The doctors and nurses congregated around the operating table. No matter how hard they tried, they could not stop the bleeding. The first bullet tore into the priest’s left shoulder. The second resides somewhere in Father Hobson’s stomach. The third and fourth merely grazed him, as he had turned to flee from his attacker.
Father Hobson managed to run a block or so from the scene, before finding someone to help him. That Good Samaritan took him to the hospital, which was only a few blocks away.
Father Hobson could be heard muttering, “impossible,” as he was brought into the hospital.
The Good Samaritan would stay to ensure the older priest would receive the care he most certainly required.
Some of the doctors and nurses knew of Father Hobson, who was the pastor of the nearby Saint Francis Catholic Community for many decades. During his tenure, he converted the old parish into a model of inclusivity and progress. He inherited the church from a Father Faure, who had adamantly refused to follow the directives placed throughout the diocese after the council.
After the death of Father Faure, Hobson launches a series of “renewals” within the parish, all under the auspices of honoring the late Father Faure. This included sacking the head server, who was loyal to the former priest. Anthony left the parish, as did his family. They never returned.
Father Hobson introduced new organizations into the “faith fold”, as he called his parish. These new groups brought new parishioners to the church, and quickly drove the old ones out. The new priest found his replacement head server from the ranks of these new groups; Richard Schwartz handled the retraining of all servers, including the girls, a first for the diocese. When he wasn’t training servers, he oversaw the fundraising for “The Q”, the parish’s homosexual outreach program.
Father Hobson also brought in religious sisters to concelebrate the Mass, to do readings and sermons, as well as teach the faithful. He threw out everything even remotely connected to the days before the council, and then he did away with vestments entirely. He was surprised to find a buyer for all the old religious materials. The money he brought in from those sales went directly into funding the remodel of the church into the modern marvel of which he had hoped.
His services were along the most progressive in the country, if not the world. Readings came from a variety of sources, both sacred and secular. His sermons came from the newspaper, or from his favorite magazines. He invited the best, local bands to play for his services, and sourced the finest shortbread cookies for the Lord’s Supper.
It was no surprise to anyone that Richard Schwartz entered the seminary. It was also not surprising when he was ordained and moved into Saint Francis as an auxiliary pastor. The two worked hand in hand to continue the great work they started.
They made friends with all faiths, and visited all the local churches and synagogues, save for one. Someone had opened a new, Catholic Church not far from Saint Francis. It was unaffiliated with the diocese. Rumors spread that the church celebrated the Mass as it was before the council, that the new parish was part of an organization that renounced the council and the spirit that preceded from said council.
Fathers Hobson and Schwartz ignored the newcomer, and moved ahead with grooming their own flock into the paragon of progressives.
Their sweet successes of their partnership would end suddenly, as the first of the allegations against Richard Schwartz streamed into the Bishop’s offices. The bishop buried the first two complaints under miles of red tape. The next two were not so easy to eradicate.
Father Hobson defended his partner with all the ferocity of a mother bear for her beloved cub. He insulted the accusers of trying to undo the success of the church, of being homophobic, intolerant, bigoted, or worse.
The refusal of the diocese to act spurred one of the lost souls to take action. One of the former servers, who trainings extensively under Schwartz, confronted Hobson at the rectory of Saint Francis. Their dialogue was brief; four shots. The shooter reserved the fifth shot for himself.
Hobson hobbled off towards the hospital, and ended up at the open doors of a church. He stumbled in and stood there for a moment, his mouth agape.
The traditional Catholic parish he arrogantly overlooked was decorated with all the furnishings he had sold some time before. They even had the old portrait of Father Faure in a place of honor.
Hobson collapsed at altar rail. The pastor of the traditional parish took the dying Hobson to the hospital, and stayed with him to offer last rites.
When the doctors finally admitted the traditional priest to Hobson’s bedside, the dying pastor recognized the face of he who would administer the sacrament.
It was Anthony, the server he had rejected decades before.
The doctors and nurses would speak of those moments many times afterward, when Father Anthony administered the Last Rites to the dying priest. Some swore they heard the voice of God giving judgment, just before the priest’s last gasp.
The operating theater shut down for a week after that night, to air out the sulfuric fumes...