The Very Reverend
FREDERICK MATHEW MONAHAN
May 1, 1876 – April 15, 1912
Father Frederick gazed into the clear, brilliant midnight sky. The distress rockets had finally stopped. Then the lights of the dying ship flickered and went out. Their absence accentuated the beauty of the night sky encompassing him as he opened his heart and soul, embracing the beauty of God's creation. He had done everything possible to help others escape the unfolding tragedy. Now it was time for him to reach out and embrace the God to whom he had dedicated his life.
The screams of the dying passengers became softer to his ears. There was nothing he could do except wait. He no longer wondered how or why this nightmare was happening. Soon it would end and he would be gone from this veil-of-tears.
Father Frederick was not afraid. He knew he was safe within the everlasting, loving arms of the God he had grown to know, understand, and love with every fiber of his being.
The final death groans of the mighty ship rose as it began its final voyage. At 2:20 A.M. in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic slipped beneath the waves of the Atlantic Ocean and passed from the registry of the White Star Line.
A rush of cold ocean water washed over Father Frederick as he was pulled beneath the surface of the ocean. His consciousness dimmed as a euphoric splendor embraced him in a brilliant light.
When consciousness returned, Father Frederick found himself floating above the wreckage of the ship that had sunk. Daylight edged over the horizon, silhouetting images of small boats in the distance. Survivors he imagined.
Frederick sought refuge in thoughts of his mentor, Father Benedict. With a rush of air he found himself drifting high over land. The tower of the old monastery, where he spent many years becoming a priest, came into view. Father Benedict was more than a mentor, he was Frederick's spiritual father. There was nowhere else he wished to be than in Father Benedict's presence.
He drifted down, settling in the monastery stable area where Father Benedict was tending his beloved horses. He turned and looked at Frederick and smiled, "Freddie!" Frederick's heart leapt. He heard his name called but did not see Father Benedict's lips move. "What is it, my son?" There was no sound, and yet, Frederick could hear the words. And once again, Father Benedict's lips did not move.
“Father, I'm dead."
"Yes, I know, but now you are really alive." A loving smile flooded Father Benedict's face as he instructed Frederick on the power of concentrated thought which would be the only tool he had to work with from now on. It was then that Frederick came to the decision of staying on the material plane and continue his work as a Priest, a servant of God, helping those who were helpless. Father Benedict was pleased to agree with him, emphasizing the importance of learning how to materialize and dematerialize in his quest to serve others.
"And now my son, your path is clear. Your choice to stay on this physical plane and assist those in crisis will be a reward far greater than any you could experience on the heaven planes.
Blessed by his mentor, Father Frederick Mathew Monahan ventured forth, returning to the veil-of-tears he thought he would be leaving. His heart ached for the fulfillment he would experience, touching the lives of so many souls in need around the world.
And now . . .
DEATH OF A POPE
Father Marc Carlini placed his mass vestments into the cathedral changing room closet and closed the door. He had been ordained ten years earlier; now, he wondered if that had been the right choice. To outward appearances, he was successful in attending to the parishioners of Saint Benedicts. Within, doubt lingered as to his effectiveness. His lack of oneness with God troubled him.
His longing for communication with God had begun at an early age. The attention required by his five younger siblings left him unnoticed by his loving parents — until his fourteenth birthday when he mentioned he wished to become a priest.
His surprised and pleased parents spoke at length with Father Geffert, their Parish priest, to be certain Marc received the guidance he would need. Father Geffert assured them he and Marc had already discussed the possibilities. “Marc is cognizant of the responsibilities required in following this life path. I’ve provided him with a study schedule to follow in high school, to prepare him for seminary instruction.”
Marc was roused by a soft knock at the changing room door. It was Johnathan, one of his altar boys. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Father?”
“No, Johnathan, and thank you for your help this morning.” They walked together to the exit door. As Jonathan left the building, Marc thanked him again. Then he walked into the empty sanctuary and sat down in one of the pews.
