    Father Church replied, “What is it to you?”

    Bishop Sugarloaf, with a fatherly warning tone in his voice, said, “God?” Then introductions continued. Pointing to a short man in a short-sleeved black clerical shirt and collar, about 50 years old with a comb-over, Bishop Sugarloaf continued, “This is the Chancellor of the diocese, Father Seymour Cash.”

    Again giving the twitch, Bishop di Cervello shook his hand.

    Now pointing to a young man wearing a San Francisco 49ers jersey with the number 17, the Ordinary continued the introductions: “This is the head of interreligious dialog for the diocese, Your Excellency, Father Noah Vail.”

    Bishop di Cervello continued his method of twitching before shaking upon the introduction.

    By now, Bishop Sugarloaf was nervous. He thought to himself, “I so have to fire her.” Continuing with the introductions, now pointing to a rather effeminate looking tall thin man, about 60 years old, wearing a lavender dress shirt - not clerical - Bishop Sugarloaf introduced Father Les Manley, vocations director for the diocese.

    Again with the twitch, Bishop di Cervello shook his hand.

    Pointing to a tall heavy-set man, not very intelligent looking, with unkempt hair and his short-sleeved black clerical shirt partly tucked in, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “This is the head of ecclesiastical discipline for the diocese, Father Terry Long.”

    Bishop di Cervello continued what Bishop Sugarloaf had by now concluded was a Sicilian custom of twitching upon meeting.

    Lastly, Bishop Sugarloaf pointed to a man with red hair and mustache, around 35 years old, wearing a long-sleeved black clerical shirt, and introduced him thus: “And this is the educational director for our diocese, Father Red Policy.”

    Bishop di Cervello twitched.

    Father Policy shrugged his right shoulder.

    At this, Bishop di Cervello lowered his hand. Again, he twitched. Again, Father Policy shrugged his right shoulder.

    Bishop di Cervello then ran his index finger along the outer rim of his left ear. After this, Father Policy pretended to wipe his nose with the sleeve of his shirt.

    At this, Bishop di Cervello, said without expression, “Reindeer farm.”

    Father Policy, again without expression, said, “Spacely Sprockets are easy on the pockets. Raspberry Uganda exoskeleton.”

    Then, inexplicably, Father Policy and Bishop di Cervello turned their back on each other and stuck their right hands behind their backs. They touched palms twice and then wiggled their fingers, squealing in a high-pitched voice, “wiggie, wiggie, wiggie, wiggie” - again, with no expression on their face. Immediately after that, they clasped their right hands, still behind their backs, and jumped up and down three times.

    Oblivious to any ulterior meaning to what had just taken place, Bishop Sugarloaf cried out, “Ah! A secret handshake!”

    Red Policy cried out, “No!”

    Immediately, Bishop di Cervello snapped his fingers, and Bishop Sugarloaf went to sleep. Don Rondello then said, “You saw nothing. When you wake up, you will forget the handshake.” He again snapped his fingers.

    Coming to, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “And put another fifty on the Patriots. Say, who’s this guy in a dress?”

    Bishop di Cervello replied, “I have no time. Let’s get started.”

    Msgr. Yessman then whispered in Bishop Sugarloaf’s ear: “This is Bishop di Cervello, Bish.”

    Bishop Sugarloaf then said, “Bishop di Cervello. Nice to meet you. This is George Yess…”

    Bishop di Cervello, irritated, yet wanting to calm the situation, said, “Yes, I’ve already met your fine Curia.” Deacon Luvmuffin had already finished setting up the display at the left end of the room (from where you walk in), as there was a little space there to set it up.  Msgr. Cervello then said, “And this is my trustful assistant, Deacon Luvmuffin.”

    Extending his hand, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “Welcome to El Indigente, Deacon.”

    Slapping palms, the Levite of the Church said, “Sho’ ‘nuff, Bish.”

    Then again addressing Bishop di Cervello, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “I hope your journey went well.”

    Cervello said, “It went quite well, yes.” Catching himself, he said, “That is, until I got here. There’s a crazy man outside.”

    At this, the priests rolled their eyes and Father Vail put his head into his hands, crying out, “Oh, no!”

    Monsignor Church said, “What were you thinking of, Noah, inviting him to the interfaith meeting? Idiot!” Father Vail took some ribbing from his brother priests at that point.

    Bishop Sugarloaf explained this to Monsignor di Cervello, “That would be Fr. Peter Scott, an old Society of St. Pius X priest.”

    Bishop di Cervello, taken quite aback at that revelation, said, “At an ecumenical gathering?”

