The Franciscan

By Yonder Grey

When you are confirmed Catholic, the roles for you change in life. Even if you throw a fit about the Catholic church, faith in the church becomes a game of bones or hoping the pregnancy test comes back negative.

At 15, confirmation classes bombarded me with all the liturgy, all of the cardinal sins, and of course the 10 church commandments. Most of my friends were sheep of the Catholic Church. As I recollect, Baker, the anarchist, “I quite did not remember it all.”

Of course, I felt evil all the time, and at 15, I knew the bible stories did not have all the answers to life. The fire, fire in my stomach, fire in my eyes , and the fire of a Marlboro red cigarette burning my throat, burning, burning, burning. Yet, I was not going to burn, quite yet.

You could call me a sinner. The transformation was not easy; I managed in my confirmation classes. CCD teacher came from a Baptist background, and his momma told him he would burn for sinning. We had some cool kids in the class, like Waterman, Baker, Deschaine, and Meekum. We were not saints. Oh holy, I may not have been, but I have learned to be more virtuous and balanced. As I see it, temperance involves Buddhism and Catholicism. Before we continue, this is Jesus Christ’s story.

Confirmation constituted an important event in my life. I chose “Thomas” as my Catholic confirmation name. To say the least, I doubted the church. “Thomas” was perfect. As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Thomas doubted. I questioned just like the apostle, not knowing that the revelation of time would bring me closer to my Catholic roots. Saying that there is something different than the Catholic Church is a rightful fact. I also know Buddhism.
My confirmation made me Catholic to the very core of my existence. Sometimes, I want a church called St. Siddhartha because he knew God as well. The voice in my head, sweet as she instructed, told me so years later.

Part of my daily routine as a homeless vagabond prince involved going to Catholic church service. From St. Joseph’s to St. Peter and Paul, I never wasted any time or money lighting candles to pray. I sin, I sin, I regretfully sinned. Not only as a homeless person but also as a managing and functional schizophrenic. The voices told me to go to church. I listened. I also listened to each mass. My thoughts entailed rapture, nature, and solving every bible story ever conceived. I know them all and perhaps, I will share. As for now, I continue.
Some masses had a clear message while others had to be interpreted because Father Slovak spoke Polish. For the record, Polish women are beautiful. For that matter, all women are beautiful. Everyone had their interpretations, their palm laid with wafer and holy touch, and even the water blessed on the brow. It was a waste of time to discuss the gravity of each litany.
For each day I went to church, I stripped one sin from my soul. Some sins were painful to strip, some faded away like sugar in the perfect cup of coffee and tasted so sweet, the she-devils hounding the priest would love to know that I undressed them with my eyes.

Didn’t I say, I was a sinner and if you are on the planet, Earth, heaven comes soon, but not yet.

I loved going to the 7 a.m. service at St. James Catholic Church. Mostly, I followed everyone else. I had forgotten the Nicene Creed and the Apostle’s Creed. Lucky for me, the information contained in the daily missal and hymnal kept me on track. The people at the service were quite friendly. I would always feel happy after taking the host.

That was forgiveness. I drank wine.

I needed forgiveness for my sins. I may have been homeless. The church gave me hope. The voices agreed. I felt happy that the voices agreed. I even confessed all my sins, but that occurred at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

At St. Joseph’s, I would never lie or steal when I needed succor. It was just there.

God provided. Of course, didn’t I say I was a functional schizophrenic? A sinner on Earth. Also, part Buddhist.

On the altar. I may have stepped on hallowed ground. It could have been a sin.

I was meek.

Just like Jesus Christ and all the Franciscans that have lived or are living, I knew God would not mind me praying at the altar. Someday, in my bizarre mental state, I wondered if the church patrons wished to hear my liturgy, my litany.

I would like to, and. I did speak on the alter, my litany.
The rattling never ended for the patrons. Some days my litany brought the patrons to tears. Fear is the mind-killer. I had no fear on those crazy days. Bleached dark brown by the sun, walking miles with my survival canteen, which consisted of a used water bottle. The calm inside the church hardened my resolve. More importantly, I felt love. There was freedom on the altar until one of the priests told me to leave. The voice told me to go, so I did.

My routine involved St. James in the morning. I had a can of soup most mornings to eat or cold oatmeal in my survival bowl, which felt satisfying. I was truly living. I would ride the bus to the downtown church. It was 5:45, and the 102 bus, took me downtown. The walk, a brisk one, took me 10 minutes to get to church.

If I was late, I did not go. I walked like a zombie, I walked past all the staring eyes on the streets, and the swans called out in the morning on the steaming lake. Lite a cigarette to act cool for a minute, and to give me the buzz of nicotine.

I never said sainthood, behold.

On most days, on time. We prayed we sang, we took the host, and drank wine. Considering being the youngest in the crowd, I knew outreach involved a firm handshake and the solemn words, “Peace Be with You.” I felt grateful that they did not judge me. So oblivious. They knew little about me. The St. James patrons would smile at me in a clever way. During service, the voices dampened my fear of dying, and I focused on the liturgy given by the priest. I never did know the priest’s last name or his first name.

He shined. We all shined. The voice told me that they were all Opus Dei. It happened so long ago.

Cloudy heaven, frozen hell, I live in the dharma. The way of the bastard warrior, the humble king, the wolf in the woods. All figurative, the cycle of heaven and hell, as I will dispel on my medication, thrilled me when the roller coaster never stopped until the last electric impulse brought me to a 1:00 a.m. sleep state.

Happy yet hungry and sometimes bothered by mosquitos. The father, the priest, I the morning, I prayed gazing a the stars and planets…

To call them “Father,” I thought it seemed enough. Sometimes, the priest was Italian. I knew the accent. The Asian father had a sermon. All of this would happen at St. James.
As far as St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, mass in the afternoon. It was Father Slovak and Father Brown. There were two main priests at St. Joseph’s. The last was the rockstar priest, the Filipino father. There were two international services, one Filipino and the other Polish.

