Category: biography

The Pope Goes Away

I woke up from a hard night’s work (security not the other thing) to hear my mom telling me the pope had resigned. I responded, “Don’t joke around with me.” However, learning it was true, my cantankerous bout of denial changed into thoughts summing up to something more like: “WHY, GOD, WHY!!” This was very bad news and I didn’t know which messenger to shoot.

no daddy

Allow me to explain why I had such intense feelings about this. For those of you who don’t know, I became Catholic 5 years ago, back in 2008. At this time Benedict XVI was the pope and in my rebelliousness, I deemed him as a person who must earn my respect. I immediately set out to know more about this man and procured some of his writings from the Newman Center Library. Still influenced by growing up Protestant, I held his writings to Scripture and what I understood as Christian orthodoxy. What I gathered from the pope was a central message of God’s love and our need to know Jesus Christ personally. I was yet getting to know Christ personally and during this journey, the pope’s writings were greatly helpful. They erased former preconceptions about Catholic belief, laid bear some of the difficult mysteries of Scripture and established a rational basis for faith. Even though hundreds of miles away, the pope became my teacher, my father in faith.

I remember a time, shortly after I expressed interest in Catholicism and enrolled in RCIA, when the pope visited the United States. He was in New York, I think. I hounded my Catholic friend (and RCIA sponsor) to watch some of his visit with me. Coming down into my dorm-room lounge, we turned on the big TV and tuned into the pope. There were crowds of people around him, showing a bit much enthusiasm in my opinion; however, I remember the peaceful look on his face. For all his powerful estate and glory, he seemed genuinely interested in those people, eager to give them God’s word. In his presence was the true presence of an apostle. I never had that. Pastors always had been big men, too big for their britches, who had to insert weight into their words because they were opinions. There was no real unity in the churches I attended in my youth and later during college. I had no way of knowing what any given pastor said was authoritative, solid or in line with the teachings of Christ. We had the Bible- but too many different ways to interpret it. Now, here before me was a brazen trail leading back to the apostles, told of in the very Scriptures and with a guarantee from Christ himself. I already knew and studied the Biblical basis of the papacy. Now I understood it.

Fast-forward about two years. As a new Catholic, I zealously defended the papacy and the pope’s ministry from many objectors, some of whom were not so gentle. While visiting a friend’s Baptist Church, I was basically screamed at and called a child of the anti-Christ for objecting to their charges against the pope. Here was a man who wasn’t evil so much for anything he did but  because he was simply the pope. The Baptists didn’t care that John Paul II or Benedict were good guys who preached an unwavering Gospel. They didn’t care that the popes brought hundreds-if not thousands to believe in Christ as the Savior of mankind. All they cared about was that they held a position as “The Vicar of Christ”. Of course, they didn’t believe Christ had any vicars. No one could speak for Him or clarify what He taught us. Only confusion under the guise of “Biblical-believing Christianity” was acceptable.

Benedict XVI was a bastion of intellect, kindness and Christian truth for me. It was he who taught me to have hope in suffering, to find friendship in Christ, to love sinners, non-Christians and those who hated us. For a man so frequently called “homophobic”, he taught me to love gays. For a person dubbed “misogynist”, he taught me the true worth of a woman. For someone called “demonic” and “anti-Christ” he taught me to love Christ more deeply.

Back to 2008: During RCIA, I had acquired a certain nickname amongst my fellow Catholics: Latin Girl. This was because of the Latin Masses I attended (which drew me to Catholicism), the fact I prayed in Latin and because I went crazy-happy every time I heard a Latin hymn. Little did I know that Benedict XVI was to become a champion for the Latin Mass. He allowed for wider celebration of the Extraordinary Form and even promoted it as an equally-valid form of liturgy to be esteemed. Perhaps, the good pope saw how much of our priceless culture and heritage was being lost in the average parish. He understood Vatican II in its original terms; that the Latin language is to be preserved in the Roman Rite- not done away with and shoved in a corner never to see the light of day. Let me clarify that I have nothing against vernacular in the Mass or against the Ordinary Form, I just want to acknowledge that many people haven’t properly heeded Vatican II or the pope as to how Mass should be done.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. In short, this Pope Benedict XVI was a man after God’s heart and a man after my heart. I didn’t respect him or love him at first. He had to earn my admiration- and earn it he did. I feel as if I’d lost a friend or my dear, old granddaddy. He was, for the most part, blameless yet others sought blame in him. He devoted himself to faith, the Scripture and the liturgy yet many took offense at him. He was misunderstood, introverted and coldly rational yet scorned for not being another John Paul II (another pope, by the way, I really love). Everything he did was wrong. Do it or don’t, he was damned. Everything he said was twisted and everything he lived for was mocked and ignored by the world. In the manner of our Lord Christ, he was a sign of contradiction. I pray that he, in the manner of Lord Christ, will lead a life of faith, eventually die in faith and by his faith, be reborn into life eternal.

