Fly the friendly skies with the Pope

By MARY ANN SORRENTINO  |  September 5, 2007

The Pope didn’t ask me for any marketing tips for his new airline venture linking Rome to pilgrimage sites like Lourdes, Fatima, and Czestochowa. So “Tantum Ergo” wasn’t playing on the PA system in Fiumicino Airport last week when Mistral Air, under a five-year agreement with the Vatican, sent its inaugural flight heavenward. Rumor has it Virgin had been the Pope’s first airline choice, but that deal fell through.
Those with a yen to visit shrines marking alleged sightings of Mary can now do so in jet-set style. Having always been skeptical about tales of appearances by Mary, I’m holding off on booking a ticket just yet. Why would the Mother of God waste her time in Poland or sheep pastures in Portugal when she could head straight for the Super Bowl, where millions would instantly know she was serious?
Such a major Marian appearance would outrank media interest in periodic images of Mary or her son popping up on unwashed storm windows in Meriden, Connecticut, or in a cheeseburger in a diner in Dayton, Ohio.
If Mistral were to become the official airlines of the Boston Red Sox or of Jack Nicholson’s beloved Los Angeles Lakers, people might think the owners knew something about where Mary was likely to show up next. This would really boost ticket sales!
Wine is served on Mistral flights. And with their supplier, why not? When wine supplies run low, flight attendants probably fill jugs with tap water and wait for a wedding-feast-at-Canna repeat performance. No loaves and fishes on the menu yet, but meatless Fridays are a definite food choice.
If the cabin pressure drops, rosary beads might fall out of the ceiling and everyone could start mumbling Acts of Contrition into their oxygen masks as fast as those prayers could be recited. (Is there any way the Glorious Mysteries can be listed on the backs of every seat for those of us who need prompting?)
The planes are the same commercial 737s that passengers fly elsewhere (the ones with the rudder problems that have come under scrutiny as a safety issue in flights since the 1990s). But not to worry: St. Christopher medals and holy water will soon be available at every seat for ye of little faith. (Can we arrange total absolution for all on board as soon as the plane falls below 5000 feet? This would be better than frequent flyer miles!)
Speaking of which, how about a Vatican Bank Heavenly Rewards VISA card? For 10,000,000 miles on Mistral, you’d get a trip to Lourdes, a Fatima third message decoder ring, and plenary indulgences for you and your flight companion.
As a publicly excommunicated Catholic, I’m not sure I can get a ticket on one of these pilgrimage junkets. Currently, in addition to the usual passport and security checks in Rome, Swiss Guards, I hear, are looking for what the nuns used to call “black marks on your permanent record.”

If those guys in the funny-looking blue and yellow bloomers find any, you’re grounded. This is a sales killer and needs to be re-examined.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

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