Friday, July 18, 2008

History Repeats?

It was Saturday, August 15, the feast of Mary's Assumption into Heaven, 1964.
Bob Dylan was becoming a household word, although not yet to my household, and I had been two weeks on Nelson, a resident in Saint Martin's Hall, the men's dormitory at Notre Dame University of Nelson, and then on the night of the 14th slept in the house that would be our home for the next three-and-half years, two blocks up the street from the Nelson cathedral and Saint Joseph's School.
I'd had great luck, being told the house was available to rent in the middle of the month only an hour or so after I had walked into the university administration building, announced my presence and had settled into looking around the library. I had come to terms with a generous landlady, called Shawn, and then spent a fortnight as a bachelor hanging around the summer school, auditing a new math for teachers math class, and strolling about my new, and final, hometown.
I had gone to morning mass at the cathedral on August 1, the feast of Alphonsus Liguori, coincidentally the founder of the order that had seen me through all the sacraments bestowed on me in my becoming a Catholic, but for the rest of the two weeks my mass attendance was in the university chapel, a pleasant little A-frame with a modest electric organ I would putter at over ensuing months when no one else was in the building. Then, on the Friday, the day I had finished moving in and taking up residence, I returned to the cathedral.
At the end of mass, the rector, Father John Frederick Monaghan, came down to the pew where I was kneeling and said he'd heard that my wife and children would be arriving next morning at the Castlegar airport. Did I have a car?
I said no. I knew that there was a taxi shuttle specifically for air passengers between Nelson and Castlegar, and assumed I'd have to settle for this service.
Father Monaghan said that I was to come by the rectory next morning and pick up the keys to his car so I could pick up my family.
I was of course immensely grateful and also reflected that the man, the priest, I had heard so much about from Shawn from our earliest times together, was indeed as generous and good as he had been described. On the other hand, after five years of working with Catholic clergy, habitually with remarkable harmony and the most satisfying results, and especially in the past weeks having cast our fortunes all but irretrievably on Providence, I was not surprised at Father Monaghan's generosity. He had known Shawn and her family for years and therefore I was not at all a stranger.
It was a beautiful day for the drive, a perfect promise for the flight in, I was delighted to be seeing my little brood again, and everything about Nelson had so far gone perfectly. Click, click, click.
As I think I said earlier, my beloved had a number of reservations about coming back to her home town, and these were still with her. She appreciated the convenience of the car over a shuttle bus, but her mighty brain was somehow intuiting difficulties I hadn't thought of. The mystic has to ride on his visions, his intuitions, his locutions, or go mad. I had come to Nelson from my history of all these phenomena pointing to the town over the past years, she had agreed, backing up step by step, because Vancouver had not turned up any jobs, despite my thumping my Ronnie Knox translation on Archbishop Johnson's desk and raising my voice.
The ride home was not quite the triumph I had imagined, and she did not completely cheer up even as we drew up in front of our two-story, three-bedroom house, more space to ourselves than we'd known since we were married.
She took in the rug rats, I wrangled the luggage, then came out to take the car back to the cathedral rectory.

I experienced a new phenomena, something I had never known before. It was as if the car had an aura, although not a holy one. This aura was a kind of sickening yellow, drab, and making me feel disgusted, bored, ugly, useless. Life had no spark, no joy, no meaning. The mood had not been there when I was driving to Castlegar, nor on the road home. It had come just now, when the car and I were alone together as I was about to take it back to the rectory. Being a mystic, having behind me years of accepting the fact that God could thrust into my face the most obnoxious of signals, without giving me any clue whatsoever as to their significance, I registered the experience without getting querulous as to its significance. After all, I had no natural information on which to build a new grace of understanding.
As far as I can remember, this was the first external manifestation of negative spirits that I had encountered. I'd known innumerable dark moments within, up to that point, but not, as it were, without. The "without" experiences were habitually positive, full of light on the outside, loaded with joyful spirit on the inside. And few movements of the spirit had been more delightful than the promises of things to come in Nelson and the south-eastern corner of my home province. Thus the yuk was a complete surprise, and a great puzzle.
And yet I never thought of it again for a long time, even when I began to run into rumours about Father Monaghan, or had exchanges with him myself which cast doubts as to his priestly integrity.
Possibly the reader who thinks in the short term, or views Christ's Church as primarily a practical expedient for making life a little more orderly than it would be without such an organization, will find this Divine schedule of 'Now you see it, now you don't', somewhat wasteful, or administratively inefficient. How come God did not 'finish the check', as they say in the hockey arena? As I'd already had a few locutions - a very few, mind you - why did he not simply fire off another one? "Father Monaghan is a dirty old man. Take him by the scruff of the neck and drag him to the police station."
A very good question indeed, one I've often asked myself, being the helpful type and liking to see communities run happily. The ministry of human resources, when Monaghan was finally run to ground, in 1988, gave out the figure of at least 278 victims. He'd been at it for decades, but if he'd been nipped in 1964, that total would have been a lot less. Why did a supposedly loving God, anxious for the well-being of little girls, simply not tip me the wink? After all, I was no servile Dogan, eager to suck up to the clergy. I loved priests and all they gave, when they were good and trying for wisdom, but I'd also never been pushed around by the collar and I'd more than once, metaphorically speaking, backed a priest or bishop up against the wall. The Old Testament Jews, remember, knew all about the difference between priests and prophets, and so did I. Once the Holy Spirit told me to jump I could only ask how high, no matter what the consequences.
Well, God once said to me, not so long ago, "I never waste your time." This means, that as God is omniscient, he knew that none of the other agencies that eventually began to realize and exercise their stewardship were ready to co-operate with "merely" supernatural evidence, because they were not even acting on ordinary evidence.
Parents had for years complained to Bishop Doyle. He did nothing about it. I have no evidence about what was said to the police in those earlier years in Nelson, but I know that the police in Newfoundland, over the Mount Cashel incident, thought of the Church as too strong to take on.
Do the police really have that option? Are there two separate criminal codes, one for clergy and one for other people? Also, when I was having my own mystic's difficulties with the ministry of human resources the police would not deal with it, and other government agencies showed no evidence of any education that would make them capable either. And finally, the press. Although I actually knew nothing concrete about local clerical misbehaviour until 1968, in the early summer of 1965 I wrote a letter to the Nelson Daily News expressing my general discontent with the university. It was not printed, nor was the editor of the day curious to examine my intuitions, even though in his position he must have been privy to all sorts of information which I later had to learn the hard way.
In other words, all my wife's apprehensions of Nelson small-mindedness turned out to be true, although of course in many more places than the heart of the Kootenays. Such is the life of the thoughtful Catholic, especially where contemplation according to the norms of the Carmelites is part of the household furniture.
It's all so plain, in retrospect. That's why we study history, if we actually study. So if I have the same spiritually propelled energy now, on behalf of the young, only this time in the sphere of music rather than sexual interference, why am I running into the same indifference amongst the established authorities?
And the music business is getting very serious. Huge breakthroughs in the past week, and even though it's summer and the off season for keyboard studies, visits from a couple of grandchildren have given the opportunity to demonstrate how these new techniques bring a sparkle to the young people's eyes.
Is there any intelligent life out there?

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