Thursday, November 19, 2015
Sympathy for the Devil
“You drank the port?” His Traddiness’ eyes widened as the truth sank in. “All of it?”
“I didn’t think you’d miss it,” was my reply. “You entirely forgot about the bottle of F—.”
“You drank that? I’m never leaving a bottle at your house again!”
“Fine, I’ll buy the next bottle of Chartreuse.”
“Darn straight you will!”
“It will be the yellow one, though.”
"What?" His Traddiness snapped.
The little lady sniffed at us and rolled her eyes. The three of us were sitting on the outside patio of Café Preténse, enjoying the last warm spurts of autumn before Texas decided to welcome Old Man Winter.
“You know, Rad,” she said, “you could just buy cheaper wine.”
We both watched as His Traddiness’ face turned a few shades of wine-dark, and laughed through a brief chill wind. I turned towards her and admired the frothy latte that sat so smugly superior to the tea on the other side of the table. I decided to defuse the situation with another bomb.
“Did you hear the most recent about Fr. Facile?”
“No, what did that little pipsqueak do now?”
“Apparently he’s been doubling down on his pseudo-mercy talk. He’s gone almost Full Kasper in his Sunday sermons. The Church is changing, didn’t you know? We are now welcoming the perverts and the homewreckers without exception. Anyone who’s not on board is going to fall behind the March of History.”
“I wonder how soon before he comes out?”
“Of which closet?”
“Hard to say. Heaven save us from the wicked clerics. You know, I was accosted by a fellow parishioner at Tradistan the other day about needing to pray for our wicked leaders.”
“Not a bad idea,” chimed in the little lady.
“Sure. But mostly I pray for their destruction. That seems like a worthy cause.”
“Not their conversion?” she asked sweetly.
“I suppose I must,” I admitted. “But I draw the line at praying for the repose of the souls of those who died as public enemies of all that is good and holy. This is November, the month we’re supposed to pray for the faithful departed. I don’t feel the need to pray for the faithless.”
“What’s got that bugaboo up your posterior?” asked His Traddiness.
“The lady and I knew a fellow who went to a local Catholic university. By all accounts he was quite the academic and literary modernist, although I know nothing in particular about his spiritual life. He had a young wife, a very young daughter, and another child on the way. He murdered himself in the middle of the night about a year ago.”
“The worst of it, though, is the sympathy and nostalgia surrounding the whole ordeal. All of his close friends are heartbroken, of course, but they insist on not thinking badly of him. It took me weeks of sorting through Facebook comments to even get a hint that he had taken his own life.”
“To do that to a wife and child!”
“Exactly the point. I don’t deny that he may have had some psychological problems, but surely they cannot have rendered him invincible to the demands of familial justice, nor to the tugging on the heart by the ladies in his life. All his friends say that he doted on his daughter, but I suppose not enough.”
“Remember what Pius the Third said in response to a request that a Requiem Mass be said for the repose of his predecessor, Alexander the Sixth?”
“‘It is blasphemous to pray for the damned.’”
Just then a familiar vintner of damned souls walked out of the front door, saw us, and waved.
“How goes the quest to eliminate lukewarmness?” the devil asked, with a tip of his hat to the lady. His horns showed for a moment.
“Making progress one good drink at a time.” I raised mine. “To your utter failure.”
He smiled toothily and walked to his car. I was disappointed to see that it did not sport a darkly humorous customized license plate.
“That wormy bastard wouldn’t know good taste if it hit him in the face,” mused His Traddiness. “Based on the financials going back and forth in his emails, he could easily afford a Rolls but, like most evil men, prefers a Mercedes.” The devil put-putted away in a cloud of noxious green exhaust.
“I wonder sometimes if I should pray for all my ancestors who died outside of the Church,” I said once the fumes had cleared. “A lot of them were Protestants who hated Catholicism. Quite a few others were staunchly non-religious their whole lives. The New-Springtimers say that charity demands prayers for all the dead, except at their funeral Masses, but I have to wonder. Isn’t it reasonable just to assume that those who die in manifest sin are damned, and to cover your bases by praying regularly for all the poor souls? At least that way everyone who can be covered is covered.”
“Wouldn’t you want someone to pray for your soul in particular,” asked the lady, “even if you seemed to die in evil circumstances?”
“It would be nice, but at the expense of public scandal? Perhaps not! In that case I might have to satisfy myself with the scraps that are tossed out commonly to all the purging souls. Better to be in Purgatory and buried in unconsecrated ground than in Hell and buried behind the rectory. In any case, I’ll be planning in my will for private Masses to be said for my soul by some helpful religious orders.”
“You’d better hope those orders hold up their end of the bargain,” she said. “Lots of them are simply dropping all the old charges they held for praying for the dead.”
“That’s a sobering thought. I’d better die in some saintly way! Perhaps the martyrdoms will begin soon, and I can get that done and over with.” She sniffed again at that.
His Traddiness sipped the rest of his tea and began to recite from memory, “In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.”
“And may the devil get his due,” I added.