Because of the diverse conditions of humans, it happens that some acts are virtuous to some people, as appropriate and suitable to them, while the same acts are immoral for others, as inappropriate to them.
—Saint Thomas Aquinas
Brother Jean-Paul’s students have played the first half of the football game valiantly against the top-ranked local public school team. The aspiring Jesuit is starting the last year of his Regency, the third phase of a Jesuit priest’s formation, during which he is a teacher of theology, ancient world history, French, Latin, Greek, and astronomy at a Jesuit high school in the Philippines. He also co-coaches the school’s football team. Having loved playing football during his lycée militaire days in France, he is a natural to coach here.
His second-stringers, Manuel and Fermin, artfully move the ball from left to center, down thirty meters towards the goal, with a perfect series of flicks and short passes. With a clear line to the goal, Manuel readies to take the winning shot when a huge center back slides into the ball, taking out Manuel’s leg. And Jean-Paul comes running onto the field as Manuel screams in terrifying agony.
As Jean-Paul tries to triage the extent of damage to this boy’s ankle, he laments how he has had to put in his second-stringers due to a rash of absences from his starters. Manuel is an aspiring freshman, but certainly is no match for seasoned seniors, especially as aggressive as the ones from this public school. And so, the good Brother carries poor Manuel to the school nurse’s office.
There awaits Sister Magali, dressed in a white short-sleeved blouse covered by a blue vest with matching skirt covering to midcalf. Atop her head is a simple blue veil, and on her feet simple black sandals. But most noticeable to Brother Jean-Paul are the wisps of her red hair that have escaped the sides of her blue veil. She caught his attention in their church choir with her wisps of red hair and angelic voice. Although he has seen her at church and in the school, this is the first time the two of them have ever interacted.
As Sister Magali splints the boy’s ankle, she asks in French where Brother Jean-Paul is from, for she is French as well. She says she is working in the local Catholic hospital as a nurse and living in a nearby convent while she is in her First Profession, a three-year period where a prospective Catholic Sister makes temporary vows before taking her final Solemn Profession. With such a high need for nurses, her Order has allowed her to serve in the Philippines instead of staying in her convent in France.
After dinner, Brother Jean-Paul meets with Brother Petrus, his co-coach, who is in his first year of his Regency. Both he and Jean-Paul graduated from the same lycée militaire in France. The coincidence of both being assigned to this school for their Regencies, they find quite profound. The Lord works in mysterious ways, is how Brother Jean-Paul sums it up. They discuss the increasing absences on the football team as well the similar phenomenon randomly happening with their nonathletic students. They have found no pattern, other than an increase in tardiness as well. Brother Petrus suspects their boys are getting into altercations with boys from the community, having observed suspicious bruises. Perhaps the boys who are late are taking the long way to get to school to avoid being assaulted.
The next week, Sister Magali revels in delight that her Brother Jean-Paul has dropped by to see her, and not because of some medical emergency, as she had been thinking of him over the last week, and she asks if he knows Sister Marie-Claire, the Sister-in-Charge at Sister Magali’s convent in France. Very surprised, Brother Jean-Paul says she is his older sister. Any brother of Sister Marie-Claire would be regarded with the utmost respect by Sister Magali. And as the good Sister coquettishly glances aside, Jean-Paul inquires if she has been seeing any out-of-the-ordinary injuries or bruises among the boys, to which she replies affirmatively. She asks if the physical education program has changed to be more vigorous, more challenging, to which Jean-Paul says no.
Another week passes, and Brother Petrus tells Jean-Paul he has followed their boys after football practice. Many take long routes home. The others suffer encounters with local boys, ranging from hazing to outright shakedowns for anything of value.
Jean-Paul reflects on the recent lessons given to their students, teaching Matthew 5:39: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” They have taught their team this to avoid fights during the football games. Brother Petrus jests that their students studied that part of Matthew too vigorously, as they clearly practice Matthew 5:40. “If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” He proposes that something needs to be done before these boys lose their cheeks and their clothes as well.
That night, Jean-Paul tosses and turns as this dilemma has brought him back to one of the core reasons why he left the French Army seven years ago. He had followed the path of his grandfather, who fought in the French resistance during the Second World War, then went to the prestigious École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr to become an officer in the French Army. He fought in the French Algerian war and in French Indochina. Jean-Paul’s father also went to the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr and served in the special ops unit of the French Republican Guard.
