Locus Focus: Take Forty-Eight!
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So how has this week been for you all? (I'm not just asking that; I'd really like to know.) Most of what I've done over the last few days you'll probably end up reading about in future posts, anyway, so I won't dump it all on you here . . . But I thought I'd tell you about last night's successful culinary experiment. Having had no luck finding new recipes for what Filipinos call "cream dory" (which doesn't seem to be caught and eaten anywhere else on the planet), I decided to look up recipes for tilapia instead and just switch around the fish.
One can of diced tomatoes (undrained), half a can of mushrooms (undrained), half a jar of pimiento-stuffed olives (drained), one medium-sized yellow onion, more cloves of garlic than I'm going to admit to you, some salt and pepper, a bit of oregano, and a sprinkling of dried basil later . . . and my entire family was worshiping at my feet! (Thank you, Elise! You've never failed me yet!)
And speaking of worship--the real sort, not the figurative sort--today I have a setting that drags my "Places of Prayer" challenge into another week, at least where I am concerned. (It has nothing about food, though . . . =P)
The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull
by John Bellairs
"Father?" [Johnny] said hesitantly. ". . . You mentioned a ritual of some kind . . ."
"Ah, yes!" said the priest . . . [studying] the bowl of his pipe as if there were dark secrets hidden there. ". . . I'm going to sound like a superstitious old Irishman, but I think I would leave a petition under the base of the statue of St. Anthony in our church. You know the statue I mean, don't you?"
Johnny nodded. He knew it well. It was a large painted plaster figure that stood on a pedestal in front of one of the pillars of St. Michael's church.
"Well, then," the priest went on in a conspiratorial tone, "how about if you and I meet in the church this coming Wednesday night, after the service? This was something that I was going to try myself, but I kept thinking that it was an idiotic notion . . ."
A secret ritual? In a Catholic church? On an ordinary Wednesday night in the suburbs? Well, this is an 80s Gothic novel written by a practicing papist. Bring on the rites, I say!
The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull happens to be one Mystery in which a magical/religious rite will work both for the characters and for the story. For Father Higgins and altar boy Johnny are right to suspect that their friend Professor Childermass was snatched away by supernatural forces--and that their response must be in kind.
When the priest meets Johnny in the sanctuary that appointed Wednesday evening, it's obvious that he's ready to give the ritual his all: he is wearing vestments, carrying some holy water, and mumbling prayers in Latin. As he and Johnny stand before the candle-lit statue of St. Anthony of Padua (whom a certain strain of Catholics pray to for assistance in finding lost objects . . . or people), he instructs the boy to write a petition to the saint on a piece of paper and to slide it under the statue.
Dear Saint Anthony:
Please help us to find Professor Childermass. Please hear us, and do not fail us. Amen.
I find it amusing that John Bellairs makes Father Higgins play down this traditional devotion so emphatically. He makes sure that his trusting altar boy knows it is "superstitious," "hocus-pocus," "totally unreliable," "an idiotic notion," "razzmatazz," and "mummery and flummery"--and that he himself has never heard of a case in which it actually worked. The priest clearly believes it could work . . . but also understands that in this case it might not. And I totally get that. Heck, I leave notes under the statue of St. Joseph in my parish church all the time, but I've never recommended it to anyone bent on concrete, immediate results. (Besides, can't you just imagine an earnest reader of this novel--someone with a missing parent or sibling--attempting the same and being completely crushed when it fails???)
But for these two devotees, the little tradition pays off--and with maximum theatrics! Just moments after they complete the ritual, they hear a sound "like a pistol shot" as the back door of the church flies open, letting in a cold draft that puts all the candles out. And three days later, when they go back to check the statue again . . . they find something very close to a miracle! Ah, if only all my prayers were answered that way . . .
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I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D
This Week's Other Locus Focus:
J.R.R. Tolkien's Khazad-dum, Silvertine and Endless Stair @ Spike Is Best
Image Sources: a) The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull by John Bellairs, b) St. Anthony de Padua statue