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If you enjoy monastic murder mysteries in the spirit of the famous Brother Cadfael PBS series you will delight in Office of the Dead because the action takes place in contemporary times, rather than the middle ages, the reader is easily drawn into the dynamics of the plot and can identify with the characters readily.
If you enjoy monastic murder mysteries in the spirit of the famous Brother Cadfael PBS series you will delight in Office of the Dead because the action takes place in contemporary times, rather than the middle ages, the reader is easily drawn into the dynamics of the plot and can identify with the characters readily. A bit of romance coupled with eccleastical tensions makes this story crakle with excitement. Readers interested in Eastern spirituality and alternative medicine will be grateful that they read it.
Chill bit into the night air. Ice blue illuminated the room and washed over him like water color, making the midnight shadow on his jaw seem blacker and his eyes more hollow. He read from the computer screen out loud as he stood before it: "But if anyone leads astray one of these little ones who believes in me, he would be better off thrown in the depths of the sea with a millstone hung around his neck!(
"What in the name of God does that mean?" mumbled Detective David Gold.
"It's a quotation from the Christian Gospel," whispered a small pleasant voice from behind him. Dr. Chantal Fleur was called in on this case because she was a friend of the family and she was well aware that the detective didn't seem too comfortable with either of those facts. Her healthy looking chin-length brown hair bounced as she stepped back from Gold when he responded.
"I go to temple from time to time but must have missed that one," he stated, as his two hundred plus pounds turned toward the forensic psychologist behind him. Gold reverenced Christ as a great prophet. "I suppose Jesus is the one who said what's on the screen. You would know more about that than me, having gone through Catholic school."
"That's what one would think," she said, "but these days I'm pretty much of an agnostic. You know, not believing in or denying the existence of God. How about we turn on the lights and take a look around, Detective?"
"Sounds okay to me," he said half-heartedly. "Just don't touch anything or interfere with what we are doing in any way. My men are out at the pool guarding the crime scene and just waiting for the coroner to arrive and when he does, they will be all over the place in here."
Wailing and sobbing penetrated the office from outside and made them both reflexively look out the window toward the pool. Chantal left abruptly and rushed toward a lanky looking man slumped in a beach chair sobbing. In his mid-fifties, silver hair, completely distraught, he was the husband of the victim. An officer stood by him, inwardly hoping that his presence would be of some comfort, although the officer had nothing to say.
"John, let's go in the house and talk."
The man eventually rose from the beach chair as if in a trance and followed Chantal through the office, past the computer with the cryptic message, and into the early American living room. Behind them the garish red and blue lights of police cars and the rescue squad whirled, flooding the atmosphere with a harsh carnival mood. The coroner was there now, removing a woman's body from the pool. Even though it was only shortly after midnight, he looked unshaven and half asleep.
"When did you last see Beth, John?" asked Chantal in a voice as soothing and gentle as stringed music.
"About eight o'clock," he replied numbly. "I went over to my office to see patients this evening as usual and did a little paper work afterwards, returning here close to eleven. She was nowhere to be found. I couldn't even find a note from her and all I saw was that sentence on the computer screen. Is that some indirect type of suicide note?"
"I can't say yet, John, but we'll put it all together, I promise you. Right now we need to keep the focus on you."
"Dr. Fleur, can you come in here for a moment please?" Detective Gold boomed from the next room.
"Concentrate on some deep and easy breathing, John. Say the word 'one' or 'Jesus' each time you exhale. I'll be back as soon as I can."
She went into Beth's office. Gold's angry face met hers. His eyes bored holes through her skull.
"Please don't interrogate Dr. Johnson-Angelo. We want to keep him fresh for our people."
"I am just here as a friend, Detective; I'm not doing any interrogating. He is obviously in psychological shock and I am trying to minimize his symptoms."
"Sure you're not interrogating anyone, Doctor."
"Listen, I know that you don't like me, or perhaps it's just that you don't like my presence here. In either case, permit me to tell you that Beth and I went to grade school and high school together; we've been friends all our lives. We were split up for only a few years when she entered the Visitation Monastery in Wilmington, Delaware. The Order she entered was a cloistered one and we didn't see each other during my college years, but later, with the changes in the Church which came about through Vatican Council II, rules were relaxed and we got to see each other more frequently. She left religious life in the early seventies during a lot of the turbulence following the Council. She was progressive and her Order was not progressive enough for her. Beth worked hard and continued her education, getting an STD--that's a Doctorate in Sacred Theology."
