After her encounter with the Bishop, Cathie Jo found she was as surprised as he was. She was talking in a way unlike herself. She was only eleven, but she had expressed her thoughts more like the saints Catherine of Siena and Joan of Arc might have expressed them. This worried her, so she went to see Father Hugh.
Father Hugh also was surprised by how quickly things had escalated. He had supported Cathie Jo trusting the voices she heard and her spiritual intuition, and he didn’t think that she would be engaging the Bishop on theological matters on the steps of the Cathedral, at least not so soon. He was concerned that he had let her go down a road that might prove wayward. He told Cathie as much. She admitted that he wasn’t the only one.
Cathie Jo explained: “The last time St. Joan spoke, she said she was concerned about me. She knows what it’s like for a young girl to try to shake some sense into old men who don’t like what you have to say. St. Catherine was pretty upset by all this. I heard her ask Joan how she could question the will of God to become a messenger of the Lord just like they had been. St. Joan just sighed and told Catherine that, of course, all of us couldn’t be as brave and faithful as Catherine was.”
Father Hugh was very intrigued by this conversation and he wanted to hear more. He looked at the sweet, but tenacious, young girl standing in front of him and once again found himself trusting her and her stories. It didn’t make common sense, but he believed her nonetheless.
Cathie Jo continued, “Joan said that I should know that my task won’t be easy. She said people don’t like to hear the truth. And sometimes when a person hears a truth they don’t approve of, they could do anything… Of course, I already knew that. It’s not like I’m seven or something. I’m a little afraid, but I still want to go along, you know, with the will of God. That’s the best thing, right?”
Fr. Hugh found it easier to believe in her than to encourage her. He told her that she had to be careful that she wasn’t making any of this up and that she really did have a clear sense of the will of God.
Cathie Jo laughed, “Joan said that you’d say that. She and Catherine sort of argued for a minute about stuff like being trustworthy and being careful and what happens when you’re misunderstood. Then St. Joan told Catherine she was right and they told me to tell you not to worry. She said that the next time you were praying that you should go on record like they had, and get behind me one hundred percent. I think she meant that you should basically tell the Trinity to take good care of me.”
Father Hugh chuckled his reply, then asked, “Anything else?”
“Joan said I should get more sleep and Catherine said I should eat a well-balanced nutritious diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. She said if she had eaten better she might have lived longer and accomplished a lot more, although I think she was probably more energetic than people could take, as it turned out.” With this she looked at her watch and told the priest she had to go, so she wouldn’t be late for soccer practice. In a flash, she was out the door and gone before he could say anything. From his window, he watched her run down the hill behind the Catholic college heading to the YMCA fields at Centennial Park.
Meanwhile, across town the Bishop was consulting with an advisor about what to do. He still couldn’t believe he had lost his composure with that little girl. His advisor was a young priest who had recently returned from a teaching assignment in Rome. The Bishop often called him because the young priest was keen on political controversies in the Vatican and over the years had given the Bishop some very precise and accurate advice. When the Bishop told him about his encounter with the girl, the priest scoffed, saying that she should be easy to take care of, especially in Montana. In Italy or in Central and South America, a young girl who conversed with saints could get people riled up, but in America no one would pay any attention. Anyway, all the Bishop had to do was call her school and talk to a counselor. Once school officials heard the story, they would put her in treatment, and prescribe her something to settle her nerves and straighten her out. That would calm her down and she wouldn’t bother him again.
The Bishop thanked his friend for the advice and, being as impetuous as he was, he immediately called Cathie Jo’s school and asked to speak to a counselor. The counselor sounded somewhat nervous when the Bishop expressed his concerns about the little girl’s state of mind. The counselor asked if he had spoken to the girl’s parents. The Bishop said he wanted to avoid that and thought it was better to just pass on a quiet word to the counselor.
It turned out not to be as quiet as he hoped. The counselor immediately called Cathie Jo’s father who, upon hearing the Bishop’s concerns, arrived at the Chancery within two hours of the Bishop’s call. When his secretary told him that Mr. Harrington was in the waiting room and wanted to talk to the Bishop about his daughter, the Bishop began to panic. He told his secretary he had an important appointment at home and could see no one. He slipped out the back door of his office at the Chancery and went to his car.
The Bishop found Mr. Harrington standing by his car. With his arms folded and his hat down on his forehead, Cathie Jo’s father didn’t look very happy. The Bishop tried to make the best of the chance meeting mumbling something about priorities and something else about making an appointment to talk about concerns. Mr. Harrington addressed the Bishop in a direct and firm manner, saying, “Excuse me, Bishop, but if you have something to say about my daughter, I’d appreciate you calling me or my wife about it.” Mr. Harrington told the Bishop he better be careful about making unfounded accusations about his daughter to school professionals or to anyone else, for that matter.
The Bishop quickly thanked him for that advice and got into his car and drove away. On the fast trip to his home on the far West Side, the Bishop was embarrassed and angry. After all, he was a bishop, he told himself, and no Catholic family should be challenging him in this manner. It only proved what he already believed. There was no current respect for church authority. Once again he vowed to make sure that things would change.