The House of Aragón  


The Lies of the Father


It’s late as I sit in my East Los Angeles barrio rectory.  At ninety, it is as though I’ve lost a part of myself and awakened to inhabit someone else’s body.  Old and balding, I’m a less than flattering caricature of my youthful self.  Never having felt worse, I drink far more wine than I should and eat more than my doctor allows.  My housekeeper, Flora, is a cook sent from heaven who feeds me the spicy hot Mexican food I love so much.  Oh how fleeting youth is--here for a moment and gone forever.  Now, in the twilight of my years, I can see life so clearly.  I remember all of those wonderful moments now frozen in time.  

Reflecting back on my fifty years at our Lady of Guadalupe Church, I drink the sweet red wine.  When I think of those memories of so long ago, I feel the wetness on my face.  But the tears I cry are for myself.  Because of my sins, those closest to me have suffered greatly.  God has given me much tragedy in my life, sending the very demons of hell to plague me and those I’ve loved.  My life here in the barrio has been filled with pain and sorrow, but to be fair, also with love and joy.  The good times and the bad, they’re all precious to me.  

I’m now an old man in search of his soul.  A priest’s priest, I’ve played my part well.  Always, I was first and foremost a man of the Church.  I learned well the truths of my Catholic religion. But my knowledge of the faith has little to do with my practice of it.  Outwardly, I’ve exhibited the faith of my teachings, mouthing the words of faith to those who would listen.  Yet I’ve denied their very power in my soul.  Inwardly, I question the very god and saints I worship.  How can I believe in a god who allowed such carnage and the deaths of innocents?   How can I reconcile a world so full of poverty and pain?  So, I’ve spent my life doubting the very God I serve.  I’ve lived a lie.  My life has been a carefully crafted play, with myself as the savior.  Deep inside, I know I’m a murderer.  Killing for God and country, my victims were many Protestant men, women, and children.  Using any and all means available to me, I bombed them, shot them, and burned them.  To this day, I hate the English.  I swore upon my soul to hate them until the day I die.  I’ve never wavered.  So in the end, I’m a fraud; for the scriptures say to love thy enemy.  But I cannot and will not.  

I escaped to America like a thief in the night to hide from myself and my evil deeds.  Later, I became a priest so I wouldn’t be found out.  The Church in its wisdom assigned me to a parish where I would be safe from prying eyes.  What I found was a place that was a world unto itself.  Here in the barrio of East Los Angeles, I became a proud parish priest with a flock of sainted faithful Chicano followers.  The outside world had abandoned these Mexican-Americans to their own devices.  It cared little for them.  Outsiders stayed away for lack of interest.  America only tolerated its bastard children.  It never nurtured them.  

What am I to say of these Chicano men?  What I remember well is the Great War against the Japs and Germans.  Exhausting themselves for an ideal, these men from the barrios fought for what was right.  They upheld the honor of their country on the great battlefields of Europe and Asia .  Upon their return, they found only dishonor in their own homeland.  These brave warriors had held the American flag high in hostile lands, only to have it ripped from them when they returned home.  This was their reality.  Taught to honor their country and to fight and die for it, these Mexican-American men carried the American flag into the steamy jungles of the South Pacific and fought the Japanese Empire for the American way of life.  Some carried the fight to the shores of Europe , defeating Adolf Hitler’s Germany and her allies.  But once they’d fought the fine fight there was nothing left for them.  These heroes had given everything and were offered nothing in return.  

For men like my dear friend, Aragón, the road back was long and difficult.  Access to money and power was prohibited for those from the barrio.  At first, they tried the legitimate way.  Those men stood at the doors hoping to gain entry.  Only after long periods of waiting and, insult after insult, did they find their own path.  There were no jobs for them, no avenues of opportunity for these men with Spanish surnames.  In the Anglo world of the nineteen forties and fifties, they had no place.  Whether the insults came with names like Wetback and Spic or if it was delivered in a more civilized manner, the result was the same.  There were no jobs.  Men like Aragón had to find another way.  These Chicanos had done the honorable thing, but they were dishonored by their American brothers.  So it was that they created the shadow world of the barrio gangster.  These men would always be on the fringes of American society.  They embraced the barrio and created a society all their own.  

