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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Drama Stories / Human Interest Stories
- Subject: Novels
- Published: 07/22/2019
THE VOYAGE OF FATHER GIBBONSBorn 1939, M, from Hilo, Hawaii, United States
As told by Christopher Gibbons
My brother, Matthew, and I are identical twins. We were born ten minutes apart. Except for the birthmark under Matt’s left arm, no one can tell us apart. Well, that’s not entirely true. Mom could tell us apart – most of the time. No, some of the time. Dad, on the other hand, did not have patience with our tomfoolery so, we had a secret sign for him so he’d know. I’d touch my left earlobe and Matt would touch his right. Sometimes that even confused dear old Dad. Once, he suggested we have our names tattooed on our arms. Mother almost passed out when she heard that. If nothing else, Dad had a sense of humor that carried us through some tough times.
We took advantage of our identicalness in every way possible. In high school, we would exchange shirts mid-day which added to the confusion of our friends and teachers. It was fun and we had a great time together.
I knew Matt better than anyone in the world. You love your parents for their love and caring. But the love for a twin is entirely different. There is something mystical and selfless about it. I often thought of the day when we would depart this world. Would we depart together? I couldn’t imagine being left behind. It was unimaginable to me. But that was off in the future. For the present, I knew something was wrong the minute he walked in the door. “Matt?”
“Nothing.” His tone told me to go no further. I could hear him in the kitchen slamming cabinet doors, rummaging around in the fridge. I’d seen him like this before. Was it over or just beginning? This time I wasn’t so sure. I moved quietly into my room and lay on the bed reading. Twenty minutes later he came in and flung himself on the bed next to me. He lay on his stomach facing away from me but close enough to where I could smell his scent. He said nothing, he just let out a great sigh. I maneuvered one leg close enough to barely touch him. He rolled over and made hard contact with me. Neither one of us said a word – it wasn’t necessary. A few minutes later he got up and left the apartment. He was obviously restless but wasn’t ready to talk about it. All I could do was embrace him in my heart and wait.
Our years in college began to show a divergence. He majored in science and girls, I had a tough time holding my own in economics and the arts. He was fascinated with World War II and Anne Bancroft. I began writing stories and articles for the college newspaper. I was surprised and disappointed at his reaction when I sold my first story to The New Yorker. He hardly noticed.
He met Anna and soon after asked me to be his best man. Of course, I said yes, but I wondered if I really was his best man. The distance between us grew. We were twenty-two when he and Anna were married. I was happy for him but felt left out. I hardly saw him after that.
About a year later I heard rumors that he and Anna were not getting along. I mentioned it. He said I was crazy and changed the subject. Mom and Dad noticed a difference at holiday gatherings. Anna was bright and cheerful, but it didn’t ring true. Matt was sullen and close-mouthed. I knew better than to broach the subject.
By the end of their second year of marriage, they had separated. Matt eluded that Anna had cheated on him. I was shocked and had a difficult time understanding it. I wasn’t close to Anna but friendly enough to ask her out for coffee. She agreed. I think she knew what I would ask. She didn’t hold back when I did ask, admitting she was seeing someone else and wanted a divorce from Matt. My heart sank when I heard what she said. She hadn’t told Matt of her decision and I, of course, reluctantly promised not to say anything to anyone.
When I asked her what had gone wrong, she looked up at me as tears ran down her cheeks. She wiped them away but they kept coming as she whispered, “We never consummated our marriage.” I was struck dumb. My mind just whirled around for a few seconds. She told me I was the only one who knew and made me promise never to mention it. I agreed but could not wrap my brain around everything she had told me.
“No intimacy in all that time?”
She shook her head.
“How about before you were married?”
“I told him I was saving myself and wouldn’t do it.”
“Could he be asexual?”
“I don’t know, Chris. He avoids talking about it.” She obviously felt relieved she had someone to talk to.
I ventured, “Could he be …”
“…gay? I don’t know. I hoped you would have some insight into that.”
“Anna, I know him better than anyone in the world and that never crossed my mind.” We fooled around with mutual masturbation when we were kids. It was nothing more than experimenting like most kids that age do. I just could not imagine him being gay.
“I know you think I’m a terrible person…”
“…Anna, stop! That’s not true. That’s not true at all and never will be as far as I’m concerned.” I had to pause a few seconds, “No matter what you decide to do, I think you’ll come through this a stronger person … I hope we will remain friends.”
“Yes, Christopher, I’d like that. This will be hard on Matt but in a way a relief at the same time. I take some comfort in knowing you’ll be there for him.” She told me she had hired a divorce lawyer and was filing for divorce citing irreconcilable differences as the reason.
Regrettably, I figured that was the last time I would ever see Anna, and waited for Matt to tell me of the divorce. The knock on my door came two weeks later. When I opened it, I could hardly believe it was Matt. He looked drained and terribly unhappy. “Matt?”
He walked into the foyer. As I closed the door, he turned to me and burst into tears. I grabbed him and held him tight. His vocal sobs tore at my heart. I came to tears myself as I felt the pain he was in. He clung to me like a life raft as his world seemed to be slipping away from him. His knees gave way and we slipped to kneeling on the floor.
When his passion subsided, he sank back on his haunches and looked at me, “What am I going to do, Chris?”
I got up and took his hand, “Come on … I’ll make some tea and we’ll have an old fashioned chin wag.” I pulled him to his feet as he laughed.
“What the hell is a chin wag?” We walked into the kitchen.
“I heard it in one of those British movies. It means we’re going to talk … I think. You sit, I’ll make tea.”
Matt obediently sat down, “She filed for divorce.”
“Yes, I know.” I filled the kettle and placed it on the stove.
Somewhat surprise, he looked at me, “How did you know?”
“I had coffee with Anna not too long ago.”
“Why?” His question was laced with betrayal.
“Because I wanted to know what was going on?”
“You had no right.”
I glared at him.
“Ok, you had a right, but why didn’t you ask me?”
I glared at him again.
“Yeah, you’re right.”
I put two cups on the table along with a tin of tea bags and a tin of chocolate chip cookies.
“Yup saw her a few days ago.”
“I have to find a place to live.”
He looked up and paused a few seconds, “You mean it?”
“Well, of course, I mean it. I miss you. It will be good to have you around again. You can take the spare bedroom. If you get out of line I’ll just beat the crap out of you like I used to.”
Matt got up and threw his arms around me and began to laugh, “If memory serves me right, I used to beat the crap out of you.”
