It was a beautiful, clear day as a barge, passing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, sounded its horn as if saluting the giant structure. The sound startled Sister Mary Francis. She looked over the handrail to the depths below and was surprised how small the barge appeared from her vantage point as it sailed into San Francisco Bay. She inhaled the brisk sea air blowing in from the Pacific Ocean, and felt the gentle sway of the bridge as she admired the beauty of San Francisco and Alcatraz Island.
Mary Francis lingered in the warmth of the waning afternoon sun as sightseers began leaving the bridge. The personal crisis engulfing her had grown to such proportions, she no longer was able to distinguish right from wrong. She did not know what to do.
It seemed only yesterday she had joined the Little Sisters of the Poor. After graduating from high school, her plans for a nursing education dissolved with the death of her beloved father. With little income, her mother accepted her brother’s invitation to live with him in Maine. Francis loved the San Francisco Bay area and all it had to offer; she decided to stay.
The day she took her final vows, she remembered gazing in a mirror at her beautiful long red hair, curling naturally in all directions, and the attention it received from admirers. Having most of it cut off would be a rite of passage. Pride in her Scottish heritage often prompted her to wear the red and blue plaid beret her mother had given her. It emphasized her lovely Scottish features.
With her acceptance into the nursing order, the prospects of a future degree in nursing rose again. Her hard work at Saint Anne’s Home won the support of the Mother Superior and her sisters. Mother Superior called Francis into her office time and again, chastising her for working too hard. Francis would lower her eyes in humility and apologize while attempting to control the corners of her mouth from smiling her happiness. Mother Superior would dismiss Francis with a stern reminder. “Obedience, Francis; remember your vow of Obedience.”
“Yes, Mother, I will.” She would genuflect and then leave the room, but she would peek as she closed the door to make sure her superior was smiling. Her energy was boundless, no need to withhold service to the residences of Saint Anne’s. They were always grateful for her attendance.
She happily resumed her nursing studies, making marked progress. On her free days, she would go to Golden Gate Park, walking its trails out to the ocean and back again. That’s where she first noticed Father Christopher.
As she entered the park at Eighth Avenue, she saw him sitting alone in the empty audience of the Temple of Music, a huge band shell with columns spanning the front of the stage. As she approached, she noticed a small open book in his hands though he did not appear to be reading from it. She hesitated a moment for fear of disturbing him but decided to approach him anyway, figuring no harm would be done. “Good morning, Father. May I join you for a moment?”
He looked up with surprise, “Yes, of course. Please sit down.”
“Thank you. I’m Sister Francis from Saint Anne’s Home over on Lake Street.”
“That’s quite a distance if you walked.”
“It is, but I enjoy my free time out of doors, especially here in this beautiful park.”
“I’m Christopher Dinapoli. I suppose I’m doing the same thing, meditating on the beauty of this place.”
“Oh, Dinapoli, sei da Napoli?”
“Bene che è una sorpresa stai fluent?”
“Oh no, just one year of Italian in high school, which I enjoyed. Grammar was my downfall.” Her bottom lip protruded in mock gloom, then resumed its smile.
“Ah, I know the feeling. In answer to your question, no, I’m from the bowels of Minnesota. My family emigrated from Naples when I was eight. Learning English was my challenge.”
“Don’t you use Italian at your parish?”
“Yes, and I speak often with my brothers and sisters.”
“Oh, how lovely. Do you speak any other languages?”
“I studied Latin in seminary. Knowing Italian helped … and your last name is …”
“MacFarlane. Francis Catriona Leana Fiona MacFarlane.”
“Really!” He was unable to conceal his astonishment.
“Oh, yes, really.” She laughed.
“Oh, no, Scottish. They do love to pile on the names.”
“Scottish,” he mused aloud. “Accounts for the red hair and those rosy cheeks.”
She was surprised he noticed. “In Gaelic, it’s Mac a Bhairling. I never gained the accent, like my father. When he felt playful, he would slip into his Gaelic accent and have us rolling on the floor with laughter. What a funny man. Heaven is a happier place.”
“Ah, he’s passed. I’m sorry for your loss.”
The subject changed to the beauty of Golden Gate Park. Christopher gave Francis a brief history of its creation and development over the years. She was surprised and impressed with his knowledge.
“I would love to hear more, Father. Won’t you join me at the de Young Café? And you will be my guest. I’m overflowing with cash this morning.” It wasn’t true but she never knew what to do with the little money she did make at Saint Ann’s.