It feels as if my life has spanned an eternity.  Those early days seem as though they were lived by someone else.  There’s nothing left for me now but clouded memories.  On my better days, I can see them all clearly.  Those closest to me in life have been from the barrio.  But they’ve all gone on to the great beyond.  All of my closest friends and comrades have passed through this thin veneer we call life.  I haven’t seen my homeland or my childhood friends since I left Ireland over seventy years ago.  

Writing the story of my best friend, Michael Aragón, isn’t easy.  But it must be done.  He was my cross to bear for such a long time.  Like brothers, we were constantly at war.  Until the moment I heard the news of his death, I hadn’t realized how much the big man meant to me.  Having lost him, I’m now left to stand alone.  Yes, Aragón was my friend.  And he had honor, real and pure.  In many ways we were alike--honor meant everything to me as well.  As an old woman once remarked, he was the strong tree that never broke.  The winds of life were of gale force, but bending with them, he was never broken by them.  He grew long sturdy branches and shaded his friends from the strong harsh rays of the sun.  Everyone he loved was the better for it.  In the end, he left many better off than had he not lived.  My own life was made richer because of him.  Michael was my best friend in life.  He might have been a gangster, but he was also a man of strength and dignity.  Living by the warrior’s code of honor, he fought well and died with great élan.  Remembering his hearty laugh and wide grin, I smile when he’s called a gangster.  Like him, I, too, was a man without a country.  But we both found a home here in East LA.  

I’ve had three lives really; my life as a young Irish Republican Army assassin, my life as a priest, and my life as a friend to Michael.  Each was distinct and apart; they never met.  Well, perhaps the priest and friend did.  

I was christened Ignatius Michael O’Brien, of the County Dublin O’Brien’s, in the year of our Lord 1900.  My father was a schoolmaster in the small village of Dundrum , located a short distance from Dublin .  There were three of us left to face the harsh realities of a British dominated Ireland .  My father, a good and honest man, my older brother Patrick, and myself remained to live under English rule.  My mother, bless her soul, had passed three years after my birth from the fever.  She left us with our health and the dignity of the Irish.  Yes, dignity; the one thing that the English bastards couldn’t steal from us.  They could steal our land and rape our country, but they couldn’t rip our faith nor our souls from us--only God in heaven could give or take the last two.  We would never abandon our faith.  

I’m as Irish as they come.  My family clan is the O'Brynes.  They had held the land long before the great purge of 1641, and after it ended in 1651.  We were one of many Irish clans to join in the convening of the Parliament at Kilkenny.  My clan joined in the proud announcement of the creation of a new Irish state, the Irish Catholic Confederacy.  It was believed to be a bright Irish future, but it was not to be.  The O'Bryrne Clan was finally beaten in the military campaign fought in the Wicklow Mountains .  

The script of my life was written for me many hundreds of years before my birth.  The corruption and persecution of religion preceded me.  This wasn’t God’s work; it was the work of man.  Like many other Irish families, we were victims of our English masters.  The Protestant zealots and their merchant accomplices were the perpetrators of the crimes against my people.  The greatest sin of the Irish was our ownership of land and allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church.  Much like the Mexican-Americans, my people were victims of greed and prejudice.  

We have always been victims of the Englishmen’s need to dominate the territories of others.  The curse of English domination had been the ugly reality for my people for centuries.  In 1641, my clan became a subjugated people.  The whole of Ireland had been invaded by the English.  The true Irish people and transplanted newcomers were under siege by the English Parliamentary troops under Cromwell.  My ancestors had pledged allegiance to Charles the First and his loyalists against the devil and his minions--Lord General of the Army, Oliver Cromwell and his Commonwealth soldiers.  