“Technically, yes, but I let you win.” He laughed, kissed my cheek, and sat down. I poured hot water in the cups and joined him at the table. We talked into the wee hours of the morning until all the cookies were gone. The bottom line, he was lost and didn’t know what to do. He laid everything out on the table for me to see. The closeness I had missed was back.
“I still love, Anna. It’s just that when we …”
“It’s in the past now, Matt. Time to move on. The next hurdle you have to jump is with Mom and Dad.”
“Oh, jeez, what am I gonna tell them?”
“Well, you can start with the truth … not all of the truth, simply say it wasn’t meant to be. Just enough to keep them quiet.”
“Keep them quiet? Are you kidding? Nothing will satisfy, Mom. If I know her, she’ll call, Anna. Will you be there?”
“Of course. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” I laughed, “Mom will turn three shades of green as her dreams of grandchildren fade, and Dad will choke on one of his cigars. It should be fun. Let’s wait until Christmas. Tell them over Christmas dinner. You know how I hate this traditional stuff.”
Matt began to laugh out loud; I thought he’d never stop. Memories of past episodes at the dinner table came back with a clarity that sent us into volumes of laughter.
Matt moved in, it was like old times again – for a while. Then, subtle changes began to creep in. It was nothing worth mentioning, but it was there and did not go away. He began staying away overnight which was okay with me – he was an adult. But he never discussed those nights out and I never asked. Then he stayed away entire weekends. I had no idea where he was or when he would return. Common courtesy dictates you tell the other person basic details of your absence. But there were none. I restrained myself from asking. Something was going on. He definitely was changing and shutting me out. But the nagging question continued – why?
One afternoon, I pulled the kitchen trash bag out of its bin and was about to tie it closed when I noticed something inside the bag that caught my eye. I reached in and pulled out a colorful card. At first, I thought it might be an old baseball card. Matt had collected them when we were kids. It was not a baseball card. It was a prayer card to Saint Therese De Lisieux. I could not have been more surprised. We had gone to Catholic school over at St. Ignatius but were not that religious as a family. I had drifted away once I was in college. I assumed Matt felt the same way though we never spoke of it.
I read the card. ‘Governed by all Thy Wisdom, O Lord, so that my soul may always be serving Thee as Thou dost will, and not as I may choose. Do not punish me, I beseech Thee, by granting that which I wish or ask if it offended Thy Love, which would always live in me. Let me die to myself, so that I may love Thee. Let me live to Thee, Who art in thyself, the True Life. Dear St. Therese, guide me in your Little Way, so that I may ascend to the heights and happiness of Heaven.’
I sat down at the kitchen table totally mystified. I kept looking at the card. What was Matt doing with it? I wondered if there were more cards in the garbage bag. I placed a fresh bag in the bin and began emptying everything from the full bag. When I got to the bottom, I found another one. This lacked any color, just a printed message.
‘O Lord Jesus Christ, the great High Priest, who dost call chosen souls to offer Thee in sacrifice and to assist Thee in saving souls, I beseech Thee to grant me this high grace though I am most unworthy of it; make me carefully to prepare my heart to receive it and to keep myself pure and lowly that Thou mayest call me to serve Thee at Thine altar. Amen. O Mary, Mother of God and my dear mother too, obtain for me this grace from the Sacred Heart of thy dear Son.’
I turned the card over — Prayer for Grace to Become a Priest.
I laid the card next to the other one and stared at them. I wondered if this is what was behind all the secrecy. I purposely left the cards on the table and took the garbage out. I would have to wait and see what his reaction would be when he saw them.
When I returned to the kitchen, I noticed the cards were gone. And so was the toaster which had been sitting next to the cards. My brand new toaster which I had only used once. I looked around the kitchen and saw my Mr. Coffee coffee-maker was also gone. “What the hell is going on?” I had left the kitchen door open but never imagined anyone would come in and steal something. I closed the door and wondered how I would open a dialogue with Matt about the cards.
I was about to watch the evening news when I heard the kitchen door open. “Matt?” He did not answer. I got up and walked into the kitchen.
“Why are the toaster and coffee-maker sitting in the hallway?” Matt looked perplexed.
I began to laugh at the sight of them sitting on the hallway floor, “I took the garbage out earlier and left the door open. When I returned, they were gone.” Then I noticed the two cards were placed neatly on top of the toaster. Matt bent over and picked up the toaster and placed it on the kitchen table. I got the coffee-maker. When I turned around I saw the toaster on the kitchen table but no cards. Chris had taken them and was not about to show them to me. I decided not to say anything. I’m assuming he thought someone went through our garbage and found the cards and returned them for whatever reason – probably out of shame.
We spent the evening together watching TV in mostly silence. But when he did speak it was guarded. I knew him too well not to have noticed. I said nothing at first and then changed my mind. I turned to him, “Matt, what the hell is going on?”
He looked at me for a moment and paused a few seconds; “I’m joining the Army, Special Forces. I leave in three days.” He looked away from me.
“No, you don’t see. My life is coming apart at the seams, Chris. This will give me a direction I can work with.”
“What I don’t understand is why you shut me out.”
“I’m sorry. I was afraid you might not approve.”
“And why wouldn’t I? Wait a minute. There’s more, isn’t there?”
“What do you mean?”
“Those prayer cards.”
“You went through the garbage?”
“It’s my garbage. I suppose I can do what I like with it. And don’t change the subject.”
He was silent for a moment, then out it came in a halting whisper, “I’m going to mass again.”
“This really pisses me off about you … I can’t keep anything from you.”
“Two peas from the same pod, remember.”
“I’ve seen Sister Magda a few times.”
“Have you spoken to her?”
“Oh, my God, this is serious.”
“No, it’s not. She told me Father Pat passed away.”
“Why do you keep saying that?”
“Because there’s more and I’m about to beat the crap out of you if I have to ask once more.”
“Father Pat wrote a letter to me and gave it to Sister Magda to pass it on when she saw me. The letter urged me to go to seminary and enter the priesthood.”
“That’s what I almost said when I read it. Now that I think about it, he always had time to talk to me. I can see now he was grooming me.”
“And Sister Magda?”
“She knew about it all along. Remember how many times I complained about her watching me.”
“So, what now?”
“The army and then I’ll see. You’re not disappointed that I’m leaving?”
“Of course, I am. But, I only want the best for you, but a priest is not something I ever thought of.”