His struggle to achieve communication with God, to whom he had dedicated his life, left him lost, and alone. In silent prayer he reached out, ‘Father, please help me.’
A sense of peace settled over Marc as he meditated. He became aware as someone quietly sat down in the pew behind him, but it was the subtle scent of roses that roused him, causing him to turn around. It was a young priest he had never seen before. He noticed the gold cross encrusted with green jewels which hung around the priest’s neck.
“Good morning, Father Marc,” came a gentle greeting.
“Good morning, Father, have we met before?”
“Oh, no, but I am aware of your troubled heart,” the young priest smiled with kindness.
“Who am I speaking with?”
“I’m Father Frederick Monahan. You may call me Freddie.”
Marc wondered how this man knew the secrets of his heart.
Freddie stepped into the aisle. “Why don’t we walk into the garden? It’s such a beautiful morning.”
They moved out of the sanctuary into the meditation garden at the side of the cathedral. Freddie led the way to a stone bench near the bubbling fountain at the center of the garden, and invited Marc to join him.
Marc looked into the face of his new acquaintance, “You mentioned my troubled heart?”
“Yes, I did mention that didn’t I.” Freddie gazed into the confused but trusting face of this dedicated young priest.
“You know, but how do you know? I’ve never spoken of my misgivings to anyone.”
“Of course you have. You’ve been telling God about them for a long time. He wearied of hearing about it and sent me,” Freddie smiled at Marc, who looked as if someone had just pulled the rug out from under him.
Tears welled in Marc’s eyes as he contemplated Freddie’s words. “But I… I...”
“It’s okay Marc. There’s no hurry. We can sit quietly for a moment – before I really start dumping on you,” he took Marc’s hand and squeezed it to reassure him all was well.
An aged nun trundled over to the seated priests. “Good morning, Fathers. I have kitchen duty this morning. Is there anything I can get for you?”
“Sister Agnes, good morning,” Freddie greeted the surprised nun. “We would like tea if it’s no trouble,” he turned to Marc, “How about you?” Marc nodded. Freddie turned to Sister Agnes and smiled.
“Have we met before?” Sister Agnes whispered.
“As a matter of fact, we have — many years ago.” She looked at Freddie in disbelief, turned, and returned to the kitchen to fetch the tea.
Marc regained his composure as he overheard the exchange between Freddie and Sister Agnes. “I suppose you know what’s in her heart as well.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. Sister Agnes is a good old soul who has been through a great deal in her life. Her spirit is strong, she is a blessing to have around and you may trust her implicitly and without question.”
“At the moment, I’m not sure of anything,” Marc stared into the bubbling fountain.
“You chastise yourself because you believe there is no communion between you and God.”
Marc sat up and looked into Freddie’s eyes for more. “God speaks to you all the time, Marc. You radiate what he communicates to you in the homilies you compose. Your Sunday audiences benefit from what you have to say.
“God communicates through you in the everyday tasks you fulfill in tending to the flock you are entrusted with. What in the world did you expect God to do, open up the heavens and speak to you in English? God does not speak English, or French, or German, or Dutch.
“You’ve been communicating with God from the very beginning — long before you became a priest. I’m amazed you haven’t figured that out by now. The selflessness you have attained enhances the quality of that communication. With each step Marc Carlini takes to diminish himself, the Presence of God has a better opportunity to flow forth and heal the illusions of this physical world — what you call misery, poverty, suffering, and unanswered prayer.
“You’ve learned how to let go and let God. Your mistake has been expecting something specific from God which will never come. Have no expectations of God or anyone else you may meet, and you will never be disappointed. Your only responsibility is to give everything you are capable of giving, whether it be love, wisdom, or the shirt off your back if need be.”
“That’s all?” Marc was astonished.
“That’s all,” Freddie confirmed with a large grin, “No bolts out of the blue, and no visions of angels descending from Heaven.”
“It’s the misery, poverty, suffering, and unanswered prayer that troubles me most. I thought gaining communication with God would solve those problems.”
