instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Great Diocese Handicap, concl.

"Not feeling a bit down, are you, Reeves?"

"Not to my knowledge, your Excellency."

I eyed the fellow. Monsignor Reeves had taken news of the collapse of his plan with manly reserve. I wondered, though, whether the shock of failure had somewhat unnerved him. In the days since, he had been rather distant on the whole subj., as though the memory was still too fresh.

I decided a little pastoral care was wanted. "I think, Reeves, we must face up to failure and move on. The best laid plans of mice and men, and so forth, as you often remind me. Even Homer nods."

"Very true, your Excellency."

"On the other hand, what lasting harm has been done? Admittedly, Cardinal Vittoria thinks I'm some sort of criminal lunatic, but such misunderstandings are common within the episcopate. And Pimples did lose out on the Congregation to that Italian chap."

"Bishop Giovanni Fulsca, your Excellency. He was ordained a bishop by --"

"Yes, yes, Reeves. We shall review his C.V. in due time. My point now is that Vittoria's visit was no batsman's paradise for Pimples anyway. Mark my word, Reeves, a chap who will kick a football through a chap's window in the middle of the night is a chap who isn't destined for Congregations in Rome."

"They would seem mutually incompatible destinies, your Excellency."

"And true, Berggo didn't get his new cathedral. But do you know, I spoke with him yesterday evening, and he sounded quite relieved. 'I would hate to leave my dear lambs,' he said. A turn of heart" -- and here, I'm afraid, I registered a touch of disapproval, considering all the trouble Berggo's fickleness had put me through -- "that seems related to the Knights of Columbus raising three hundred fifty thousand dollars for his soup kitchen project."

"A shared goal does smooth over differences, your Excellency."

"He went so far as to say he would never have been happy with St. Glaphyra's. His very words were, 'A right horror it looks in the bright light of day.'"

"The aesthetics of that cathedral do not speak to the broad experiences of the human soul, your Excellency."

"And how, Reeves!" I poked through the mail Monsignor Reeves had brought me, reaching for a picture postcard that caught my eye. "On balance, the one lasting pain brought on by this whole affair was the lost opportunity to bet on the shuffling of bishops. Even there, though, your note of caution stopped me from placing a loser."

A sound like a sheep coughing on a distant peak came from the spot where Monsignor Reeves was standing. "As it happens, your Excellency, I --"

"Great Scott!" I exclaimed. "This postcard is from Pimples! Dateline Seattle, he writes as follows: 'Many thanks, old thing, for taking the rap. Now I'm taking the job you were to get, as Apostolic Visitator.'"

"Yes, your Excellency. Rumors abounded that you were to be named to that post."

At these words, my each particular hair stood an end, like quills upon the fretful porpentine. "But... an Apostolic Visitator! That would have completely ruined my fall schedule!"

"Undoubtedly, your Excellency. It seems, however, the impression you left on Cardinal Vittoria was such that minds in Rome were changed regarding the wisdom of assigning you to that post."

"But Pimples...?"

"After your hasty departure, Bishop Legendre and Cardinal Vittoria had a long and pleasant conversation, your Excellency. I have been informed that, in the course of their talk, they agreed that the Congregation was not the place for Bishop Legendre, football broadcasts being too rare in Rome, but that he would very much enjoy serving as Apostolic Visitator."

"Well, well, well. So even though your plan failed, we've all landed on our feet."

"So it would seem, your Excellency."

A cog turned a notch. "Tell me, Reeves. I don't mean to pry, but is it possible... that is, did your plan for me to visit Pimples take into account the possibility..."

"I did not wish to trouble you with rumors regarding the position of Apostolic Visitator, your Excellency. It did occur to me, however, that a day or two in the company of Cardinal Vittoria, under stressful circumstances, might prevent the appointment, which I took the liberty of feeling sure was a consummation you would devoutly wish."

"Certainly, Reeves."

"Furthermore, your Excellency, I placed modest bets on your behalf against your appointment, and also against Cardinal Legendre's appointment to the Congregation. The parlay paid off in three Eucharistic Congresses and one retreat of your choice."

"Did it indeed?" I leaned back and let out a deep breath. "I feel positively storm-tossed by events, Reeves. A retreat sounds like just the thing to recover."

"Yes, your Excellency. You are scheduled for a four-day retreat at a Redemptorist house in the Adirondacks next week. You need only give one two-hour conference to a women's sodality on the first day."

"Just the stuff! I say, Reeves, you have family in the area, don't you? Why don't you come with me, and take a few days to visit them?"

"Yes, your Excellency, my sister and her family. Thank you, your Excellency."

"Not at all, Reeves. When one lucks into something like this, I think it best to share the good fortune."

"If I may say so, your Excellency, that is an attitude toward which Divine Providence tends to respond with further good fortune."

"At least I've always found it so, Reeves. And what's the rest of it?"

"Benedicamus Domino, your Excellency."

"That's it, Reeves. Benedicamus Domino."