I block his way, he lands a punch on my nose, all blackens, feel myself tumbling helplessly head over heels down the staircase, Brett lounges at Father!”

Ya stupid old man! …Ya think I won’t hurt ya ‘cause y’ er a damn priest?”


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Hank squirms, blurts out, “Let him go Brett! … The Father has a vault in his office full money from the last mass! … Let’s git it!”

“Shut yer trap!. .. I’ll deal with ya later traitor! … l’ lI finish off the priest first!”

I gain consciousness, stagger to my knees, feel wobbly, climb the stairs anyway. On the first step see Father Mulligan’s back bent over the top choir loft railing, by the third step his head droops down toward the marble floor below, half way up, Brett dangles Father by the feet! Brett’s bulging eyes glaring, his Satanic raging mania lets loose:

“Ha-a-a-a-a! … Ha a-a a-a-a-a! … Hi-i-i-i-i! … I’m gonna drop ya on yer shiny bald head-d-d-d! … O most holy one! … Ha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a! …Y ’er gonna die-e-e-e-e!”

“Hank! … Stop Brett! … Hold on to Father before it’s too late!”

Heinous frosty breaths chant through the broken window pane coaxing their incensed leader on! … “Drop the priest! … Drop the priest! … Drop the priest!”

Brett, ravishing in his power over life and death, lowers Father down as far as he can, rocks him back and forth, then up and down!

“One …. ha ,ha, ha! … One, two … ha-a-a-a-a-a! … Hell-l-l… not yet! … Ha-a-a-a-aaa! … Whoops! … Now! … Ha-a-a-a,,, hee…hee… hee … hee! … How about right now? …. Ah-h! … Gottcha again! … One … two .. three-e-e-e!” … “Nighty-night old man!”

Sirens scream up to the church, police shouts resound as they get out of patrol cars, commanding the Diables to stay put, the gang members swear loudly trying to get away!

Hank latches onto Father’s left pant leg, I push past Bret, grab onto Father’s other leg, we pull him up, Brett flees down the stairs, runs zigzag up the main aisle, cuts off to the door leading to the office, Hank follows in close pursuit. Father surprisingly filled to the brim with fight chases after them! Gotta save Father and Hank! … But Lucifer tempted me too!

“Why should I put my life in danger for a robber? … A future murderer? … Hey let the police do their job! … Still … that gentle loving voice propels me ever forward to save them!”

Hear loud choking breaths from Father in front of me, shoulder him out of the way, he falls into a pew, I run into the office, Brett is squeezing Hank’s throat in a death grip!

“Open-n-n the frigin-n-n-n” the vault Hank-k-k-k!”

“Don’t know the combination! … Can’t breathe Brett! …Never had time to learn it! …Ya was too stoned outta yer mind and bent ta plow down the church door!”

“Hank, y’er stallin’ fer time ‘till the cops git in here! … I’ll kill ya this time ya bloody rat! … Shoudda done it when I had the chance! … Ya useless mule!”

See Brett’s left hand snatching his switchblade from his back pocket, places it at Hank’s neck arteries! …Too terrified, don’t dare budge in case the fool completely losses it!

Last chance! … Open the vault Brian or Hank’s a goner! And so are ya if ya don’t!”

“Don’t know the combination either Brett! … Besides, you’re going to kill us anyhow!”

“Ya saved the priest! …Git him in here Brian or I’ll finish Hank off! … No tricks either!”

I made three steps out of the office, Father runs straight into me, try to warn him, he’s angry with me, shoves me aside, fearless, goes straight up to Brett face to face!

“Brett me Lad! … Trade Hank fer me!”

Brett’s nostrils flare, lungs pant heavily, his white canine fangs snarl, sends Hank hurling at me, embeds the knife point in Father’s throat, scarlet red droplets trickle down. Father remains completely calm, confident that God will deliver him from this demented soul!

“Lisssen priest, give Brian the combination ta open the safe or so help me I’ll cut yer throat and make a break fer it, money or no money!”

“Hey in there! … Come out with yer hands up or we’re comin’ in one way or another!”

“Brett me Boy! … Only one way out fer ye! … The cops have surrounded the building!”

“Try ta come in cops and I’ll stick the priest! … Got that pigs!”

Wild with fear, Brett ‘pushes harder on the blade, Father’s blood slides out faster!

“Father, it’s Constable O’ Reilley! … Are ya alright man? … The door’s been scorched! … Open up! … Bang … Bang … Bang! … Open-n-n-n … up-p-p!”

Deathly silence!

“The gang’s got him! … O’ Conner, … Bennett, … stay here in case one of them makes a break fer it! They’re armed! Shoot ta kill! … We’ll join Sergeant Mullin in front!”

Brett paralysed, confused, Hank’s legs sagging, me shaking in my boots, Father reaches up gently with his left hand, taps Brett’s shoulder! … We can werk somethin’ out with the authorities! … Don’t have ta run and die! … The church is a sanctuary fer ye!”

In desperation Brett half-believes. Father slowly removes the knife from his hand.

“Follow me! … Be quick now! … Mother Church will protect ye all!”

