A priest walked into a bar.
The bartender asked, “what can I get for ya?”
The priest paused for a second and answered, “Unless you have an alter boy behind the counter, I’ll just have a whiskey, neat.”
The bartender stared with puzzlement, shook her head, and grabbed the whiskey. She flipped the high ball glass onto the bar and poured a heavy single. The priest looked up at her and twitched his fingers in a circle, as if he wanted to tell her a secret. She poured to almost the rim. This had the priest place his hands together as he muttered what the bartender only thought was a prayer.
“I’d send you a blessing, but you don’t deserve it.”
The priest sat and sipped his drink as the other patrons entered the pub. A man who recently finishing his shift at a local construction site took the stool beside the priest. The man’s clothes were dirty and had the smell of must and sweat, two things which the priest was very familiar with. Before the priest could take a sip, the man yelled to the bartender, “Missy, get me what he’s having. And get him another as well!”
“Oh, thank you, sir. Your generosity is most appreciated.” The priest once again placed his hands together and murmured under his breath. “May you find forgiveness in a pool of soapy water, and your clothes find refuge in a fire.”
“My name’s Jimmy,” the man said. “what’s your name father?”
“Father Flannagan,” the priest said with some reluctance. “Or just Joseph.”
“Well, just Joseph,” Jimmy said with the newly placed drink in his hand, “here’s to health.” He pushed his glass toward Father Flannagan, who in turn raised his glass and toasted to Jimmy. Jimmy took a healthy sip of his whiskey, while Father Joseph slammed his down with a smile.
“I want to know if I could ask you something, Father?” Jimmy asked with a look of concern on his face.
Father Joseph was used to that look. It was the same look that he would see when glancing over during confessions. “Go on, son.”
“What can I do if I may have had relations with someone who’s married?”
“Well, from a professional standing, you should say ten ‘Our Fathers’ and five, no four ‘Hail Marys’ but on a personal level, I’d avoid the husband.”
“So, would that be the same if I had to avoid someone’s wife?” Jimmy’s words came out slow and uncertain.
Father Flannagan gave a sharp look over to the man. “For that, I’d suggest moving to Miami Beach and not worry about the penance. That’s my plan for when I finish with God’s work.”
“Well, thanks for the information, Father.” Jimmy stood up and started to walk towards his coworkers.
“Thank you for the drink.” Joseph said before adding, “I hope everything works out for you and the woman’s husband.” Jimmy turned away and made his way to the door and then quickly through it.
Father Flannagan paid for his drink and headed back to the church. On his way, he came across a couple of homeless men on the sidewalk. Before he could get by, one of the homeless men chimed up and addressed Father Flannagan.
“Please father, help me find a place to stay and get out of the cold.”
“Oh, unfortunate child. I cannot help you as you will most likely die on the street tonight. Even if I was able to help you today, you could still be dead tomorrow. I would say that I’m sorry, but I am not.” And with that, Father Flannagan continued his way to the church.
Once he made it there, he took off his coat and placed it in the closet. He started to his room when he was called upon by one of his fellow clergy.
“Father Joseph,” Father George called, “we need to have a word with you in the rectory.”
“Can it wait ‘til tomorrow, George?”
“I do not think the bishop is wanting to wait.”
“I’ll be right there.” Father Flannagan said with some enthusiasm. He hurried in his room for a quick sip of mouthwash and looked at himself in the mirror. He adjusted his glasses and pushed back on his hair which was already slicked back. The collar around his neck was off-center and Joseph tugged it back to its proper place. Once he felt well-straightened, Father Flannagan exited his room and headed down to the rectory.
The first thing which Father Flannagan noticed upon entering the Rectory was the purple zuchetto on the bishop’s head. Other than the hat, Joseph would not have recognized him from any other priest. The man wore a black cassock which had a quality that was much higher quality than that which is given to priests. With the bishop was young priest who might have been an alter boy himself. Father Flannagan couldn’t help but to stare at the vicar who was there in support of the bishop.
“Your Excellency, it is an honor to be in your presence.” Father Flannagan addressed the bishop directly. “How can assist you this evening?”
“It has come to my attention that you have been busy in this church.” The bishop’s words listlessly exited the mouth with the enthusiasm of junkie awaiting a fix. “We have conferred and have decided that you would benefit from moving to a more challenging placement.”
“I am honored to be noticed, but I do not wish to leave.”
“This is not an option,” the bishop’s energy increased with each word, as did his volume, “this is an order!”
“I don’t really understand, and if it is a Holy order, I then would appreciate hearing it straight from the Lord himself.” Father Flannagan was not rattled with the order the bishop had given him. Father Flannagan had been told to do many things and he would differ to God for the orders to stick. “I have made many relationships in this place and I do anticipate staying here ‘til death or retirement.”
“You have overstayed your welcome here Father Joseph,” Father George Tried to support the Bishop’s tidings. “Some of your actions have not been the most becoming of the clergy.”
“So, you mean to tell me that I’m not welcomed here by everyone, or just by you, George?” Father Joseph was still smiling at times to the assistant in the room. “I’m pretty sure that the alter boys appreciate the blessings. I know I do a good job at confessions. I know George is jealous because the alter boys do not give him attention anymore. I know the bar down the street appreciate the offering money that I use to buy drinks.”
“Why did you join the seminary?!” The bishop’s face was turning red as the words shot out like daggers. “You’re a disgrace.”
“Well, your excellency, I would not argue that I am a disgrace. But I had a choice to make early in life. It was either the seminary or the military. I never like having people tell me what to do, so I picked the church.” Father Flannagan walked up closer to the bishop. “There were many other young men like myself in the seminary. Most trying to find their place. Several of us found our place in each other.” He looked over to the young priest with a smile. “You know what I mean, right?”
The helper blushed with the question and smiled as he looked away.
“I’ll be in my room,” Father Joseph Flannagan said, “In case any of you want to join me.” And he turned and walked away.
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