  • The Scriptures say we become new in Christ but does this mean we no longer need to lean on others for strength?I think we need to continually ask Jesus for strength. We will not figure it all out in a day. true strength is in falling down and getting back up again, which we can only do through his grace.

    Even after 5 years of being a practicing Christian, I still struggle. I get doubts, I even ask “does God love me” Yes I know God loves me but being human we struggle with temptations and emotions. Its a journey, a hard, tough journey and thankfully we don’t have to do it alone.  …And when I sin badly and fall down, I know I can go to Jesus for forgiveness. I know a pastor is always there to hear me out and give advice. He does not leave us orphans. What we need to do is find those avenues of grace and seek them out

These characters are more obscure in the series however they are no less interesting!!



Lord Lamberto D’Costanza II

                                                           (Royal pain-in-the-you-know-what)

The firstborn son of Lamberto D’Costanza I, Duke of Tuscany. His birthdate is remarkably close to his father’s on Feb, 23rd, 1798. Lamberto II was adored and spoiled from his youth. Though the Duke of Tuscany and his wife, Catherina, are fairly devout Catholics, Lamberto disdains religiosity and pious discipline. He instead seeks happiness, excitement and pleasure at every turn.

When Lamberto II was merely 15, he landed in trouble with the parish priest and preacher of the royal household when he began secretly courting a young woman.  This sort of thing was frowned upon as it created high risk for “loss of virtue”.  Ironically, little time passed before Lamberto II actually misplaced his virtue.

Irately, his father tried to reign in Lamberto II and sent him to a monastery school. It didn’t avail. Out of rebellion, Lamberto II escaped the monastery confines and shortly found himself at a rich party in Lucca. Eventually, the weary duke tired of disciplining his son. He bestowed upon Lamberto II a large amount of wealth and told him to live his own life elsewhere.

One year later, Lamberto II experienced a brief moment of repentance, returned home and courted a virtuous woman. When the royal priest noticed Lamberto’s wavering faithfulness, he attempted reproach only to be thrown in prison! Upon this, the cardinal of Lucca petitioned for his release. Instead of obeying, Lamberto sent the cardinal a letter in which he insinuated: “His Eminence is but dim-witted with nothing else better to do.” He was promptly excommunicated.



Cardinal Montilo

(Pretty and power-hungry)

Antonio Montilo, born in 1774, was a child of privilege. Though religious, his parents ingrained an elevated self-worth in him. When Antonio was 17, he went into a church to escape hot, summer sun and experienced what he deemed “the presence of God.”

Antonio’s father organized his entrance into Italy’s greatest seminary, the Pontifical Canonry of Rome. Antonio at first paid diligent attention to studying Scripture and faith but in the end, his enthusiasm waned. He went home, petitioning his father to pull more strings and have him quickly ordained.

After two years of half-hearted devotion, Antonio was ordained by a bishop who had been friends with his father. Though he made sweeping reforms of liturgy and practice in his parish church, Antonio harbored selfishness. He then sought the lofty office of bishop, doing whatever necessary to gain recognition and skill. After becoming a bishop at age 40, he actually put effort into disciplining the lax clergy beneath him. Continued focus on this ministry earned him the honor of being made a cardinal.

Antonio of course, took this graciously. He spends much time organizing and admonishing those around him for things ranging from falling asleep during Mass to disorderly appearance. Antonio himself maintains splendid decorum and a constant, condescending demeanor.  His greatest aspiration is to one day, attain the highest rank possible in Christendom: the papacy.



Philomena Angela Fratelli

(Fallen-away dream-girl)

Youngest daughter of Francine Fratelli and Rudolfo Ariani. Philomena was born in April, 1799. Young and fragile-natured, she became the treasure of the Fratelli family. Philomena’s mother lavished attention on her, gave her many nice things and promised that a wonderful man would marry her.

