A Fragile Bark Author:Joseph P Benante For Father Robert Regalo, the first church assignment after ordination is indeed "far from heaven," not at all what the idealistic young priest could have expected. — Father Robert is one of the new breed of church fathers: hip, skeptical, and concerned more with the everday realities of the human condition than with the rituals of the formal ch... more »urch. Setting out with fervent determination to make the church relevant to the needs of his parish, he is totally unprepared for what awaits him at St. Lucy's in Nineveh, New Jersey. He arrives on the same day as the thirty-first cook of the year, an immense woman whose "biceps would have been the envy of any perspiring young Mr. America," to meet-
-Father Merricomb, a robust Friar Tuck who spends most of the summer in a huge green leatherette recliner sipping creme de menthe from a beer mug and spouting forth his ideas on everything from anovulant pills to bust sizes;
-Elizabeth, the widowed "sister" of Monsignor McQuade, armed with a vacuum cleaner in her perpetual war with dirt, whose way of keeping things clean is never to use them;
-Monsignor McQuade, who will not perform Mass with altar boys who are taller than he is, and who rides a red Schwinn around the parking lot every morning with his attack dog, Wang, following on a chain.
Father Regalo finds himself in the middle of an ecclesiastic Catch-22, struggling to keep his sanity while coping with the rules and regulations of the rectory, the bingo games, the raffles and the third collections.
"A Fragile Bark" is a very contemporary and touching first novel-a tragi-comedy that is at times hilariously funny but always brutally honest as it reveals the serious problems and irrelevancies of organized religion today« less