When Jean-Paul was sixteen and attending a lycée militaire, his parents were killed in the 1989 terrorist bombing of UTA Flight 772, flying from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Paris. With deep grief and hatred, the young Jean-Paul swore he would fight terrorists worldwide to prevent other children from experiencing the pain he felt at the undue deaths of his parents. Two years later after his graduation, he joined the army in time to be deployed as part of Opération Daguet, the French invasion force to liberate Kuwait.
Following in his patriarchal footsteps, he enrolled at the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr three years later, matriculating as an officer in NATO’s Stabilization Force mission to the war-torn Bosnia. Assigned to a special group hunting down war criminals, he employed his special talents at research and at finding people. Although he was not Italian, Jean-Paul was exceptionally Machiavellian, which did not escape the notice of his superiors. At whatever cost, he would get the job done. The army needed officers like this.
As a hunter of war criminals, he truly learned the atrocities of war as he was assigned to find the leaders of the Bosnian Serbian rape camps. He learned of the use of rape as a systematic weapon of genocide and terror. Experts estimated up to fifty thousand women had been raped during the three-and-a-half-year conflict. He interviewed women who had been gang-raped in front of their families, fellow villagers, and neighbors. He listened to accounts of the brutalization of girls as young as twelve. Houses, halls, gymnasiums housed several dozen women suffering continuous rapes over several months, often done publicly, where women would be forced to watch other women being brutalized. The psychological horror and despair of these women took its toll on Jean-Paul as he descended into an even deeper level of hatred than he had felt after the death of his parents.
His team had caught a Serbian officer who had led one of these rape camps and turned him over to the war crimes tribunals. He cringed during the trial of this monster, as the victimized women had to testify and relive the atrocities. This pain weighed heavily on him as he led the search for the senior officer in charge of all the rape camps in that city. He employed the military intelligence techniques taught to him by his father and found this Bosnian Serb colonel, who he had cornered in a house.
Alone while the rest of his team searched other houses, Jean-Paul aimed his rifle at the terrified colonel, who put down his gun, saying he would surrender peacefully. The hatred within Jean-Paul could not accept his offer, and he picked up the colonel’s pistol, firing it behind himself. With the darkest of moments tarnishing his soul, he emptied the full magazine of his rifle, riddling the colonel’s body with bullets. As his team came to his aid, he explained this colonel was not going to surrender without a fight. So, justice was served.
That night, Jean-Paul dreamed his deeply Catholic mother recited to him Matthew 18:17–21. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ On the contrary, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. For in so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
He tossed and turned all night, wrestling with his actions and the atrocities committed by the predominantly Christian Serbs and Croats against a mostly Muslim female population. As bad as those atrocities were, he had clearly crossed a line. Without a blink, he had crossed that line. How much farther across the next line would it be before he became no better than those monsters? He remembered his grandfather’s counsel to him. After seeing the futility of the conflicts in Algeria and French Indochina, his grandfather had wished he had gone back to his Jesuit studies and become a priest instead of carrying on the hatred he had learned during his time in the French resistance.
And tonight, in the Philippines, Jean-Paul turns in his sleep, thinking about his commitment to “turn the other cheek,” his resignation of his commission in the French Army, and his joining the Jesuit Order. How can he and Petrus teach these boys to defend themselves? Their boys are simply following the words of Matthew to the letter. Violence leads to more violence. Peace comes from good ethical foundations. Peace comes from showing the other party what it looks like.
The next week, a typhoon leads to the cancellation of the weekly football game and the local Catholic ministries organize missions to the most heavily damaged villages. Once the winds subside, Jean-Paul joins a group of volunteers destined for a coastal village with significant community infrastructure devastation.
The former Lieutenant Sobiros is particularly adept at setting up bivouacs and ad hoc kitchens in his military missions, perfect for his Catholic mission, as he was assigned to set up the communal kitchen and food depot. From a distance, he sees full locks of red hair waving in the wind as the stormy air sweeps the good Sister’s veil off her head. Being the good gentleman and good Brother he is, Jean-Paul helps Magali chase down her veil, which blows three to five meters up in the blustery sky.