There had been four Commissioners of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England who were assigned the task of officially stealing Ireland 's heritage and dignity in that year of 1652.  Their official duties were the Ordering and Settling the Affairs of Ireland.  By one simple Act, the English Parliament laid down the legislation for confiscation and redistribution of property owned by those Irishmen who, for the past eleven years, had fought against the English invaders.  The formula was simple.  Merchants who paid the blood money for England ’s war in Ireland and the assassins the English called soldiers were to be paid in Irish land.  In the end, the hated English state conquered my people.  After they defeated the Irish, English and Scottish colonists were transplanted and given our land.  The only thing left to do was to resist.  

My family had nothing to do with the historical aspects of this story.  The history of our people’s enslavement was written for them by the Protestant Church and the English State .  Like so many others born into the cruelty of having lost a war, I was born a third class citizen of a conquered people.  We belonged to that unfortunate group of the oppressed called the Irish.  

From the beginning, every Irish Catholic man knows he’s expendable.  For generations, my family was branded with the curse by our English tormentors.  I carried the curse of the Catholic Church in my soul.  The Mother Church in Rome couldn’t help us.  She was too far away.  Where in Ireland could I have run and hid?  Both my father and brother knew it and became casualties of this bloody war that had been in existence for several hundred years before they appeared on this earth.  England had long since abandoned we Irish to the irrevocable fate which they had prescribed.  English laws were written to defeat and enslave us.  We Irish were persona non-grata in our own country.  We were, and have always been, victims of the hated English.  And so it was that the ancient homeland of the O’Brien’s was invaded and plundered by the English mob of assassins.  

Not a day goes by that I don’t remember the house–to-house searches conducted by Black and Tans in my small village.  These assassins were always looking for the elusive Irish Republican Army or IRA.  The real Irish Catholics viewed the IRA as saviors.  Helping them and hiding them, to the true Irish people the IRA soldiers were patriots.  They were the Robin Hoods of Ireland , fighting for and saving our people from extermination.  In my homeland of Northern Ireland , I saw first-hand what hate can do.  I know war, and I myself have suffered at the hands of the English soldiers.  I have seen the suffering and pain of others.  Watching innocent people tortured at the hands of evil men bent upon wanton destruction, I saw what occupation troops do to a defeated country.  In the end, no one is to blame and everyone is to blame.  

When I was young, I was a true Catholic.  For generations my family had never wavered.  We had always been for the Church.  In my youth, I became a patriot, an IRA gunman.  Once you were in, you were always in.  There was no turning back.  You were given orders and expected to follow them without comment or condition.  The Chicano vatos in La Eme call it Blood in, Blood out.  

The bombings were the worst, the burnings no better.  The cleanest was the assassination.  But it had to be done; there was no other way.  It was kill the wolf or die yourself.  These Protestant warriors were bloodthirsty animals who viewed my people as prey to be slaughtered at will.  To them, we weren’t human beings, only vermin to be exterminated.  The Protestants couldn't be reasoned with, they knew only killing.  A predator must be hunted in order to stop its savage attacks.  Left unchecked, it would kill Christ’s own flock.  There was no other way!  The English gave us no choice.  

The Protestant women and children had nothing to do with that ugly war.  They were only the victims of it.  When I had my fill of burning and murdering innocents, I ran off into the night, never to return to the Emerald Isle.  I became a priest and hid behind the skirts of Mother Church .  

How I remember my youth on that beautiful island.  There I was born and raised with great promise and dreams of a better world.  But one day, my youth and dreams of a future ended tragically.  As a soft rain breaks forth into a torrent sweeping away so much beauty, so my youthful dreams were washed aside.  Left behind were broken promises and the sadness of what could have been.  After a flood, only destruction is left to bake in the new day’s sun.  As it breaks through the dark and dreary clouds, the sun brings the promise of a new day, a time to rebuild, to make things new.  But not in Ireland and not for Catholics.  

It was 1915, and I was a tall gangly boy of fifteen, with thick, blondish, unkempt locks, and thin golden wisps of fine hair for eyebrows.  My eyes are light blue, the color of a Robin’s egg.  What a sorry looking young lad I was, my pimply face long and thin.  