Three days later I embraced Matt in farewell. I kissed his cheek and gazed into his eyes for a moment. Little did I know it would be twelve years before he would return – a changed man. He was in Iraq when Mom passed away and a year later when Dad passed. There was no point in him returning for those sad events. I supported him in his decision not to attend the funerals. Our concept of death was far different from those close to us. My soul ached for him in his absence.
Though he wrote many long, detailed letters, which bound us ever closer together, he can best describe in his own words what he was experiencing as his life unfolded in ways neither of us expected.
As told by Matthew Gibbons
Leaving Chris was probably one of the most difficult things I ever had to do. I never realized how at-one we were until that moment. I began to realize he was more than a brother – he was my soul mate. As a kid, I fantasized we came into this world together for a purpose. I never decided what that purpose was, but there were a lot of them running through my head. We were born ten minutes apart; I often wondered if we would die at the same moment … or at least within ten minutes of each other. I know it sounds crazy, but I could not imagine living, knowing he had passed on without me.
My future finally began to come into focus after seeing Sister Magda for the first time since school days. I never had any direct contact with her during that time but had the feeling she was watching me. I didn’t dislike her as other kids did, but I didn’t necessarily like her either. I saw her from afar and was in awe of her as a nun. She was big, and black, and tough. When she spoke, the rafters vibrated, and when she yelled, which was quite often, she plowed through the bullshit and left tip-toeing through the tulips to the other nuns. No one messed with Sister Magda.
I was convinced she was watching me and that made me uncomfortable. She wasn’t obvious, but I knew. When you get that, hair standing up on the back of your neck kind of feeling, you can be pretty sure someone is watching. I imagined she knew something about me and might tell. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but, nevertheless, I felt guilty all the same. She just watched and waited. What she was waiting for was beyond me at the time.
I thought there was something wrong with me when my love for Anna lacked sexual intimacy. She was my friend and nothing more. I know how much this hurt her but there was nothing to be done about it. I was relieved when she filed for divorce. I wrote to her when the divorce was final and wished her all the happiness she was able to bear. I never got a response.
The more I thought about it I came to the realization I wasn’t attracted to girls. I panicked when I thought of the alternative. But thankfully, I came to the conclusion I wasn’t attracted to boys either … not in that way … which made it all the worse. I was out in left field alone and did not understand why. Fortunately, Father Pat and Sister Magda did understand, which I was to learn much later.
When I saw the recruitment ad in the Gazette for the Army, I saw a possible out. I instinctively knew I wanted to wear the Green Beret. The requirements were steep and daunting. I joined-up and survived the rigorous training. Two tours in Vietnam and multiple secret missions taught me more than I ever imagined possible and a lot more than I wanted to know. I had never seen another human being die, especially under wartime conditions. The first time I saw the light fade from the eyes of a comrade, a friend, I went numb inside. I couldn’t feel anything. No sympathy, no remorse. I guess it was an internal defense system that kicked in.
The thing that haunted me more than anything else was the knowledge that I might be responsible for another human being’s death. At the end of the day, what was the point of all the killing and maiming? There wasn’t any. That’s not what I bargained for. The recruitment ad should have read,
Join the Army
See the world,
Meet new people,
Then kill them.
After twelve years, I received an honorable discharge and often wondered what was so honorable about it. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I realized how much I had changed. Everything looked familiar but there was something else. There was an emptiness which is the best way of describing it. The only sameness was Christopher. Nothing had changed between us. I could not have been happier to be with him again.
I wasn’t the same person who had left twelve years earlier. And I certainly did not want to pick up where I had left off. But there was Sister Magda and the letter Father Pat had left for me.
Pathway to Priesthood
I saw Sister Magda for the first time in twelve years when I went to Mass after returning from the Army. She looked the same, only happier for some reason. Perhaps she looked different because I was different. When she saw me, her face lit up.
“Matt. I’m so happy to see you.”
“Sister Magda. It’s been a long time.”
“It has, indeed. A lot of water under our bridges.”
“Yeah, that’s for sure. More than I anticipated.”
“Yes . . . I can only imagine. So, what are your plans now that you’re back?”
“I don’t know.”
“Have you given Father Patrick’s letter further consideration?”
“In his letter, he said I would be the perfect celibate. What did he mean by that?"
"It means, having no desires of this world … being in this world but no longer of it."
Those few words Sister Magda spoke, hit me right between the eyes . . . they answered
so many questions I had struggled with.
“If you decide to go forward with his suggestion, let me know. I can help.”
“Thank you, Sister. I’ve been giving it serious thought. Did you read what Father Pat wrote in his letter to me?”
"No. Father Pat didn't offer and it never occurred to me to read what he had written. Why do you ask?"
"The last paragraph of his letter is what caught my gut and convinced me to go forward with his urging."
"And what was it he wrote?"
"Study until the finger of God touches you and you find yourself ordained. Then they will beat a path to your door."
Sister Magda's breath caught in her throat. She put her fingers to her lips as her eyes welled with tears which told me everything I needed to know.
I researched all of the references Father Pat included in his letter. Three months later, I called Sister Magda. “I’m ready to take the next step … with your help, of course.”
We met the following day during which I expressed my concern. “I don’t have the bachelor’s degree required to enter seminary training.”
“Matt, I don’t think that will be a problem. Your service in the Army Special Forces will verify the discipline they are looking for in candidates.”
“Then there is the matter of my divorce.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that.”
Sister Magda laughed. “I’ve kept my eye on you.”
“You sound pretty sure of yourself.”
“Hey, it’s what I do.”
“It was never consummated.”
“Yes, I know and that will not be a problem in your acceptance into seminary. I’ve done a little inquiring of my own just to make sure.”
I laughed. “Ok, it looks like I need to make the application. And please don’t tell me you’ve already done that.”
“Well, not exactly, but the Diocese of Salt Lake is aware of you and I believe will welcome you with open arms.”
“Sister Magda, you should have been a diplomat.”
She laughed. “So, I’ve been told.”
“In any event, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“You are most welcome. But be sure to send up a thank you to Father Pat.”
“I will indeed.”
“Now, here is what I want you to do tomorrow.”
Mathew Becomes a Priest
Six years later, Matt graduated from the Salt Lake Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree. He was thirty-seven years old.
Because of his outstanding character, devotion, and service to the other seminary students, the usual initial ordination as a Deacon was passed over and a schedule for his ordination as a priest was set.
