[personal profile] benchilada
Since writing has taken a back back burner with Sara sick--no change, by the way, and no updates--I thought I'd repost this Sir Reginald story that my brother Jason wrote almost two years ago.

Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you his story:

"Sir Reginald and the Church Basement"

by Jason P. Stone


Contrary to his custom, Sir Reginald was abroad before breakfast. A construction foreman, a McFeeney, or McSurely, or McSomeoneorother had asked him to come to St. Philomena's at 6 a.m., but under no circumstances was he to tell the priest. The mystery of it all attracted him, though he had a hard time imagining that any sort of worthwhile mystery could be connected with union labor.
St. Philomena's was a heavy and imposing, if somewhat ordinary, Romanesque revival pile of white limestone and a gray slate roof. Behind it, a new parish office building was being constructed up against the church. As he approached the gate in the chain-link fence, the foreman offered him a hard hat. Sir Reginald declined.

As they walked to the excavation, the foreman described how the day before they were opening a doorway into the church basement. Sir Reginald wondered if he could avoid having to remember the man's name. Evidently, it had been an exterior basement door that had been bricked up and backfilled, and the architect wanted it re-opened to connect the two basements. They came to the edge of the excavation, and the foreman pointed to the doorway. It was a doorway. It was slightly arched at the top, and a pile of bricks lay just inside the basement.

"I see," Sir Reginald said. Remarkable, he thought, that the stained glass windows in the apse should extend as far down as they did.

The foreman led him through a side door into the sacristy and down the basement steps. It was an interesting basement, but a basement nonetheless. It was only partially excavated, with a dirt floor and a long passageway cut into the dirt, which was about shoulder-high. Other passageways branched off from the main one. Three turns later, Sir Reginald was standing before the same doorway and the same pile of bricks.

Sir Reginald looked through the doorway. Perhaps this would be worth missing breakfast after all. Instead of an excavation, he saw a lake tossed by the wind and forms that looked strangely human lowering small soft objects into the water or fetching them up again. He took a brick and tossed it through the doorway. It landed, and one of the forms turned to look, then went back about its business.

Sir Reginald cocked his head and put his fist to his mouth and thought. He was disturbed by the voice of the foreman."I think it's P—Purgatory."
"Purgatory?" And after a moment, "Ah, yes. Gerontius and all that." After another pause, "Has anyone gone in there?"

"N—no. We all got wives and kids, Mr. . . ."

"Sir Reginald."

"Sorry, Sir Reginald. What should we do, Sir Reginald?"

"We? Hadn't you better tell Father?"

"No!" The foreman was horrified. "If I told him, he'd have to tell the bishop. Then, the bishop would come with a troop of monsignori at his heels. Loose lips sink ships, you know. One loose lip, and a whole parade of pilgrims descends on my construction site looking for their dear departed."

Sir Reginald thought about clapping with one hand, and the man continued: "We'd never make our deadline, and that'd cost us money."

As Sir Reginald began to rearrange his chi in hopes of clapping with one hand, the foreman stepped around in front of him. "Can't you exorcise it or something?"

"Exorcise Purgatory, my good man? One can hardly exorcise a place with no demons in it."

The foreman glanced nervously at his watch. At 7 a.m., his crew would arrive, and the first Mass of the day would be said. He had to get Sir Reginald out of the basement before the priest arrived in the sacristy.

"We've got to do something."

"What you've got to do is brick it back up. From the outside."

"Can't you make it go away?"

"Look, man, it was fine for a hundred years inside a brick wall, and it will be fine for another hundred once you put the wall back up. I can't believe you brought me here to tell you that!"

The foreman was dumfounded. As soon as he recovered his panic, he asked, "What are we…I…going to tell the architect when he says open it back up again?"

Sir Reginald was annoyed.

"Oh, make something up."

Another glance at the watch. Time was running out, and the foreman was too nervous to think. Sir Reginald, meanwhile, was trying to clap with one hand again.

