John Paul Fitzgerald in Class at Saint Bartholomew's Primary School.John Paul Fitzgerald took first prize in the annual fundraiser for St. Bartholomew's School (St. Barfs as many of the older students call it). John Paul is a student in Sister Elizabeth Mary Schowl’s Third Class. His favorite subject is Latin. His favorite book is The Path of the Pilgrim by Saint Augustine. His favorite movie is Joan of Arc. He is a favorite son of the school and teacher’s pet in every class since he started at St. Bartholomews at age three. He was admitted early because of his keen intellect and the Bishop’s urging. It appears John Paul was more than his mother’s sanity could endure. “Its like living with the Pope underfoot,” she cried to the Bishop. John Paul was very critical of his mother's religious shortcomings.
Your sins Can Be Forgiven. For a price.
Your sins Can Be Forgiven. For a price.
Unfortunately the other students in John Paul’s class aren’t so fond of him. He comes across as an overly pious chap. Once, when the fire alarm was set off by a student in the upper school trying to get out of a Latin exam, John Paul remained in the school long after everyone else was outside. He stayed at his post with fire extinguisher at the ready. If needed he was willing to die a martyr just like the saints of old to save Old Saint Barfs.
John Paul Fitzgerald was excited on the first day of the fund raiser. He was finally old enough to participate. He knew the first place prize had to be his. He saw it every day in the school’s lobby - a beautiful white three speed bike emblazoned with the School's Crest on the neck of the handle bars.
Girls Scouts sell cookies. The State schools sell wrapping paper, cookie dough, and worthless trinkets. And lets not forget to add multiple bake sales. If the wind changed direction you could bet the state schools were having bake sales. Saint Bartholomew's fund raiser was more 'Catholic'. The students sold simulated Papal Indulgences. Yes, that’s right - Simulated Papal Indulgences. Replicas of the real ones the church sold during the Middle Ages to raise money to build St. Peter’s in Rome. The heading at the top of each St. Bartholomew Indulgence read: "This is a replica of the Indulgences sold during the Middle Ages. These indulgences are for fund raising only and carry no religious authority to absolve you from your sins. That is the purpose of confession." In the Middle Ages an indulgence was a document stating that for donating a certain amount of money certain types of sins would be forgiven thus saving you precious eternal time in purgatory.
The selling of Indulgences was one of the 95 items that drove Martin Luther into a serious dispute with the old Catholic Church. He wrote his grievances on a paper and nailed it to his local Cathedral's doors. Later he broke from the Catholic church to start the Reformation. Every year many of the older students love giving the Lutherans a taste of their own medicine and chip in to purchase one Indulgence. They nail it to the door of the local Lutheran Church. Every year the Lutheran Pastor turns right around and mails the same Indulgence right back to the school with a rather colorful rejection letter containing language one would find shocking from someone in his profession.
The students took the fake Indulgences home and sold them to their friends, family and neighbors. Each indulgence had a place for the buyers name, the amount donated and the category of sin waived for such a donation. Doorstep confessions were not encouraged. Instead, the student checked the general category of sin listed at the bottom of the Indulgence. Of course each category had a suggested donation written beside it. That gave the student a chance to ‘up sell’ the indulgence. For instance, if you paid 5 Dunces to purchase an Indulgence for swearing the student would say, “Sir, for an additional 5 Dunces you could have one sin of theft removed from your record and that alone would save you ten additional years in Purgatory.” John Paul was an excellent salesman and knew how to up sale thus guaranteeing his place as top seller this year.
John Paul had a special way to convince his neighbors to purchase an Indulgence. He knelt down on their door step, rang the bell and started praying. When they came to the door he broke into his pitch.
“Sir or Ma’am, there is sin in this home. Sins that could damn your souls to that dark place. I’m here to save you. I’m selling fake Indulgences as a fund raiser for St. Bartholomew's School. They are exact replicas of the ones the Church used to sell in the Middle Ages. Buy one and I leave knowing you’re saved from hell. Don’t buy one and I stay here praying for you right here on your door step and my prayers will get much louder because in additional to praying for the sins you’ve already committed I’ll be forced to pray for the sin of greed you committed by not purchasing one.”
The pitch worked every time, even with his next door neighbor Joseph Greltch, Cloverdale's Mormon Branch President. "I had to buy one to cover my sin of sincerely disliking this boy," President Greltch said. It seems John Paul doesn't think Mormons are Christians. He keeps leaving Christian tracts in the Greltch door and preaches Christianity across the backyard fence to little 4 year old Maeybe Greltch.
John Paul sold more than any other student in the school and won the bike. He rides it to school every day and, for 25 cents, will let you touch it as a special blessing.
The other boys in his class are not happy and have decided on another honor for John Paul. They’ve secretly chosen him to be their classes contribution to the school’s annual “Tossing of the Corpses” coming up in two weeks. Won’t John Paul get a surprise when the death cart stops in front of their classroom and his name is called out. At least they know the pleasure they’ll receive seeing John Paul's face when he discovers he is the one that gets to simulate death by Bubonic Plague and is tossed out the school's front doors and onto a pile of other boys to be 'buried' outside the city's walls.