“Only if you promise to drop the Father and call me Christopher.”
“Agreed. And it’s Francis from now on. Okay?”
“Okay.” They laughed as they walked to the Café. The minutes ticked by faster than Francis expected. Christopher’s tales and anecdotes about the park seemed endless.
“Oh, gosh, look at the time. I want to make it to the ocean and back before dark. Would you care to join me?”
“I would love to, but I have to get back to Saint James.”
“Saint James Episcopal on California?”
“Yes. It seems we’re neighbors.”
“I’ve walked by occasionally. It’s a lovely church.” She finished her coffee and got up. “I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I know so much more about the park, thanks to you. Perhaps we’ll meet again.”
“It won’t be soon enough, Francis. Drop by Saint James anytime. I’m either there or here.”
Francis’ new knowledge of the park added to the enjoyment of her walk to the ocean. After spending such a short time with Christopher, she felt he was a friend – warm, funny, and genuine, and a neighbor. His Italian good looks made him even more appealing. He appeared to be four or five years older.
Because of a staff shortage, Francis volunteered to forgo her free time to ensure the care of the residence of Saint Anne’s. The memory of Christopher and their meeting faded by the time her next free day approached. She did remember Saint James Church and passed by on her way to the park. She paused a moment and admired the loveliness of the place before resuming her walk to the park. She had gone quite a distance when she thought she heard her name being called. No one here knew her so, she kept going. When she heard her name called again, she stopped and turned. Christopher jogged up next to her.
“I thought it was you. Are you on your way to the park?”
“I am. Are you going to join me today?”
“If that’s ok. I have the day free, so I thought I’d take a run out to the ocean. I’ve never gone that far.”
“I’m afraid a fast stride is about the best I can do.”
“Suits me. Let’s go.”
Christopher reiterated portions of the history of the park he had told Francis earlier, occasionally stopping on their way to the ocean to view statuary hidden in the groves of trees. They rested at the horse paddock and took a side trip up Strawberry Hill. When they reached the ocean, they walked the beach for a short distance – Christopher skipped stones off the water like a kid at play.
Their return journey through the park was mostly in silence, like old friends who no longer felt the need to carry on a conversation. And yet, this was only the second time they had been together. Francis found it pleasant and comforting to be with him. When they reached Saint James Church, Christopher shook Francis’ hand and thanked her for a wonderful day.
They continued to meet over the next several months. The knowledge Christopher passed on to her about the park, along with research she did on her own, provided interesting discussions during their walks; and on occasions, interesting discoveries within the over one thousand acres of the park. She secretly considered herself an expert and would have been able to hold her own in a private discussion with Mr. Hall and Mr. McLaren, the founders and designers of the park.
And then, Francis became aware of confusion creeping into her meetings with Christopher, and it bothered her. Perhaps it would be better if she did not see him so often. One afternoon she saw Christopher ministering to a patient in the terminally ill ward of St. Anne’s. “Isn’t that Father Christopher?” she whispered to Mother Superior.
“Yes, it is. He pays us a visit now and then to see to the spiritual needs of our residents. Do you know him?”
“Oh, no, but I did meet him once, casually.”
“You must say hello. He’s such a dear man.”
“Yes, of course.” She left the ward and avoided him. Her experience with men was nonexistent except for the boys in High School which did not amount to much.
She intentionally avoided going near Saint James Church on her way to the park. But, as fate would have it, on her next free day a small crisis arose. She was well on her way to the ocean when she heard his familiar voice behind her. “Francis, wait.”
“Hello, Christopher, how are you?”
“I’m fine. And you?”
“Oh, I’m okay.”
“Well, you don’t sound like you’re okay.”
“I just remembered an errand I forgot to take care of; I won’t be able to take my walk after all. But you have a great day.” She smiled at Christopher, turned, and walked away.
“Yes, thank you,” came his quiet, perplexed reply. She knew he was standing there watching her as she hurried to the park entrance. She glanced back as she left the park – he was gone. ‘Just as well,’ she thought. Now, what was she to do? He seemed to be everywhere, in the park, the wards. She knew she would run into him sooner or later.
The inevitable happened in the hallway on the third floor of Saint Anne’s. She was unable to avoid him. “Good morning, Father,” she smiled and passed him.
“Is it ‘Father’ again?” He stopped and waited for an answer.
