The Czar and his family had the rare luck to dine with a bishop Saturday evening, watch some football, and generally chat about anything we wanted. We did not invite him to join our table at a local Church fundraiser; he walked up to our table, sans posse, and asked if we were holding the seats for anyone.
Non-Catholic readers, who should keep reading this, may not understand the role of a bishop in the Church: hes like a mayor, but with way more responsibility and people under his care, and frankly a whole lot less corrupt. He has more people to look after than the mayor of Memphis, Tennessee. So it is a big deal.
And naturally, after formal introductions, the Czars first question was about St. Benedict. No, not about the Rules he wrote up for religious orders, or his role as the patron saint of Europe. Our question was about that cup business.
Allow us to clarify for our non-Catholic readers.
The story goes that Benedict (he wasnt a saint at the time) started a monastery and set down some pretty strict rules for how the monks would organize their day, dividing up responsibilities between work and prayer, and so on. He was pretty tough, and even today monks follow his published rules (even though we know he didnt organize them or write them downlater followers did).
One day, some monks upset with the strict conditions under which they had to live, attempted to poison Benedicts wine. As Benedict blessed his meal before eating it, the wine cup shattered violently, saving his life. This was seen as a miraculous sign, and Benedict was now seen as a powerful figure. A cup even appears on his logo.
Okay, wait, we said to the bishop. A couple of monks are a little tired of doing the laundry and making meals for the others. Day in, day out. Getting a bit monotonous. So the obvious solution, they figure, is to murder the head of the monastery.
Perhaps it is the Czar, but if you really are having a hard time fitting in with the guys, maybe its time to leave this monastery for another. Or just go home. Resorting to poisoning the boss is a little harsh even for Sixth Century Italians, let alone today.
Imagine that conversation. Nicco, are you fed up with this 9:00 bedtime? Verily, Marco, but our brother Benedict will not yield on this matter. Therefore, Nicco, we should murder him. Verily, Marco. Let us poison his wine.
And so Benedict makes the Sign of the Cross over the cup and it explodes. Like any of us, his first thought is Okay, what the heck was that. probably not suspecting that God went for violent showmanship rather than just neutralizing the poison before he drank it. Sometimes, you know, you gotta go with the special effects to make a point.
But the Czars question surprised even the bishop: Strange as that story seems, how much weirder that we even know about it. Because really, the rest of the conversation must have been something like this:
Benedict: What the heck was that? My cup just exploded.
Placidus: I saw that. Did you microwave it?
Benedict: No, it was just wine. Lukewarm wine.
Nicco: Oh, well that would be us.
Benedict: What do you mean?
Nicco: Well, we poisoned it. Marco and me.
Marco: Yeah, we put poison in it. We had no idea you would pray over it.
The bishop, to his credit, agreed that the Czars imaginative recounting of the incident may not be that far-fetched. Someone must have confessed openly to doing it; human nature would suggest that Nicco and Marco look nervously at each other for a few minutes.
The bishop suggested that he would look into it and get back to us. He also suggested we be prepared to wait a while, as it might be a while. In fact, he might not reply at all.
Note: A brief follow-up to GorT. Yes, the Czar noticed that the Sunday program was about three-quarters sheet music. If you subtract the readings, Gospel, and homily, the majority of the mass was music. As we know from Puters rantings, modern Catholic music is pretty lame. We have seen substantial improvement over the years, but some of the songsas you say, GorTare not for the faint of heart. As a result, fewer people are singing along and most are like the Czar: staring at the architecture for most of the Mass. We have nothing further to add except to remark on us having similar observations.
Although your cantor-conspiracy idea is a decidedly nice touch.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.