When Philomena turned 20, she stopped attending church and Mass, feeling very restricted by Catholic dogma’s and disciplines. She especially felt that the church restricted women. After a year, she revealed these feelings to her mother. Shocked, Francine immediately “banished” Philomena to caring for Burt, her elderly, blind grandfather. At Burt’s residence, she actually spent her days in pleasantness, socializing with other wealthy ladies and keeping look out for eligible men.

Philomena’s overwhelming beauty and her way of manipulating people, for reasons both kind and selfish, have become a fascination amongst the men of Lucca.



Pope Gregory XVI

(His Holy Catholic-ness)

Pope during Feb, 2nd, 1831-  June 1846, born Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari, his parents were from a small village named Pesariis. Not much is detailed about his life in “The Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli”.  All we know is that this man was sick of people imposing modernistic ideals on the Church, he hates unhindered democracy and railroads… and that he deemed Father Fratelli’s preaching skill as sufficient reason to make him a cardinal.

His Holiness, Gregory XVI is a simple, pious man who’s sense of humor only becomes surpassed by his apostolic authority.

Ernesto Di’Cosi

    (Mysterious constable, good-guy)

Born to Maria and Francesco Fratelli on Jan, 16th, 1797, Ernesto had been given up for adoption to avoid the shame of his unmarried parents. Though deeply loving their son, his parents belonged to wealthy, traditional, Italian society and felt this action was best. Ernesto got adopted by well-off farmers Cecile and Anna Di’Cosi. He spent childhood doing household chores, fishing and walking amongst nature. At age 9 he first rode a horse and when 12, his father taught him to shoot a rifle.

Ernesto’s parents were religious. In addition to attending Mass every Sunday, they taught him about godly living and emphasized a strong sense of honesty and justice.

Ernesto decided not to court or marry but instead trained to join Lucca’s law-enforcement. He excelled in training, proving skill with both weapons and reading people. Fellow-officers and even his overseer mocked Ernesto, calling him a “bastard nobody” yet became deeply impressed when he alone chased down and caught a stage-coach robber on horseback. By unanimous election, Ernesto soon was chosen as Lucca’s constable.

Ernesto knows all of the city’s residents; including Carlo, the shy vintner, and the outgoing, prized-butcher, Luigi. He scouts the streets and roadways at night, when crime is most-rampant.

His relationship with new-found brother, Cardinal Fratelli is awkward and uneasy. Fratelli is wealthy, naïve and delicate while he is a commoner, wizened and strong.



Monsignor Barolo

(That rollicking, worldly priest everyone knows)

Lino Vincent Barolo II was born in 1765, on a stormy June night. His parents weren’t originally wealthy but worked up to high status by their sheer business sense. His father, Lino Vincent Barolo I, was a shop-keep who invented new types of luggage which made travel easy and light-weight. After several affluent coach companies endorsed him generously, Lino’s father entered well-to-do society and married Vanessa Nona, a noblewoman.

From a young age, Lino was encouraged to enter the clergy by his father. He received top-notch schooling and classes in Church history and Latin. One fateful day, Lino’s father gave away his entire estate to the bishop of Lucca so that his son would be instructed then ordained into priesthood. As an adult, Lino would always view this act with mixed admiration and bitterness.

Thus, he put forth his entire effort into ministry, working long periods and tiring himself with the affairs of parishioners. Upon his 40th birthday, Lino Barolo was granted the honorary position of Monsignor. This sudden, high rank changed him and he soon began using it to accumulate wealth and experience worldly pleasure. Though Barolo remains true to his clerical vows, he does what is least required while seeking the most reward.





The eldest of four sisters and three brothers, Dina La’Grange was born on Sept, 10th, 1792. Her middle-class family saw many struggles and from an early age, Dina learned to care for her younger siblings and cook meals while their parents were away at work.

Having little time to attend Mass, netherless regular school, Dina learned from second-hand books and read the tattered family Bible. Finally when she was 21, her older brother, Leonardo, found very gainful employment as a butler for some noble family. He sent earnings back to Dina until she saved enough to move and work alongside him as a private cook. During her stay there, she acquired tremendous skills in etiquette, politics and culinary arts.

Brashly, the mistress of the house offered her good money to devise a special pastry dessert which would never be made for any other person. When the newly-appointed cardinal of Lucca was invited to dine at their house, she accidently prepared the dish. Dina’s unfortunate, angry dismissal followed. However, the rather satisfied bishop offered her employment.

