A Secret Ritual? In A Catholic Church? Bring On The Rites, I Say!

A secret ritual? In a Catholic church? On an ordinary Wednesday night in the suburbs? Well, this is an 80s Gothic novel written by a practicing papist. Bring on the rites, I say!

The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull happens to be one Mystery in which a magical/religious rite will work both for the characters and for the story. For Father Higgins and altar boy Johnny are right to suspect that their friend Professor Childermass was snatched away by supernatural forces--and that their response must be in kind.


I find it amusing that John Bellairs makes Father Higgins play down this traditional devotion so emphatically. He makes sure that his trusting altar boy knows it is "superstitious," "hocus-pocus," "totally unreliable," "an idiotic notion," "razzmatazz," and "mummery and flummery" - and that he himself has never heard of a case in which it actually worked. The priest clearly believes it could work . . . but also understands that in this case it might not. And I totally get that. Heck, I leave notes under the statue of St. Joseph in my parish church all the time, but I've never recommended it to anyone bent on concrete, immediate results. (Besides, can't you just imagine an earnest reader of this novel - someone with a missing parent or sibling - attempting the same and being completely crushed when it fails???)

But for these two devotees, the little tradition pays off - and with maximum theatrics! Just moments after they complete the ritual, they hear a sound "like a pistol shot" as the back door of the church flies open, letting in a cold draft that puts all the candles out. And three days later, when they go back to check the statue again . . . they find something very close to a miracle! Ah, if only all my prayers were answered that way...
Enbrethilie / Shredded Cheddar

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