It is the first time he has seen her laugh, as well as her full face and hair, and it feels good. It’s the first time she’s had a knight in cassock armor come to her rescue, and it feels good. She has come, of course, with the medical team from her hospital. They will be sleeping and working in the same place for the next week, for which the good Sister thanks the Lord. A week working with Sister Marie-Claire’s little brother, serving the needs of the desperate and poor. What more could a good Sister ever ask for?
At dinner, Jean-Paul coordinates the ad hoc chefs and food service personnel serving meals for a couple hundred villagers. The good Sister comes by. Seeing he is busy, she helps with the food service. It is nearly midnight by the time the kitchen closes and Magali walks the good Brother back to his tent. She teases him as she looks inside his one-bed tent, as the big chief is able to get a single, while the little nurses are stacked six to a tent. But she observes he did not get a pillow and uses his towel as a poor substitute. She bids him, “Bonne nuit. Belles rêves,” or “good night, sweet dreams” in English.
The next morning, Jean-Paul awakes, and he feels it. A bad night’s sleep. He is groggy and achy and not so coherent. He goes to help the early-morning breakfast crew, and there is Sister Magali, holding a mug of steaming hot coffee and waiting for him. She has two-day-old croissants she brought with her to share with her French compatriot. She does not want to tell him she baked these herself, for she is sure that he would think that too forward and personal. As Jean-Paul begins to retrieve his humanity with the coffee and rediscovers his Frenchness with these croissants just like Mama made, she confesses she came by his tent last night. She brought over a spare pillow and witnessed his sleep, which was physically violent and restless with cries, as if he were yelling at someone. The good Brother does not know what to say, as he dreamt again of his execution of that Bosnian Serb monster, a story he does not want to share with her.
Sister Magali explains that her father had the exact same issues she saw Jean-Paul have last night. She recognized the symptoms clearly. The good Brother’s eyes pop wide open when the good Sister’s hand reaches under her blouse, atop her ample chest. She pulls out a medallion, a replica of one her grandfather gave to her, as the original rests in a safety deposit box in their local bank. He also suffered from the same agonizing dreams at night and said the affliction went back as many generations in their male lineage as anyone could recall. From generation to generation, the medallion has been handed down to the next generation’s most afflicted male with the instructions to do the same until someone can answer the question of the medallion’s meaning. She hands the replica to her new good Brother.
Jean-Paul’s hand shakes as he holds this medallion. During his studies at Saint-Cyr, he took courses in ancient archeology and in the proto-Indo-European languages, both in preparation for military service in the Middle East. He once aspired to be part of the teams assigned to protect ancient monuments, temples, and national museums. Holding this object in his hands, he has realized his wildest hopes and dreams. Authentic Proto-Greek writing, the bridging language between Modern Greek and the first speakers of PIE.
One side has a schematic of the Cygnus constellation with the tail star highlighted. Two humanoid figures stand adjacent, one nearly twice the height of the other. He tries to translate the Proto-Greek writing. “Beware the giants of the star.” The good Sister verifies that is what her grandfather told her as well.
The other side shows what looks like a long rectangular object with a woman touching it. In her hands are two halves of an apple, and at her feet is a large worm. While he fumbles with the translation of the Proto-Greek symbols, the good Sister recalls her grandfather saying it was, “She hears the voice of God,” which pleased her to no end, as it is a woman who hears the Lord.
Magali says she wears the replica as a good omen for her passage to becoming a Catholic Sister. As she is an only child, her father was agonizingly disappointed she chose this as her path, since he would have no grandsons to pass the medallion on to. She asks the good Brother how old he thinks this might be. She drops her coffee mug as he says Proto-Greek dates back to 4,000 to 5,000 BCE. He then smiles and jokes that, between a Catholic priest and a sister, they can say BC, before Christ. She loves his joke, his humor, as she lightly touches his hand holding her medallion.
