I have never been much of a churchgoer ever since I escaped the holy influence of my severe and saintly mother, but the recent circumstances had brought me back to the kneeling bench. Most mornings, Father Kelly celebrated a Mass for the sinners who needed an early morning forgiveness for the happenings of the night before. So at eight o'clock, well, actually eight eleven according to my trusty Bulova, I made the sign of the cross and took my place in the back pew of Saint Francis just in time to hear the eloquent Father say,
Líbera nos, quæsumus Dómine, ab ómnibus malis prætéritis, præséntibus, et futúris, et intercedénte beáta et gloriósa semper Vírgine Dei genitríce María, cum beátis Apóstolis tuis Petro et Paulo, atque Andréa, et ómnibus sanctis,da propítius pacem in diébus nostris: ut ope misericórdiæ tuæ adjúti, et a peccáto simus semper líberi, et ab omni perturbatióne secúri.
Sure wish I had a clue as to what he was saying, but somehow me and my guilt felt a little better for having heard it. Mercifully, the final amen soon came. I had expected it all to go on longer and I had feared that it would on even longer than that.
But the end came quickly and the forgiven in the Church were allowed to re-enter the world of sinning, once more. For me, the task now at hand was tracking down the Holy Father in his inner sanctum.
I found him and his two young acolytes closing up shop for the morning in a walnut paneled room, filled with the fragrance of incense and the trappings of holy service - robes, ropes and raiments of all colors. All of the three were returning to their more earthly attire, the wardrobe of making it through another day in this world, unstained.
"Brian and Stephen, let's be on time next week. And no more yawning during the liturgy."
In near unison, the two chastised boys answered, "Yes, Father." After a reverent bow, they were off and running to class at Saint Francis Parochial School, next door.
"Lieutenant MacKenzie, what a surprise to see you here this morning. At what parish do you receive Mass, Saint Vincent's or maybe Saint Martha's?"
My silent reluctance was answer enough for the gracious, young priest to move on without throwing me into total spiritual shame. "Well, Lieutenant, how might help you this morning?"
"I am thinking I need to speak with Brother Paolo, if that might be possible."
"Oh, yes, it's possible, challenging, but possible."