I’ve been writing more lately, even if most of that writing hasn’t shown up here. A couple of months ago I started using a website called 750words.com. It encourages you to write every day, under the theory that if you write a certain amount every day, particularly first thing in the morning, just letting everything out on the page in an uncensored, free-writing fashion, it sortof helps keep your creative pipes clear and flowing properly. Plus, if you write a certain amount, or keep up writing so many days in a row, you get positive reinforcement. So far I’ve liked it. Some days the words come easily, and I write two or three times my quota with no problem, and some days it’s a grind trying to get them out. But either way, it always feels good when I’m done.
Lately what I’ve been writing the most has been a story about a devout Catholic vampire hunter. You see, I quite like novels featuring vampires and other creatures, but there’s always these characters that drive me nuts. The author tells you that the character is a really devout Catholic, but then the sum total of his Catholic-ness is that he wears a really big gold cross around his neck, and he attended his nephew’s Baptism. No mention of him taking advantage of any other Sacraments, no impact on the way he lives his life in any way, nothing. And then there’s another character who seriously thinks that God gave her leukemia because she accidentally broke her mother’s statue of the Virgin Mary. Her character arc consists of her choosing freedom and joy by completely rejecting her mother’s superstitious, shaming Catholic faith. Other writers might not be quite so bad (it sounds like they might have actually read the Wikipedia entry on Catholicism), but you can tell that almost everything they know about being Catholic they learned from the mainstream media (all of our priests are child molesters and also mean, plus we pray a lot of superstitious, memorized prayers).
So I started thinking of what it would be like if you had an actual devout Catholic vampire hunter. One who actually lived his or her Catholic faith. It’s not such a far-fetched idea. I mean, the very first vampire hunter, Abraham van Helsing, was a devout Catholic. In Dracula, he states that he refuses to divorce his insane wife because it would go against the Church’s teaching (though it would have been more impressive if he had said he wouldn’t divorce her because when he said in sickness and in health, he really meant it). He also lays a consecrated Host on the dirt in the vampire’s coffins, thereby turning the dirt into consecrated ground, and preventing the vampires from returning to their resting place. Though even there you can tell that Van Helsing is a Protestant’s idea of what a Catholic must be like. For instance, he also uses ground up consecrated Hosts in the mortar that he uses to seal the vampire graves, something no good Catholic would ever, ever do. You don’t use the Body and Blood of Christ as building material. Seriously.
Anyway, the more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it, and before I knew it, I was writing stuff about a certain Mary Margaret (Maggie) Berend, vampire hunter, who is putting her way through theology school by cooking for a group of Brothers (religious, not blood) from the Order that owns the college she’s attending. They also happen to be vampire hunters. (I mean, why not? Wouldn’t vampire hunting just be a rather physical variation on exorcism?) Anyway, one of the first scenes I wrote was this one, in which Maggie goes to Confession. I thought I’d share it with you.
Maggie: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been five days since my last Confession. In that time, I read three books that had immoral content, watched an episode of Game of Thrones, told Bro. Brian that he was an ignorant poop head, called Bro. Matthew bad words in my head when he didn’t wash his breakfast dishes again, and also, um, I killed a vampire.”
Fr. Edwards sighs heavily. “Maggie, we talked about this. You only get absolution if you’re really sorry for your sins, and resolve not to do them again. You know you’re going to watch Game of Thrones again next Sunday.”
“Well, yeah, but I’ll think about not watching it? And you watch it too.”
“This is your Confession, not mine.”
“Well, ok. I’ll really try not to watch it. Really.”
“Why did you call Bro. Brian an ignorant poop head?”
“Because he was being one. Also because he used up all the hot water yesterday morning, and then had the nerve to misquote Aquinas as his excuse. Idiot.”
“Watch it, Mary Margaret, or you’ll have to go to Confession for your Confession. And you really need to throw out those romance novels.”
“I know. I just get bored.”
“They’re not good for you. You should be out having your own romances instead of reading about them.
“Says the guy who hasn’t been single since he got ordained in 1962. When he was 23.”
“You may have a point. However, I have to point out that killing vampires is not a sin.”
“But… it felt like one.”
“I know, honey, but you weren’t killing a living being. It’s more of a sin to step on a cockroach.”
“Yeah, but cockroaches don’t try to talk me out of it. And, his face when I staked him… I keep thinking about it.”
“I’m sorry, sweetie. But you did what you had to do. He was trying to kill you, wasn’t he?”
I shuddered. “Yes.”
“Well there you go. It’s ok to defend yourself. And he was actually dead already. You just helped him stay that way. What you did may have been traumatic, but you didn’t sin.”
“Darn your tricksy use of logic.”
“Yeah, well, I’m Catholic, I’m allowed to use both faith and reason.”
“No, I think that’s it.”
“As your penance, I want you to pray one rosary for the repose of the soul of the person that vampire had been, and say something nice to Bro. Brian. Also, look up “self-defense” in the Catechism. If you want extra credit, you can politely remind Bro. Matthew in a loving and non-passive-aggressive manner that he needs to wash his own breakfast dishes, instead of just calling him bad names in your head. Are you sorry for your sins?”
“Tell God so.”
“Oh my God, I am sorry for offending You, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend you, My God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.”
Fr. Edward cleared his throat. “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. You may go in peace.”
“Thanks be to God.”
“So I take it there will be garlic bread for dinner tonight?”
“Oh, yeah. Garlic in everything except dessert.”
“It’s a good thing we all like garlic.”
“Yeah, yeah… See you at dinner.”