Magali puts her hand around his, folding his fingers over the medallion. Sensing the warmth of his hand, she wants this moment to go on forever. She says with big dilated eyes that, as she will not have children, given her lifelong commitment to the Lord, she would ask he keeps the medallion for now so that he might find out what it means. She slowly gets up, as she is expected at the medical tent to begin the morning vaccinations. She smiles at her good Brother and says she expects him to return the medallion after he finds out the hidden story, and expects him to return in person. Then she winks and leaves.
Brother Jean-Paul starts his day a little later than he expected, but nonetheless eminently pleased at why he is delayed. As he leads the team in rebuilding a permanent communal kitchen structure, he cannot help imagining what this medallion was trying to say. Who are these giants? A woman hearing the voice of the Lord, several thousands of years before the prophets of the Old Testament. He has never been so intrigued by anything in his life to date. Maybe this is why the Lord sent him the dream of his mother citing Matthew. So he could bring this message to light the world.
At lunch, he takes a break. He almost had his head lobbed off twice by beams as he daydreamed about giants and the voice of the Lord. He needs to take a walk. As he reaches a nearby clearing, he sees the volunteers and villagers getting ready to play a game of football. He recognizes one of the volunteers from his church, Antonio. His warm-up routine looks highly atypical for a footballer. It looks much more like a fighter’s movements and stretches. In fact, a couple of players are doing the same. And then he spies two sparring. He has never seen this form of martial arts. After the game finishes, he approaches Antonio from his church, who is overjoyed that one of the Jesuit teachers wants to talk with him. Antonio explains that the Filipino martial arts encompass the empty-hand techniques, Mano Mano, which he saw there, along with many sophisticated weapon arts.
The afternoon becomes steamy hot as the sun returns to grace the island after the terrible storm. As Jean-Paul’s construction crew roasts, taking off their shirts, off goes his black cleric shirt. Even though he left military service seven years prior, Jean-Paul has kept his physique in top condition. His muscles glisten with sweat as he lifts building materials, with his biceps, pecs, and abs all flexing with each motion. A pair of green eyes watches every flex from the medical tent. All afternoon, these eyes are transfixed, saddened when the work is finished and the black cleric shirt is redonned.
Sister Magali waits for her good Brother, the one with muscles like she has never seen before, to come to the food tent. She helps serve food until it seems very unusual he has not shown up. She goes to his tent to find him. He has just awoken from a nap as he was knackered. She asks permission to enter his tent as he groans over the inadequate sleep he had. She explains her father had the same thing happen with his naps.
She gives a little smile, looking to the side as she also reveals her mother had many ways of helping her father deal with his sleep and taught her what to do if her future husband suffered the same. With that, the good Sister puts her fingers to her good Brother’s forehead, rubbing it a certain way. Jean-Paul can feel his headache just melt away. After several minutes, Jean-Paul stands to go to the food tent. She touches his arm and asks whether, if he is ever in distress again, it would be okay for her to stop by and help. Her mother taught her much, much more. Jean-Paul is not sure what to make of this interaction, except for one clear dominant thing. He likes her. He nods yes as he leaves for the food tent.
That night, he dreams of his lycée martial arts training—Parisian street savate, the French kick-based martial art. The street version he learned added open-hand blows, palm strikes, and stun slaps. His feet and hands wave in the night as he dreams and grunts through his memories of his adolescent savate matches. Sister Magali, the good nurse that she is, comes by to see how her “patient” is doing. And no surprise to her, her new Brother is thrashing about again. She comes into the tent, closing the opening. Her mother taught her a special way of approaching the violent stage of the afflicted man’s dream phase, which she executes perfectly. Jean-Paul awakens to see an angel on Earth. A redheaded angel with green eyes passionately looking into his. An angel wearing but a light tunic on top and no veil to constrain her voluptuous waves of redness.
Before Jean-Paul can speak, she holds him, whispers in his ears, intimately personal things in French, and then blows on them. She puts her palms on his bare chest and rubs his heart area for several minutes while she holds his head into her neck with her other hand. She lifts his head and rubs his forehead for several minutes as they stare into each other’s eyes. She asks if he is feeling better. Of course he is, he thinks as he nods. She says that there is more, but given they have taken their vows, she will exercise the appropriate constraint. He is absolutely curious what he is missing. He thanks her profusely for her compassion. As she leaves his tent, his guilt overtakes him for his allowing her to do what she did under the pretense that she was fixing her father’s affliction.
