“Blessed Michael, archangel, defend us in the hour of conflict."
Adán St. Cyprien
With Pierre–or God, depending on one’s view–paying for Adán’s college tuition, books, room, and board, the lector enrolled in the Jesuits’ Religious Studies program at Loyola University of New Orleans. Much like his beginning at Our Lady of Lourdes, Adán struggled to fit in with his new environs and peers. The sheer scale and size of the university, much less the metropolis that surrounded it, was beyond anything in the rural man’s experience.
Adán had expected a cloistered religious institution akin to a monastery. Instead, he discovered that the vast majority of Loyola’s students were pursuing secular vocations, such as dentistry, law, pharmacy, music, and business. Things like football bewildered him, especially the fervor of its collegiate and community fans. Their borderline bloodthirst reminded him of his readings on the Roman Colosseum’s spectators. He was glad when the Jesuits discontinued the Wolf Pack’s football team in his sophomore year, especially as the unused field paved the way for the construction of the Memorial Library–though it would not be finished before his time ended at Loyola.
Even without football, the university was still rampant with worldly influences and related sins. In the recent wake of Prohibition’s repeal, Adán was surrounded by all manner of drunkenness, both in and off campus. Neither his family nor the sisters of Our Lady of Lourdes had drank alcohol, save for sacramental wine, so Adán was shocked at seeing the drug’s effects on his peers, but also astonished that anyone would willingly partake of something so “diabolic”, as it clearly “enslaved the mortal mind and body and drove it to all manner of frivolity and debauchery.” Naturally, Mardi Gras also did not suite the would-be priest.
Even amongst his fellow seminary students, Adán often felt like the shepherd boy David amongst King Saul’s war captains. Given the high cost of tuition, his peers came from even richer, more established families than that of the youths at Our Lady of Lourdes. Similarly, Adán’s rural accent and austere, threadbare clothing (as Pierre did not consider his friend would need money for a wardrobe) made him even more of an outsider than he had been in Eden Isle’s church. Most of his well-heeled peers mocked and derided him, and their derision only increased as Adán quickly became a favorite among the professors for his surprising erudition, memory, love of learning, and critical thinking.
He did make a trio of friends, though. By the end of their freshman year, the four would-be priests became half-mockingly known as Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The sobriquets came courtesy of Adán’s first dormmate, Saul Freneau, as the old monied scion liked to consider himself King Nebuchadnezzar, “Monarch of Marquette Hall.” Yet, even with those friends–who increasingly fell into Saul’s circle–Adán often felt more ashamed than included after some of his friends, like Thaddeus Malveaux, confessed that they were only studying to become priests out of familial obligation. Others disclosed more selfish ambitions of political and economic power. Both camps further disheartened Adán when they started accepting Saul’s invitations to co-ed parties, or worse, trips to Storyville’s red light district. When they in turn started to invite Adán to join them in their “levities”, Adán was not sure which invitations saddened him more: his friends’ attempts to include him and mollify their consciences, or Saul’s intent to tempt and tarnish the “peckerwood prude.”
Nevertheless, Adán resisted all such sinful enticements and cloistered himself inside his second-story Marquette Hall dorm and the Bobet Library above it. He only exited to attend lectures, find new reading materials, and begrudgingly eat in the dining hall when his dormmates rightly decried his thinness. Otherwise, his only ‘hobby’ was visiting the city’s many churches, as he enjoyed partaking in and, when permitted, assisting with their sacraments and services. Additionally, he adored studying the local churches’ and cathedrals’ famed historical architecture, as he considered their structures and decorations to be testaments of divine glory and the power of communal devotion.
Thus, notwithstanding all the venial distractions, Adán soon settled into content rhythm. This rhythm included Loyola’s academic summer breaks when Adán would return to Eden Isle, to visit with his former teachers at Our Lady of Lordes and help Pierre and the other Jeansonnes with their fishing business. They were happy, comfortable times.