I sometimes snuck into the Polish mass just to see the women who were so beautiful. I cried for Father Slovak for humility. Second nature to him, he made me believe more in the sacrifice of Christ. I sacrificed my heart for perseverance. Hearing him speak in Polish, I wondered if he ever sang in the choir. Father Slovak had the sweetest voice. I never understood anything, but sometimes I would cry.

If they only gave money to crying schizophrenics. Maybe, an award for free work or great literature, I imagine.

I would also cry when I froze at night, and I thought, “Did Christ suffer before he became a prophet?” The voice said, “Yes.” I was homeless and crazy, but I did not think that I was the Messiah.

The Messiah would come to us as a President or some other important figure. Evangelicals would disagree, but money made evangelicals into crazy people.

God even loved a woman as gold. Well, one God.

The roots involving Jim and Tammy Baker and the fact that I was Thomas, “The Doubter.”

Stripped from each sin, I went to church. I knew that white hair did not mean wisdom yet a genetic flaw. I had plenty of white hair, from my chest to my beard. I mostly kept my head shaved because I suffered from alopecia. I envied Father Brown’s full head of hair. I knew envy would never kill me. I never confessed my jealousy.

I did not suffer from avarice or greed. The only vain thing I did, involved brushing my teeth. Even as a homeless man, I wanted good teeth. Without teeth, eating food becomes a problem. Survivalism as a homeless person, the cards: health, sanitation, and sustenance.

I had no pride when the word “Hustle” popped into the burning frontal cortex of my mind I hustled to feed myself, and abnormal me, for a Big Gulp or a 50-cent fruit pie at Wal-Mart.

Although I may have seen every pretty woman that stepped on a bus, I felt heaven without succumbing to lust. The angels gave me love.

I was skin and bones, so I was not a glutton.

I never stopped my routine, so I was not sloth.

I did feel mad, so I was Wrath on the streets.

Every human being suffers from at least one cardinal sin. Even Pope Francis feels the way. I threw my arrows. Into the void, my imagination explored.

I would string along with the most obscene words for my victims. The sun killed me. I sinned.

The voice told me so, and I did. I am still not pure. I would think. I did not want to die but on some morning, my bones rattled. I lurched. I felt the fatigue of living out in the wild. I felt exhausted and beaten. It was the church that kept me going and my angel, the voice.

In my mind, I was perfection. A marble statue. God was chiseling his best masterpiece.

When I confessed to Father Brown, I did not lie. Like a serpent, I just hinted at everything evil I had committed. Father Brown did not call me a Judas or a heathen. Father Brown’s enigmatic words made me realize that I could find forgiveness for my deeds. I even had the Godly voice of evil. It would boom in the cathedral.

As the years passed on the streets and secluded woodland areas, I felt like the golem in all the old fairy tales. All I wanted was to shatter all the stained glass just so everyone could feel my power, my anger, a delusion that I question even today.

After many long days, scraping aluminum, day labor, and the occasional tarot reading, taking the 102 more than once, the 43 South on 802 to the comic shop.

By this time, I had been trespassed from St. James Catholic Church, which happened on Easter Sunday. I told the police officer to send everything to my attorney. I had no attorney, but the voices told me so. The police officer agreed with me and told me I could not attend service for a year. It was a long year. So, I washed my face and shaved just to fit in with the rest of society. I took out my cigarettes, polite conversation starters, lit one up, and started my day with the sun.

When it came to living homeless, you had to be crafty. Luck played a role. I was lucky a lot of times. When my year was up at St. James’s Catholic Church, with no trespassing rule in place, I walked into the most enormous smorgasbord in history.

Food, Food, Food. Peace be with you.

I shined. I ate and mingled with the parishioners.

I still had to attend mass at St. Joseph’s, as a standby, I knew Father Slovak had a girlfriend, or shall I say, “Wife,” a Polish wife. Father Slovak and Father Brown were not firm believers in celibacy, but I was celibate. Would the church accept me as a priest? I wondered, and the voices said, “No.”

I never knew why the voices said, “No.” I was crazy and so cranial obvious. It may have been an experiment, but the voice was wrong. The voice mentioned a date, and I waited. Nothing happened, but I continued to work at the church, by sweeping the sidewalk every night for a year.

I even threw rose petals so the women could walk in glory for their womanhood and the love of Mary of Nazarene, the mother of Christ. It happened that I enjoyed the work. It became a ritual for me every night. I slept behind the altar in a cul-de-sac where the trash bin was located. No one knew. It was a secret location, and I was the only one that maintained the flowers that were placed on the altar of Mary and Child. I even placed candles on the altar. It was my gift, but someone would always remove them. I felt sad.

I felt like a Franciscan.

When I stepped onto the church grounds, I felt safe. I drank all of the wine from the chalice, one early morning service, at St. James. It was my last visit. I was not St. Vitus. I was St. Lucifer, and to me, you had to pay for forgiveness.

Everyone pays the price for enlightenment and heaven. Forgiveness seems deep.

I was the man at the gate, but of course, I was schizophrenic, and that could only be one of my delusions. I thought I held the reincarnated soul of Lucifer, the glorious first angel of God. Before he became Lucifer, he was Eos, the day bringer. I could never tell, but all St. Lucifer as I was reborn in the last months of the free world and Traveler’s living. I wanted, Heaven.

O how many times have I slept at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church?

With enough guilt, I became a faithful catholic. The church saved my life. No matter how small the task, I willed myself to work for Father Peter and Father Brown at the Catholic Church.




Twitter: @yondergrey