I flew into Memphis yesterday, just to spend a bit of time checking out my old haunts, to see if Java Cabana was still there, to see if Midtown is still Memphis, to see if Shelby Farms had, in fact, been kept green, and to check to see if Memphis was still in the pathetic running to get a major league football team.
Well, in the first day back in my old home town, I’ve discovered that some things change, and some things stay the same, and when it comes to Memphis, Tennessee, the only some things that they allow are the some things that stay the same.
So it was that I picked up a copy of the Memphis newspaper and read the headline:
John Paul’s Spirit Will Fill Electors
It was a story on the election of the new Pope by the Cardinals gathered in the Vatican City, of course. The “Electors” would be the cardinals, and John Paul would be the old Pope. That much I got, but then there was another mystery: How the heck were they going to fill up the cardinals with the dead Pope’s spirit?
The first question I had in my mind was a matter of volume. Pope John Paul II’s spirit had, most recently, been confined to a single human body. I understand that there are lots and lots of cardinals coming to Rome to elect the new Pope. How could John Paul II’s spirit possibly fill them all up?
Well, when I need answers fast, I call one of two places. On evenings and weekends, I call Miss June’s Psychic Hotline. During normal business hours, however, I call my good friend Dr. Doug T. Guzman, who works as a vascular surgeon at Johns Hopkins University.
“It’s a simple matter of drainage,” Dr. Guzman explained to me. “The cardinals already have quite a bit of their own spirit swimming around in them, so when it comes to the dead Pope’s spirit, that mostly fills up the sinuses and upper nasal cavities.”
“So, when the cardinals are filled up with John Paul II’s spirit, they’ll feel stuffy?” I asked, unsure of myself.
“That’s exactly right. I typically prescribe a lot of benedryl during the elections of Popes.”
So, one mystery was solved. But, another remained: Exactly how do you fill up a cardinal with the spirit of a dead Pope?
For insight into this quandry, I spoke to Ms. Eliza Enue, a french pastry specialist who briefly worked at Brother Juniper’s, a diner near the University of Memphis. She got right down to the technical details of the procedure. “They use a funnel,” she said.
“The last thing you want is a lot of sticky Pope spirit in your hair when you’re meeting with a lot of other cardinals,” she explained to me. “So, when they obtain their station in the church, cardinals all have this little spigot installed in the backs of their heads for just this kind of occasion. That’s why they have big pointy hats – to cover up their spirit intake valves.”
Well, I’m going to be spending a few more days here in Memphis, but I’ve already learned a valuable lesson: Whenever the Catholic Church doesn’t make sense, just ask a chef or a medical doctor, and your doubts will be straightened out right away. That’s the value or moral unambiguity for you.