Francis stopped and turned. “I’m sorry, Father. This is my fault.”
She was taken aback at his response, “No, Francis, the fault is mine. I felt it happening from the first time I met you and I did nothing. I apologize. It won’t happen again. Pray for me, Sister.” He turned and walked away. Francis wiped her eyes. No one must know what had happened. She went about her duties attempting to be as cheerful as usual, especially when Mother Superior was near.
She remembered what he had said – it was his fault which wasn’t completely true. She knew now she shared in the fault. There was nothing to be done except move on – forget it – pretend it didn’t happen, for her sake and for his.
The pained expression on his face when he asked her to pray for him haunted her. Who would pray for her? They had had such fun together. Why was this happening? Her confusion only deepened.
The following week, as she entered the park, she saw Christopher sitting alone in the empty audience of the Temple of Music. Her first instinct was to avoid him – go another way. But this was not like her – to run away from a problem. She walked over to where he was and sat next to him.
“Francis?” Christopher sat up in surprise.
“I don’t know what to do, Christopher.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore.” She looked into his surprised, beautiful face, and smiled.
“Well, at least you dropped the ‘Father’ business.”
“I never thought something like this would happen; we were having so much fun together.”
“Yes, we were.”
“How could I have been so naive not to have noticed?”
“I’m sorry, Francis. I…”
“Will you please stop saying that?” She stood. “Come on, let’s go to the Café. I need some caffeine to steel my nerves.” Christopher followed.
They settled at a corner table. “So how do we deal with this? I’m at a total loss.” She sipped her coffee.
“I wish I had the answer. I guess we should avoid one another until it passes.” He looked at his reflection in the black coffee in his cup – anything to avoid looking into her eyes.
They sat in silence as the morning mists dissipated, revealing a beautiful day. Christopher looked up. “Let’s walk; we can still have fun and maybe figure out what to do.”
They spent most of the day walking to the ocean and back, pausing in places where they were able to talk, hold hands, without being seen. The bond between them became stronger. They were not having much fun. They promised not to see each other again, hoping time would change their feelings for one another. It did not.
When they encountered one another at Saint Anne’s, they were cordial and polite. Beneath the cordiality ran a river of emotion they had difficulty denying. Francis attempted to stay out of Christopher’s way when he was to visit St. Anne’s.
Two months later they unintentionally encountered one another in the park. They walked for a while, eventually finding themselves in a secluded spot they had visited many times. Their longing for one another had grown and exploded the moment they were alone. The depth of her passion for Christopher surprised Francis. Christopher was gentle and caring. Then he laughed.
“Christopher?” Francis pulled back.
“I was so concerned about you, I forgot this was my first experience, too,” they laughed. Against their better judgment, they continued to meet. They agreed it was time to decide one way or the other. The burden of secrecy was taking its toll.
Though they had not done anything physical, outside of kissing and holding one another, they felt they had sinned and broken their vows – at least according to Canon Law. Anxiety weighed heavily on them; Francis broke down at one of their meetings and sobbed bitterly. Christopher had all he could do to keep from joining her in tears. When she recovered her composure, she sat quietly by Christopher’s side, their hands intertwined. Then a thought flashed into her mind.
He sat up, “What is it?”
“We’ve been looking at this backward.”
“What do you mean?” He tightened his grip on her hand.
“We’ve been expecting an answer from God. What about asking God to join us in deciding. Let the Presence of God be the answer. In God’s Presence, there is no conflict, no problems. We’ve been praying amiss, Christopher … I’m certain of it.”
“I think you’re right, Francis.” Christopher kissed her hand.
“I’m so ashamed of myself.” She stood up.
“For what?” Christopher joined her.
“I know better … we know better. We should have recognized the truth from the beginning.” She looked up into his astonished face, “Let’s put it into action.”
“We have to let go and let God take care of this.” She looked into Christopher’s adoring face. “One with God is a majority; let’s put it into action.”
Christopher took her face into his hands and kissed it, “Yes, my dear, sweet Francis, yes.” He put his arm around Francis and closed his eyes. “We need Your intelligence, Father … Your infinite wisdom … Your Presence, and Your Guidance. Without You we are nothing … we can do nothing.” Christopher kissed Francis on her cheek. “Let’s go to the ocean and celebrate.”
Instead of going to the park on her next free day, she told Christopher she wished to be alone in meditation – to find God’s direction for them. She would go to the Golden Gate Bridge. There would be nothing to distract her.