When that day arrived, he caught a glimpse of Sister Magda in the audience as he moved forward in the Cathedral. She was beaming, which gave him a sense of comfort in knowing she was there for him. Her strength and encouragement, in a way, made the moment possible. He thought of Father Patrick and hoped he was watching.
The years of seminary discipline during his formation were awe-inspiring, but it was that moment during ordination, when the Bishop laid his hands on Matt’s head, that the point of no return for him had been reached. Though only symbolic of the Holy Spirit conferring the sacred character upon him, setting himself aside for the path ahead, he experienced a euphoric sense of selflessness which left him breathless and helpless.
The Bishop was somewhat alarmed when Matt did not move away as rehearsed. He whispered, “Father Gibbons?” Matt had never been addressed in that manner. Those two words seemed to be the trigger that sent his new life surging through him. He retreated from the Bishop, overwhelmed with a sense of humility he could never have imagined. As he lay prostrate before the altar and the Bishop, while the other candidates were ordained, he began to sob quietly at the splendor of the moment.
Earlier, he had inquired about being assigned, after ordination, to his hometown church, Saint Ignatius of Antioch in Saint George, Utah. He was told not to have high hopes of that happening and promptly forgot about it. He could not have been more surprised and pleased when he was notified that his assignment, after all, was to St. Ignatius. It wasn’t until several years later that Sister Magda’s influence became evident. She was like a guardian angel, always there, seldom seen.
After Father Patrick passed away, Father Giovani Ciabatino assumed Father Pat’s responsibilities; however, there remained a need.
Sister Magna was the born diplomat. She knew everyone and had connections in high places one would never think possible for a nun. But there he was, on his way back home, an ordained priest of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. When he stepped off the train, there she was.
“Father Gibbons, I’m so happy to see you.”
“Sister Magda, how did you know I was coming on this train? It was a last-minute decision.”
She ignored his question, picked up his suitcase and escorted him to a waiting car.
“The rectory is all prepared. Mrs. Mueller is your housekeeper and cook. She will help you settle in. Father Ciabatino is around somewhere. You’ll see him at dinner. By the way, Mrs. Mueller is an excellent cook. So, no need to think you’ll be on rations with her around.”
Matt found Mrs. Mueller to be well chosen for the position. She was efficient, ever at the ready, but stayed in the background. Father Ciabatino showed up for dinner and informed Matt unceremoniously that he preferred to be called Father Gio, setting the tone for a somewhat distant relationship. Matt got the impression he was protecting his territory as parish priest which was fine with him. He had no intentions of usurping anyone’s territory, least of all, that of Father Gio.
The dinner with Father Gio was pleasant enough – mostly there were questions about the new kid on the block. Matt did his best to make sure Father Gio understood he was there to fill a void and assist wherever he was needed. Father Gio seemed more relaxed over coffee at the end of the meal. Matt yawned and excused himself, pleading exhaustion after a full day and bid Father Gio a good night. He stopped by the kitchen on his way and thanked the beaming Mrs. Mueller for the delicious meal.
As Matt pulled a blanket under his chin and gave a deep sigh, he heard the whistle of the 10:30 express train passing through town. It reminded him of the time he asked his mother what was the purpose of the tall pole with the arm that extended toward the railroad tracks. She explained that as the train came through town, a hook on the side of the mail car grabbed a prepared mailbag placed on the pole, thereby eliminating the need for the train to stop. Memories of the past were a comfort to him as he fell asleep.
Dawn was breaking when he opened his eyes for the first full day in his new-old home. A soft breeze from the open window caressed him as he thought about the day ahead. Since he had no immediate duties, he would have coffee and toast, then go to the Cathedral and have an in-depth look around. He knew it well enough, having been an altar boy, but now he felt privy to go anywhere he chose to go.
Six o’clock mass was finished when Matt arrived. He paused a moment, observing the folks waiting near the confessional.
“Good morning, Father Gibbons.”
Matt smiled and turned around, “Good morning, Sister. You know, I’m thinking Brother Gibbons would be better for the time being. I need a lot more experience before I’ll feel comfortable with the title Father.”
“That day will come soon enough.”
“Your confidence is encouraging and reassuring. Thank you.”
They walked together while he reacquainted himself with the Cathedral. It was also an unexpected opportunity for him to become friends with his colleague. Her intelligence and sense of humor would sustain him as their lives unfolded together at Saint Benedict’s.
Matt’s initial goal as a priest was a life of prayer and meditation in his effort to enhance his communication with the Absolute. Of course, he would be available to those who wished counseling on matters of their concern and was surprised at the number of requests he received almost immediately from a variety of parishioners, most of whom he did not know personally. Some had been friends with his mother, which formed an immediate bond. As for the others, he began to wonder why they came to him and not Father Gio. Perhaps they wished to get a closer look at the new arrival. Whatever their reason, he was pleased with the attention.
He casually mentioned this observation to Sister Magda one afternoon and was struck by her silence. She avoided discussing his comment by suggesting he create a confessional schedule to accommodate those in need. He followed her suggestion, but his sudden popularity aroused his suspicion that something unusual was happening though he wasn’t quite sure what it was. Finally, he took Sister Magda aside one afternoon and point-blank asked her. He was met with silence and pinched lips.
“Okay, Sister. Please, come with me.” He led her to the confessional and opened the parishioner’s door, holding it for her and pointing for her to enter. She hesitated but finally entered. He closed her door and took his place on the other side of the screen. They sat in silence for what seemed a very long time until he spoke. “Sister Magda – let’s have it. What’s going on?”
She remained silent. “Sister, I thought we were friends.”
She whispered, “I am so ashamed.”
“Ashamed of what?”
She paused and then whispered, “They don’t like Father Gio.”
“What?” He could hardly believe what he had heard but had his suspicions. “Why not, for heaven’s sake?”
More silence. It was obvious she was having a tough time talking about whatever it was.
“Sister, I’m not about to force you to say something against your will. But we can’t sit here forever. Perhaps we should end this conversation until another time.” He got up and opened the door.
He closed his door and sat down. The tension was almost unbearable. Here was this no-nonsense person he had grown to admire, falling to pieces in front of him. He took a deep breath and waited.
“Father Gio … and Jonathan.”
“The altar boy?” Matt’s stomach tightened.
“Are you certain?”
“Small things that don’t mean anything.”
“Late for class, his grades are slipping. He avoids eye contact, which is a red flag for me. He’s involved with something and he's conflicted about it.”
“Do you want me to have a talk with him?”