But as God so often desires, Adán’s comfortable life was soon discomforted.
Friday morning, 5 February 1937
It occurred near the end of his senior year, on the Friday before Shrove Tuesday. Just before dawn, his three ‘friends’ and then-dormmates returned from a series of debauched Mardi Gras celebrations.
Unlike prior years, they neither collapsed with sybaritic exhaustion nor teased Adán about their hedonistic exploits. Instead, they were frantic and fearful, physically dragging Saul Freneau into the room. Saul jabbered, howled, and swore in a foreign, feminine voice even as he tried to strangle, scratch, and bite his fellows. Although Adán had never witnessed something like this before, his copious readings led him to suspect a form of malign possession. Alerting his dormmates to the possibility, he suggested they tie their demented friend to one of the dorm’s beds. They were dubious, but desperate, so they did as he directed.
Meanwhile, Adán sought his thesis advisor, Father Simon Fontenot, a learned if heterodox Jesuit with whom Adán had had ongoing conversations about the biblical exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, the related writings of St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas, and the implications for Christian ethics regarding animal rights. Father Fontenot, however, was absent–as were most faculty during Loyola’s academic break during Mardi Gras. Yet, when Adán touched Fontenot’s office door with his stigmata-marked palm, the door opened. Thinking the man might be inside, he explored. Still not finding his advisor, and concerned for Saul’s state, Adán borrowed several texts, sacramentals, and icons he had seen the priest refer to when discussing exorcism. So empowered, he returned to his dorm. There, he found the others had gagged Saul after the man had tried to bite off his own tongue.
Adán drew upon his ecclesiastical training and faith to perform the exorcism. He recited prayers according to the rubrics of the rite, making use of the Jesuit priest’s relics. He invoked God’s name, as well as the name of Timothée and his other dead relatives as representatives of the Church Triumphant. He drew out his rosary–its wood beads hand-carved from the same cypress tree of his vision–and recited St. Michael’s Prayer against Satan and the Rebellious Angels:
“Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis,
Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute, in infernum detrude.
(“Blessed Michael, archangel,
defend us in the hour of conflict.
Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil
(may God restrain him, we humbly pray):
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God thrust Satan down to hell
and with him those other wicked spirits
who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.
As Adán completed the invocation, fresh blood began to well from the long scabbed-over wound in his palm. He then bade his awed companions to unbind Saul’s gag. Saul–or whatever had possessed him–immediately began screaming a host of invectives and made all manner of vile prophecies, including Adán’s damnation. Unheading those words, Adán called upon the Archangel Michael, compelling the unclean spirit to identify itself. It gave the name of one of Saul’s infamous ancestors, Madeline Freneau. Adán then banished the unclean spirit by using his rosary-touched blood to paint the sign of the cross upon Saul’s brow. With the ritual complete, Saul instantly became still and silent, collapsing into a deep sleep.
Friday morning, 5 February 1937
Exhausted from his own spiritual labors, Adán slumped into a nearby chair. He brushed aside his friends’ questions of what he had done–or more specifically how he had done it. Instead, he bade them explain themselves and how Saul had come to such a state. That tale–which was further filled in when Saul awoke and appeared once again in his right mind–indicated that Saul and the others had attended the Knights of Momus’ bal masque, with ‘escorts’ from Storyville. Saul, however, had left early with his companion in order to seek more “exotic” adventures.
His companion, who identified herself by the clearly false name of Mademoiselle Marie Délicieux, took the old monied Freneau to Rosa Bale to attend a séance. Saul was happy to liberally part with his family’s money, and even the blood offering she demanded, but the drunken young man foolishly insulted the mambo, repeatedly accusing her of being a charlatan and boorishly asking what “gimmicks” she used to “con” her clients. Naturally, the Ventrue mambo did not take kindly to her dignitas and faith being besmirched, especially not by a drunken kine.