"I don't know what to tell him."

"Tell him anything,” said Sir Reginald, losing his patience. “Tell him the portal…er, the doorway…was unstable, and you had to fill it back in."

Fr. Schneidemann was a good, punctual German, and he had already arrived in the sacristy. Noticing the open door to the basement, he followed the sound of voices to the portal. He might have admired the accuracy of Cardinal Newman's description of Purgatory, or he might at least have spoken to the men. Instead, he simply exclaimed, "Mother, is that you?" and rushed over the bricks and through the portal before either man could stop him.

"Poor man. Portals like that are always one-way."

The foreman was beside himself. "There's a Mass in ten minutes! The Bishop is coming next week! We've got to get him out of there!"

"That would take a plenary indulgence. And I haven't got one."

The foreman made a noise as if to speak, but Sir Reginald held his finger to his lips and slowly said, "Brick it back up." And he turned to leave.

On his way to breakfast, Sir Reginald made one last effort and gave up. Who ever heard of an Englishman clapping with one hand, anyway?


And there you have it. Now I totally want to convince as many family members as I can to write Sir Reginald stories.


PS: Jason has included the following as a bit of a lesson about the imagery and information in the story, 'cause he's like that:

If you're curious, "The Dream of Gerontius" is a poem about a man who dies goes to purgatory. First he dies, then his guardian angel picks him up and leads him on the way to the particular judgment. On the way he passes choirs of angels and demons, who sing things, and the soul himself talks about his hopes and fears of the judgment, and his guardian angel encourages him. One of the choirs of angels sings the famous hymn, "Praise to the holiest in the height, and in the depth be praise." (The hymn was lifted straight out of the poem.)

Finally he gets to the judgment seat and is judged and goes to purgatory. Here are the final lines (the holy souls are singing Psalm 90):

§ 7. Angel

Now let the golden prison ope its gates,
Making sweet music, as each fold revolves
Upon its ready hinge. And ye, great powers,
Angels of Purgatory, receive from me
My charge, a precious soul, until the day,
When, from all bond and forfeiture released,
I shall reclaim it for the courts of light.

Souls in Purgatory

1. Lord, Thou hast been our refuge: in every

2. Before the hills were born, and the world was:
from age to age Thou art God.

3. Bring us not, Lord, very low: for Thou hast said,
Come back again, ye sons of Adam.

4. A thousand years before Thine eyes are but as
yesterday: and as a watch of the night which
is come and gone.

5. The grass springs up in the morning: at evening
tide it shrivels up and dies.

6. So we fail in Thine anger: and in Thy wrath are
we troubled.

7. Thou hast set our sins in Thy sight: and our
round of days in the light of Thy countenance.

8. Come back, O Lord! how long: and be entreated
for Thy servants.

9. In Thy morning we shall be filled with Thy
mercy: we shall rejoice and be in pleasure all
our days.

10. We shall be glad according to the days of our
humiliation: and the years in which we have
seen evil.

11. Look, O Lord, upon Thy servants and on Thy
work: and direct their children.

12. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be
upon us: and the work of our hands, establish
Thou it.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the
Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall
be: world without end. Amen.


Softly and gently, dearly-ransom'd soul,
In my most loving arms I now enfold thee,
And, o'er the penal waters, as they roll,
I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee.

And carefully I dip thee in the lake,
And thou, without a sob or a resistance,
Dost through the flood thy rapid passage take,
Sinking deep, deeper, into the dim distance.

Angels, to whom the willing task is given,
Shall tend, and nurse, and lull thee, as thou liest;
And masses on the earth, and prayers in heaven,
Shall aid thee at the Throne of the Most Highest.

Farewell, but not for ever! brother dear,
Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;
Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,
And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.

I have always thought that last four stanzas would be an excellent ending to a funeral homily. If you played your cards right, a) there wouldn't be a dry eye in the house, and b) they would all go home and pray for the holy souls to be delivered from purgatory and get to heaven.


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