She moved from one nice home to another but soon grew endeared to the cardinal, seeing him like a younger brother. She isn’t bothered by his demanding neediness but finds it rather amusing.



Father Rodrigo

(Your stereotypical parish priest)

The youngest of three sons, Rodrigo Santini, was born in 1788. His deeply devout parents encouraged Rodrigo and his brothers to seek God continuously. As a consequence, Rodrigo’s older brother Franco entered the priesthood first and urged him to follow. Readily, he accepted holy orders then was sent to a rough hamlet outside of Lucca where crime and poverty prevailed. Working against these problems, he soon became so overwhelmed that he considered leaving unannounced.

While praying at night in a chapel, Rodrigo thought he heard God’s voice telling him to stay. Thus, he obeyed. Afterwards, the townspeople surprisingly began to turn around, attend Mass and frequent confession.

Rodrigo always desired a quiet, holy life. Understandably, he found the new bishop of Lucca’s request for his service as secretary unnerving. At first, Rodrigo behaved resentfully hoping the bishop would send him back however, he realized how greatly he was needed there.

Francine Leona Fratelli

(Aunt, bossy Italian matriarch)

Born in 1779 on Oct, 22nd. Native sister to Francesco Fratelli and sister-in-law to Maria Lucia. Early on, she bonded closely with the Lucia family even though they were slightly less wealthy than the Fratellis. It is very likely that Francine set up her brother with young, comely Maria, suggesting their courtship and subtly acquainting them to each other over a period of 7 years.

Controlling and assertive in temperament, she purchased a house for the newlyweds and named their first child, Angelo. Unbeknownst to her, Francesco and Maria had already produced another son before their marriage but it didn’t matter for she took utmost pride in naming this “first son”.

Francine married Rudolfo Ariani one year after her own sister’s wedding but kept the Fratelli name. She bore three daughters: Iona, Francesca and Philomena. Her husband, already quite aged, died 5 years after Philomena’s birth. Often, she spent long afternoons watching Angelo in addition to her own children. Though harsh and domineering, Francine worked well with children, teaching things ranging from local geography to the proper manner of addressing nobility.

She continually made decisions for the Fratelli family, managing their wealth, hiring those who worked for them and providing burial for their parents. When Maria fell ill, she brought upon herself the task of taking Angelo to daily Mass and instructing him in etiquette. During these instructions she was utmost strict. After Francesco died in 1817, Francine prepared to take their son in when he entered seminary instead of moving with her. Since, she has felt slighted by this deliberate act of independence and renunciation of marriage.

Inheriting much wealth from the Fratelli family, Francine funded Angelo’s priestly education, though still opposed to it, and bought a fine villa for herself in the city of Lucca.

Her behavior towards Angelo, as a grown man and priest, hasn’t changed much from how she treated him as a child. He is always a little boy in her eyes. After her three daughters were wed to respectable men, she tried convincing Angelo to forsake holy orders and embrace family life. Needless to say, this failed.


Michele Dominici

(Proverbial maiden-fair)

Born on a fair, May morning in 1803, Michele Dominici was the daughter of a lawyer and seamstress. Her father, Damiano Dominici put her though the highest-ranking schools. A majority of her fine dresses were made by her own mother Anabella Quentino. During her childhood years, Michele lived nest to the bustling Fratelli house. She played with Angelo every afternoon following school and sometimes joined Francine’s daughters in their games. The girls playacted fairy-tales and fantasies, which always revolved around meeting a handsome prince.

Michele’s family wasn’t incredibly religious. Although faithful Catholics who attended Sunday Mass, her parents taught that a good heart was more important than good religion. They also encouraged her to read books and see numerous plays. Soon, she favored these more than school. As a consequence of her idyllic childhood, Michele spent most days yearning after fantasies and basking in earthly beauty.

At age 18, she left the boardinghouse for girls where she’d been voluntarily placed and lived with a young artist in Lucca. Their relationship was chaste and friendly. At 21, Michele traveled to Florence and spent all her money on visiting museums, purchasing art and dining. Then she lived with her parents.

Well into adulthood, Michele still believes herself somewhat to be a child or fragile damsel waiting upon rescue and adoration. She remains unmarried because, in her view, no man has proved himself worthy of her affections.

