- Abandoned -
Table of Contents
a religious thriller written by
Ronald E. Boutelle
Chapter 45: Secret Inside a Box
Having been asked by Nick’s daughter what else Father Mark had told him about Sister Maria, Rama turned toward her and began to speak. “As far as the new convent, I don’t believe that Father Mark had anything else to say except that he had recently been there to see it for himself. However, I do remember that whenever he did talk about Maria his excitement became contagious. Mark spent a lot of time telling me about this incredible nun as we explored Vrindavan together.
“For example, he told me that one-hundred years after the death of Mother Maria—inside the same convent where she lived, a protective seal on a very old box was broken so that certain papers that Maria had instructed to be kept secret could be read for the first time. The papers were laid out on a table in 1765.
“As church officials sat and listened to the testimonies being read, they realized that Mother Maria had sworn certain people to a vow of silence regarding an incident that had taken place in the convent’s church—a secret that involved her brother, Francisco Coronel. By reading what had been locked away, the story was pieced together and verified by the sworn statements of nearly a dozen eyewitnesses—one hundred years earlier.”
Rama took another sip of water as he began to recount the story that Father Mark had told him. “One morning during Maria’s twilight years, she was praying inside the church when she began to hear a distressed voice calling out. Upon investigating she noticed that a coffin had been recently placed just inside the doorway. As she strained to listen, gradually Maria could tell that the voice was coming from inside the casket. Nuns from the convent were also present. Standing next to the coffin, she told them that it contained a tormented spirit.
“Father Mark told me that when a soul dies without awakening its love for God and is damned by a lack of remorse, a great agony consumes it. Sister Maria, knowing of no greater fear and full of compassion, asked God to bring the body back to life. Only then, she reasoned, might the unfortunate soul repent and received God’s grace.
“It was also during this time that she discovered another shocking truth. Two workmen entered the church to open the coffin and she was told that the deceased person was none other than her own brother. They slowly removed the lid on the coffin. Although at one time Francisco had been a priest, because of his lack of humility and great pride, he had become bitter toward God, giving up his last breath a broken man, both physically and spiritually.
“With great faith, Sister Maria called for a priest to come at once to hear her brother’s confession—who soon arrived. Perhaps remembering Jesus as He prayed to His Heavenly Father to raise Lazareth, Maria closed her eyes in prayer, pleading with her Lord. The nuns also prayed with her. While the priest and others stood watching, all at once her dead brother climbed out of the coffin and immediately prostrated himself in front of the Lord’s altar. He then approached the astonished priest and confessed everything, setting his soul ablaze with love of God.
“To everyone’s amazement, Maria’s brother then stepped back inside the coffin. He then turned toward his beloved sister, Sor Maria de Jesus, gesturing with his hand to express his eternal gratitude.
Sor Maria de Jesus
“Francisco Coronel then reclined and the casket was removed for burial. Father Mark told me that the old documents were written, dated and signed by a multitude of people; all who witnessed the amazing events that had taken place in the convent’s church during the previous century.”
Rama stopped speaking as a hushed silence stilled the evening air.
Nick then spoke, breaking the silence as everyone tried to grasp what had just been said. “Rama, I was raised a Greek Orthodox Catholic. I must be honest. You are bringing to the surface an old animosity that I had long ago forgotten. But shamefully it is still lodged within my heart.
“I’ll try to explain. During the early history of Christianity, Rome’s Vatican was the dominating religious and military force in Europe and she spread her version of the Gospel with uncompromising passion—even to the point of horrible persecution of the Eastern Orthodox Catholics.
Eastern Orthodox Catholics
photo by: bobosh-t
Shamefully, I must admit that like many Greeks, I harbored enmity toward the Vatican for all the suffering she inflicted on us. Practically speaking, there is an oath among some of us to avoid, and even hate, Roman Catholics—at least among my generation and the generations before. I can still hear my grandfather telling me about the Orthodox monks—God bless their souls—who were tortured and burned to death by the Vatican because of their refusal to submit to the Pope’s will. Their cruelty was especial felt by the monks on Mount Athos.