    Father Vail tried to explain, “Well, I thought that, you know, since…”

    Bishop Sugarloaf then said to Father Vail, “Find out if he’s still out there.”

    Going to the window, Father Vail opened it and stuck his head out. One could plainly hear the old integrist mocking them. “You call yourselves Catholic? Aw-haw-haw-haw-haw-haw. Don’t make me laugh. Aw-haw-haw-haw-haw-haw. You might want to think about professing Catholic dogma before you profess to be a Catholic. Aw-haw-haw-haw-haw.” Fr. Vail, worn from dialog with the integrist, said, “Keep it down you old fundamentalist, you.” Then he shut the window.

    Back inside the room, there was much hand-wringing over the blasphemy they had just heard. The clerics looked confused and/or disdainful. Such comments were heard:

Church: “What rubbish!”
Policy: “Since when have Catholics cared about doctrine?”
Vail: “Sorry, guys.”
Manley: “Of all the nerve!”
Long: “He is such a scandal to the good priests!”
Smiley: “Wet blanket!”

    Putting the meeting back in order, Bishop Sugarloaf clapped and got everybody’s attention. “OK guys, let’s forget about all that. Have a seat, everyone. Bishop di Cervello and Deacon Luvmuffin are here from Rome to help us in our quest to update the liturgy, to make it more meaningful to the people, in celebration for the 60th anniversary of the beautiful New Mass of Paul VI.”

    At this, Msgr. Yessman said, sniffling, “That was beautiful, sir.”

    Bishop Sugarloaf sat in his customary spot in the middle of the window side of the table, between George and Hap. George is keeping minutes via a handheld tape recorder. Bishop di Cervello sat across from Bishop Sugarloaf, as all the priests sat down.

    Msgr. Yessman started the meeting by apologizing to their guests. “I’d like to apologize for that radical disturbing your peace today… “

    Ever the diplomat, Don Rondello said, “Think nothing of it. It is they that I feel sorry for. They are stuck in the past. They hold on to things for the sake of holding on to them. If they choose to do so, they are the ones losing out.”

    George Yessman replied, “Well said, Bish.”

    To that, Bishop di Cervello said, “ ‘Your Excellency, Your Excellency.’ There are some traditions that we need to hold on to.”

    Bishop Sugarloaf, looking at the clock on the wall, said, “Well, let’s get this started, shall we?” He stood up and moved his right hand toward his forehead. All rose with him. Bishop di Cervello began to make the sign of the Cross, but after Bishop Sugarloaf adjusted his glasses, it became apparent that they were standing to get their wallets out of their pockets.

    The Bishop of El Indigente began the meeting: “First order of business, Seymour orders the pizza. Everybody give him five dollars. It’s a special at Ed’s Pizza today: two large pizzas for 44 dollars. Note that, George.”

    George dutifully noted on his voice recorder, “12:36 PM, October 17: Ordered pizza. 44 dollars for two large pizzas from Ed’s.” Right next to him, Father Cash was ordering the pizza on his cell phone. Father Vail was passing out glasses, while Father Long was busy getting the cooler with the beer and soda. Father Long was passing out the beverages as the next item was brought to the floor.

    Bishop Sugarloaf, visibly anxious, said, “Now, the next order of business is very important, but very difficult.” George noted: “12:38, next item.” Putting his hand on Hap’s shoulder, he continued: “Hap, I know how important the name of the Cathedral is to you.” Hap started to look frightened, but was in a state of denial about where this meeting was going.

    But the bishop continued to precisely where Hap thought he was going: “I talked this over with Bishop di Cervello over the phone, at the USCCB meeting, and with the rest of the Curia while you were napping. I even talked it over with the pizza delivery guy at the last Curia meeting. It’s unanimous.”

    “No.”

    “Hap, the old 4077 has brought much goodness to… uh, beer, Terry. Thanks.  It will be remembered.”

    “It must be.”

    “And so it shall, in the Cathedral itself. But maybe it’s time to change the name of the Cathedral.”

    Garnering his last glimmer of hope, Hap cried out, “To St. MacLean Stephenson?”

    At this, Bishop Sugarloaf’s courage failed him. It hurt him so to break this old man’s heart, especially one who gave such outstanding service to the Church. But there was one man in the curia for whom courage was never wanting.

    “No, you old moron. Nobody cares about M*A*S*H any more but you old hippies. When you all die off, the world will be a much better place.”

    After Monsignor Church cleared the air, he received a strong rebuke from Bishop Sugarloaf. “Father God! You have no right to be so condemnatory, and I forbid you to say such things in my diocese. Now apologize to Hap.”

