A Butt-Shot Bishop
Deacon Fraser had sat quietly praying in the private hospital room beside the snoring Bishop for almost an hour before his superior awakened with a series of snorts, coughs, and moans. It had taken Bishop McClure a few moments to collect his awareness that he was still in his hospital bed twelve days after suffering his injury.
As a fledgling priest, Deacon Fraser had been loaned to Bishop McClure to assist with his recovery and to act as private secretary during his convalescence. He was intimidated by the often loud and demanding McClure, but served humbly in the grace of the Holy Mother of God.
"Archbishop Linus sends his prayers for your speedy recovery after the grievous assault on your earthly body, with the fervent hope that your pious soul is unrelenting in its service to our Lord, Most Reverend."
"Is that what he hopes?" McClure sputtered, "Arrogant man, the Archbishop, taking the name of one of our saints."
"It is said that when attaining a higher station, a new name represents a new life in our order, Most Reverend"
"I know what it represents, you young fool. I was speaking to his character."
"Of course, Most Reverend." Fraser bowed his head.
"Oh, I am weary of lying on my side all the day and night to nurse my injury." McClure sighed, "I am weary of the food they bring me, weary of the rough hands of nurses who bathe me, weary of it all. God, give me strength and relive my pain."
Fraser crossed himself and kissed his crucifix.
"What news of the savage who tried to kill me?" McClure asked, "Is he in chains?"
"Not as yet, Most Reverend. I spoke with Sergeant Brightworth today as I do every morning and he reports their best tracker is still on the hunt."
"It's been almost two weeks!" McClure shouted, then farted and winced.
"You are still in great pain, Most Reverend."
"Of course I'm in pain. As you would be with this wound. I was shot in the back by a filthy indian set to kill a white priest."
"Yes, Most Reverend." Fraser answered, wondering if the buttocks were considered part of the back.
"When the savages are caught, I want the boy transferred from the Inkameep school to St. Joseph's in Williams lake. They know how to deal with reprobate savages there. I'll contact the Headmaster myself and recommend daily beatings until that filthy animal is subdued or in the ground."
"He is just a boy, Most Reverend." Fraser said, aghast at the violence the Bishop espoused.
"He is no more than an animal. Sired by animals. Raised by animals. And if he fails to renounce his filthy culture and come to the Lord and rise to the status of a Canadian citizen, he will be put down like an animal." McClure sputtered.
It is his pride that speaks such venom, Fraser thought to himself, shame from his wounded buttock.
"Have you met with the so-called Chief of the tribe?"
"I have, Most Reverend. He expressed his deep regret of the attack on your Holy self, and wishes you a speedy recovery."
McClure snorted with derision.
"He also does not believe that Ruff, the young man who travels with his grandfather and cousin, fired the shot as he has always been a good boy who has assimilated with the Naramata community."
"Indians lie, young Fraser." McClure said, "It is a well-entrenched nature of their breed."
"I'm not sure, Most Reverend."
"I am sure. You haven't worked with savages as I have. They are a pack of liars, thieves, and drunkards. Next you meet with the Chief, inform him his tribe will be held financially responsible for my hospital stay and Doctor bills, plus a fifty percent tithe to the Church for this vicious attack."
"They are a poor people, Most Reverend."
"And will become poorer until they learn to be Canadians instead of Godless heathens. This is a Christian nation founded by good and powerful men and the sooner the indians accept that the better off they'll be." McClure told Fraser, "Invite him to bring his elders to Mass in Arawana and ask Father Urban to devise a sermon that illuminates the joy of servitude to the Church."
"Yes, Most Reverend." Fraser bowed his head once more.
Deacon Fraser was troubled as he walked to the train station to ride up the hill to Arawana and meet with Father Urban and fulfill the task set by the Most Reverend Bishop.
His childhood placed him in New Westminster, a young member of Saint Peter’s Parish. He'd been a timid boy then – as he was a timid man now – terrified of the chaotic and rough play of other boys his age and even those younger. He never got the hang of sports, nor unravelled the mystery of arithmetic, and didn't understand the unpleasant humour of his peers, but like all boys he ached to excel at something. Young Fraser found it in the Church.