Monasteries of Mount Athos, Greece
“God works in mysterious ways. I am guilty in front of all of you. Shamefully, these old feelings of hatred have resurfaced—even in front of my daughter and our other guest—and of course, in front of all of you.”
Nick paused for a moment as he looked out upon the monks sitting before him. He then continued. “I think it is clear from listening to my daughter speak about the Catholic church in Santa Fe and now her questions about Mother Maria de Jesus and Father Mark, that she grew up much differently than I did.
“With God and all of you as my witness, please let me confess my sin against our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. God didn’t tell His Son to save only some and condemn others. Rather, Jesus suffered and accepted the punishment for all mankind; both gentle and grievous. Instead of hating the sin but forgiving the sinner, I have failed to love. I am convicted of this crime in front of all of you by the pangs of the ill will that I’ve harbored in my heart since a small boy.
“Please allow me say a few more words about this. I have failed to root out certain feelings that have now shown their ugliness. But Providence obliterated my old life and I found myself with all of you—a new beginning that has become my very life and soul. In so many ways I have been drastically changed, but let none of us forget from the example here this evening that we must be ever vigilant to never tolerate even the smallest amount of ill will toward others to spoil our soul.
“The mere thought of those Catholic soldiers who tortured the Orthodox monks centuries ago had turned me into a racist who condemned all Catholics. This seed was planted in me as a child and until now has remained dormant. No—nothing vile should be allowed to occupy the heart of God’s servant—even in the smallest corner.
“I now see the danger to my soul. Yes, automatically I would think ill toward anyone who was a Catholic. This unjust animosity kept me blind. In the past I would have never listened to the story of a Catholic Nun or the story of a Catholic church in Santa Fe. Now I must ask myself, what other beautiful stories of the Lord have I ignored by building a stone wall hatred around me?
“Suryavarman was full of so much grace that it was easy for me to forget certain things in his presence. Instead, he opened my eyes to a much bigger God—bigger than I ever thought possible. He showed me that the Lord reciprocates with all who worship Him—Cambodians, Hindus, Orthodox, and yes, even Roman Catholics.
“I now speak for all of us. If we refuse to love our enemies we will never know the sweetness of God. That charming union will escape us. And without that loving relationship with our creator, what will become of us? Wasn’t it, this very thing, that prompted the cries that Sister Maria heard? Instead of dying with love of God, her brother died alienated. Instead of angles singing, all she could hear were the desperate cries of a soul in pain.
“God has worked many wonders in my life. Today He has forced something out of me—a confession that I speak of with great sorrow. But there is also a deep appreciation. I thank God for now giving me the proper vision and I ask Him—and even all of you—to please forgive me. Long ago I allowed my heart to harbor malevolence. I allowed myself to exalt myself above all Catholics. But this is not the soil that promotes love of God. I can only look upon God’s Holy Name to explain the divine mysteries that have saved me time and time again. I thank God from the bottom of my heart for once again leading me out of harm’s way.
“Rama, you of all people know of my struggles—how Surya taught us to be ever mindful of God no matter what our situation. If we fail at this, how is it possible to pray often, and without prayer the soul will not dwell in God's love? If we fail to pray, how is God to know who we are? Rather, it is the other way around. The Saints never stop praying—even for a moment because they are acutely aware that prayer is the path to God. The venerated Russian monk, Father Silouan, once said, 'The more wood you heap on a fire the more heat you feel; and so it is with God. The more you think on Him the more intense you feel your love for Him. No wonder those who love God are unable to stop praying.'”
Maria reached out and took her father's hand. “I am guilty of being neglectful. Rama and my daughter have helped me to see that there was an area where I had placed conditions—a hidden room where Catholics could never enter. Granted, this is a condition that I had long ago forgotten, but just see how quickly I became disturbed. Again I am thankful for God’s mercy upon me, a sinner.”
* * * * * * * *
Everyone knew that the evening’s remaining light could be measured in minutes. Nick and Rama gave each other a warm embrace. Maria took her Father’s other hand.
There was so much more in store for them. Judy and Sutton both knew that Nick would soon have to make a major decision. Still able to see their way safely back to the temple, everyone stood up and began to walk toward the lights in the distance.