Bewildered, traumatized, or under the spell of God, call it what you will, totally subdued, we go together trusting in our shepherd to face the unknown.

Father Mulligan kneels reverently at the altar with his eyes fixed on the figure of Jesus hanging from the cross, we do the same, don’t know why, but we do, he makes the sign of the cross, we follow, he warmly says an Our Father, we mummer along. Then, the cruel outside world comes crashing in with a rush of Arctic air!

Arrest those damn gang-bangers!”

Constable Farrow’s order echoes throughout the church, five officers race up the centre aisle with him while, two others slam the church doors shut and stand guard! Hank and Brett jerks around with fierce faces await the onslaught! Father stands up authoritatively, his hands placed firmly upon their heads, keeps them kneeled.

“Have some respect fer our Lord, our Jesus Christ! … Step away from the altar I say! … These two lads are also God’s children! He loves them even if ye don’t!”

Officer Farrow”s rash voice booms out defying Father Mulligan:

“They are nothin’ but … damn street bums, druggies, good-fer-nothin’s, … lousy troublemakers rebellin’ against society!

” ’ T is written in the Holy Bible, ‘Judge not and ye will not be judged!’ ”

Father’s determined eyes challenge all! … No one speaks or moves.

“Very well then! Ye are in me church and I demand ye all to sit down in yer pews and participate in the ceremony or be on yer merry way! … Christmas Eve is nigh! … Brett and Hank are goin’ ta make their confessions … that they both need badly … in that booth over there!… And afterwards, these lads are goin’ ta be baptized and confirmed just in case they never were! … In the name of Jesus Christ, their souls will be saved! … Is it illegal ta do the werk of the Lord in His own House?”

Perplexed, cops sit down, glance at each other for mutual support, Father goes into the confessional with Hank on one side, Brett on the other. Seems like forever, the irritated officers speak softly, their heavy sighs float about in the semi-lit church. With an abrupt jar, the confessional doors open wide. Father, Hank, and Brett return cautiously to the altar.

We hear more cops yelling and shoving the Diables into the paddy wagon, front doors reopen aggressively accompanied with another blast of frigid air, haughty Sergeant Mullin marches up the centre aisle like he owns the place.

“What in blazes is goin’ on here!” … I sent ya cops in here to do yer job! – Not sit there as if ya were all attendin’ Sunday mass! … Arrest those two dangerous hoods!”

Fired-eyed, Father Mulligan dares the constables to defy the command!

“Men, I’m yer Sergeant! … Ye obey me! … if ya don’t do as I say, ya will all be reprimanded tamorrow mornin’! That ya can count on! Maybe a month’s suspension without pay might change yer minds because of yer insubordination! … And, I don’t think yer wives would be too happy either!”

“Lissen here Officer Mullin! When ye will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, those, who think they’ll come first, will come last accordin’ ta God’s Eternal Judgement and so will ye!”

Taken aback for a split instant, Sergeant Mullin reflects then advances defiantly,

“That goes both ways Father! … These two are damned criminals and ya know it! … Y’ er obstructin’ justice! … Ya can also be charged fer aidin’ and abettin’ them!”

Father cheeks rosy-red now, “Spoken like a true non-believer! … If ye were truly a man of God, ye would lissen ta ye heart instead of usin’ the law! … Even Jesus forgave the thieves at His Crucifixion and all who persecuted Him! …These lads are sick!… Are ye lovin’ and understandin’ like Jesus or legalistic and condemnin’ like the Pharisees were?”

Sick? … Y ‘er deceived!… They’re manpulatin’ ya and y’ er fallin’ fer it! Well, not me!

“Nay! …Hold on a wee minute Mister Self-Righteous! … These kids are teenagers who’ve been mistreated all their lives at home, by society, preyed upon, and hunted down like sport animals by the likes of ye and yer squad of sinners ye call Yer Boys!

And that’s not all Sergeant Mullin! We taxpayers pay yer salaries! … Ye all work fer us!… Without our consent, none of ye would have yer job! … y’ er supposed ta be officers of the peace! … Look at yerselves! …Ye use the law in the wrong way by aggravatin’ those who need our help the most! .. What do ye think Jesus would say if He was standin’ next ta ye?… Be careful now, because He is! … Do ye think the contrary Sir?”

Embarrassed, Sergeant Mullin submits, steps back, surveys his officers in dismay!

“And Mullin ye are a hypocrite! … Whether ye like it not, wait patiently until I finish with me lambs who are in trouble because their spirits and souls are spiritually sick! If they weren’t, they’d be descent folk too! … All ye want ta do is ta send them packin’ off ta yer prison or shoot them dead if ye can provoke them into doin’ somethin’ worse! … And then prance around like some kind of heroes and gettin’’ the media ta make a big fuss over ye!”

“Hey priest! It was ya who called us! …. Ya thought yer life was in danger and they wanted ta rob ya! Remember? Are ya really sure ya wanna pull off that kind of a stratagem?”