His Parish Priest took pity on this frail timid boy and encouraged his obsession with the history of the Church by allowing him free access to the Parish library. Fraser would spend hours in the dim room, tucked in a nook under the single window with a heavy tome splayed open on his legs. He was fascinated with Eusebius' writings on Peter the Apostle, one of the three earliest pillars of the Church, along with James the Just and John the Apostle. Peter had formed the Jerusalem ekklēsia, and led the early soldiers of Christ to convert the heathen Jews and Muslims to the true faith.
Reading Church history filled young Fraser's mind with images of struggle and triumph and he began to imagine himself as part of a great spiritual army, fighting a war to save all men's souls. While most of his peers took their delight in the cheaply printed comic books of the era; The Yellow Kid, Little Orphan Annie, and lusted after Fritzie Ritz, Fraser was shaping himself to be a Church historian and ached to be part of a Holy Army.
At the age of seventeen he took his vows and sought out mentors in the Catholic hierarchy, and met then Bishop Garrison who would one day ascend to become Archbishop Linus. Garrison fostered Fraser's greatest passion and appointed him to be one of his secretaries, setting him the task of gathering modern writings of noteworthy Priests in British Columbia to carry the tradition of the Church's recorded history forward.
Fraser had at last found his place in the world, compiling and cataloging sermons and writings that inspired and represented the current efforts of the Clergy to save the souls of human kind. These men were the newest generation of the Soldiers of Christ and Fraser set a life goal to become one of them.
It was while at this duty that Fraser came across the Sermons and writings of a Priest named McClure – a man who had journeyed deep into the southern desert lands of the province to bring the word of God to the savages who'd lived for generations without the blessings of devotion and prayer. McClure spoke of lofty battles against the savagery and superstitions held by the heathen natives, turning them from their false gods of land and wind and water. Away from believing in the pagan spirit world and that animals had souls. He spoke of the delight reaching their children and turning them away from the ways of their tribes and toward the light of the Saviour.
This was a Holy man pulled from the pages of the Church's early historic writings, a man destined for greatness, perhaps one day being Canonized to take his place beside Saint Peter, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint James, son of Alphaeus.
Reading further writings about Father McClure, Fraser found him to be a kindred spirit; another boy shunned by his peers, failed at school, but finding his path in a Church library to become a crusading member of the Clergy.
So when Archbishop Linus told Fraser of how Bishop McClure barely survived an assassination attempt by a heathen indian and was hospitalized with a grievous wound, Fraser grew alarmed. When the Archbishop said the Most Reverend Bishop required a secretary to assist him during his recovery, Fraser was elated to volunteer and travel to the wilder lands of the Okanagan to fill that position.
It was Marcel Proust who cautioned his readers to never meet one's heroes, for the man Fraser met was not the man his writings portrayed him to be. Bishop McClure was not the Crusader of Christ Fraser thought he was, who he met was a bitter man filled with anger and spite with a near bloodthirsty lust not to save the indian soul, but to punish it.
Speaking to other local Priests, Fraser learned that they fell into three categories in regard to the Residential Schools run by their order; those who were ignorant of what happened there, those who were disgusted by abuses at the hands of the school's Priests and Nuns on the children, and those who saw them as prisons more to punish godless children than to save them.
Deacon Fraser's entire belief system and been challenged then shattered in the past week as Bishop McClure's secretary, and worse; given the parallel his life held with the Bishop's, he wondered if in time, he too would become bitter and hate filled.
As the train pulled him up the winding track to Arawana, Deacon Fraser wondered if Father Urban would be amenable to including the Local Indian elders in a celebratory feast of fellowship in the Church as well as a sermon. Saint Lawrence's feast day was approaching and Fraser thought it apropos to honour him. The irony that Lawrence had also been a Deacon when he was martyred was not lost on him.
Aaron D McClelland