“No, I’ve tried.”
“He told one lie after another.”
“Have you talked to his parents?”
“He doesn’t have any; lives with an elderly aunt.”
“Which means … he’s unsupervised.”
“Well, we can’t sit back and wait. Perhaps I should discuss this with Father Gio.”
“He’s evasive and…”
“And … what?”
“The tone of his voice.”
“I’m a nun and should be seen and not heard.”
“Sister Magda, you must be wrong.”
“I hope so.”
But Matt knew what she meant. He had experienced the condescending tone from Father Gio himself. “Do you think he’s having an inappropriate relationship with Jonathan?”
“I don’t know. They’ve been seen together more often than would be considered necessary. I just don’t know.”
“Brother Gibbons!” A distant voice in the Cathedral called out to him.
"It sounds like Phillip. He’s one of our bell ringers.”
Matt opened the confessional door and stepped outside. “Phillip?”
“Yes, Brother Gibbons.”
“What’s the trouble?”
“It’s my turn to ring the 6 p.m. prayer bell.”
“The rope won’t budge. I looked for Charlie but he’s not around. What do I do?”
Matt looked at Sister Magda, “Who’s Charlie?”
“He’s our janitor and groundskeeper. Phillip, did you give the rope a good yank. Sometimes it sticks.”
“Yes, Sister, but it won’t give.”
“Did you go to the tower?”
“No, Sister, the gate is locked.”
“It is? That’s strange. It should be open.”
“Okay, we better have a look. Come on, Brother Gibbons, I don’t think you’ve been to the tower yet? Phillip, you, too. Come along.”
Halfway up the stairway, they encountered the gate. “The gate’s not locked, but it is odd that it’s closed.” She opened it and pushed it against the wall. The three continue up the stairway.
Matt was the first to enter the bell tower. He stopped suddenly and turned. “Hey, Phillip, I’ll fix the rope and ring the bell. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. You get on home before it gets dark. Thanks again.”
“Thank you, Brother Gibbons.” Phillip gratefully turned and ran down the stairs. Sister Magda looked questioningly at Matt who paused until Phillip was out of sight, then he turned to Sister Magda. “Come on.” He led the way into the chamber. As they entered, he stepped aside, clearing the view for Sister Magda. She stopped and put her hand to her mouth, “Oh, dear God, no.”
Brother Gibbons moved to the figure hanging by the neck from the bell-rope. Without looking back, he asked, “Jonathan?”
“Yes ... Is he...?”
“Yes, he’s gone.” As he turned toward Sister Magda, “None of that, Sister. Tears aren’t going to help. Not now. Listen to me; I need you by my side on this. There’ll be time for tears later.”
“I’m sorry. I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Her plaintive expression softened Matt for the moment.
“I know. It’s not easy. It never is.”
“But why? How could anyone do this? He was just a child.”
“It’s much worse when you know and care for the person. Turn whatever you’re feeling into a resolve to find out who did this. We may never know why.”
“The Bishop, we need to contact him.”
“No, later. Right now we need to notify the police. Let’s go down and close the gate without touching it. Fingerprints will be vital.”
“Bishop O’Neil won’t like this.”
“Probably not. I’ll deal with him.”
After the police were notified, Matt and Sister Magda waited at the bottom of the tower stairs, blocking the way.
“Your military service put you in the thick of things. I forgot about that. All I can think of were the last moments of Jonathan’s life. How horrible it must have been for him.”
“One consolation – it’s over; he’s in a better place now. Memories of those last minutes will seem like a dream, soon to be forgotten. Thankfully you didn’t witness those last moments. Watching the light fade from another human’s eyes is something you never forget.”
“How did you handle it?”
“When you’re under attack, events move so quickly there isn’t time to think about anything other than survival. Later on, when the reality of lost friends and comrades sets in, you just shut down inside. You feel nothing. You can’t; there’s no room for it.”
“You said you needed me by your side.”
“Yes, I did.”
“This is a small community with few resources. The death will be reported, an investigation launched, and nothing more will happen. There will be a few headlines and a lot of talk. But, eventually that will die down and it will all be but forgotten.”
“Sounds like you have intentions of not letting that happening.”
“No, of course not, but how?”
“By observing, being vigilant. Whoever did this is out there and eventually will make a mistake; I want to be around when that happens.”
“I’m not sure what I can do.”
“You’re good at watching and listening. How well I remember! Now is the time to put that talent into high gear.”
“But I deal with children all day.”
“Doesn’t matter. Everyone is suspect – everyone. Never forget that. It could be another classmate or they may be associated with the murderer or may have seen something they don’t understand. Anything and everything is possible. Whoever it is will not suspect what you and I are doing. Tell no one. If you suspect the slightest thing – let me know.
“Here they come. You go about your duties, Sister; I’ll speak with the officers. And remember – watch and listen to everything.”
"Father Gibbons?" Detective Perkins approaches Matt.
“Yes, and you are?”
“Perkins, Detective Perkins.” He extends his hand. Matt grabbed it, make eye contact, and holds it tight for a second before releasing his grip.
"Where's the body?”
“Up these stairs.”
“You stay here. Officer Nelson has some questions.
“Yes, of course.”
“Perkins looked intently at Matt, then ascended the stairs with three other men.
“Father, tell me what happened?” Officer Nelson held a pad of paper with his pen at the ready.
“Sister Magda and I were conferring here in the sanctuary when Phillip, our bell ringer, told us the bell-rope was stuck. He said the stairwell gate was locked which is unusual. So, the three of us went to investigate. The gate was not locked, just closed. We opened it and went to the bell tower. I saw the body first and sent Phillip home. I didn’t want him to see it. Sister Magda and I entered the tower chamber. Sister Magda identified the body as Jonathan. There was no doubt the boy was gone. We came down here and I placed the call.”
“Oh, my God.”
“You know him?”
“Yes, he lives in my neighborhood. Has anyone contacted his aunt?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where is Sister Magda?”
“She returned to her duties at the school.”
“We’ll need to speak to her.”
“Shall I call her?”
“Detective Perkins will speak with her. You might mention it to her. I’m going up. You’re free to go, Father. We’ll be in touch.
“I asked that no reporters be told of this. I need to advise the proper Church authorities before this gets into the papers.”
“Then I suggest you do that as quickly as possible.”
His inference was clear. Matt responded with a hasty, “Yes, I will.”
Officer Nelson turned to leave and stopped, “Father Gibbons?”