In retaliation, Rosa summoned the devil-cursed wraiths of Madeline Freneau and her lover, Alcide Cancienne. She caused the former to possess Saul and the latter to possess Marie. The ghosts immediately tried to reenact their last, murderous meal. Saul vaguely recalled chasing the Alcide-possessed Storyville prostitute into the streets, where they engaged in a manic, murderous game of cat and mouse. Privately, he told Adán of haunting memories of violence unwillingly wrought by his on hand. He recalled catching Marie in a French Quarter alleyway, where he ripped her hair and mask, beat her with a brick, and then started to strangle her. However, Saul believed, or at least fervently hoped, that he had not killed her, and Adán guessed that he would have, had the Freneau wraith not seen a krewe of devil-dressed partygoers and mistaken them for the diabolic minions of her former St. Charles Avenue lover.
Fortunately for Saul, at least, Madeline’s flight took him providentially into the path of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When ‘Madeline’ pushed them aside, screaming about “Le Diable”, and tried to run, they gave chase, thinking it was another of Saul’s rakish pranks. When they finally managed to catch him and overpower him, they realized that something far worse was afoot, especially as Saul’s masquerade costume was speckled with blood. Unsure what to do, they had taken Saul back to their dorm.
Friday morning, 5 February 1937
For Adán’s miraculous assistance that followed, his dormmates expressed fervent appreciation. At the same time, they also expressed concern that their deeds, if made known, could lead to their expulsion, of in Saul’s case, imprisonment. Adán, however, was far more concerned about Marie’s fate, for even if she had survived Saul’s brutal attack, she was likely still possessed by Alcide’s evil shade. Adán convinced the initially reluctant Saul that finding and rescuing Marie was not only his first step in penance, but also the most likely action to keep him being charged for murder.
So roused, Saul, Adán, and the others took to the streets. The search was difficult, particular with the French Quarter choked with Mardi Gras celebrants and parade litter.
On Toulouse Street, they found a group of French-Arcadians from the nearby ‘Great Gumbo Orgy’ who saw a girl that matched Marie’s description. They related that she had psychotically thrown herself through a storefront glass window and then begun to roll and crawl through the broken glass. When they approached her, thinking her mad and in need of aid, she threatened to kill them with a knife-like shard of glass.
Entering the alley the gumbo celebrants said the wraith-possessed woman fled into, the five companions found a disemboweled cat, with its entrails arranged in a Satanic pentagram. After that, they lost track of their quarry. Exhausted, Saul and the other students convinced Adán to rest and regroup back at Marquette Hall–though Adán made Saul promise to return and help him find and free the young woman from the unclean spirit.
Friday morning, 5 February 1937
When they reached their dorm, Father Fontenot was waiting. Alerted to his office’s intrusion, the Jesuit rightly suspected Adán as the prime suspect for the absence of his exorcism relics. Those suspicions were confirmed when he inspected the lector’s dorm, finding his books. Moreover, he also found evidence of an attempted exorcism: as the four belts they used as makeshift restraints for Saul were still tied to the sweat-drenched bed. Thus, Father Fontenot was not surprised when the five students returned to their dorm room with Adán carrying the remaining icons and relics. All five, however, were very surprised, if not worse, when they shuffled into their room and found Father Fontenot sitting at Adán’s desk. The priest did not provide them time to properly recuperate from their fright before he affixed a particularly stern gaze upon Adán, saying:
“Exodus teaches us that thieves, even if able to return their stolen possessions, must make a twofold restitution, lest they be sold as slaves.”
Beckoning his pupil to follow him, Father Fontenot gave Saul and the other three students a final, sobering rebuke before departing:
“You may yet inherit your families’ fortunes, but remember the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians–‘Nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.’”
Once back in the Jesuit professor’s office, Father Fontenot first ascertained the safety of all of his relics, then meticulously questioned Adán about all that had transpired. The priest listened intently, then admonished Adán that he was only ordained as a lector, and did not belong to the higher order of exorcists.