The detective didn't seem impressed and responded smugly. "The way I hear it, this lady was not only too progressive for the Order she was in, but for the rest of the Church as well."
"Yes," Chantal countered with a tone of pride in her voice. "She had articles published in scholarly journals on everything from the Church's response to the poor, to the role of women in society and the Church. She was a scholar; she was a thinker. Beth was a prayerful woman. She made people uncomfortable sometimes, but that's because I think she was prophetic."
"Prophetic?" interrupted the detective. "Isn't that a Jewish concept?"
"The tradition continued into Christianity. Many people think that prophets are similar to fortune tellers, but actually they are women and men who believe that they have a message from the Lord for the rest of society. Most of the time we don't want to hear the message. They got their fortune teller reputation because in the Jewish Bible, at least, they would often say that if such-and-such a behavior or attitude wasn't changed, something negative would occur, and it often did."
"Doctor, why would this lady want to kill herself?"
"I don't think Beth did, Detective."
"Well," the investigator mumbled in a dubious tone, "when the coroner is through we'll know whether it's suicide or murder. Please stay away from everyone involved--Okay?"
"I'll not disrupt your investigation, Detective, but my friend needs me at this time."
A blue uniformed police officer trying to mask his anxiety by an abrupt air and confident gait came into the room. He couldn't have been more than twenty-two years of age. "The coroner just left with the body, sir, and the team wants to come into the house now and gather evidence in here."
"Fine, officer, send them in." Eyeing Chantal, Gold continued: "On second thought, Doctor," he said, "maybe you can be of some help. Why not take the husband out for a little walk or something until we're through."
"Suits me fine, Detective."
"Dr. Fleur's office, how can I help you?" said a crisp and efficient masculine voice on the other end of the telephone line.
"This is Detective Gold. I'd like to speak with the doctor or leave a message with her secretary."
"I'm her administrative assistant. I'll see that she gets any message you leave."
What is this world coming to, thought Gold. A man's voice as administrative assistant--what next? "Okay buddy, would you have her call me, it's police business and very important?"
"Certainly, Detective Gold, she should be finishing her current session with a patient any time now. He paused a moment before continuing. If you hold on a minute, her office door is opening and I think she'll be able to take your call shortly."
"Good, thanks a lot. Keep up the good work." And get a real job, he thought.
The forensic psychologist dictated some notes into a small tape recorder for a few minutes before picking up the telephone. "Good morning, Detective. Sorry to keep you waiting. If I don't dictate my progress notes immediately after a session I either forget to or they are not as complete or helpful when I refer to them later. But enough of that. I hope you slept well after our grisly adventure last night."
"I sure did, Doctor. It wasn't any fun being at the crime scene with a dead body either," he responded with an ever so slight chuckle.
Is that an attempt at rapport via humor or simply an insult about being with me last night, she thought to herself. Chantal let the comment pass--for the moment anyway. Maybe her progress notes were not always the greatest, but her memory was!
"Dr. Fleur, I need your help. You seem somewhat knowledgeable about spiritual matters and Church related issues."
"Well, Detective, I minored in philosophy and went through Catholic school, and have--had--a friend whom I just lost who is--was--a former nun." Don't cry now Chantal, or this neanderthal will really think that you are a wimp.
"Sorry I didn't pick up on your pain last night, Doctor. I was given a gold shield when I became a police detective and an emotional shield when I became a cop. It was a loss for you, wasn't it?"
"Yes. Yes it was, Detective, but I try to be professional in situations like that. I(ll deal with my mourning in my own way and on my own time." He received his emotional shield when he became a human being, Chantal mused.
"Our forensics people are trying to make sense out of the biblical quotation about leading little ones astray and having a rock tied around your neck and being thrown in the water if you do, and how this may relate to the suicide, murder, whatever it turns out to be."
"Detective, Beth was a theologian. She spent her life trying to draw closer to the sacred and to make sense out of it for the rest of us. Maybe she was struggling with that passage for some personal or academic reason. Does the coroner have any sense of whether her death was suicide--she paused before adding--or murder?" Both of those words choked Beth as she said them. Breathing became difficult as she though of Beth underwater.
"It looks like murder at this point, Doctor. You see there was a rock carefully tied to a rope and then just as carefully tied to your friend's neck when we found her."
"Oh,( in a choked voice, Chantal gasped, (My God, what a horrible death!"
