The Native — A Tract In One Act

desert mountains

The following piece appear on the ‘Point’ Magazine, on December of 1953, which was edited by Fr. Leonard Feeney.

The Curtain rises on what is plainly meant to be a Desert Island setting. A kangaroo scurries across the stage and some exotic bird-calls are heard in the distance, just to drive the thing home. Suddenly, emerging through a dense vine, a man appears. On his head is a pith helmet, around his neck a Roman collar, and under his arm a copy of the Denver Register. He is a missionary; and he is looking for the Ignorant Native.

As he stands staring about him, there is a sudden shout overhead. A figure comes hurtling down through the trees and lands upright in front of the Missionary.

Missionary (greatly excited) — Can it be? Look at me. Do you know what I am? Have you ever seen anyone like me?

Ignorant Native (emphatically) — I should say not.

M. — The Ignorant Native! At last have found you! And just in time. Come, we must hurry.

I. N. — Where are we going?

M. — I have been sent to bring you to America, to a huge celebration being given in your honor. A plane is waiting in the lagoon to fly us to New York.

I. N. — What did I do?

M. — What did you do? My dear man, as though you didn’t know. You have the distinction of being the very first person in all the world ever to have received Baptism of Desire.

I. N. (impressed) — You don’t say!

M. — Why, you are the very foundation of Baptism of Desire. It was invented in order to answer the question, “How is a native on a desert island, who is completely ignorant of the Catholic Faith, going to be saved?” Today, millions of people have Baptism of Desire, including almost every Jew in America. But it all rests on you. You were the first, and you opened the way to the others.

I. N. — And so you’re going to have a celebration for me?

M. — The greatest celebration we have ever had. As soon as we arrive in New York, there will be a ticker-tape parade down Fifth Avenue. There will be banquets and ceremonies in your honor all over the country. The week of your arrival is being declared National Native Week. Bishop Sheen is going to have you as guest of honor on his television program, and simultaneously he will begin a new series of talks, “Ignorance is Worth Having.” You are to be invited by Father Francis Connell to give a course of lectures at Catholic University on “Living Up to the Natural Law.” Father Keller wants to make a Christopher film short of you playing golf with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. And, oh, I could go on and on.

I. N. — Will I be asked to make many speeches? I’m not too good at that.

M. — No, people will expect you only to affirm a few of the basic principles which the theologians agree are responsible for your having received Baptism of Desire. For instance, if you are asked to say something, you might simply declare your belief in the fact that God is, and is a remunerator.

I. N. — Oh, yes. I might simply do that … (confidentially) What’s a remunerator?

M. — Never mind. Perhaps we had better just ask you questions. Try this one — it expresses Baptism of Desire in a nutshell: Do you feel an inchoate longing to be implicitly united to whatever it is you would want to be united to if you knew what it was?

I. N. — Awww, now you’re teasing me.

M. — I most certainly am not teasing you. This is a very serious matter. Why, I’m beginning to wonder if you have Baptism of Desire at all!

I. N. — Of course I have Baptism of Desire. That’s why you’re going to have a celebration for me. Of course I have it … Except, there’s just one question I would like to ask.

M. — Yes?

I. N. — What is Baptism of Desire?

The Missionary hurries off, mumbling to himself; he is obviously in a state of great agitation. The Ignorant Native turns and climbs back into his tree. A kangaroo scurries across the stage. And the curtain falls.


The Native — A Tract In One Act

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