This guilt remains as he awakens with a bad feeling. Well, actually, he feels incredible. How could someone not, when an angel from heaven showed such physical compassion? But he feels the guilt of his less-than-honest answers. So this morning, he avoids interactions with his angel, making excuses of needing to tend to urgent issues. She is truly his angel as she is always so understanding, further adding to his guilt.
This time at lunch, he goes to the footballers and warms up and stretches with the martial arts crowd. He is impressed with his kicks, and after the game they come over to compare techniques. They explain that the martial arts skills have improved their football game. This statement sticks in Jean-Paul’s conscious. The wheels turn and tick. Maybe, just maybe, he can come up with a solution for his boys at school.
That night, he cannot fall asleep, thinking about his possible solution. Then he hears her soft, gentle footsteps as she enters his tent. He groans with his eyes closed and thrashes his arms about. And she performs the same wonderful, simply euphoric compassionate acts she did the night before. This time she adds smelling her neck and putting his head on her chest so he can smell her ample bosom. He is in heaven. And as she leaves, he reckons he is not going to go to heaven the way they are going. And guilt settles back in.
And so, their week passes in the same manner every day. Football and martial arts at noon. Compassion and embrace in the evening. The last night of their mission arrives, and they will board separate buses the next day, never to be so near each other ever again. The good Sister has been somewhat despondent that, despite her best emulation of her mother’s compassion techniques, her new Brother is not getting better from night to night. She does not want to tell him about her despondence as she does not want him to think she is incapable of being the life partner a good afflicted man needs. She has already begun to rethink her vows, never having imagined she would ever meet a man like him.
The good nurse Magali is certainly not going to let her new man not get better. So, she dials up the techniques. Tonight, after having him smell her neck, she puts his head directly on her bosom and asks him to inhale deeply. She takes his hand and places it on her breast, helping him stroke it lightly. She has thought about this next part long and hard every night this week. It is probably the missing part that has prevented the afflicted Jean-Paul’s full recovery. And as Jean-Paul’s head rests on her bosom, she reaches down to stroke his crotch. He flinches but stays put. Much to her delight, he really does love her, down there. Hot and hard love at that. No words pass between them after she crosses the line she set at the beginning of the week. She blows him a kiss as she leaves his tent, and he waits for the cloud of guilt to descend upon him.
The next morning, most of the mission teams are packed and ready to leave on their respective buses. The two, the brother and the sister, meet in the middle between their buses. Neither one speaks of the night before, only of the good acts and services their teams have accomplished this week, and they thank the Lord for the opportunity. Their primordial carnality beats at them to kiss goodbye, but they can only kiss with their eyes, which they do over and over again until the last call to board their buses. And they separate, knowing, but not knowing.
Jean-Paul wastes no time getting with Petrus to discuss his ingenious idea. Jean-Paul’s solution is simply elegant and has a plausible deniability factor, which Petrus loves. And so, they meet with Antonio and his Mano Mano master. They will make a fair deal for the exchange of services. Antonio and his master will help develop a series of martial-arts-oriented warm-up routines for their Jesuit school’s footballers and come and teach them at practices. In return, Jesuit Brothers Jean-Paul and Petrus will come to their club and teach them French savate techniques. Exceptional deal accepted. Both sides win, of course, as Jean-Paul has received the highest grade in his negotiations class.
For the first week, Antonio and the Mano Mano master come to a few practices a week and show the boys how to warm up in a new way. The next week, they show them a new way of kicking to help them on the field. The third week, they have the boys practice the kicks with blocking moves on each other.
Jean-Paul just smiles as, by the fourth week, he already sees less absenteeism, both on the field and in the classroom. Petrus wants to follow the boys after practice, as he did before, and see if this turnaround is truly due to the boys fighting back. Jean-Paul, who previously quoted Matthew, this time quotes US President Bill Clinton. “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.”
By week five, with Jean-Paul’s literal blessings, Antonio begins to integrate hand techniques into the warm-ups as a way to develop their reflexes so they will not touch the ball on the field of play. Week six, throwing techniques as a way of learning to fall correctly during heated football matches. The two Jesuit brothers are ecstatic as attendance and tardiness among their footballers has been one hundred percent fixed.
