If you haven't already done so, you need to read Act Three
of this teleplay
before reading this act.
INT. CONFERENCE ROOM. NIGHT.
A large conference room, the seating sloped and arced around the floor, on which stands a podium. Some seminarians are present, others are arriving, and all are buzzing with conversation: catching up after the summer, discussing the year ahead, etc. Brother JEREMIAH, Father THOMAS, and Father GABRIEL are seated on the far right of the front row. THOMAS and JEREMIAH are chatting as they watch the students arrive, while GABRIEL sits as he did in the chapel earlier, eyes closed and meditating.
Not too bad: hundred-and-eight seminarians expected, one-oh-three arrived and enrolled.
To think that for the first time in twenty-three years, we have entered into the triple digits of enrollment. It’ll make for an interesting year.
LOUIS enters and glances up into the seating area, then takes to the podium and switches on the microphone.
LOUIS (Howard Cossell
Well, sports fans, it is indeed a big night here at St. Anselm
Seminary College. The stands are quickly filling up with eager spectators, and the question on everyone’s mind: how will Father Gabriel More of the Order of St. Benedict
perform on the field today? Let’s go to our man on the sidelines, Louis Stephenson.
He switches to his own voice.
Thank you, Howard. As you all know, hundreds of thousands of eager fans are watching tonight’s broadcast from the comfort of their living rooms. We even have word that his Holiness the Pope
has put on his genuine Father Gabriel More habit-jersey, popped a bag of microwave popcorn
, cracked open a brewsky, and is glued to his TV set. Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen and seminarians – this promises to get interesting.
The seminarians present laugh at LOUIS’ antics, and when he steps away from the podium, he gives a ridiculously florid bow, a look of intense seriousness on his face. THOMAS and JEREMIAH are shaking their heads hopelessly, though both men are smiling. GABRIEL takes no notice – in fact, one gets the distinct impression that only his physical being is present: his mental and spiritual being are elsewhere. ALEX and JOEL enter: hearing the laughter and applause, seeing LOUIS bowing profusely, and noticing THOMAS and JEREMIAH’s head-shaking, they put two and two together.
JOEL (calling out loudly)
Stephenson, your constant craving of the spotlight and center stage are most disturbing. One wonders if, once ordained, this penchant for dramatics will distract the good people of God during Mass
: the aesthetic
elements of the liturgy are not an end in themselves, you know.
LOUIS (firing back)
Finchworth, you obviously are unable to appreciate what I will bring to the liturgy. My tendency to perform will be transformed into a truly beautiful celebration of the liturgy, drawing the people into the ritual
and guiding them towards transcendence. Whereas your wooden “stage presence
,” will have them nodding off before the first ‘Amen
’ is uttered.
There is “oohing” and “aahing” from the other seminarians, who are starting to get into this lively, good-natured exchange. The camera catches MARCUS in the top row, a look of interest on his face: perhaps there is more to the “four blasphemous idiots” than he at first thought.
Are you saying, sir, that my reverent, respectful approach to the celebration of Eucharist is a detriment to the faithful flock?
Sir, I am saying that, with your “approach” to the celebration of Eucharist, the flock will be wandering away from the fold!
FRANCIS, sitting next to ALEX in the upper left corner of the seating area, decides to act as scorekeeper.
And at half-time, the score is two-one, with Stephenson in the lead.
How does he have two points but I only have one?
He landed two decisive blows, while you landed one good hit and delivered one clarifying question. The judges have ruled: two to one.
Brother JEREMIAH glances at his watch, then rises.
I’m afraid this game will have to go into rain delay
JOEL and LOUIS climb into the seating area and join ALEX and FRANCIS. Brother JEREMIAH steps down to the floor and crosses to the podium.
As the returning seminarians know, the school year doesn’t “officially” begin until the rector’s opening address.
JOEL, LOUIS, ALEX, and FRANCIS exchange looks: isn’t Father GABRIEL supposed to be speaking tonight?
