In the little village of Clairburg life was peaceful, gentle and quiet. No one could remember just when the town was founded, but they all 243 citizen knew one another. This was the type of village where most young men followed the trade of their father, and most young women wanted nothing more than to mother a family of their own one day. It seemed in some way that everyone was related by the affection they showed to each other.
The Priest of the town church, Fr. Vasquez, was young, but had been warmly welcomed after the death of the elderly Fr. Gius who had recently been laid to rest. Fr. Vasquez had made quick work of working to get to know each family, and one in particular, his own third-cousin Rocco, who was the town blacksmith, whom he had not seen since the both were small boys.
The town enjoyed a rich culture full of tradition; celebrating feast days and enjoying many liturgical celebrations throughout the year. It seemed the entire village breathed in and out the life of the church; celebrating Saints and Holy Days.
One brisk Saturday morning, late in September, Rocco had awoken his adolescent boys early to begin work in the blacksmith’s shop. As the three walked together through the town square, they noticed a stranger dressed in a black robe-like garment that somewhat resembled what the priest wore, but was slightly different. They noticed him climb up atop the fountain in the middle of the square, and he began shouting loudly for all to come near him and hear his message from God.
This was something Rocco and his two sons had never witnessed before, and they weren’t quite sure how to respond. Rocco’s initial thought was the man was here to give a message from the distant state rulers, and possibly preferred this strange form of clothing.
The man continued to shout for the whole village to come out, and he requested husband to fetch their wife, and wife their children. Just when it seemed the whole village was gathered, Fr. Vasquez came out of the Church and stood on the steps across the square in answer to the stranger’s request for all villagers to come and gather.
As the crowd of villagers finally hushed, the man’s face became very serious and slowly a grimace formed on his face as he carefully scanned the crowd. The villagers waited in expectation for an utterance from the stranger. Just then, he moved quickly and locked his gaze on Fr. Vasquez across the square, lifted his hand and pointed his finger. His grimace now turned to a scowl as he shouted with spittle flying out of his mouth, “anti-christ!”. Before anyone could form their thoughts, he began shouting the same, repeatedly. How many times, no one could know for the shock they all felt.
Before anyone could think of anything, the man turned his gaze back to the crowd of shocked villagers and began to explain that he was a man sent by God to free them from the heavy hand of a corrupt church. He explained how a new revolution had been made; that Salvation was by Faith Alone, and that, if any of these villagers would ever again set about to obeying any commandments, they were an affront to God Almighty.
His words seemed distant to Rocco, as he now realized the charge this stranger levied his priest-cousin. He shook off the surge of his heart beat and the heat he felt around the top of his head, as now even in the briskness of the morning, large drops of sweat formed along his brow.
As the man continued to explain that by attempting to obey any of the commandments, these villagers made void the promises of God, Rocco thought of his young sons hearing this message. He quickly thought how he had taught his sons about sacrifice, the life of the martyrs and saints of old. He thought how often he had sat fireside and taught his boys that lip service was not enough, good intentions were not enough, that a man cannot be separated from his work. That a man is made manifest in the work of his hands. He thought now, that this stranger was not only undermining the teaching he had given his sons their whole life, but this stranger proposed a change in the very fabric of the life of the village.
Quickly Rocco now glanced at the other townsmen whom he had known his whole life, and he saw the same look of shock on their faces. Almost as one organism, the men of the village moved toward the stranger and pulled him down from the fountain. Fr. Vasquez then was suddenly amongst the men, now in a flash, laying himself over the stranger and screaming at the men to back away.
Rocco quickly back away, now shocked at his and the other men’s instinctive reaction to this stranger. Nothing like this had ever happened before.
The man quickly rose, brushed his black robe off, gave a quick frown to the priest, and began crying out, “This is the divine message from a divine messenger, in the line of the prophets of old, calling a people out of darkness into marvelous light. Men, listen to me, you are under bondage and slaves to obey God’s Commands and have……”. The stranger’s renewed speech was stopped short as he now lay slumped over the side of the fountain.
With their eyes fixed on the stranger, and the image burned on their minds, no one would ever be able to recollect just how that morning ended, why, or by whose hands. It now seemed that something would and must change in their world. And their suspicions were confirmed when more strangers came, and more, and then soldiers, and new rulers, new teachings.
No one could remember just when the young began questioning authority, no one could remember just when society unraveled. No one could remember just when children quit caring for parents, and mothers began aborting their babies. No one could remember exactly what marriage once meant.
Someone tried to find the village, but its houses and shops have long ago deteriorated and disappeared. The bells no longer ring, the fountain no longer flows, and the festivities have all ended. There are no more feast days, no more celebrations, and no more Holy days. There is no more town square, and no more blacksmith’s shop. There is no Rocco, and there are no sons.