As she stood at the rail of the bridge, gazing at San Francisco rising out of the Bay waters, the peace and direction she sought continued to elude her – the pathway ahead remained ominous and daunting. She closed her eyes and clenched the rail of the bridge. Please God, help Christopher and me.
Footsteps behind her brought her back from her prayer. Shadows of the oncoming evening grew. She must return to Saint Ann’s.
“Don’t go, Sister,” came a calm and gentle voice from behind her.
“What?” She turned. A few yards from her stood a priest, his black robe waved gently in the breeze. She noticed the golden cross about his neck, embedded with green gems.
“Father. You startled me.” She genuflected.
“No need for that, Sister.” He walked over to the rail of the bridge, next to her. “Did you know the US Navy wanted this beautiful bridge painted with black and yellow stripes to ensure visibility by passing ships? Can you believe it?” Francis smiled and said nothing. “This is the spot where many people have taken their lives; did you know that?”
“No, Father, I didn’t. What is your name, please?”
“Frederick Monahan. You can call me Freddie.”
Francis shrank back from him. “I know that name.”
“No, you don’t,” he protested with a smile.
“But, I do. There was a priest on the Titanic with that name; he died that night. Are you he?”
“And what difference would it make if I were? You have decisions to make which are far more important.” He leaned on the rail and gazed upon the prospect.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Yes, you do, Sister Francis.”
Francis shrank back even farther. “How do you know my name? Have you come to take me to heaven?” Her voice was tinged with panic.
“And would that be such a bad thing?”
“No, but I cannot go yet.” She almost pleaded with him.
“Oh, really, and why not, may I ask?” He knew he had her cornered.
“Well, I … I …”
“Does Father Christopher have anything to do with this?” Freddie threw her a loving and knowing smile.
“Well, I … No, it doesn’t. How do you know Christo… Father Christopher?”
“You wouldn’t be telling me a little fib, would you, Francis?” He gave her a steely gaze with a twinkle in his eyes.
She was caught and she knew it. She fought back tears. “Yes, Father, it does.” Sister Francis slipped to her knees in front of Father Freddie. “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”
“For heaven’s sake, Francis, get off of your knees – this isn’t a confessional, and you haven’t sinned.” He took her hand and helped her to stand.
“But, we have Father … Freddie, we have.”
“And what is this grievous sin you are referring to?”
Francis turned away.
“Well, what is it?” When no answer came, “I’m going to take a wild guess here. The two of you have fallen in love with each other?”
Francis turned with a jerk, her eyes opened wide in disbelief. She felt his gaze penetrating her eyes, searching her soul. “How did you know? How could you know?”
Making light of it, “Oh, I don’t know. When people are in trouble they stand out like a sore thumb, at least to me they do. The beautiful spiritual blues which surround you have been replaced with colors denoting fear, anger, confusion, worry, and profound sadness. Your aura is a mess, Francis.
“You’re at a crossroads, and you asked for help.”
“I did? … Oh, yes, I did. But, it was a silent prayer to God.”
“Yeah, well those things have a way of getting back to me. Call it spiritual e-mail if you will.”
“We do need help. Christopher and I need it so badly. What are we to do, Father?”
“The question is, do you love Christopher?”
She looked at him in disbelief.
“Well, do you or don’t you?” His voice was sharp and to the point this time.
Her tears overflowed and ran down her cheeks. She turned away, “Yes, Father, I do. I love Christopher more than my own life.” She had never spoken those words before. It was a relief. “I’m so ashamed.”
“What in the world are you ashamed of? Here, dry your eyes. I hate it when you people cry.” He handed her his handkerchief. “And you can relax; I’m not here to take you to heaven. We have enough trouble with your brother, Bobby.”
“Who did you say?” She knew the name. She had never spoken or heard it spoken, yet she knew the name as well as her own.
“Your brother, Bobby.” Freddie was surprised at her question.
“I don’t have a brother,” her heart raced. What was happening? Who was this priest? What did he want?
“Yes you do; he’s been trying to help you. You stopped listening to him.” Freddie squared himself off with Francis.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She knew who he was talking about. She had always thought it was a fantasy playmate she had made up. A brother she never had. She had called him Bobby. Her mother had convinced her it was her imagination and told her to stop the nonsense about him. She stared at Freddie, waiting for the proverbial second shoe to drop.
