I laughed again and it made her jump. “Sorry, but it sure does sound like that? I never thought of it that way… No, what I’m talking about does not wear off.”
“Sorry, Oliver, but there is no way I’m going to go off the deep end like your crazy Francis and Clare. I like my possessions.”
I chuckled. “That won’t be necessary. A life of self-imposed poverty is not for everyone.”
She looked at me and for a split moment I thought I caught a glimpse of hope in her eye. “What then? What are you telling me to do?”
“It’s simple, Clare, just two things. It’s almost too simple but I promise you things will get better if you do them.”
“Here, give me your hand.”
Reluctantly, she placed her hand in mine. “Be thankful for what you do have and be open, allow God into your life. That’s all.”
She said nothing for a few moments. I could see tears pooling in her eyes. “I’ve done a lot of crazy shit. If there is a God, He might not be interested in the likes of me.”
“Oh, He’s interested all right. I can promise you that. You and I meeting was no accident.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a long story. I’ll have to tell you about it some time. Were you ever baptized as a child?”
She shook her head. “No, my family was not religious.”
“It’s pretty simple and it’s a sacrament that claims you for Christ. It’s an important step in accepting God into your life. When you are ready, I would be happy to do it.”
“Yeah, that sounds great.” She looked at her watch, got up from her stool and walked over to the cashier. Before heading out she came back and said, “Do it now.”
“Do what now?” I asked.
“Baptize me. You said it was simple. Go ahead and do it now.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond to her request. “Well, typically I would do this at church.”
“I don’t want to wait that long. Do it now.”
“But, I have to…”
“Look, if you don’t do it now. I’ll probably never get around to asking you to do it.”
I sat for a moment then asked her to sit down.
She took her seat again. “Will this hurt?”
I could not surpress a smile. “No, it won’t hurt. I’ll have to ask you a few questions, and take your confession before I can baptize you. Are you OK with that.”
She nodded. Some of the customers were now bending an ear to listen to what the crazy priest was saying to the pretty young woman.
I looked into her eyes and asked. “Clare, are you sorry for your sins? For things you have done in the past which may have hurt others or otherwise not been acceptable to God?”
“You have too say it with your mouth, Clare.”
She nodded again. “Yes, I am sorry for all the awful shit I’ve done during my wretched life and for everyone I’ve hurt. For the baby I kil…” She began to weep as she spoke. “For the baby I killed.” She continued to sob. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
I traced the sign of the cross on her forehead. Then I realized I did not have water. So I grabbed the glass of water from one of the patrons. “Excuse me.” I said to the man at the nearest table.
I traced the sign of the cross on Clare’s forehead. “Your sins are forgiven. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen” As I lifted the glass to pour water over her head. I realized, I did not know her last name.
“What is you last name Clare?”
“McLamb,” she whispered.
I lifted the glass and poured the water on her head. “I claim you for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
I put down the glass just as demon waiter rushed up to me and grabbed my arm. “You can’t do that! What do you think this is, a church?”
I remained calm in spite of my desire to slam demon waiter’s face against the counter. “I think you are mistaken. Where two or more are gathered in God’s name… well, that’s a church. So, yes, this is a pizzeria, and for the moment a church. Now, take your hand off my arm.”
Demon waiter released my arm. I went to the register to pay for my pizza. Joe stood at the register trying to hold back a smile. He looked at me and did a little wave of his hand. “Not necessary Father, it’s on the house.”
I returned the smile. “Thank you, but that’s not necessary.”
Joe continued smiling and doing his little wave. “Si Father, it is on the house. You have a good night.”
“I shook the pizza maker’s hand. “Thank you, Joe. That is very kind.”
Clare was busy drying her hair and clothes with napkins. As she looked at me, I noticed the absence of all the dark blotches previously all over her face were now gone. She looked different. She looked hopeful. We stepped outside the restaurant together. “Sorry about the water. It’s part of the sacrament of baptism. It symbolizes the washing away of all your sins. If you stick with this and come to church and read the bible, you’ll learn all about it.”
She pulled my arm down as she leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. “Thanks,” she said. “I’m not sure what the future holds, but for the first time in my life I feel like there may be hope for me.”
“Let me be the first to welcome you to your new life as a Christian.” I took hold of her hand and shook it. “If you come by the friary tomorrow, I’ll have a bible for you as a welcome gift. The Franciscan friary is just three blocks up the street.”
“I’ll do that. Thanks.” She turned, waved, and walked up the street in the opposite direction of the friary.
When I arrived at the friary, I stopped at the storage closet and selected one of the bibles. As I closed the closet door, Fr. Manuel greeted me. “How was your pizza?”
“It was great. Maybe next time I’ll try a calzone.”
“Hmm, that sounds good.” He rubbed his stomach. “Maybe, I’ll come with you.”
“Goodnight, Fr. Manuel”
“Oh, Oliver, with everything going on today, I forgot to congratulate you on your ordination” He reached out and shook my hand. “Congratulations, you will make a fine priest. We are lucky to have you.” His expression turned serious for a moment. “But you must take extra care with the female members of the congregation, you being such a strapping fellow and all. You must avoid temptation.”
“Thank you, Yes, Sir. I’m excited about what lies ahead.”
Just then, Fr. Wayne stepped into the room. “Oliver, there’s a pretty young woman downstairs who says you have something for her. She says she’s sorry, but she just couldn’t wait.”
I hope you enjoyed Ordination Day. Pick up a copy of Persistent Evil and follow Fr. Oliver as he confronts an evil that is beyond anything he could have imagined.