Jean-Paul brings the attendance problem to the attention of the head of the school, who already noticed the exemplary academic attendance of the footballers. And thus, Jean-Paul gains permission to introduce new stretches and calisthenics into the general physical education program for the whole school. By the middle of winter term, the whole school attendance issue is resolved.
Sister Magali is a patient woman as a good Sister should be. However, her patience is being tested over the winter as her Brother Jean-Paul is always busy after school with his footballers in some new training program. She comes down to some practices and is rewarded by seeing her afflicted man practice with the boys without his cassock. On a number of occasions, they are assigned to missions together, but he shares quarters with others, so what transpired between them in that village on the coast does not happen again.
She is overjoyed when Jean-Paul declares his new training program a total success, for he has time now to see her. On the days she is at his school, after the football practice or after the game is over, they go on walks. Not long, thirty minutes, sometimes forty. And they talk. And they talk. And they talk.
What do they talk about? If you asked her, she would say, “n’importe quoi,” or whatever or anything, as she does not care. She only cares that she is with him. And if you asked him, he would say they talked about school, the hospital, world affairs, the next steps in their formation, why they decided on the religious life devoted to the Lord.
As spring comes, and the days become longer, she asks for longer walks. She really just wants more time with him, as for her, time is running out.
As they become closer and closer, Magali asks more personal questions. She asks about what he is most afraid of. To her surprise, he talks about the horrors of witnessing soldiers burned alive in combat. He has always had this deep fear of incineration, as he studied the Inquisitions and other religious movements’ acts of burning people at the stake. He would rather be shot than be burned. Her answer is very different. Her fear is never truly knowing love. She hopes and prays she will truly know the love of the Lord.
One afternoon later, she pushes him, not for commitment, but for the full reason for his commitment to the Lord. He has never truly described the moment of his epiphany. And he sits her down and tells the story of the war, the rapes, the atrocities, and the monsters. She strokes his arm as he professes his guilt over what he did, the smug vigilante administering his own justice, not the Lord’s.
And as he recounts his dream of his mother quoting Matthew and his inner awakening that peace should be his advocacy, she knows he is it. He is to be hers. He is her other half of the apple on the medallion. And the question she has been wrestling with since her First Profession has been answered. The Lord has answered her question through Jean-Paul’s final candor and trust of her in telling his most personal story.
Feeling they have come to a major point in their friendship, she decides to test the waters. She asks him if he is a virgin. Jean-Paul stammers, taken fully off guard. He blinks and blinks and blinks as he flushes. And with hands in his lap, he says physically he is, but he had unchaste eyes as a boy and as a soldier.
He quotes Saint Augustine. “Do not say that you have chaste minds if you have unchaste eyes, because an unchaste eye is the messenger of an unchaste heart.” And the good Saint’s message rattles the good Sister. And Jean-Paul, somewhat taken aback by her question, throws it back to her, asking if she still is a virgin. Magali, with a shy schoolgirl look, simply replies that is a question one does not ask of a good girl.
Sister Magali, the nurse, the compassionate woman, becomes the angsty one as spring passes and the close of the school year creeps closer and closer. Her coworkers in the hospital notice it. The sisters at her guest convent notice it. The Mother Superior notices it and knows what her changing demeanor means, and she lets Magali have the space she needs to make her decision.
But her beloved Jean-Paul, he does not see her angst. For him, she remains his angel from heaven. She represents the melodic voice of the woman on the medallion who conversed with the Lord in Proto-Greek.
In different ways on their walks, she artfully probes him for his intentions when he completes his Regency at the end of the school year. He is so philosophical, with answers ranging and varying as different thoughts pass through his mind. In her angst, she finally just grabs his hand so they can walk hand in hand when they are out of view of others. From then on, she picks paths for their walks that offer much privacy so she will at least have his hand to herself. He certainly does not mind.
One afternoon in the late spring, Jean-Paul is surprised to see the good Sister at his office door. It is not her normal day to come to the school. She asks permission to come in and then closes the door. She takes off her veil, allowing her crimson rose tresses to fall upon her shoulder as she sits on his desk facing him. She takes his hand in hers and says she is going to take the big leap of faith that she has read him correctly.