The IRA struck regularly at the English occupation troops.  It was always the same.  A bomb exploded at a Protestant pub killing several young occupiers.  A young English Black and Tan was found laying in the gutter with his throat slit.  An English Army patrol was ambushed while stopping an automobile.  After the IRA patriots had done their work, the local townspeople were left behind to be tormented and tortured by the English.  The British occupation troops were deeply committed to finding and destroying those who had killed their fellow soldiers, even if those found were innocent.  The English soldiers always sought out a young Irish lad to unleash their vengeance upon.  Once found, he would be forced to admit his guilt.  The Black and Tans took great joy in the torturing of an Irishman.  Everyone involved knew that the young man was probably innocent, but someone had to pay.  A great price was paid for every English soldier lost to the hated IRA.  Ten pounds of low Irish flesh for one precious pound of superior English flesh; that was the price of honor.  

My older brother, Patrick, was one of the unlucky ones.  Preparing for the priesthood, Patrick loved God and all His creatures, including the English.  The day a young English soldier was found shot dead, my brother chose to visit a Protestant friend.  Patrick was returning home that night when an English platoon happened upon him.  He was no more than twenty steps from our front door when they apprehended him.  The soldiers were enraged by the loss of another comrade.  That week had seen five of their assassin brothers killed by our brave IRA patriots.  They had to strike out, to release the hate and anger boiling up from the very depths of their black souls.  

My brother, an innocent, had no weapons save his prayers.  With his eyes cast downward and shivering from the dampness and fear, it was clear to the English assassins that this Irish lad was resisting arrest.  Standing before them as a lamb ready for the slaughter, the beating with rifle butts began.  Later, I was told, he fell from the blows.  Accused of reaching for a weapon in his trouser pocket, a panicked young English soldier fired a shot into the back of Patrick’s head.  He had no weapon; Patrick was a man of peace.  

As Patrick lay dying in the pool of bright red blood which oozed from the cavernous wound to his head, my father left the house to investigate the loud noises.  There in front of his home, he found his first-born son.  Kneeling on the ground next to the limp dying body, he cried out to God for help.  As he sat, father lifted his son's bleeding head onto his lap; my father felt the warm blood soak into his trousers.  Not knowing what else to do, he tried to return the warm gray substance which had once held Patrick’s wonderful mind to the gaping wound in his son's head.  Praying out loud, he tried in vain to stop the bleeding.  As he placed his hand over the large missing section of skull and scalp, Dad knew it was too late.  “My baby boy,” I heard him shout to the world.  As his child lay dying there in front of him, a warm drizzle fell softly on them both.  The drops covered Father’s face, but he brushed the rain and tears away from his eyes, not wanting to lose a moment of sight.  Holding him ever so gently, my father cradled Patrick as he had done those many years before when he was a newborn.  As he held him in the cold dark night, he prayed out loud to our great God in heaven.  The soldiers, enraged by their own sins, attacked my father.  Beating him into unconsciousness, he too became a victim of their rage and slept the long sleep of death.  Both my father and his oldest son died there on the pavement that night.  The son died because a price had to be paid for the life of a young English soldier.  My father died for the sins of the soldiers who killed his beloved son.  

The last of my family, I set out to right these wrongs.  I ran away from that empty house with its sad memories and became a patriot of Ireland .  The last son, I ran to my uncle, Conor O’Brien. He was a journalist for the Irish Times and an officer in the Irish Volunteers.  Uncle Conor was an avid sailor and mountain climber.  A large, physical man, he was given to hard living and even harder drinking.  But his true love was sailing his boat the Moonspray.  

I reached him the following evening at his home in Dublin .  When I gave him the news of my father and brother, he wept.  It was then that he told me of his activities with the IRA.  Uncle Conor said then and there that we would avenge our fallen brothers.  Drunk and unable to speak a coherent sentence beyond that point, I helped him to bed and spent the remainder of the night planning our great victory over the English.  

In the following months, he introduced me to many IRA patriots.  All spoke of the great republic to come.  At the time, I didn’t know that these were the men history would call the heroes of Ireland ’s great uprising.  They were good men who were disillusioned by unfulfilled English promises.  The English would never give us our own republic; we would have to take it by force.  They had nothing but contempt for we Irish, so our path was set--it was to be war.  