“Any idea what happened?”
“Not really. I’ve only been here a few months. Jonathan was one of our altar boys but I didn’t know him that well. Sister Magda is the person you need to talk with.”
“I was told you were Special Force … a combat vet.”
“What I meant was, any opinion on what your trained eyes saw in the tower?”
“Not really, but it did seem strange.”
“Well, it seemed strange that Jonathan or anyone would do something like that on their own, especially in the tower. From the moment I saw what little I saw, I don’t see how he could have managed it on his own. It struck me as being posed.”
“Yeah, I’m probably wrong but that’s the impression I got.”
“Thank you, Father.”
“Your service.” His response had a melancholy tone which Matt didn't quite understand.
“If there’s nothing else, I need to advise Bishop O’Neil.”
“You’re free to go. We’ll need to speak with you later.”
“Yes, of course, anytime.”
Officer Nelson smiled and continued up the stairs. It was then Matt noticed an irregularity in the officer's gait and understood his melancholy. He headed to the Bishop’s office.
“You did what?” Bishop O'Neil bellowed at Matt.
“I called the police. They’re up there now. I thought it best to contact the police first.”
“Well, you were wrong. This congregation is my responsibility, not yours.”
“We would have been under suspicion if we had delayed contacting the authorities.”
“Jesus, I can’t believe you did this. We need to contain this mess before the media gets hold of it.”
“Contain what mess? We’ve got a twelve-year-old boy dead in our bell tower and you want to contain this mess?”
“How dare you speak to me in this manner?”
“If you think you’re going to cover this up, you’ve got another think coming.”
“Who said anything about a cover-up?”
“You did, just now.”
“Where’s Sister Magda?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, find her and send her to me … now! … I’ll deal with you later.”
Matt stared defiantly at the Bishop for a second, then left his office. He found Sister Magda in her office. “O’Neil wants to see you … and he’s not happy.”
“That … is no surprise. What did you tell him?”
“Everything up to the moment the police arrived. Then he shouted at me about containing this mess. I shouted back at him and told him there would be no cover-up.”
“That caught him off guard. He calmed down and told me to find you. He said he would deal with me later. That should be interesting. I wonder what he has in mind … taking my driver’s license away.”
“Don’t underestimate him, Brother Gibbons. A cool head regarding him is advised.”
“You’re right. Thank you.”
“Well, I’d better get over to his office before he comes looking for me. Aren’t you supposed to be holding confession?”
He looked at his watch, “Yes … yes.”
Mat finished the prayer of reconciliation for the penitent kneeling in the confessional. “Go in peace, my friend.”
“Thank you, Father. Bless you.”
“Thank you.” He closed the screened window and sat back as the penitent opened the door and closed it. He sighed and waited, glancing at his watch; it was later than he thought. His thoughts of Jonathan and what he must have endured clung to him like a cold damp blanket. The one question that persisted was why?
He wondered if there were any more waiting to confess. He was about to look outside the confessional when the penitent opened the door. When it closed, he opened the screened window. “Welcome.”
“Bless me father, for I have committed a grievous sin.” The whisper was so faint, Matt had difficulty hearing. He leaned forward. “When was your last confession?” He noted the subtle odor of garlic as he came close to the screen but thought nothing of it.
“I don’t know, Father. It was a very long time ago.”
“What is this grievous sin you’ve committed?”
There were a few seconds of silence before the penitent whispered, “Murder.”
Matt thought he would be prepared for something like this, but he wasn’t’. His heart rate and breathing increased as he waited and then asked to make sure he heard correctly, “Murder?”
“Jonathan?” He could barely speak the name.
“Yes, he was such a sweet child.”
”Why have you done this?”
“Retribution? I don't understand.”
“Payment for the sins of others.”
“The authorities are looking for you. Why don’t you make it easy on yourself and go to them before they hunt you down.”
“They will never find me.”
“Why did you come here?” The rage within Matt began to build. Suddenly, he found himself caught between being a servant of God, a soldier, and an avenger.
“To explain why I'm doing this. I know you can’t tell anyone – ever.”
“Let me help you change your mind.”
“No. It’s too late for that. And besides, my work is not finished.”
“Your work? What are you talking about?” He heard the penitent’s door open; he jumped to his door and paused a second, struggling with his decision; then opened the door and stepped out. The door to the penitent’s chamber blocked his view. He pushed it aside and saw a shadowy figure scurry down the side aisle of the sanctuary and disappear through a doorway.
He stood silently for a moment as the reality of what had just happened sank into his consciousness, then frantically searched the sanctuary in hopes he wasn't the only witness. When he realized he was alone, he retrieved his Bible, closed the confessional doors and hurried away in search of Sister Magda.
Sister Magda stood up from behind her desk when she saw the expression on Matt's face as he entered her office. “Brother Gibbons, what is it?”
“The person who killed Jonathan …”
“What are you talking about?”
Matt struggled to keep silent, “He … came to me and confessed.”
“Matt, be careful. Say no more.”
“It’s too late."
"Close the door and be silent."
He closed the door and came to the edge of Sister Magda's desk. "I’m sorry. I need you now more than ever.”
Sister Magda pinched her lips and waited.
“I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman or a child. The words were whispered so softly I could barely hear them. I had to press my ear against the screen. They said their work was not finished and left the confessional.”
Sister Magda collapsed into her chair and stared at Matt.
“I tried to see who it was but they were too fast. And there was no one else in the sanctuary. He knows I must be silent.”
Sister Magda got up and went to the door, looked into the hallway, closed the door, turned to Matt and whispered, “Not finished?”
Sister’s phone rang. She paused, looked at Matt, then answered. “Sister Magda … Hello … … Hello.” She put the receiver back in its cradle.
Matt moved toward Sister Magda, “What?”
“They waited too long and said nothing.”
A knock came at the door. Matt looked questioning at Sister Magda, then moved to and opened the door. “Detective Perkins.”
“May I come in?"
"Yes, of course."
"Thank you." He looked past Matt, "Sister Magda?"
“Yes, please … sit down.”
“No, thanks. I won’t be long. I’m afraid I have bad news. It’s about Jonathan’s Aunt, Elsie Moore.”
Sister Magda sucked in her breath and waited.
“Our officers went to advise her of Jonathan’s death and found she had been murdered.”
“Oh, my God, no.” Sister Magda steadied herself.
“How?” Matt closed the door and moved to Perkins.