“You thought he was a playmate? Your mum never told you about your twin brother?”
She shook her head and grabbed the bridge rail to steady herself.
“You were born first. Bobby came moments later. There were complications, they were unable to save him. I can’t believe your mum didn’t tell you. But you knew about him – right?”
“I thought he was a make-believe playmate, a dream.”
“Well, he’s a lot more than that,” Freddie saw the stress building in her.
“Would you like to see him, Francis? Would you like to meet with him?”
Her eyes widened. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying you can look upon one another. Would you like this to happen?”
Francis stared at Freddie in disbelief.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Now pay attention. I want you to let your mind go, forget about right and wrong, and everything your mum told you. Remember your childhood, the games you used to play with Bobby. The conversations you had, the give and take between the two of you. The love you shared with one another. It wasn’t a fantasy, Francis; it wasn’t a dream. It was real.”
She closed her eyes.
“No, no, don’t close your eyes. Look over here; he’s standing next to me. Now, remember, think back as far as you can and pull it forward to this minute, this second.”
She gazed at Freddie and did as he asked. Her mind opened, casting away the shadows which had gathered as she grew into adulthood. As the light of remembrance encircled her, she found herself stepping back through the years to her childhood and the memories of Bobby, her friend, and playmate, their laughter and teasing. As the reality of what she thought was a dream became focused, the vision of another being appeared next to Freddie.
“Oh, my God. He looks just like me.”
“Well, of course, he does.” Freddie shook his head in disbelief.
“Bobby…” She reached out for him.
“It’s difficult for him to stay. You may embrace him before he leaves.”
Francis walked to the vision of her brother. They were inches apart looking into each other’s eyes. He put his arms around her.
“Oh, Bobby,” she pulled him close to her.
“Francis, I love you, and I always will.” They held one another for a moment, then a gentle breeze encircled them as he vanished. She felt a tingle through her entire body as he dematerialized.
She looked into Freddie’s face. “I don’t understand?”
“Yes, you do. Keep remembering. Your mum saw what was happening and convinced you it was your imagination. She was trying to protect you. Bobby has been by your side from the beginning. Those double occurrences which happened throughout your childhood and into your teen years? They stopped happening because you stopped believing in them. It wasn’t your imagination, Francis; it was Bobby trying to contact you. Keep remembering. He wants to help you and Christopher. Let him.”
“I will,” she whispered. The realization of what had happened overwhelmed her. She felt light-headed as she turned to Freddie. “You’re still here.”
“I won’t be here much longer. While I am here, my job is to pound some sense into your head. Loving Christopher is not a sin. Neither of you have anything to be ashamed of.”
Francis’ mind was still focused on what had happened.
“Francis, are you listening to me?”
“Yes, Fath… Freddie. Our vows, Christopher’s and mine?”
“And who made those vows?” He had pressed an important button.
“God did,” she answered but with less confidence.
“Did he? Are you sure?” Freddie was on a roll.
“Well, that’s what we were told in formation.” Her confidence in what she thought she knew and believed was slipping.
“Yes, I was told the same thing. So, what are you going to do about it?”
“I must stop seeing Christopher and ask for forgiveness?” Her reply was more of a question.
“So, we’re back to forgiveness again. Forgiveness for what? Breaking man-made vows, loving another human being?”
“But Freddie?” The brick wall she was up against crumbled.
“But Freddie nothing. What about Christopher? How does he feel about you and this needless crisis the two of you have conjured up?” He was relentless.
“We pray about this all the time.” The uncertainty in her voice was evident.
“To overcome what, Francis? The love of God flowing between the two of you? The spiritual love which God has endowed you with from the beginning?” He moved in for the kill. “You know, when the love of God is denied between two people, the Angels weep.” He made that up, hoping he could get away with it.
“I’m so confused. Freddie …?”
“Confusion is sometimes a good thing, my friend.” He had accomplished his goal. Her defenses lay in ruin. His voice softened to a loving tone. “You need to go to Christopher. He is as confused as you are. He’s thinking of leaving the priesthood.”
“No, that can’t be true.” She was astonished at the thought.
“It is true. Now go mix your confusion with his. I give you my guarantee; it will become clear which road you are to take.” He removed the cross from around his neck. “Take this, Francis; it will help guide you and Christopher.”
Francis clutched the cross to her breast, “How can I ever thank you, Freddie?”