The next year was spent learning my new trade.  I was taught to use explosives by old Tom Clarke, himself.  In fact, he directed my bombings.  Tom selected the targets and planned each and every step.  He taught me where to place explosives for their maximum benefit.  I was an excellent student and a deadly practitioner.  Responsible for five bombings that first year, I repaid the English bastards many times over for the deaths of my father and brother.  Killing twenty-five and wounded thirty–two, those numbers would only grow.  

Tom also taught me the art of arson.  I could burn down a building in minutes.  This dark art we used only in special cases.  Usually, it was reserved for traitors.  Tom felt that they and their families deserved only the best.  During my training, we burnt seven homes.  The families rarely escaped.  Even the children were sacrificed to the god of war.  It was said that the burnings kept those IRA soldiers who might waiver from making the wrong decision.  

Sean McDermott taught me to shoot a pistol and high-powered rifle.  Teaching me to shoot a pistol from many angles and positions, he later taught me to hit a moving target at five, ten, and twenty paces.  I became a deadly shot.  The Italian rifle was an excellent piece of equipment.  It was fitted with a scope for killing at a distance.  This too became one of my tools of the trade.  

I became a practiced assassin at the tender age of fifteen.  Because of my disarming looks and tender young face, the Black and Tans never expected what lay behind my kind smile and youthful blue eyes.  By the time they realized that I was there to send them to hell, it was too late.  In first three months, I killed five English soldiers and eight Scots.  It was always the same, always easy.  I wore the long overcoat with a special pocket where I hid my pistol.  I did my killing with a smile and the offer of a cigarette.  Then, with the quick movement of a hand, up came the pistol and bang, it was over.  The young soldier was dead before he hit the ground.  

The rifle was best; I could kill the English assassins at a distance.  I never was assigned a target of more than two or three English dogs.  The kill had to be quick and simple.  More would have been too confusing.  Able to squeeze off three rounds before they could react, the Black and Tans fell like rag dolls in quick succession.  There would be no more of those stiff English salutes.  One after another, they hit the ground, dead as a doornail!  When it was over, I was safely away.  Before their officers could reconnoiter the area, I was far away having a beer with my comrades in a pub.  We laughed at how the Englishmen died.  Each death was a victory for Ireland .  We were soldiers in the struggle of the titans.  Long forgotten heroes had paved the road of honor before us.  We were expected to honor those who had fallen for the cause, for freedom.  The cause was a free Ireland without the English yoke of oppression.  

Now in my nineties, I remember few details of the uprising, but I can recall April.  There were mass rallies, newspaper articles, and speeches on every street corner.  Many meetings were held at my uncle’s home.  It was more of a party than a meeting.  The drinking was always heavy and the speeches long.  Plans were thrown about and argued with great fervor.  The days leading up to the rebellion were sheer chaos.  There was gunrunning every night and into the early morning hours.  Hiding IRA soldiers coming in from all over Ireland was an everyday occurrence.  The establishment of an army was the overriding concern.  

I remember the men had little discipline and even less self-control.  Drunk most of the time, early mornings were usually reserved for nursing hangovers.  They were a rag-tag lot.  Men who should have never held a gun in their hands were drafted to defend the Republic.  It was a wonder they didn’t shoot themselves.  

As events unfolded there was great confusion.  One day brought compromise, the next betrayal.  The English played the game of diplomacy well.  There were promises made and broken.  Finally, out of mass confusion, a battle emerged.  It started with isolated shootings and proceeded to running gun battles.  It ended with flames and bombardment.  In the end, Dublin lay in ruins.  Thousands were killed and wounded.  The English were triumphant and we Irish were decisively beaten and later brutalized.  

My uncle lost his life early in the battle, sacrificed by the incompetence of others.  Later, there were many traitors who were willing to trade a name for freedom.  They told the English everything.  Few were spared.  Entire families were killed by the Black and Tans under the cover of darkness.  Those who were unlucky enough to be imprisoned were tortured.  Many never returned alive, having died mysteriously while in custody.  

