Suspending disbelief

Marian visions
Ghost Ranch, a Presbyterian haven in New Mexico, in 1968 welcomed its first Catholic speaker, Father Anthony Wilhelm, with whom I was to hold a public conversation. Tony began his days by saying mass in an upper room, before a congregation of Hispanic employees. Couldn’t some of the Protestant Ranch-folk drop in some day? he asked. The next morning one stalwart Presbyterian layman, Joe Dempsey of Tulsa, and five little Marty boys and their parents showed up to celebrate.

It was August 15, the Festival of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. (A Presbyterian goat, just a kid, born earlier that day had already received the name “Assumpta.”) At the proper moment the priest turned to Dempsey and asked if he would pray a collect. “Marty, what’s a collect?” Dempsey whispered. Answer: “One of those short, packed prayers; you invoke God, offer a petition and conclude.” Our friend prayed something like this:


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