Adán, fearful of being expelled–or worse, excommunicated–tried to invoke David’s use of the tabernacle’s holy showbread despite not being a Levite priest. However, Father Fontenot easily parried his pupil’s line of reasoning.
“And here I thought you were Daniel, not David?” the Jesuit jested, then added without humor, “But David asked the priests’ permission; he did not sneak into the tabernacle when no one was around, pilfer the holy bread, and then run back to Nob.”
Adán tried to reiterate that he had not ‘snuck’ anywhere, but Father Fontenot cut him off:
“No, Adán, an error has been made, and,” he said firmly, “the Church Militant must rectify it.”
Yet, rather than levy any of the myriad punishments that swirled in Adán’s mind, Father Fontenot stood up and passed back the book containing the formulae of exorcism, and said solemnly:
“Adán St. Cyprien, the Lamb of God has bestowed upon you the charism of an exorcist, and by His holy name and the Statuta Ecclesiæ Antiqua, I confer upon you its order. Receive, and commit to memory, and possess the power of imposing hands on energumens, whether baptized or catechumens. Amen."
Overcome with gratitude and relief, Adán thanked the priest, explaining that he had expected to be punished. Father Fontenot smiled, though a pained sadness was in his eyes:
“Who says you have not?”
Friday morning, 5 February 1937
While Adán pondered that cryptic remark, Father Fontenot proceeded to instruct him further in the sacraments of Senergumenic exorcism, including the Benedictine formulae of Vade Retro Satana, and exorcism variants of the Memorare, Sub tuum, and Quicunque Vult. Although much of this instruction was material that the priest and pupil had already discussed–and had proved pivotal in Adán’s exorcism of Madeline from Saul’s body–the Jesuit shared many new revelations. Chief among these involved the induction of the newly ordained exorcist into the Society of Leopold, also known as the Malleus Maleficarum and the Shadow Congregation.
As part of that process, the Jesuit explained the purpose of the secret society of apostolic life, the Society’s 1231 founding by its namesake Leopold von Murnau under Pope Gregory IX, its 15th-century rise to prominence under Bishop Ambrogio Baudolino and Pope Innocent VIII, its release from the Holy See’s direct service several decades ago in 1908, and its many varied sects and sub-orders. Father Fontenot identified himself as belonging to the Order of St. Ambrose, the order responsible for scholarly and ‘in situ’ research on energumenic influences and activity. Father Fontenot disclosed that he had been grooming Adán for induction into his own same order, but that Adán’s recent actions made the priest ponder whether the more confrontive Order of St. Longinus might be more appropriate.
To ascertain God’s will, Father Fontenot said he would need further prayer and communion with his superiors–whose names he poignantly did not share with the recent inductee. In the meantime, he charged Adán with making ‘restitution’ by tracking down the location of another energumenic relic that had been lost to the Society. When Adán expressed concern about allowing the mambo to continue practicing “witchcraft”, the priest nodded, but said that such was the affair of the Order of St. Longinus. Adán, however, persisted, disclosing that he and Saul had sworn a vow to find and free the young woman possessed by Alcide’s shade.
Sighing, Father Fontenot rebuked his pupil:
“You of all souls should not forget the Epistle of James,” then quoted its fifth Part, twelfth verse, “But above things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea, and nay be nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”
Still, the priest relented, acquiescing to if not quite blessing Adán’s and Saul’s endeavor. He then dismissed his physically and mentally exhausted pupil, but not before reminding Adán to protect the orders’ secrets. As if to reiterate its importance, he asked the new Leopoldite:
“And why did the Lord command us not to cast our pearls before swine?”
“Because they will trample them as things of naught versus holy,” Adán answered.
“Yes,” the priest nodded. “But the Lord’s injunction had a second reason–a warning that the swine will ‘turn again and rend you.’”
With that ominous warning, Adán returned to his dorm.