For those old enough to remember the olden days of Catholic listservs, I bear the sad news that Martin Fontenot, who went by the handle “Friar Gordo”, died on Sunday. No details on his death, but please do pray for this good Catholic man. In his memory, I post a selection from his wonderful piece for Catholic Answers magazine called “Anastasia in Ecclesialand”, describing the encounter with many figures, including an owl who sounds remarkably like James White:
Just then an owl flew down from a tree and began stomping through the feast things, kicking dishes off the table. The middleman pretended not to notice. The owl arrived at the end of the table where Anastasia was sitting and hooted in her face.
“My, you are rude!” said Anastasia.
“I must be,” declared the owl, “to such a wretched creature as yourself!”
“And how do you know I am so wretched?”
“Of course you are wretched! You are breathing, are you not? All things that breathe are wretched.” Then the owl turned to the middleman. “I shall have some tea.”
“Granted, you shall have some tea,” the middleman bowed. “Will you take sugar in it?”
“Wretch!” hooted the owl, “It is tea alone. TEA ALONE! Tea alone, tea alone . . .” and he repeated those two words in a singsong voice for some time, until he appeared to run down.
“Please,” said an e.asperated Anastasia, “does either of you know the way back to the nave?”
“She is rather dull, don’t you think?” quipped the middleman to the owl.
“Quite dull,” agreed the owl. “Should we tell her the truth?”
“By all means,” said the middleman, surreptitiously spooning sugar into his tea as the owl turned to talk to Anastasia.
“First, you must know how wise I am,” began the owl, importantly.
“Must I?” asked Anastasia.
“Indeed you must, or you shall not know how important are the things I am about to tell you!
Anastasia tried to keep a smile on her face, but she had to strain to keep it from turning into a laugh. She had a strong feeling about the things she was about to be told, and she was sure it was not in accord with the owl’s opinion.
“I,” said the owl, “am wiser than history. I know this, because I know how things must have happened, yet history will not agree with me. I am wiser than all the doctors. I know this because I know what they really meant to say, when in fact they said something quite different. I am wiser than all the saints and martyrs and quite a lot wiser than any of the major domos.” The owl cocked his head toward Anastasia. “And do you know why I am so wise?”
Anastasia smiled noncommittally, which the owl evidently took as an entreaty to continue, “I am wiser than all of them because I drink only tea. ”
“Hear hear!” cried the middleman.
“Hear what?” asked the owl.
“Here is your tea.”
“Quite in your debt, I am sure. Did you remember to send some over to the library? They are probably running out by now.” The owl turned to Anastasia again. “We supply the tea for the library, and they are coming along quite nicely.”
Suddenly the owl dropped his cup and began to thrash his wings wildly. “There is a tea bag in my cup!” he cried.
“Well, certainly there is,” said the middleman. “How else would you know that it was tea?”
“Its tea alone that I want,” cried the owl, “and you are giving me bags!”
The two of them began to argue about the validity of tea bags. Anastasia glanced about to see if any path looked as if it might return her to the nave. She saw the tablecloth at the edge of the wood. It rose, as if there were an arm beneath it beckoning her, and suddenly the white bird she had chased into the vestry emerged and flew off down a certain path. Leaving the two creatures quarreling over their tea, she ran after the bird.
There’s much more and it’s all brilliant. Read it!
Eternal rest grant our brother Martin, Father, through Christ our Lord, Amen. Mother Mary, pray for hims and for all the faithful departed.