“Fine Sergeant Mullin! I’ll phone yer Chief MacPherson ta get his permission if need be, after which I’ll phone me Bishop Foley and Mr. Mc Donnell, our parish deacon who is also this parish’s lawyer, as well as the media, and they’ll have a grand field-day with ye! And, if yer Chief attempts ta interfere with the spiritual werk of Mother Church, whose business is tryin’ ta save sinners, all of ye will pay a really serious price! … And ye, Mullin is the cause of it all! … Maybe then yer job will be on the line? … So Mr. Fancy-Pants, do ye want ta be held responsible fer these lads goin’ ta Heaven or ta Hell? … Well?”

The blizzards’ banshees wail, wall studs crack, rafters creak, Church doors rattle.

“Aye! … Do what ya haft ta do Reverend Mulligan and be quick about it too-o-o!”

“O-o-o! … And another wee thing Sergeant Know-It-All! I’ll see ye here on Christmas Eve fer confession with all yer officers! … Christ and I will be awaitin’ ta cleanse yer souls!”

No reply made! Father approaches the altar, kneels, prays in a rather loud voice:

“O’ Dear Father in Heaven, please fergive me if I don’t quite follow the policy of the Catholic Church. But as Ye know, I don’t have time nor do Ye differentiate between Christian sects! … So do ye Hank and Brett accept Jesus Christ as yer Savior? … Answer, ‘I do’!”

“Ya Father I do!” Hank says readily with all his heart.

Brett hesitates, turns, craftily eyes the mean cops waiting in earnest to arrest him! Becomes suddenly repentant, coyly glares at me, I nod in the affirmative, reluctantly replies,

“Yah … sure Father! … I do! … Whatever!

“Do ye Hank … Brett … denounce Satan with all yer heart, spirit, soul, and mind?”

Hank answers willingly with loving passion stares at Christ’s crucified figure. Clearly repentant, he envisions something, I don’t see what, his tense face changes to a peaceful radiancy, smiles joyfully, looks back at me and then to Father Mulligan,

“Yah Father, I denounce Satan, my gang called the Diables, and the evil within me! I accept Jesus as my Savior, the Son of God! Fer the first time in my life I know He exists! I’m truly sorry fer all the hurt I’ve caused everyone and I’m ready ta pay fer my crimes!”

“Guid! … with this holy water I bless ye Hank and Brett as baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – Amen! … Ye are full members of this Catholic parish. Go in peace of the Lord and do good works unto Him fer His Glory!”

Father Mulligan, Hank, and Brett rise, bow to Jesus on the cross, turn about, walk down the aisle, stop directly in front of Sergeant Mullin, extend their wrists to be handcuffed.

“Hank and Brett, y’er under arrest! … It is our duty ta handcuff ya! … Okay Officer Bailey, read them their rights and take them ta the station!”

“Aye Father Mulligan, cum ta see me in the mornin, we’ve got much ta discuss!”

Father walks back to the altar. Everyone leaves but me. I thank God, rise to go.

“Now hold on there me young Brian! I hadn’t seen hide nor hair of ye in three years! … But me Lad, I’ll see ye here with yer parents at Christmas Eve Mass, will I not?”

I hesitate, he returns a commanding look, I wince a smile but agree to do so.

And so my friend, I made good on my promise, returned home to my loving parents, five years graduated from university in Pediatrics, and Theology permitting me to become deacon at our church with Father Mulligan who is due to retire at the end of this year.

Sam didn’t die, dropped all charges, and left our city. As for Brett, after serving community work for five years along with psychiatric counselling, he managed to go to college and get a diploma in Automobile Mechanics and has since opened up a successful motorcycle and car-repair business called “Brett’s Body Shop”. He is happily married to Betty and has a son Gary and a daughter, Emily. He also volunteers at the local community sports centre helping tough kids from joining gangs who could have easily gone to prison. Well, now it ’s Midnight Mass once more. Da., Ma, and Kate with her husband, Stewart, are all sitting beside me and my wife Julie. Hmm! …You might ask about Hank? … Listen:

Dear Parishioners, as your parish priest, my Christmas gift is to encourage you to let God’s wisdom grow in you! Be courageous! Here on earth, we are engaged in a battle and the battlefield is in the mind! Your enemy is Satan! Focus on God! He never asks us to bear more than what we are able. He strengthens us, protects us, is everywhere, is all knowing, all powerful, all good, all loving, our refuge! Trust Him and obey His righteousness. God sent Jesus Our Savior to us, born of the Virgin Mary, to show us the way so we can be co-hers to Heaven! Become a living sacrifice to Christ by keeping His Ten Commandments!

When your happy soul re-enters Heaven, Christ will call you by your real name and you will know Him because you belong to Him! … Why? … It is because you had originally come from Heaven! You were first created as a spiritual being by God.

When you were physically born, He gave you a soul with a free will. At baptism, the Holy Spirit of God entered your soul as His gift of life to you! … Your purpose was to choose His Divine Plan for your life in order to glorify Him – not to deny Him so that you would belong to Satan. When you will draw your last breath, you will come instantly back home…. Jesus will be there smiling, He will caress you, welcome you back into Heaven and say, “Beloved, you are Mine forever! … Come, I will present you to Abba (your Papa)! … God”

Amen!


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