“You can’t.” He laughed. “You can thank God Almighty for sending me to you. Now go. There are two beautiful souls waiting for you to resolve this nonsense.” He disappeared, yet she still heard his voice. “See, your aura is already taking on those beautiful spiritual blues. Bless you, Francis.”
Approaching footsteps from behind startled her. She must hurry if she was to catch the last bus to the city.
As she walked along the bridge span toward the parking plaza, a swirling gust of wind enveloped her. She wanted to shout out her thanks to Freddie. Instead, she smiled her love and appreciation. The cross she held against her breast seemed to have a warmth and a heartbeat of its own. She was thrilled to be holding it. “Bobby, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. I’ll never let you go again. There is so much we need to talk about.”
She remembered the other thing Freddie had impressed upon her – something about two beautiful souls waiting for Christopher and her to resolve this nonsense.
It was dark by the time she entered her room, too late to go to Christopher. She spent the remainder of the evening in meditation on what had taken place with Freddie and Bobby. She prayed long into the night for guidance.
Christopher’s name was on her tongue when she awoke with a start. She must go to him at once. Light from the rising Sun streamed through her window as she dressed.
As she entered the main chamber of Saint James, she saw a small group of parishioners gathered near the confessional. An imperceptible noise from above sent her up the winding stairway to the choir loft. She found Christopher looking through sheet music. She rushed over to him.
“We need to talk, Christopher.” He took her hand and drew her into the organist cabinet. They seated themselves on the wide bench.
“What is it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I have, Christopher, two of them.” She was bursting with good cheer as she handed him the cross.
He stared at the cross and then into Francis’ face.
“What is it?” She braced herself.
“I was working here yesterday when a priest came up and talked to me. He was wearing this same cross.”
Francis grasped Christopher’s arm. “What did he say?”
“He told me the pathway to God was fraught with many impediments, but we would surmount them.”
“Did he say his name?”
“No … he didn’t stay long.”
“Freddie,” Francis whispered.
“Yes, Father Frederick Monahan. I went to the bridge yesterday. When I was about to leave, he was there. He talked to me, asked the most astonishing questions. I thought I had the answers. He didn’t seem to think so. He said the cross would guide us. … He told me you were … thinking of leaving the priesthood.”
Christopher took Francis’ hand and kissed it. “Yes, it’s true. I have been thinking about it. The thought of living my life without you…”
“You would make this sacrifice for me?” she whispered. “I won’t hear of it. Never think it again, please.”
Christopher placed the cross in Francis’ hand, “Help from on high?” He smiled.
“Yes. Freddie told me about a twin brother I never knew I had. His name is Bobby. I’ll tell you about it when we’re alone. Freddie also told me two beautiful souls were waiting for us to resolve our problem. I wonder what he meant.”
“I have no idea, Francis. I’m not sure of anything anymore.” Christopher was almost giddy with excitement.
“Oh, Christopher, there is a way out of this now. Freddie assured me there was a solution.”
They heard footsteps on the stairway to the loft. “Later, my love.” He walked back to his sheet music bin.
Francis left the loft without being noticed.
The confusion engulfing Francis and Christopher dissipated as the paths they were to follow became clear.
Mother Superior turned out to be more understanding and knowing than Francis thought possible.
“Yes, I knew, my daughter.”
“But how, Mother?”
“I’ve noticed how much happier and full of life you’ve been. When Father Christopher appeared in the wards, you disappeared.”
“Was I so obvious?”
“No, you were not. I’ve been around long enough to know about these things it’s my job.”
“Oh, Mother, are you disappointed in me?”
“No, I’m not disappointed, my child. When the love of God possesses you, who are we to stand in the way.”
“That’s what Father Freddie said.”
“Father Frederick Monahan.”
“That name is familiar.”
“I met him by accident; he was very helpful.” She paused and looked into Mother Superior’s eyes. “I dread the unveiling process, Mother.”
“No need. Things have changed since I was a girl when you were shunned if you left the order. The sisters and the residents love you. It would be criminal to separate you from any of them. Besides, I’m sure they already know what’s going on.” She smiled and kissed Francis’ cheek.
Sister Francis began the unveiling process which entailed mountains of paperwork. With the help of Mother Superior, the task was completed and Francis was at last free to begin her new life outside the order. She retained her position with Saint Anne’s; to all appearances, nothing had changed except her nursing uniform.
Christopher faced a more daunting task. He found that if he left the priesthood, he and Francis would be able to marry, after which he could reapply as a permanent deacon.
