After the commercials, it's a new day, and Helen goes back to the Arcadia DMV to talk to the parking lot priest, a.k.a. Reverend Useless. It wasn't made entirely clear that he was a priest the first time around, though people referred to him almost exclusively that way in the forums. I know, I know, the collar -- but Protestant clergy wear those too. So I defaulted to that -- brought up Baptist and all that, you know. Anyway. I looked him up on JoanofArcadia.com, and his name is Father Ken Mallory. That sorted, my next question is: Is this really something a priest would spend his time doing? Wouldn't he have bigger fish to fry (well, especially on Fridays...wait, didn't they do away with that in Vatican II? Somebody post about that in the forums, please) than collecting money for the homeless like a temp agency Santa at Christmas? Especially if, as he claims, he's in charge of a parish. Unless maybe this is his penance for something. Helen begins, "I don't know if you remember me..." Father Mallory looks nervous as he replies in the affirmative. She says she's late for work but has one quick question. He reminds her that he has a parish, and an office, and an assistant. Helen repeats that she just has one quick question. He tells her that the question of suffering stretches back to the Fall: "There isn't a parking lot version." Helen says she's onto a whole other subject: "This is about miracles." The priest looks down briefly, saying, "Oh, no." Heh. But is that very professional? A clergyperson should have more aplomb.
Helen: "Okay. Is it wrong to pray for them -- personal miracles, I mean. Not 'world peace' or 'save the planet,' nothing altruistic. Just plain old, shopping-list, God-as-Santa, 'give me this one thing and I will stop smoking!'" There's a frantic edge to her voice. Father Ken thinks she should stop smoking for herself. She says she doesn't smoke. He tries again to suggest that she come to his office; it would go better, and they could have tea if she came to see him there. Man, I don't know why he's so jittery about trying to talk to her there. Most religious officiants I have ever met have been thrilled to be engaged on the subject of spirituality just about any place and any time. In fact, I avoid bringing it up unless I'm prepared to invest some time and energy into the whole discussion. Of course, I haven't been as labile and desperate as Helen most of those times. She explains that she was raised Catholic and she was taught not to pray for specific things: "But there is this one miracle that I would really, really like to have. It's like something you see in a store and you can't stop thinking about it and you start to believe it already belongs to you and it's just misplaced. But is it wrong? Can it actually do harm to pray for something you want?" Father Ken, painfully conscious of what Helen wants to hear, says, "I think prayer can never hurt, as long as you understand you might not recognize the answer right away. Most miracles occur in hindsight." Good answer. Helen thinks about that, and starts to reach into her purse to fish out some money for the donation kettle, as consternation covers her face and she asks, "Why don't I ever feel better after I talk to you?" Father Ken shrugs, "I don't know." Helen races off.