Angelo Fratelli

(Awkward Prince of the Church, blushing virgin, unseemly hero)

The son of Maria and Francesco Fratelli, Angelo was born on April, 6, 1801. He knew nothing of his older brother, preceding him by 4 years nor did his parents ever disclose this. Named “Angelo”, after the angel who appeared in Luke’s Gospel by his aunt Francine, he grew up in a nearly perfect home. He had many childhood friends. Dearest to him were: Francesca, his own cousin, Gino, a boy who eventually joined the military, and of course, Michele, the girl next door.

Angelo’s parents attended Mass daily at Lucca’s local church and instilled within him deep piety. He tried joining the boys’ choir at age 10 but lacked a skilled voice and so became an altar server. A wealthy child who indulged in fine sweets, Angelo was overweight thus subjected to torment by other boys. Strong support from family and the parish priest, Father Antonio, helped him cope. When 13, Angelo expressed desire to be a priest, causing his parents joy- and his aunt chagrin. He studied Scripture during free time after school.

Despite the vigorous discipline of seminary and buffeting from his aunt Francine, Angelo developed high self-esteem, thinned down and blossomed into a man. Angelo’s talent for oratory and preaching yielded a mixed blessing as he attracted Lucca’s townspeople, who came great distances to hear him speak, generated attention from higher clergy and even gained the notice of the pope!

Ultimately, due to this great gift, Angelo was summoned to Rome and appointed the cardinal bishop of Lucca. He has found this position of great authority and honor also to be a rather mixed blessing.




(Endearing ragamuffin)

Gianni’s true birthdate is unknown- as are the identities of his parents. From a very young age, he found himself homeless, hungry and having to survive the streets of Lucca. Needless to say, Gianni acquired a penchant for slyness, thievery and judging people’s motives. When he was 10, a very old woman took him in only to die a year later. Making off with some of her jewelry and coins, Gianni sold these and bought a small apartment. When the money was gone, he resumed life on the streets. He seldom attended church, only doing so to snatch offerings or candlesticks, but wandered into Lucca’s cathedral one, cold night and met an unsuspecting clergyman who changed his life.

It’s not from resent that Gianni mocks and annoys Cardinal Fratelli but rather to display misplaced admiration. Being without a father for so long, he scarcely knows how to react to Fratelli’s masculine authority. Gianni tests the cardinal, seeing if he’ll abandon him like the rest.

To be continued…


About Cardinal Fratelli

Angelo Fratelli is a fictional cardinal drawn from the imagination of Catholic author, Rachel M. Gohlman (Rae Marie). Largely inspired by the whimsical paintings of Jehan Georges Vibert, which were intended to be anti-clerical but are in her view, quaint and hilarious.

One of Vibert’s funny cardinals








Cardinal Fratelli appears in three, comedy novellas: “The Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli”, “Cardinal Fratelli’s Christmas” and “The Cardinal and Constable”. The character’s guileless humanity is emphasized in each. Other key characteristics of Fratelli are his young age (for a cardinal that is), his excitability and stylized speech– also his lovable vanity. His qualities have been extended into “Tea with Cardinal Fratelli”, a humorous, rollicking and witty mock advice-column.

Cardinal Fratelli  is 34 years old. He lives in Lucca, Tuscany, in Italy. He has one brother, Ernesto, one aunt, Francine and three cousins, Iona, Francesca and Philomena.


Cardinal Fratelli also has a facebook page here:


To review and purchase “The Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli:


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Why Catholic with a Vengeance?

         What is this blog about?

          I have been a Roman Catholic for about two and a half years and I’m damn proud of it!

Not that I did anything great… my Lord has given me the grace to think, to write and to explain myself.

You see, we crazy Catholics must explain ourselves over and over again; “Why do you have a pope?” “Why attend a church that doesn’t allow female pastors?” “Why do you worship a pice of bread?” What’s with Mary?”

         In this blog, I attenpt to answer such questions and more…and I will fight tooth and nail for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith of God.

                         Who am I?            

                          My name is Rachel. I am 26, an unemployed artist and graduate from Bradley University in Peoria.

I speak exceptional English, know some Latin and a smattering of Spanish.  I have no recommendations, resume nor references.

My areas of prior study include chemistry, alchemy, natural sciences, some pharmacology, creative writing, studio arts, Catholic doctrine and Scripture. I’m not telling you how long I studied each of them or why, we don’t need to be here forever.

Many consider me a good drawer and a good reader; a skeptic, a Renaissance woman, and a very, very stubborn Catholic!

                            Ad maiorem gloriam Dei, pax vobiscum,

                                           (To the greater glory of God, peace be with you):

                            Rachel Marie.