Sister Magali proceeds to say, “My dearest Brother Jean-Paul, my dear, dear Jean-Paul. Our walks are worlds of wonder for me. You have enlightened me about so many new things, ideas, thoughts, and ways of communing with our Lord. They started as the second most important part of my life after my commitments to the Lord as our time together renewed my life and my faith. I can only hope that you feel the same way when I say I have found that my time with you has become more important than anything else, the Lord included.”
She looks for a response from him as she has started to renounce her vows in front of him, the biggest decision in her life to date. “And I look into your eyes, Jean-Paul, and I see you yearn for more, as do I.”
And she kisses his hand. He reciprocates and kisses her hand back.
Witnessing this sign that she should go for closure, she says, “It is not too late for the two of us to cancel proceeding to our permanent vows. Can you not imagine the two of us back in France, raising our family? You could become the professor of theology, history, and archeology that your heart yearns for, and I could continue being a nurse. I love you, Jean-Paul. I truly do.” She takes his head in her hands and kisses his forehead.
Jean-Paul is very contemplative. He would equally love to express his undying love to her, but he wrestles with the prudence of making rash decisions, perhaps hormonally driven, at least by him. He kisses her hands, then each finger, and responds, “My beloved Sister, my cherished Magali, I cannot hide that I too find a love in you that beckons me to come to you, to come with you wherever you wish to go. You are my angel from heaven. As always, you are right that the time is now for each of us to decide either to go forward with our vows and commitment to the Lord or to go forward with each other, still with the blessings of the Lord.”
Kissing her forehead in return, he strategically pauses before continuing. “We should go slowly with this decision, as the implications for us, those around us, and those in the future could be quite profound. We should meditate, reflect, and reach out to the Lord as we finalize our future.”
He stands up out of his chair and lifts her off the desk. As his large, warm hands around her waist move to enwrap the soft mounds of her derrière, he kisses her, passionately and slowly. He pulls back and they look into each other’s eyes, losing touch with anything other than each other. He brushes her lovely scarlet and cerise tresses back behind her ear and leans in to nibble on her lobes and then lets her go. She blushes as she composes her clothing and her veil and mouths a kiss to him as she leaves.
And as happened each evening at that coastal village, Jean-Paul’s guilt overwhelms him that evening as he tries to fall asleep. At first in rapture over having professed his love for his dear Sister, the guilt takes a turn for the worst, for he has not been fully honest with her. If she leaves her Order, if she leaves her life with the Lord, she will be doing so for a priest in training who has not been fully truthful with her. And how could a lifelong relationship be built if not on a bed, a foundation, of honesty and truth? He tosses all night in his angst.
The next week is near condemnation in hell for the two of them, for different reasons. One in angst over possibly losing the only man she would ever love. The other in angst over lie after lie. And who first said that when it rains, it pours? For Jean-Paul, a drenching typhoon of guilt comes in an expected envelope. He receives a letter of commendation from the president of the Jesuit Conference of Provincials for Eastern Asia and Oceania for his work improving the morale and attendance at the school. His euphoria is quickly followed by his guilt.
And the situation only worsens two days later when the school secretary comes running into his classroom to pull him away for a personal phone call from the same regional president of the Jesuit Conference. For ten minutes, they talk as he receives his personal plaudits for his innovation in education and peaceful resolution of the school’s attendance issues. The Machiavellian in Jean-Paul cries out that night, for he is a success, just as he excelled in the military schools. He could do very well in his life by his series of half-truths. He did not lie. He merely was not asked to provide the whole picture. He truly provided honest answers to the questions he was asked. Sort of. He could have the world’s most fabulous wife and research the secrets of her medallion. Or he could climb up in the Jesuit Order with a mere minor bending of the spirit of his and their faith. He prays for guidance.
Over the next few weeks, Magali comes over many times each week to take walks with her new professed love. She finds discreet places to stop and kiss him. More than thrice each walk. Often a lot more than thrice. She tells him of her secret fantasies after she lightly rubbed his warm crotch that one night, and how every night of their life could be like that night. And she replicates what she did with him that night. Jean-Paul cannot summon the courage to tell her no, nor does he want to. His Regency ends in a couple weeks, and they need to make their decision soon. Very soon.
