The Mysterious Workings of Christ's Love
FATHER LOUIS ENTERED THE RECTORY KITCHEN of St. Andrew’s chuckling to himself. He had just come in from saying the Saturday five o’clock Mass. His vicar, Father Tim, slouched with coffee at the kitchen table, looked up with half a smile.

“What’s so funny?” he asked.

His superior tossed a business card on the table. “I thought this fellow wanted me to hear his confession,” he said. “We go into the reconciliation room, and instead he hands me his business card. Just struck my funny bone I guess.”

Father Tim picked up the card. “Ronny’s Roofing,” he read aloud and laughed. “More power to him,” he said turning back to his coffee.

Father Louis poured his own cup. “He probably needs work,” he said. “You might look him up while I’m away. Heaven knows our roof’s overdue.”

“Yeah, with what funds?” the young priest said.

“Good point,” Father Louis said with that affable shrug of his.
This brief exchange was followed by the not unfamiliar lapse that often fell between them. 

“Who’s the chef tonight? I forget,” Father Louis said after a while. He had gone over to the fridge to inspect what the housekeeper may have left for a Saturday night.

“Me,” Father Tim said, “And I’ve ordered out.” The young priest rose and put two dinner plates on the table. “We can’t have leftovers for your last meal.”

“My last meal!” Father Louis laughed, moving to help out with the knives and forks.

“You’ll do better in Rome, for sure.” Father Tim said. “But watch yourself. Don’t try to keep up with our bishop, for heaven’s sake.”  

The table was set and they sat down, followed by another break in small talk. Finally Father Louis said, “Tim, I need to speak to you about this priest who’s coming to fill in for me, Felix Cooper.”

 “I do, too,” the young priest said. “This guy could be a problem for us.”

“How so?” Father Louis said, breaking into a smile.

“I’m serious, Lou,” the young priest went on. “There’s already some talk about him. I can’t believe the bishop would lay this on us.”

Father Louis made a wry face. “What are they saying?”

“You can guess what they’re saying. You know the woman he was involved with was confirmed in this parish. They still remember her.”

“Tim, that’s all in the distant past now,” the older priest said. “And anyway, Felix has more than paid his dues. Besides, you know I’ll be away for two months, at the very least. You’ll need the help.”

“But why this guy, why Felix Cooper?”

“Who else is there?” Father Louis said. “Anyway, Tim, the bishop feels okay about him now. And I think he might be right about that.”

“I heard he wears a pectoral cross,” the younger priest said with a jerk of his head. “Like a bishop. I’m surprised the Chancery hasn’t called him on it.”

Father Louis smiled. “It’s a plain wooden cross, with-out the corpus,” he said. “Felix got the bishop’s permission. He told the bishop he would be the corpus.”

“That’s real cute.”  

His superior looked down and let it drop.

The rectory’s front doorbell rang. As the young priest got up, he said over his shoulder, “There’s talk in the parish about him, you know.”

Father Louis let this pass also.

The young assistant came back into the kitchen with their supper, Sicilian sacciata, a favorite of his. He had a beer, Father Louis contenting himself with more coffee.

In the middle of eating, the older priest said, “I see your friend is back.”

“I’ve got a friend?” the young assistant said with one of his ready half-laughs.

“That woman with the Polish surname.”  

“Oh, yeah,” Fr. Tim said, “Monica.”

 “She was at Mass today,” Father Louis said.

“She speak to you?” 

“I think she was expecting you actually,” Father Louis said with a little laugh. 

“I’ve been trying to help her,” Father Tim said finishing off his beer. He went to the fridge for another.

“You getting friendly with her?” Father Louis asked after his assistant settled back.


“There’s been some gossip, you know,” Father Louis said.

“To hell with gossip.”
“Anyway,” Father Louis said off-handedly, “not to repeat it, but you ought to know you were seen with her in a bar and grill, downtown.” Then he added, eyebrows raised a hair, “Without your clerics.”

“Who told you that?” Father Tim asked making a face.

“Martha says her son, Paul, saw you,” Father Louis replied with that easy shrug of his.  

“That figures,” Father Tim said wryly. “Look,” he said leaning forward, “Monica’s got her problems. You know that yourself. I’m trying to be a friendly ear.”

“I can see she’s got problems,” Father Louis said. “Just be careful,” he said. 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Father Tim said putting his food down.

“I don’t mean anything by it, Tim,” his pastor said. “I don’t want this Monica to become your problem, that’s all.”

“Look,” the younger priest said, “she showed up again out of the blue, two weeks ago, right? She wanted to talk and didn’t seem comfortable here. You probably don’t know this, but she tried to take her life. She’s just getting back on her feet.”

The older priest nodded at this. “I see that,” he said, looking at his assistant with a reassuring smile. 

Father Tim stood up and took their plates to the sink. 

“By the way,” Father Louis said, “I got a call from the bishop, just before Mass. The date’s been moved up. We’re leaving Tuesday.”

“Tuesday!” Father Tim said, swinging around to his superior. “But you won’t be here for Felix. You know I’ve never met this guy. I don’t even know what he looks like.”

“Don’t worry, Tim” the old priest grinned, getting up. “He’ll go easy on you.”
Eleven Episodes