Steeds 23

1 05 2017

“Sheriff Leall is here to see you, Father,” announced the housekeeper.

“Ah! Send him in, Mrs. Kerosky.”

Lee had knocked on the front door of the vicarage, which was a simple, wooden dwelling the size of a cottage attached to the parish church by an indoor hallway. The church itself matched the vicarage in construction and exterior style, while its interior conformed to the pattern of the traditional Roman Catholic basilica.

“Sheriff!” said Benedict Ziemcewicz as he stepped away from the desk in his study. His dwelling was so small, it had no parlor.


“So, you continue to neglect to call me Father.”

“It is written, ‘And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.’ ”

Benedict countered, “The Apostle Paul called Timothy his son. So he wrote at least four times. One infers St. Paul so said more often than that. Might not one also infer that Timothy called Paul his father?”

Lee answered, “One might infer that Timothy’s natural father had died prior to meeting Paul, or that his father remained a pagan even though his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, had become Christians. One might infer that Paul had become a surrogate father to Timothy, or better: a kind of godfather.”

“Have Paul and Timothy not, then, set a precedent, if it is not worthy of sanctification, then within reason if it is emulated?” Benedict asked.

“Jesus commanded, and it has been written, ‘But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Teacher, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.’

“Rabh, Rabbi, Rabban,” Lee continued, “none of the prophets claimed or received such titles. They came into parlance just prior to our Lord’s first advent. Disciples of Christ, to include the Apostles, were not to stake claims for such dignities; they were to serve Christ in the manner in which Christ Himself served.

“With regard to father―perhaps referring to the ‘father’ of the Sanhedrin at that time―God is jealous of His honor, and He opposes the vainglorious. True, in times past, great prophets were called father. Elisha referred to Elijah as ‘my father.’ King Joash referred to Elisha as ‘my father.’ As Adam Clarke has stated it, Jesus here ‘gives His disciples to understand that He would have no second, after Himself, established in His Church, of which He alone was the Head; and that perfect equality  must subsist among them.’ To Jesus ‘alone it belongs to guide and lead His Church, as well as to govern and defend it.’

“The Spirit of Christ designates ministries for disciples; disciples do not claim dignities.”

“Spoken like a true schismatic,” said Benedict.

“Thank you.”

“Perhaps I shall have to read Adam Clarke.”

“There are six volumes.”

“Relative to the Code of Canon Law, that is little,” Benedict commented. “I see you have brought other books.”

“Indeed I have,” said Lee. “I return your copies of St. Teresa’s The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, and I return your copy of St. Bernard’s On the Love of God. Thank you very much. I also bring you a copy of Henry Drummond’s The Greatest Thing in the World and a copy of Joseph Seiss’ newly published The Gospel in the Stars.

“And what else is that I see?”

“A bottle of brandy.”

“You don’t drink.”

“This is for you.” Lee put the books on the desk and handed Benedict the bottle.

“Heavens! This came all the way from Europe.”

“I cannot vouch for its quality, and Jack Fesenthal would not, except to say it’s expensive. He wants you to decide for yourself, without influence.”

“We must decide together. Let me pour you some, sir.”

“I don’t drink.”

“You know Jesus turned water into wine,” said Benedict.

“I also know that Jesus is refraining from wine until after the coming of His Kingdom,” said Lee. “It is then, according to St. Luke, that He will eat and drink with His disciples. As for me, it is written, ‘it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink, lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.’ ”

“And what do you say to the wag who says you are neither a king nor a prince?”

“I work for the King of kings and Lord of lords.”

“You must stay for supper.”

“Thank you. I would like that, but this is such short notice. I don’t want to take food from the mouth of your housekeeper and cook.”

“Mrs. Kerosky!”

“Yes, Father.”

“Is there enough for the three of us if I invite this man to supper?”

“There is enough, as long as Sheriff Leall has no objection to food leftover from breakfast and dinner.”

“Do you?” Benedict asked.

“I do not.”

“Good. You shall stay.”

“And I will serve at the appointed time,” said Mrs. Kerosky.

“While we wait,” Lee said, “I have another matter to discuss.”


“You have read the newspaper article regarding horse thefts.”


“I have been going from place to place and person to person in an effort to gather enough news of my own to solve these crimes. I am here now to seek your assistance.”

“What can I do?”

“I understand that, in accordance with the Roman Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation, you hear confessions. I understand that those confessions are held in confidence. I also understand, however, that you are to listen for at least two kinds of remorse. One is imperfect contrition….”

“The more selfish kind, the one that orients on the sinner. His concern is for himself: the fear of punishment, the fear of losing a reward, the fear of both. Yes.”

“The other is perfect contrition….”

“Less selfish, more selfless. The sinner’s concern is the sorrow, the shame, the pain he has caused, not just within one or more fellow human beings, but also within God.”

“As King David wrote, ‘Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned.’ ”


“I understand that, according to Roman Catholic doctrine, confession must be accompanied by penance.”

“Repentance must appreciate forgiveness and atonement. Yes.”

“According to Roman Catholic doctrine, the confessing sinner may receive forgiveness, but even so, he is still subject to punishment. To avoid punishment, he must somehow, someway pay for the sin.”

“As Tertullian said, repentance is not only a matter of one’s inner conscience, repentance must also be manifested by some external action or behavior. Yes.”

“And so the one confessing is assigned sacramental penance, and penance usually is executed by such means as circuiting the Rosary, circuiting the Stations of the Cross, fasting, giving alms and other offerings, and pilgrimages. You have yourself prescribed pilgrimages to Holy Hill?”

“I have.”

“People are donating to the construction of a new church here?”

“They are.”

“Is it to be according to Carlo Borromeo or Leon Battista Alberti?”

“Goodness!” said Benedict. “You have read their books, too?”

“Heinrich Oelke has told me about them. At one time in his career, he considered constructing a Roman Catholic church building.”

“Oelke is not Catholic. He’s not even Lutheran.”

“True. Henry is a member of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.”

“Back to your question,” said Benedict. “This must be a parochial church, not an oratory.”

“There are composite buildings.”

“True. If you hear of anyone who wishes to endow such a structure, let me know.”

“And if you hear in the confessional from anyone who has stolen horses, or from anyone who knows who has stolen horses, let me know.”

“But you know the sanctity of the confession booth provides confidentiality. You just said so a few minutes ago.”

“I am not trying to make you a deputy sheriff. I am asking you to exhort sinners to reconcile with their neighbors, the people of their community as well as their parish. Jesus said, and it was written, ‘if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.’ That is the kind of penance I seek.”

Lee continued, “You are not a police officer, but I am. I will, therefore, add Jesus’ words: ‘Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.’ I will not give up this pursuit.”





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