This year, however, I have decided to delegate that task to our Father Gabriel More. First and foremost, this institution is about the training of potentially future priests, and I felt that it would be appropriate if the Director of Spiritual Formation
were to address you, as the spiritual life is truly at the core of our program. (beat) Gentlemen, I give you Father Gabriel More, O-S-B.
At the sound of his name, Father GABRIEL immediately comes to life, rising from his seat and crossing the floor to the podium. As he passes Brother JEREMIAH, he smiles at the rector and gives a small nod, both of which are returned.
Once at the podium, Father GABRIEL reaches beneath his scapular and produces a small notebook, which he places on the podium. He flips through it, glancing up from time to time, looking a bit distracted and dazed. The returning seminarians all know that this is “vintage” Father Gabriel, and are rapt with eager attention; the new seminarians have dubious looks: this monk is Director of Spiritual Formation?
Finally, after at least a minute of this from Father GABRIEL, he stops on a specific page of his notebook.
GABRIEL (quietly, under his breath, though picked up by the microphone)
Ah yes, here we are.
Father GABRIEL clears his throat, looks up into the audience, and speaks. His address starts out quietly, almost fumblingly, but as it progresses, he builds in intensity and clarity, so that when he hits his stride, his voice rings out loudly and confidently, a man filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
When Brother Jeremiah asked me to address you all tonight, I was humbled and honored at the responsibility he was entrusting to me. I have always understood the opening address of the school year as that which sets the tone, gives a direction, charts a course, and it is no small task, not something to be taken lightly. And so I say: veni, sancte spiritus
A brief pause.
Speaking of the Sancte Spiritus – oh, that’d be Holy Spirit for those of you unversed in the Latin
language – he pulled a fast one on me today: I had a plethora of inspiration to share with you tonight, but the good old third person of the Trinity
changed all that when I had a brief discussion with some of you earlier this evening. So I went back to the drawing board and rethought what I wanted to say.
In the centuries leading up to the Second Vatican Council
, the divinity of Jesus Christ was heavily emphasized, so much so that often it seemed that his humanity was lost in the shuffle. V-C Two sought to restore the proper balance: Jesus Christ is both fully human and
fully divine. In their enthusiasm for this restored understanding, many priests unfortunately went to the opposite extreme, placing so much emphasis on Christ’s humanity that his divinity was forgotten.
Those of us in the service of the Church as priests – and priests-to-be – must never forget that our role model, Christ the High Priest
, is just that: both fully divine and fully human. Too often, we prefer to focus on and aspire to his divine nature, we become so wrapped up in our own spiritual self that we forget about our human self. And that is a danger, gentlemen: a danger both to ourselves and to the people of God. If we forget both our own humanity and the humanity of Christ, we will forget the humanity of our flock; we will expect the impossible of them, forgetting that they are also fallible beings like ourselves.
I find it interesting that the explicit examples in Sacred Scripture of Jesus’ humanity are, with the exception of his anger in the temple, all moments of tears: Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus
, Jesus wept over the fate of Jerusalem
, Jesus wept in the Garden
. Growing up, many of you – and I know that such was my case – were told that it’s not a manly thing to show emotion, and it is especially
not manly to shed tears. Perhaps this misguided notion is an ancient one: how do the evangelist
s show that Christ was human, that Christ was weak? By telling of his shedding of tears.
But if you read between the lines, if you pay close attention to the Gospels, you will find evidence that Jesus was a man of great joy, a man of merriment, a man of – dare I say it? – laughter. When Jesus is threatened by the Pharisee
s in Luke’s Gospel that Herod
means to kill him, you can almost hear the defiant grin in his words when he prefaces his reply with “go and give that fox this message” – the lord is laughing in the face of Herod, knowing full well that he, Christ, will ultimately win the day. In both Mark
’s Gospels, we have the lovely scene in which the Pharisees are unable to answer a question Jesus puts to them; he then tells them “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” I can just picture Jesus, having said this, sticking his tongue out at them, blowing a raspberry
at them, winking at them – anything to show them that, once again, he’s got the upper hand, and it delights him to no end.