Shortly after that Monday, May Day, in 1916, it was all over.  General Sir John Grenfell Maxwell, the new General Officer Commanding his Majesty’s armed forces in Ireland , had prevailed.  He had broken the Irish rebellion.  On that cold morning in May, the General reviewed his Majesty’s casualties list: 17 officers dead and 46 wounded.  The other less important casualties numbered 99 killed, 322 wounded and 9 missing in action.  

In his palatial building at Kilmanham, on the western edge of Dublin , the fifty-six year-old general contemplated his next move.  Dublin already lay in ruins.  Its main road, Sackville, and its buildings were a heap of smoldering brick and mortar.  Pleased with the outcome, he’d taught us rebel bastards a thing or two.  But he wasn’t finished.  The General was determined to put an end to the Irish once and for all.  In his custody at Arbour Hill Detention Center was Patrick Pearse, the Commander–in-Chief of the rebel army.  It was Pearse who had penned the Proclamation of the Republic, the document which had been signed in defiance of England .  It was Bill O’Brien, my father’s youngest brother, Christopher Brady and Michael Malloy who had set up the publishing of the historic document.  All were eventually killed during the uprising.  

To the General’s satisfaction, James Connely, the union leader who had commanded the Dublin forces in the rebellion, lay wounded in Dublin Castle .  He had control over these two traitors, unlike Roger Casement, holder of the South African Medal, Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, and Knight of the Realm.  Famous for having gone to Germany to bargain with the enemy for arms on behalf of our cause, Casement was under arrest in the Tower of London .  There awaiting trial for his treachery, he too would soon die.  The rest were at Richmond Barracks.  The cells held Joe Plunkett, who wrote the strategy for the battle.  In the cell next to Plunkett, were my dear friends Sean McDermott and Tom Clarke.  

Clarke, my teacher, had been a member of the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood since 1878.  An explosives expert, he had learned his trade in America .  Clark had already served fifteen years in an English prison for attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament.  Caught in the act, he was tried and sentenced in 1883 and spent fifteen and a half years in Pentonville Prison.  After being released from prison on September 21, 1898 , Clark returned to New York in 1900, where he married and settled down.  In 1907, he returned to Dublin to revitalize the Brotherhood.  He was a true believer.  Down the hall from his cell was Thomas MacDonagh, Brigadier of our rebel army.  All of these great patriots would soon be court-martialed and shot for treason.  According to the English bastards, they had conspired to rebel against the Crown.  Once the lot had taken up arms in rebellion against his Majesty’s government, their fate was sealed.  

How different we Irish viewed ourselves.  The English saw us as traitors, but to the true Irish people we were heroes, saints, and liberators in a great cause.  But the English had won, and my fellow brothers in arms were to die for their sins against the Crown.  

Before I could join the others in payment for my sins, I ran.  First, I ran to the countryside and then on to America .  I had received money in return for services rendered as a gunrunner for Sir Roger Casement, and combined with the two thousand American dollars my Uncle Conor had left me; I had the funds to run.  Casement was the main IRA connection to our American cousins who provided financial support to our movement.  He and my uncles were close friends with the American, Joe McGarrity, of Philadelphia .  McGarrity had been born in Ireland and had gone to America to make his fame and fortune.  And that he did.  

While on the run, I was able to make contact with Joe by way of the IRA and his Clan na Gael.  The Clan was the Irish separatist movement in America that supported our cause of freedom and independence.  Their contacts in Dublin knew of me and my special talents.  But it was more than that; Joe had been a friend of my father and his brothers since childhood.  Close in their youth, they had always remained friends.  And so it was that Mr. McGarrity gave me the great honor of visiting his home in Philadelphia .  Passage was arranged, people were paid, and thus I made my trek to America .  

Upon my arrival, I was surprised to be hailed as a young hero come home from the great Gaelic wars against the English.  During those first few weeks in Philadelphia , much was made of my exploits against the English.  I was always at Joe’s side.  He introduced me to my rich Irish cousins at every opportunity.  They were a wealthy lot.  None could speak the mother tongue, but all were proud of their heritage.  We attended black tie affairs that were hosted by Philadelphia ’s finest.  They were all Irish, of course.  The wealthy Anglo-Americans would have nothing to do with this fine group of rich Irishmen.  