As his beloved Magali parts with him that evening, he continues to walk in meditative silence. He thinks about his grandfather’s words about becoming a Jesuit rather than being a soldier. And he thinks of the moment when he found the courage to tell his commandant he was resigning his commission to become a priest. Knowing his junior officer’s exposure to the atrocities of that war, the commandant understood why he resigned, but he wanted to hear it fully from Jean-Paul.
And Jean-Paul said he wanted to help the world. He wanted to prevent tragedies like the bombing of his parents’ flight, the World Trade Center, and so many other acts of terror. He had thought he could best do so as a soldier in the military, but he knew now that being a soldier of the pope would be far more impactful. He would save souls. And they let him out of his commitments to be that different kind of soldier.
The next morning, Jean-Paul wakes up as a man on a mission. A priest on a mission. He calls the president of the regional Jesuit Conference and tells him he does not deserve his commendation. He has not told his superiors the full story about how he fixed the situation. He should have been fully truthful. Much to his surprise, he is not reprimanded. The president commends him for his coming forward with the truth, which he needed to speak to be honest to himself and to the Lord. They already knew exactly how he had fixed the situation.
Then the president adds that there is a place in the Order for priests who are willing to innovate and take positive action as he did. His pathway through the rest of his formation will be followed with great interest. Accordingly, the Father General has personally assigned him a position in Rome, under the Society’s watchful eyes, to complete his formal theology studies in preparation for his priestly ordination. A plane has been arranged to take him back to Rome three days after his school year ends.
And as he hangs up the phone, Jean-Paul realizes his true calling. He loves Magali more than any woman in his life, save his mother, and maybe his sister. She is his personal angel from heaven, his intellectual joy, his spiritual companion. But he loves his work with God even more.
He planned to go to her convent and talk with her there, but she shows up at his office door before he can leave to see her. She closes the door, locks it, and comes over to him. Taking off her vest and veil, she removes his cassock, lifts herself up on her tippy toes, and kisses him. He hugs her in return, deep and strong. And she says she is ready to be his wife, to love him, honor him, and worship the Lord with him, forever.
Jean-Paul reciprocates, torn about what he needs to do, desperately torn. He professes his undying love for her, for her spirituality, her intellect, her compassion, her beauty, and kisses her back. He then adds that he most admires and respects her love for the Lord, a love that is his own personal inspiration. He looks her in the eyes, full of passion and desire, and tells the truth, finally, the truth. He loves her so much, he could not bear to take her away from the Lord’s love.
And Magali begins to cry hard, beating on his chest as she chokes on her tears, saying that is what a man says when he is trying to graciously dump a woman. She cannot even look at him as she turns away. Jean-Paul pulls her back and holds her tight, letting her cry into his chest. And she cries and cries until she feels her medallion hanging beneath his shirt. She opens up his shirt, exposing his chest and the medallion.
Jean-Paul takes her head in his hands and leans in to blow on her ear and nibbles her lobe as he says, “Elle entend la voix de Dieu.” She hears the voice of God. He whispers to her that her calling to God is so strong. She is the woman in the medallion, and he cannot stand between her and the Lord. He kisses her again, and hugs her. He professes his love for her, always and forever, and he will be there for her anytime she needs.
Sister Magali gazes at the medallion on his chest and then into his eyes. She realizes his love for the Lord is like hers and is part of why she loves so him so. She sees his trueness and honesty in his profession of his love for her and wanting only the best for her. She steps away from him and looks out the window into the sky. Jean-Paul stays still, letting her find her inner voice.
Still looking out the window, she says, “Both your love and the love of the Lord, how can I say no?”
She turns back to him and touches the medallion on his chest. “But this means we will not have children to pass on this family artifact. My father will have to understand that I give this to you so you can find out what this means, and how we can fulfill the Lord’s mission, which is embodied in the partial story told here.”
She puts her head to his chest and hugs him, saying, “And we will have children together. They will be the world’s children, who will inherit the peaceful earth we create from this medallion.”
They kiss. The last one, maybe. Maybe not. She separates from him, walks to the window, pulls down the shades, and turns towards him with an inviting smile.