His Bishop wasn’t sure it would be that easy. The barriers seemed insurmountable. Christopher concluded there was no other way than to leave the priesthood. He asked his Bishop for help.
“Yes, of course, I will help. However, before we do anything, I have an idea I wish to pursue. The Holy See is not about to lose a valuable cleric like yourself over a little thing like love,” he laughed. “I’ll get back to you as soon as I am able to.”
After several weeks passed, Christopher was called to the Bishop’s office. “Well, Christopher, miracles still do happen. The Holy See, with the approval of the Holy Father, is granting you a dispensation, allowing you the designation of permanent deacon; you may marry your Francis. The two of you have been through enough.”
Christopher met with Francis. “It’s done, my dear. We are in the clear for Holy Matrimony.”
“Oh, Christopher, is it really over?”
“Well, not exactly. We can’t do anything until the final paperwork arrives; the Holy See moves in slow and mysterious ways.” He smiled at his lovely bride to be. “It doesn’t matter now.”
The paperwork arrived and a date for the marriage was set. In spite of their plans for a small, private ceremony, word got out, and it seemed as if the entire parish showed up, including some of the sisters from St. Anne’s.
Francis carried Father Freddie’s cross with her during the ceremony and placed it in the secretary of their new home before leaving on their wedding trip.
They purchased a small, older cottage requiring a good deal of renovation, giving them a chance to build their new life together.
The original kitchen cabinets had been painted so many times, the cabinet doors did not close properly. Francis was determined to open one small cubby drawer which was also painted shut. She chipped around the edges of the drawer with a sharp chisel. When it felt loose, she pulled it opened and cried out at what she saw inside.
Christopher rushed in. “What is it?” Francis pointed at the drawer. “Oh, it’s nothing.”
“It is something, Christopher. The cross. I need the cross.”
“It’s in the secretary.” He moved into the living room to retrieve it. “It’s gone!”
Francis rushed to his side, “It has to be there.”
“No, it’s not here. Did we move it?”
“No, there would be…” She glanced into the kitchen. “There it is.” Beneath the open drawer lay the cross.
“It wasn’t there a minute ago.”
“Bobby,” Francis laughed, “He’s at it again, or it was Freddie.” She reached into the drawer and picked up the green stone. She showed it to Christopher and then placed it in the center of the cross. It fit.
“I don’t believe it.” Francis sighed as she moved close to Christopher and put her arm around him. They gazed at the sparkling jewels. And then, to their amazement, the cross disappeared.
“Freddie said it would guide us to a solution, and it has. I guess he wanted it back. Thank you, Freddie. Thank you for our lives together.” She turned to Christopher. “Is the handkerchief he gave me still in the drawer?”
They went to the secretary; it was still there. “Well, he can’t have this back,” Francis closed the secretary and patted the door. “A spiritual keepsake.”
Christopher mused, “I wonder if we will ever see Freddie again.”
“If there’s trouble. I’m sure he’ll be back.”
“Are we going for a pink or blue theme?” Christopher asked with a knowing smile as they resumed restoration work on one of their bedrooms,
“How about a combination?” Francis suggested. “Twins are common in my family; did I ever tell you that?”
“No, you didn’t.” He grinned at her.
“A boy and a girl at the same time. Wouldn’t that be swell?” She smiled and put her arms around her husband.
“Yes, it would.” He kissed her forehead. “Italian and Scottish – should be an interesting combination.”
“They’ll be beautiful,” Francis assured him.
“I hope they have red hair.” Christopher smiled and caressed Francis’ red tresses.
“Oh you do, do you?” She paused and remembered. “When Freddie and I parted on the bridge, he said something I wasn’t able to understand, until now.”
“Which was?” Christopher held her close.
“He said two beautiful souls were waiting for us to resolve our problems. I’m thinking he meant children, waiting to be born to us.”
“Humm, interesting. You may be right, my dear.”
Francis decided not to wait. “Well, we’ll soon find out,” she smiled.
Christopher pulled her out to arm’s length. “Francis?”
“I’m not sure. Too soon?”
“Are you kidding?” He pulled her into an embrace and held her tight. “Oh, my God. I can’t believe this is happening.”
“I suppose we should thank Freddie.”
“Indeed, we should.”
Francis nestled closer to this beautiful man, who had included her in his dedication to God and whispered, “Thank you, Freddie. We love you.”