Why do I prefer the joy and laughter of Christ to his sadness and tears? Because he already knows that he’s won. True, there are trials that he will endure, that his apostle
s will endure, that we disciples here and now will endure – but God has already won, God is already victorious over the forces of Darkness. And so Jesus was able to laugh at those who sought to destroy him, which we would do well to follow here and now: yes, we will suffer, yes there will be trials to endure, but ultimately, we have won
; ultimately, we share in the victory of Christ. Fight the good fight, finish the course, keep the faith, secure in the knowledge that when you cross the finish line, you will be in first place, along with all those that you have helped in your service as priest.
For the sake of the people of God, don’t take yourselves too seriously, gentlemen. I cannot impress this upon you strongly enough. If you are unable to delight in your humanity, you will turn into dour, bitter priests, who will drive people away from the fold rather than drawing them in. This isn’t to say that you should compromise yourself or the teachings of Holy Mother Church; hold fast to those things, but remember: you are to walk hand in hand with the faithful, you are not to lead them by a rope. Roll up your sleeves, get in the trenches, take up spiritual arms – and take great joy in the battle, laugh
at the absurdity of a conflict that you know full well that, if you do your part, you are going to win.
To adapt from the prophet Isaiah
: For Zion
’s sake do not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake do not keep quiet, until her vindication shines for like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.
There is a pause, and then GABRIEL steps away from the podium, and quietly makes his way to the door and exits, during which the students are rapt with silence. After he exits, a few moments pass before Brother JEREMIAH stands up, looking like he has just emerged from a reverie, looks up into the seating area, and gives a slight nod: they are dismissed.
Immediately the seminarians erupt in a hubbub of conversation about what they have just heard from Father GABRIEL. As they begin to depart from the conference room, we
INT. JOEL FINCHWORTH’S DORM ROOM. NIGHT.
JOEL is perched in the windowsill, ALEX is sitting on the bed, LOUIS is on the floor leaning against the wall, and FRANCIS is in the easy chair. All four are drinking some beverage. In the background, some unobtrusive music – could be rock, country, classical, jazz, whatever – is playing.
If that didn’t raise goose bumps on the arms of all those present, I don’t know if anything could. Gabriel’s address was absolutely astounding.
Did you expect anything less?
Oh, certainly not, but it never fails to amaze me, the things that he has to say and how he goes about saying them. His attunement to the Holy Spirit is astounding.
Ya know, I can just picture Gabriel in his cell
in the monastery, sipping a cup of hot tea and whiling away the hours in conversation with the Trinity.
LOUIS (a la Jeeves
One lump or two, Lord? (beat) Three? Ah yes, well there are
three of you … though there’s only one of you … oh never mind.
They all laugh at LOUIS’ silly take on the paradox of the Trinity. There is a knock at the door, and the laughter dies down a bit.
JOEL (calling out)
Whoever comes knock-knock-knocking, you may enter, but know this: if you be not mad, be gone; if you have reason, be brief
The door slowly opens, and MARCUS peeks around the open door.
Mister Bellows! You do us a great honor by gracing us with your presence! Come in, come in!
MARCUS enters, a bit in trepidation.
Francis, give up the throne for our guest.
FRANCIS quickly vacates the easy chair.
Terribly sorry, guv’nor. Where are
me manners tonight?
MARCUS sits in the easy chair.
Inquiring minds want to know
, Mister Bellows: how did you find your first day of seminary?
There is a brief pause, then MARCUS grins.
Aside from enduring a Finchworth and Rhodes baffle-and-befog and being hounded by a pack of blasphemous idiots, I’d have to say it was a great day all around.
There are ad-libs of “hear hear” and “that’s the spirit.” Music comes up on the soundtrack as they launch into a good-spirited conversation, and we
END OF ACT FOUR