“They found her tied to a kitchen chair with a plastic bag over her head?"
Matt opened his mouth and was about to say something to the detective when he saw Sister Magda from the corner of his eye shake her head slightly.
“Look, I won’t take up any more of your time. But, please, if you think of anything that can help, call me.” He handed Sister Magda his card.
“Yes, of course.” She took his card and placed it on her desk.
Matt opened the door for Perkins. “You should inform Bishop O’Neil. He’ll want to know.”
“Yes, I planned on seeing him next. Thank you. I know this is a difficult time for both of you.”
Detective Perkins paused and looked at Matt questioningly.
“What about him?”
“Have you spoken with him before?”
“You’ll understand when you meet him.” Perkins walked into the hallway, paused and looked back. Matt smiled and shut the door.
“I know. But I’m not going to lie if they ask me if I know anything. I’ll acknowledge that I know but can’t reveal because of the Seal.”
“What about me? I’m aware of what you know.”
“I don’t know, Sister. I’m sorry I’ve put you in this position.”
“I’ll just have to avoid being questioned.”
"This seal of the confessional should have its limits . . . murder being one of them."
"Unfortunately, that's all we have at the moment."
"What about us in the sight of God if this person murders again?"
"I don't know."
"We become complicit and are as guilty as the murderer."
"Brother Gibbons, I . . ."
"There's no getting around it, Sister Magda, and I'm not going to let it happen." Matt sat across from Sister Magda and began cognizing possibilities. He mumbled softly to himself as ideas came forward and disappeared.
Sister Magda began pacing the floor. “This is going to get out quickly. Once one student finds out, they will all know within minutes.”
Matt's face lite up. He stood and stared at Sister Magda with the most angelic smile she had ever seen.
"Brother Gibbons, what is it?"
"I know how we can catch this murder?" He had all could do to contain spitting out the answer.
"What is it for heaven's sake?"
"Christopher, Sister." He said no more. He continued to watch Sister Magda as the revelation took hold in her.
"No, Brother Gibbons."
"Why not?" He continued staring at his friend as she considered the possibility.
"Leave it to me."
"I believe I will. Sister Magda smiled, “I never would have thought of doing something like this . . . not in a million years. Brother Gibbons, we may nab this guy after all … with a little spiritual cunning.” She put out her right hand. I'm with you."
Matt took her hand, "Thank you, Sister." He took her hand and held it firmly as they united in their common cause.
Matt picked up the telephone and dialed.
"Sister? He arrives tomorrow . . . No, I won't be meeting him. He'll rent a car at the airport and drive to Cedar City. I've made reservations for him at the Quality Inn. I'll drive up and meet with him the day after. I've got all the clothing he'll need. We'll stop at a barbershop and have his hair cut to match mine. Beyond that . . . I don't know. We'll have to leave it in God's hands . . . I'll keep you posted." He placed the phone in its cradle.
There was a soft knock at the door. Mrs. Mueller peeked in. "Father, you missed lunch again. Let me bring you a sandwich before you faint."
Matt looked up and laughed. "You're right, Mrs. Mueller. A sandwich and more coffee would be most welcomed."
"I'll be right back." She closed the library door as Matt sat back and surveyed the list of things he needed to pass on to Christopher to accomplish the deception he planned. He cleared away an area for the tray Mrs. Mueller would bring in and continued writing.
Twenty minutes later there was a soft knock on the door before it opened; Mrs. Mueller brought in a tray of food. She moved quietly behind Matt and set it near him in the space he had cleared. He thanked her as she passed behind him on her way out.
As Mrs. Mueller left the room and closed the door, Matt paused and looked up. The subtle odor of garlic caught his attention. He thought about that moment in the confessional, then shook his head and whispered, "No," and turned his attention back to his writing.
When he reached a stopping point, he turned his attention to the beautiful tray of food awaiting him. As he ate the sandwich she had prepared, the faint odor he detected came back to his attention. It was then he realized it wasn't garlic after all. It was more of a fish odor and it was exactly what he detected the moment he leaned forward in the confessional on that fateful day to hear the murder confession.
The more he thought about it, his memory shot back to his seminary days when one of the candidates was afflicted with a problem which caused him to smell of fish. It turned out he had a medical condition called Trimethylaminuria which could not be cured but the smell could be reduced with medication and diet change.
The thought that Mrs. Mueller could have this rare disorder and was the murderer seemed incredible but the unique and rare odor could not be denied. He would have to find out more about Mrs. Mueller. He picked up the phone and called Sister Magda. "Something has come up. We need to talk – now." After a pause, he finished the call. "I'm on my way. Meet me in the meditation garden. I'll explain."
He passed through the kitchen as he departed the rectory. "The sandwich was perfect, Mrs. Mueller. Thank you. I'll be back for dinner."
He could see Sister Magda sitting in the garden as he biked his way around the side of the Cathedral. He parked his bike and almost ran into the garden.
"Brother Gibbons, what is it, and why the garden?"
"To make sure no ears hear what I have to say. Remember I told you I smelled a subtle odor of garlic when the killer was confessing?"
"Yes, I do. What about it?"
"Well it wasn't garlic, it was a fishy odor."
"I smelled it again when Mrs. Mueller brought my lunch into the library."
"Brother Gibbons, what are you getting at?"
"I can't be absolutely sure. But let me tell you about a similar incident in Seminary." When he finished his narrative, they sat in silence gazing into the bubbling fountain.
Sister Magna shook her head slightly. "I can't believe it." She looked at Matt. "Now what?"
Matt continued gazing into the fountain waters. "I can't say anything to Christopher without breaking the Confessional Seal. I'll just have to let the original plan of having him take my place in the confessional until he or Mrs. Mueller returns."
"But that may not happen until after she kills again."
"I know, I know but what else can we do? It would be pointless for me to confront her. She would probably flee."
Sister Magda bowed her head.
They sat quietly for a few minutes. Then Matt looked up as an inspired expression flooded his face. He turned to Sister Magda.
"But there is someone who can confront her."
"What are you talking about? Who can confront her?"
Matt smiled and began grinning.
"Why not? It's a perfect solution to preventing further murders."
"Who has all of Jonathan's personal belongings?"
"I have his school things."
"Any clothing . . . like a jacket or sweater . . . shoes . . . old sneakers . . . anything?"
Sister Magda thought for a moment and then looked up. "The jacket. I have his jacket. The funeral home returned it when it was decided not to be included in the casket."
