“Why haven’t you been by the house? Are they working you too hard? When is the last time you went to confession? When are you going to settle down and get married?” Mrs. De Vries demanded as her son, Francis walked out of the courthouse and into the late afternoon sunshine. It had been a hectic day and all he wanted to do was to go home and crash.
“Mother, I’m perfectly happy with my life,” he told her wearily. “I haven’t been by the house because I have been very busy on a case which was wrapped up a short while ago. I haven’t been to confession for over a year and I’m not ready to get married as yet.”
He didn’t tell her that he hadn’t been to confession or the church because he was seriously considering leaving the faith. And the allegations of sex abuse at the hands of the clergy didn’t help. He knew of one girl he used to go to school with who was a victim but was afraid to say anything because she was afraid that her parents would kick her out of the house. The last he heard of her, she had left the church and married a Protestant.
He grew up in a strict Catholic home where he was taught never to question the church because to do so was a grave sin. So, he kept quiet, went to Mass every Sunday with his family, had his First Communion and Confirmation. He still remembered what happened to his girlfriend, Sophia when she was 16 and preparing Confirmation. She was in the Children’s Room and she had to write down the sins she had committed against God. When she told the priest that he had made out with her boyfriend, the man looked at her and told her that she was going to hell. Distraught and terrified at the thought of burning for eternity, she ran out of the room in tears. Francis never saw her again. He just went to church to please his mother. But he could feel himself becoming more and more disconnected to the faith.
“Francis? Are you still there?”
“What’s the matter?”
“Marian is having her First Communion next week Sunday. You are going to come for that, aren’t you? Everyone will expect to see you.” Marian was his 7 year old niece.
He didn’t really want to go but he knew he would never hear the end of it if he didn’t show up. Besides, he didn’t want to disappoint Marian. “All right, Mother. I’ll be there.”
“Good.” She sounded very pleased. “Afterwards, we’ll go over to the house and have a big meal to celebrate.”
“Sounds good. I have to go now, Mother.”
“All right, Francis. I will call you again during the week to remind you.”
“I will write it down in my calendar so that I won’t forget.”
“Just the same, I will call and remind you,” she insisted.
He sighed. “All right, Mother.”
“Have a good weekend.”
“Thanks. You too.”
“Make sure you go to church on Sunday. I pray for you everyday, you know.”
“That’s sweet of you, Mother. I really have to go now. Goodbye.”
“All right. Goodbye, Francis. Ik hou van je.”
“Ik hou ook van jou.” He ended the call and got into his car. The sun was setting as he pulled out of the parking lot. He couldn’t wait to get home and take a long, hot shower before ordering Take Out Thai. He didn’t have any plans for the weekend. He was going to be a couch potato for once.
About forty minutes later, he was riding up the elevator. The doors opened and he headed down the long hallway to his unit. As he was about to insert the key in the lock, the door opposite his opened and his neighbor, Briana came out of her unit. Her gaze traveled over his tall frame. “Hi,” she said.
“Hi.” She had her jacket draped over her arm and her knapsack was on her shoulder. “Going on a date?” he asked. He always wanted to find out if she had a boyfriend but never quite knew how to broach the subject without coming across as nosy.
She shook her head. “No. I’m going to the Living With Hope Evangelistic meetings. Tonight’s the first meeting. It ends next week Sunday.” She showed him the flyer.
He took it from her and studied it. It looked very interesting. It started at 7 which was a hour away. “Do you mind if I come with you?” he asked.
She shook her head again. “No, not at all. Have you eaten?”
“Neither have I. I got in a short time ago and didn’t have time to eat anything. We can grab something on the way.” They took her car.
As they sped down the high-way, they talked about all sorts of things. She asked him about his job and he told her about the case he won earlier that day. His client was found not guilty because of reasonable doubt. “Do you think he was innocent?” she asked.
“Yes. And I established that the foreman at the firm as a very possible suspect. He had motive and opportunity.”
“Thanks. You’re a Physical Therapy Assistant, right?”
“Yes.” He remembered. “I love it. I love helping people. That’s something you and I have in common.”
He smiled. “That’s true.”
“So….do you have a girlfriend?” She knew he wasn’t married.
The question took him by surprise and it took him a moment to reply. “No, I don’t have a girlfriend. What about you? Do you have a boyfriend?”
She shook her head. “No. I’ve gone out with a couple of guys but nothing panned out. We’re approaching Carroll Ave where the church is,” she added. “There are several food places in the area. What do you feel in the mood for?”
“Is there a Middle Eastern place?”
“Yes. It’s right up here.” She pulled into the parking lot and found a parking space in front of the restaurant. They walked in and over to the Take Out area. “I’m going to have the Chicken Shawarma. What about you?”
“I think I will have the Lamb burger.” His mouth watered as he thought having it with fries.
They ordered and then they went to the car and she drove to the church. They sat in the car and ate. He encouraged her to try the fries. “Next time I think I will try the Lamb Burger. It looks really good.”
“If you don’t have other plans, I was thinking that tomorrow night after we leave here, we could go a really nice family run Lebanese restaurant in Washington.”
She smiled. “I would love to.”
They finished eating and then it was time to head inside. They were hooked the first night and looked forward to going the following night. Night after night they went to the series together and had dinner afterwards. By the end of the series, they both decided to regularly attend the church hosting the series. They each received the Discover Bible Guides from the pastor of the church which they eagerly went through. Then, in the Spring the following year, they were baptized.
At first, Francis’ mother was bitterly disappointed that he had left the Catholic faith but when she saw how happy he was, she relented. And she was relieved to see that he had a girlfriend. She became very fond of Briana and even taught her how to make some traditional Dutch dishes.
Two years later, Francis and Briana tied the knot in a simple but elegant ceremony.