    After a few seconds and a deep sigh, Godfrey, with an agitated look on his face, mumbled out the side of his mouth, “Sorry.”

    Bishop Sugarloaf tried to comfort Hap. “Now, Hap. Thank God for M*A*S*H. But you see, they’ve done their job. It’s like dogma. Once we didn’t need dogma any more, we moved on to something better. The same thing happened with M*A*S*H. OK, Hap?”

    Hap by this time was crying. Then suddenly, his tears turned to rage. He yelled, “M*A*S*H is too still relevant to Catholicism!” Rending his favorite shirt, he screamed, “Blasphemy!” Fortunately, Hap’s prissiness was greater than his outrage. “Ah! You can see my t-shirt! Oh no!” He tried to cover himself up, and curled up in the fetal position.

    Father Cash asked, “What did you have in mind, Bish?”

    Looking at Bishop di Cervello, Bishop Sugarloaf said, “Well, I was thinking of going back to our roots. You know, a nod to the past.”

    Msgr. Church responded, “How about St. Pius X?”

    Bishop Sugarloaf responded, “Don’t be morbid, God. No, the Cathedral before was dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, right?”

    Still in the fetal position, Father Hap cried out, “Bunnies!”

    Bishop Sugarloaf said, “That’s right, Hap. We’ll have the Cathedral renamed the Cathedral of St. Francis and renovated by the beginning of December. That will make it possible for the renovation of the liturgy.”

    Hap said, “And what’s wrong with the liturgy?”

    Bishop Sugarloaf responded, “Nothing. Nothing’s wrong with the liturgy. That’s what these gentlemen are here for. They will explain to us what Rome wants to do with the liturgy for the second quarter of the 21st Century.”

    Sadly, Father Hap asked, “How many more weeks will we have the Cathedral of St. Alan Alda?”

    The bishop put his arm around his shoulder and said, “Six weeks, Hap. We’re going to have a special celebration for the First Sunday in Advent, Hap.”

    Happy said, with hesitation, “But, what about G-G-Gare and F-F-F…”

    Bishop Sugarloaf said, “Now, Hap. We have to make the liturgy relevant for young people, right?”

    Happy replied, “What’s irrelevant about folk Mass?”

    Godfrey muttered, “What’s not?”

    At that, Happy stood up and  made a threatening gesture all around, and proclaimed, “I will not allow you to destroy such a beautiful liturgy. The kids love Groovy Gary and Far-out Francine. I’ll defend the way the liturgy has been done here with my life!”

    While Bishop Sugarloaf was trying to get Hap to calm down, Monsignor Church tried to comfort him by saying, “Yeah? You and whose army? You’re 90 years old and 85 pounds, Hap.”

    After giving Godfrey a piercing glance, Bishop Sugarloaf again put his arm around Hap and said, “Actually, Hap, the kids haven’t liked Gary and Frannie for fifty years.”

    At that, Happy screamed, “No! It’s not true,” and began sobbing.

    Bishop Sugarloaf then told him, “Hap, I want you to think of something. How old are you, Hap.”

    “90.”

    “OK now, think back to when you were a teenager. What were 90 year-old people listening to when you were a teenager.”

    Happy didn’t answer the question, although his face gave away that he knew the answer.

    Hap’s bishop then said, “What? I didn’t hear you, Hap. What were they listening to?”

    Father Smiley then mumbled something.

    “What was that, Hap?”

    With frustration and denial written all over his face, Hap cried out, “Tin Pan Alley”.

    Bishop Sugarloaf, being as gentle as ever, said to his wounded priest, “Good, Hap. Now if they played Tin Pan Alley at Mass…”

    Happy broke in, “I would have died.”

    Bishop Sugarloaf then gently said to him, “Yes. You see, Groovy Gary and Far-out Franny aren’t what they used to be. People are sad to hear them struggle. Let us remember them for the greatness they brought to the liturgy for many, many years. OK, Hap?”

    There was no answer.

    “OK, Hap?”

    “I won’t like it.”

    “That’s the spirit, Hap. We‘ll meet their needs by playing some… some… different music that speaks to them, all right? ”

    Visibly agitated, Bishop di Cervello cut in, “Now are we ready to discuss the changes?”

    Bishop Sugarloaf, still comforting Hap, replied, “All ready, Bishop. What did you have in mind?”

    Bishop di Cervello then began, as Deacon Luvmuffin went to the display at the end of the table. “Well, Luvmuffin and I have designs on a new, exciting liturgy, that will relate to the people. You see, the people need to be, how you say, dazzled…”

    The results of that meeting were seen on Saturday, December 2, 2028: the beginning of the 60th liturgical year with the Novus Ordo Missae.


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