“And it will. But you have been attempting to storm the gates of Heaven. And that will not work.”
“I don’t understand?”
“No one can enter the gates of Heaven. There is no room in Heaven for anyone except God. Yes, I know. Now you really don’t understand. It’s all about dying to who you think you are. The prodigal son returning to the Father’s house if you will. The camel passing through the eye of the needle. Scripture is filled with analogies which are mere stories, and make little sense until you catch the key, and begin to understand what is meant.
“The one I prefer is the impossibility of a rich man entering into the Kingdom of Heaven. According to scripture, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Marc, you are that rich man.”
Marc chuckled, “Me, rich?”
“Yes, you. Many of the beliefs you have about yourself are the riches which are getting in the way of communication with God. The spark of the Divine is within you as it is within every living soul — including the rocks in this garden. But that’s another story which I may explain some day.
“The spark of the Divine within you is covered over and blocked by your persona, your personality, which you have been accumulating from birth. Now is the time to reverse that process. You must realize there is no substance to who you think you are. It’s the dying daily referred to in Scripture. This is accomplished through study, meditation, and prayer. They are the stepping stones to Heaven, which you have been using without realizing it. You’re half way there, Marc.”
“But, when I’ve died, what’s left?” He looked at Freddie who smiled in silence, waiting for the answer to come forth from Marc himself.
Marc thought for a moment then turned to Freddie, “God. That’s all that remains.”
“Bingo,” Freddie grinned. “Now the interesting part. You still have your personality at your disposal. You will continue — using it, but it will no longer be using you. You will use it in communicating with your parishioners. You will appear to be the same, but they will sense a difference without knowing what it is.”
”It’s the act of praying that escapes me. I see my parishioners praying for this, that, and the other; and yet, nothing seems to happen. And sometimes the situation becomes worse,” Marc shook his head and frowned at his lack of understanding.
“Praying with words will never get you off the ground, my friend. If you want to fly, you must dispense with the words.”
“Prayer without words?”
“Yes. The true meaning of prayer is without words. And when you pray without words, what are you doing? You are listening. And the only thing worthwhile listening for is the voice of God, that still small voice within while experiencing the Presence of God. And that is how you attain the communication you have been seeking. One split second of communication, through listening, through prayer, and the imprisoned splendor within you is released. When that occurs, all the other things which trouble you will vanish. In the Presence of God, there is no conflict. There is only perfection. But, remember — as soon as you have God and…, you have slipped back into the mundane.”
“But is constant prayer possible?”
“Yes, it is. It is not necessary for you to be on your knees with your hands clasped together to pray. You can walk along a busy street and pray – listening for Divine guidance. And no one will be the wiser as to what you are doing. In fact, it is important no one knows what you are doing. Whether you are listening to a confession or conferring with a troubled parishioner, you can still be in prayer by listening to the still small voice within. It takes practice, but it can be done and should be done. After all, what else do you have to do?” Freddie laughed.
Marc shook his head, “How could I have not known this? It’s so perfect, so right, so simple.”
“Well, you know now. And, you can forget about your crown of thorns. It’s an unnecessary burden you have been wearing for far too long.”
“What do you mean, crown of thorns?” his look was pensive.
“The burden the church has laid on you with its unnecessary rules and regulations – its dogma. You chose the priesthood because it seemed the only way of fulfilling the inner calling to serve God,” he looked at Marc with a deep spiritual love and understanding. “You can serve God on your own if you wish. God does not need the church, he needs blessed souls like you through whom he can communicate with the rest of his children. And I’m not suggesting you leave the priesthood. I’m telling you this so you can go forward as a priest of God and not as a priest of the Catholic Church. No one will be the wiser, they will only notice the difference. You will be free.”
“But the dogma, I swore to uphold it,” the look of conflict on Marc’s face brought a quick and sharp reply.