As the years passed, my hosts saw me less as a hero and more as a young pest.  It wasn’t helpful to my cause that the English authorities had been given my name by a traitor.  Labeling me an accomplished assassin, my picture soon adorned every government office in Dublin .  Given my notoriety, these rich American patrons finally reached a decision regarding my future.  As Joe’s young protégée, I would be given the best possible future.  Because I was still young, it was agreed that I was in need of protection from the world.  After all, I was a hero of the Irish war against the English.  To add to my stature and pity, the rest of my family had fallen in the great cause.  I was the last of a line of great Irish patriots.  As one of the last true Gaelic warriors, I would better serve the cause as something more than a mere mortal.  But having shed a great deal of blood, it was also agreed that I would be better off serving God in America rather than returning to Ireland .  It was settled.  I would become a priest.  The Clan was certain that this was my true calling.  There was something romantic about a warrior turned priest.  It appealed to their sense of who I was.  Consulting the Bishop, he agreed that my soul needed saving.  And so it was that at the age of twenty-one, I became a ward of the Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia .  

Entering the seminary, I spent the next several years preparing for the priesthood.  After completing my studies, I was ordained.  A newly minted Catholic priest, I was assigned to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to serve at the pleasure of Bishop Galvin.  He treated me as a son and I learned to love him as a father.  The Bishop was a wise and virtuous man of the Church.  He was respected by the Pontiff in Rome and revered by his American brothers in the faith.  

Those were happy times.  For the next seventeen years, I learned the ways of the Church.  Tutored by the Bishop on how alliances were made and lost, my studies and reading helped me to understand the world of Church politics.  I was encouraged by the Bishop to study ancient history and philosophy and we spoke often of the great poets and philosophers.  Tutoring me on the Church and its hierarchy, I became the Bishop’s favorite.  I traveled with him often and acted as his valet.  The Bishop had plans for my elevation.  Unfortunately, over the years, I became the target of those who were jealous of my position.  There were many who felt that they were better suited for my station in life. 

It was 1938, and Bishop Galvin was getting on in years.  He’d taken on a great deal of responsibility.  His daily calendar was full, his nights taken up with charity and community work.  The Bishop drove himself to the brink of a physical breakdown.  During the Christmas festivities, he had his first of many heart attacks.  He had been fortunate. His health had survived this first challenge.  By April of 1939, he was well enough to resume his duties.  In May, he suffered a second heart attack, and in July, a third.  By August, he was dead and so was my elevation to higher office.  By November of 1939, a new bishop was announced.  

Bishop Kelly made it clear that I would not be needed.  Protesting, I assured him of my worth.  The Bishop’s demeanor changed and his delivery took on a harsher tone.  Calling me impudent and presumptuous, it was then that Bishop Kelly informed me of his reason for my replacement.  He produced a letter from Ireland .  In it was a faded newspaper article.  The photo was of a younger me.  The article spoke of my IRA connections and my duties for the cause.  My killing of many English Black and Tans was again a problem in my life.  No matter, I still hated the English bastards with their black hats and tanned khaki jackets.  

Envious enemies with help from abroad had ensured my downfall.  The surfacing of newspaper clippings from my remote past could be no accident of fate.  It was instead a plot hatched by political foes.  Having waited until my protector was with the Lord, they’d seized the most opportune time to strike.  Their dagger had found its mark.  My career was assassinated and my dreams of the future were lost.  Bishop Kelly spoke to me of the need to protect Mother Church and the Pope.  He couldn’t allow this to become a scandal.  Therefore, it would be necessary to reassign me.  First, he cajoled and later, threatened.  There would be no further need for discussion.  By December, he had selected another as his assistant.  I was reassigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in East Los Angeles, California .  I promptly left for my new parish.  

To feed my flock, I learned their Spanish language.  As time passed, I spoke it as they do.  I was proud of my Spanish, speaking it without the Anglo-American accent so common to Americans. I had found my second home.  

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