Sorry to be late, Chris." He embraced his brother. "The plan has changed drastically. You won't have to impersonate me after all except for one brief moment. This is Timothy Clarke. He's going to be working with you. Right Timmy?"
"Yes, Brother Gibbons." Timmy is all smiles.
"Tell Chris what you will be doing?
"Playing dead. In memory of my friend Jonathan."
Chris looked up to Matt. "Playing dead?"
"Yes. Timmy and Jonathan were best pals, and he's very anxious to help solve Jonathan's murder. I've cleared it with his parents. He'll be staying here with you tonight. Detective Perkins will take charge of him after the event tomorrow and return him to his parents.
Now, about the barber. Have you found one . . . I hope."
"Yes. He's close by. He's looking forward to the challenge of making us identical."
"Good, let's go."
"Here's what I need you and Timmy to do tomorrow night. You are to meet with Detective Perkins at this address. He will wire you and take you and Timmy close to the rectory. At 8 pm, I want you to quietly come onto the porch of the rectory with Timmy. I'll make sure the porch light is out. Ring the bell and immediately walk to the head of the porch stairs and face away from the door. Timmy, you'll be wearing Jonathan's coat. Chris will pick you up and hold you in his arms as if you're dead. Be sure to hide your face."
"And thank you for doing this. You are key to solving this mystery.
"Mrs. Mueller will answer the door. When she speaks, slowly turn around. If my suspicions are correct, there will be an emotional reaction from Mrs. Mueller. Hopefully, she will either slam the door or run away from the open door. Leave the porch as quickly and quietly as possible and rejoin Detective Perkins."
"That's it. Detective Perkins will be recording everything that transpires. If I'm right, she'll confess to the murder of Jonathan and his aunt.
Sister Magda stood as Christopher, still dressed as a priest, entered her office. "Brother Gibbons, is it over?"
"Yes, Sister . . . It's over." He broke into a wide grin as he stared at Sister Magda.
"Wait a minute . . . Christopher . . . is that you?"
"It is, in the flesh."
Sister Magda rushed forward and grabbed Christopher's hands and whispered, "It's so very good to see you again. Thank you for doing this."
"My pleasure, believe me."
"Where's your brother?"
"Right behind me . . . here he is."
"Brother Gibbons, I was completely fooled when Christopher came in. Look at the two you. We need to get a photo of this before you leave, Chris. But first, fill me in on what happened."
Matt narrated how the event unfolded.
"Father Geo and I had finished dinner and were having coffee when the doorbell rang. I held my breath as Mrs. Mueller made her way to the front door. She turned on the light as she opened the door and said, 'Yes, may I help you?' Then let out a scream and came running into the Dining Room. She continued screaming and pointing toward the front door. Father Geo and I got up but there was no one there. Then she began to attack me, accusing me of breaking the confessional seal.
"I responded by asking her seal for what? It was then she confessed to killing Jonathan. Detective Perkins came through the front door and arrested her on the spot. When Mrs. Mueller saw Christopher walk in the hallway with Timmy wearing Jonathan's coat she completely lost it. She began swearing at all of us - me in particular. Other officers came in and arrested Father Geo on charges of sexually abusing Jonathan and Timmy, and took him away.
"I figured you would want to know so, I called and arranged that we meet here. And that's it.
"Brother Gibbons, did she say why she killed?"
"No, Sister. She didn't have to. Detective Perkins did some investigating after I pointed out a discrepancy in her employment application . . . the one you provided."
"Discrepancy? What Discrepancy?"
"There were two dates which raised a question. Detective Perkins discovered that Mrs. Muller's real name is Agnes Clausing. Her son, Peter, was tried and convicted of a rape/murder. Within a few weeks, he committed suicide in his cell . . . case closed. This happened in a small town and it turns out just about everyone from the Judge on down to some of the jury members were corrupt and wanted the real culprit covered. The lead prosecutor saw to that.
"Mrs. Mueller . . . Clausing sat on the sidelines knowing what was going on. When Peter killed himself she evidently went a little nuts and decided to take justice into her own hands. The prosecutor was the first to go. Several years transpired while she put together her plan of retribution. She wasn't going to execute those involved but would execute their descendants or close relatives.
"She changed her name and applied for the housekeeping position when she learned how many children of the jury were attending Saint Ignatius School. She was able to keep close tabs on all who were involved, especially Jonathan who was being abused by Father Geo."
"So, I was right."
"Yes, except for the specifics. According to Detective Perkins, Father Geo was on her list and probably would have been next."
"Oh, my God, why didn't I see it?"
"How could you. Mrs. Clausing had the upper hand and was very clever."
"The list. Do you have a copy of the list?"
"No, I don't. Detective Perkins thought it best to contain it."
"He's probably right. No point in warning anyone now that the danger is gone."
"And, Christopher, what's next for you?"
"I leave for home tomorrow. Only Detective Perkins and Timmy, the boy who played Jonathan, know that I was even here and the part I played."
"I hope we'll see more of you."
"He's agreed to return for the holidays once his hair grows back." Matt laughed. "We don't want anyone putting two and two together. But I have a feeling I may be defrocked when the high ups begin looking more closely at this mess."
"Defrocked? Are you kidding? You'll be lucky if they don't bestow a medal on you. They don't want to see headlines reading - Priest defrocked because he saved many children from a serial killer. And with Father Geo suspended from his duties and soon to be gone, your position is secured."
"What about O'Neil?"
"That hypocrite will be lucky to hold onto his position. You have nothing to fear from him."
"This isn't exactly what I had in mind when I became a priest."
"Destiny, Brother Gibbons, destiny."
Sister Magda smiled. "Thank God it's over, and thanks to you for that brilliant idea."
"Who knows, maybe Chris and I were born together just for this purpose."
The period bell rang. They paused and smiled at one another. "Well, I've got to get back to work. Bon voyage, Christopher, I'm looking forward to seeing you during the holidays. And I'll see you, Brother Gibbons, tomorrow at the meeting Bishop O'Neil has called for the staff."
"Ah, the meeting. Maybe I should have Christopher accompany me to that meeting. O'Neil would probably have a fit and fall in it if he saw us together. On second thought, I think I'll leave well enough alone."
"So long, Sister Magda. See you at Christmas." He turned to Matt as they parted company with Sister Magda. "Why does she call you Brother Gibbons?"
"At my request. I didn't feel I was ready to be called Father Gibbons."
"Well, I think after what you've done here, you are more than ready."