Gold, belatedly remembering that the deceased was Fleur(s friend, quickly suggested, "We can talk later if you like, Doctor. I know that you are busy."
"Oh no, that's all right. I'm just a little shaken. I'd really like to find out what happened and help in any way I can."
"Doctor, is there a priest you know or someone at the office building at the Diocese that we can bounce some of this off of to try to make sense out of it? He would need to be someone willing to spend some time with us processing all of this, someone with a flair for investigative work. Perhaps someone like yourself."
"I know people at the Chancery offices because I do some consulting for the Marriage Tribunal-- you know--dealing with the petitions for marriage annulment of people married in the Catholic Church who've been divorced so that they can marry again in the Church. I've also done some psychological assessments on candidates going into religious life as Sisters or Religious Brothers, or becoming monks or nuns, for people--only men at this point--going into the Diocesan priesthood and diaconate, and for an ever growing number of lay people in ministry, so I have my connections, Detective, but I think there's another person that would better serve our needs."
"Here comes a thought--I bet he's a woman."
"Wrong, Kreskin. I went to graduate school and interned with him. He's a Catholic monk and clinical psychologist who specializes in behavioral medicine. He is, what shall I say, gentle but firm. That is, he has a gentle strength."
"Pardon my Judaism, but I though monks baked bread or made wine or something, and never talked."
"You are not alone, Detective, many Catholics stereotype us that way also. Some monastics continue to support themselves by baking bread or making wine, but there are many small monasteries and religious communities of men and women springing anew up since the Second Vatican Council when all the changes occurred in the Church. They are refashioning religious life and, in some ways, going back to its early roots and doing contemporary work to support themselves. They spend a good deal of time in silence, not as penance, but in order to have a quiet spirit which can hear the Lord and others better. My friend says it's like getting the static out of a radio so the message comes through more clearly. They don't have a TV; I guess that's why he used the image of a radio."
"My Aunt Elsie would have used the image of a Victrola. At any rate, you trust the guy and he's got good credentials, right?"
"The best, Officer."
"The best, Detective," he corrected.
"Detective, please understand that I don't want to bother your people,( to put it in your words."
"All right, all right, I deserve that. You're beginning to sound like my ex-wife."
"Tell you what, Detective, I have a few more patients to see and then a break from late afternoon till early evening. You could, if you like, pick me up around three. I can go over to the monastery where my friend is with you for a few hours. I'll put my mounds of insurance forms, managed care--or as many of us call it "managed uncare"--applications and treatment reports aside in honor of Beth."
"That sounds good, Doctor. You're a great guy--I mean person--I mean professional.
She slipped into his car looking surprising fresh after her busy morning and early afternoon. She smelled of "Loves Fresh Lemon" perfume--and he smelled of perspiration. "I'll be Chantal if you'll be Dave," she said, wondering what sort of response she would receive.
"That's Okay by me as long as you don't mess with my people," he said, and they both smiled.
"Take route 209 South out of town. We'll be there in less than twenty minutes. We're headed out to the western part of Monroe County, the edge of the Pocono Mountains toward Brodheadsville."
"I don't remember any monastery out there," he said with a quizzical look. "What are you getting me into?"
"Remember that I said that this is new and small. The place was founded in 1987 by my friend."
"Hey, are you really sure he's legit? Give me his social security number and I'll put it through the police computer."
"Trust me on this one, Dave. In fact, the monastery was just listed in the Scranton Diocesan Directory and in the Official Catholic Directory for the first time last year. That's a real milestone for a young monastery. Francis was a member of a large international pontifical religious order for about twenty-seven years but always felt called to a more contemplative form of that life."
"I'm not sure what all this means but keep going, Chantal. I need all the enlightenment I can get."
"His original Order was made up of men with monastic habits on that spent most of their time running schools, parishes, and foreign missions and were about as talkative and active as most people except that they lived in communities and were celibate. Francis--that's his name--wanted more emphasis on silence and common prayer. I think they call the common prayer the Liturgy of the Hours these days; they used to call it the Divine Office. 'Office' implied a burden or duty; 'liturgy' has to do with the prayer of the People of God throughout the world, being united in praise and worship freely given. Francis is a positive person who reverences the power in words and symbols. He was also interested in a wholistic approach to the spiritual life, so his community has both men and women in it as well as a number of lay women and men associated with the monastery who live in their own homes but gather there for meetings, prayer, and the like."
"This sounds fishy, Chantal. Again, what are you getting me into?"
