Early the next morning, Sister Maria was making things ready for the morning sermon. Father Pedro surprised her. “What are you doing up so early?” she asked, believing that yesterday’s “visitor” had kept him up all night with worry. He didn’t seem tired, though.
“I need you to do something very important for me.” he told her. “In the village north of here there is a craftsman called Hector. He has something for me, and I need you to bring it to me.”
“I can’t leave,” she protested, “there is too much to be done.”
“It’s alright.” he told her, “I can manage things for today, but you’re the only one who can drive the station wagon.”
She shook her head to object, but he waived her to the door. “Please you must go quickly, it is important for me to have this as soon as possible. You know I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t need you to, and you work so hard, I think it’s time for you to have a morning free of labor. If you go now, you’ll be back in time for the evening ceremony.”
As she couldn’t find any way to continue to argue, she resolved to travel as quickly as possible. As if on cue he warned her, “Don’t speed, it’s dangerous to you and everyone else on the road.”
“What is it you’re sending me after?” she asked, trying to take her mind off the irritation she felt.
“Let it be a surprise,” he teased, “but know that it’s very beautiful. Please Maria, I must have this as soon as you can give it to me, I can‘t tell you how important it is to me.” A question formed on her tongue, but he raised a finger in the air and said “You will see a sign.”
The morning service was as crowded as ever, and he remembered the threat made against them. He found himself questioning if he really was making the right choice. Could it be God’s work to place so many people in danger? He felt ashamed to ask these questions, as though they disproved his faith. He had always had such questions to ponder in in his quiet way, and he had always found the answer. As he walked out to his pulpit he looked out at the sea of faces. He stood still before them for a moment and then began to speak. He had found the answer to his question.
“I ask now, before I begin, that anyone who values their life to leave now. If there is any reason you would not risk your life, it is enough reason for me to tell you to leave this place. It does not speak anything against you to go, God will not be displeased. God loves you and wants you to find your way in life.” No one moved, though some looked at each other with questioning faces. “Very well, then know that this may be a decision you regret.”
When no one moved, he raised his hands to them and said “How truly blessed I am to have so devoted a family.” Tears of joy and sadness blurred his vision, and he took a moment to wipe them from his eyes. He knew that whatever happened it was the will of God. That those who offered true faith were never closer to God and that those who sit in the house of the Lord with false faith were likewise cherished and welcomed to His presence.
“The Cartel is the scourge of our land. It is as vile as the Conquistadors and as murderously greedy. It is the source of so much misery, that sometimes I wish it could be destroyed. We are taught, however, that it is not our place to fight or to destroy, not even in the name of God, or for the sake of goodness. When evil men seek power they take their fate in their own hands, even as they take the lives of others. It is not for us to exercise judgment, we must trust to God that which belongs solely to him.”
As he spoke a single figure rose from the third row. He recognized the man from his suit and his sunglasses. He was shaking his head as he turned and walked back towards the entrance to the church. He did not see the package the man had left behind, beneath the pew.
When the man had left the building, a strange feeling overtook Pedro’s senses. To those that remained the Father had appeared to glow with a beautiful, golden light. When he began to speak, it was in a language that had not been spoken in almost a century. They understood him nonetheless, and they were overcome by his words rising together in glorious unison. He spoke of things that living people can never know.
Story by Joe Stanley