“You swore to uphold man-made laws. They have nothing to do with God. You have everything to do with God. Your allegiance is to the Almighty, plain and simple and no one else – ever. Anything else is superfluous. Of course, you want to keep that under your hat. No use reaping unnecessary rewards from your so-called superiors.”
Marc leaned forward, put his elbows on his knees and rested his face in his hands. His shoulders heaved slightly as his inner child was born in the manger of his mind, and he wept with joy. It was the answer he had been seeking for so long. After regaining his composure he sat up smiling. “Thank you, Freddie.”
“If God needs to whisper in your ear, he will do so, and you will hear what he has to say in English, or whatever language you choose. When you’re writing, his thoughts will come to you as a rippling stream. All you have to do is translate those thoughts onto paper, or into the computer.
“The wisdom of God will flow from you as easily as you communicate with your parishioners – whether face to face or from the pulpit.
“You have been accomplishing what you thought you were not accomplishing. Perhaps it is a good thing. You’ve learned a valuable lesson which you can pass on to your parishioners. They have the same capacity as you have in communicating with the Divine,”
Sister Agnes returned and set the tray of tea down. Then she turned to Freddie, “Where?”
“Where? In Germany.”
“Where in Germany?”
Sister Agnes took a step backward, “That was my birth place. I was a young girl there,” Agnes’ eyes flashed at Freddie, knowing he would have no reply.
“Yes, I know. And you were a cute little girl, with those blond braids, tied with red ribbons you insisted upon,” Freddie sipped his tea and smiled at Agnes.
Sister Agnes glared at Freddie a moment then turned away as she returned to the kitchen, grumbling to herself, “Nicht möglich.”
“What did she say?”
“She doesn’t think it’s possible,” Freddie laughed. “There goes a faith in God enviable by everyone on this planet.”
“What do you mean?”
“Her past. Do you know about her past?”
“Only that she survived World War Two and immigrated to the United States.”
“As a young girl, she was imprisoned in Ravensbrück concentration camp for ten months. Through a clerical error, she was released. She found her way to the Franciscan Sisters of Charity and was accepted as one of their own. I believe she wrote a book about her faith in God through the many trials she endured during the war.
“It will eventually dawn on her why I know what I know about her.” Freddie paused and looked after Sister Agnes. “If ever you are in need, Sister Agnes will be there for you no matter what. She knows more about you than you realize. She has a great love for you, Marc. Never underestimate it or doubt it.
“And now, it’s time for me to leave. My mission with you is complete,” he got up, removed the golden cross from around his neck and handed it to Marc.
Marc looked at the cross and then looked up into Freddie’s face. “What’s this?”
“This is for you, Marc. Keep it close to your heart. Your future will rise upon it.”
Marc got up, “Will I ever see you again? Be able to talk with you?” There was a faint pleading in his voice.
“If the need arises, I’ll be back. You can be sure of that,” he embraced Marc, “Farewell, my friend,” he drew back, looked into Marc’s eyes, smiled, kissed Marc’s cheek, turned and walked away. After a few steps, he stopped and turned around, “How’s your Italian?”
“So, so. Why?”
“Your mother speaks fluently does she not?”
“Yes, she does. My father does not, so she rarely uses it except when she speaks with her sisters.”
“Have your mother tutor you, or hire a tutor. You will need fluency soon,” Freddie smiled and turned away.
Marc watched as Father Frederick Monahan walked to the end of the garden path and opened the wooden door in the high stone garden wall. He turned back and smiled his farewell then left the garden, closing the door behind him.
Marc’s heart sank as he lost sight of Freddie. He stood a moment, gazing at the beautiful cross, the emeralds sparkled in the midday sun. He wondered about Freddie’s interest in his fluency in Italian.
He gave one last look at the closed garden door, took a deep breath of the beautiful scent of roses lingering after Freddie’s departure and walked back to the cathedral.
Sister Agnes watched from the kitchen window. A knowing and loving smile flashed across her face, as she hummed the melody to O Sanctissima, and continued her duties in the kitchen.