"No, Dave, honestly, you'll be pleasantly surprised. If you like, you can call the Bishop and check out his status. The Bishop approved the foundation of the monastery and it have been going very nicely. They work very hard to support themselves, keep a great deal of silence, and meditate quite a bit. They don't even have a TV--there would be little time for it anyway. Just don't look for a huge building and big arches and a bell tower and all of that, Okay? If you want arches you had better head for McDonald's.
He's just about making it financially. They live on a shoe string. They seem happy and authentic. They have a few acres and a house with a few out buildings. I think the chapel's in a barn; they call the chapel an "oratory" which is based on the Latin word ora or prayer and there's a guest house for men where a couple of monks live. The women in the community, that is the nuns, and the women guests on retreat stay in the main building. At least that's what it was like when I was out there about a year ago. Once in a while Francis and I collaborate on cases. As I said, he's a clinical psychologist and I'm a forensic psychologist and sometimes our backgrounds blend very nicely together. His specialty, actually it's a sub-specialty, is behavioral medicine. He treats a lot of people who have physical illness such as chronic pain, cancer, HIV/AIDS through the use of behavioral science techniques. He uses clinical hypnosis and a technique called "Therapeutic Touch" quite often."
"This guy is sounding flakier and flakier to me Chantal. I am a city cop. I carry a gun and see the worst side of life everyday. I don't know anything about things like this."
(That(s why I stayed with the Western things he does. Francis utilizes many Eastern healing techniques as well. He is especially fond of something called medical qigong, which is apparently spelled a number of different ways and includes slow physical movements, breathing exercises, as well as meditation. If I have things straight, medical qigong is not only a very ancient Eastern form of Therapeutic Touch but also an entire system of Chinese medicine.(
(Are there any scientific studies to back this stuff up, Chantal?(
(Oh yes, just a search on the Internet can yield hundreds of studies with positive results, but many people, even well trained scientists, have their mind made up and are not open to looking at the data. Researchers and Western doctors are beginning to say, however, that Chinese medicinal herbs are very powerful and must be used with caution, the way Francis does.(
(Like I say, I know very little about such things.(
"Well, Dave, there's one way to find out. You'll just have to meet the man."
Turning left off the highway and down a winding country road lined with leafy green trees on either side took us into a quieter and more serene inner and outer space. I was feeling lots of pain inside but trying not to show it to Dave or to anyone else. I really hadn't had time to let it all sink in. Beth was dead, probably murdered. As I quieted down, Dave, in contrast, seemed to get more and more restless. A simple red wooden sign with white lettering under the mailbox, probably handmade by one of the monastics, marked the driveway. "Salesian Monastery," it said. As we drove up the bumpy driveway, a large cross made out of old telephone poles, and impressive in its stark simplicity, welcomed us. We parked under it and walked toward the main building--a white, fairly large raised a ranch house with a little barn red porch on the front.
"Brother Benedict. Brother Benedict." Chantal began to yell excitedly over toward a garden where a man in his late sixties with gray thinning hair and overalls was weeding the vegetables. He looked up, a little startled, or maybe a little annoyed, and finally a look of resignation came over his face. He got up quietly and walked toward the psychologist.
"Welcome, Dr. Fleur. I hope your presence here doesn't mean any trouble, or more work for our abbot. Please try to be as kind as you can to him.
"Okay Brother, it's a deal. Detective Gold, I'd like you to meet Brother Benedict, one of the members of the community."
"Pleased to meet you" went back and forth.
"A detective, huh,( muttered the monk. I suppose this one will be more trouble than ever! Abbot Francis is expecting your folks. Let me show you over to his office in the Hermitage."
We walked past the main house and, hidden away alongside the building, were a white mobile home. We opened the rear door which had a vinyl magnetic "Welcome" sign on it and then went into a small waiting area where we sat down on an old orange couch. The inside door to our left was closed and on it was a computer generated signs covered in plastic saying "Brother Francis de Sales, SMC, EdD." A stack of old Catholic Digest and New Covenant magazines sat on an end table, along with a few books and tapes that the monastery was peddling from their home and by mail order.
On the other side of the door lay a man in his late thirties stretched out on a massage table. He was dressed in faded grey gym shorts and his face radiated serenity. Shoulder length brown hair made him look like a left over from the sixties. His eyes were closed, as if in prayer. On one side of the table, a Thomas Merton looking man in his late forties wearing a light gray tunic and navy blue scapular with a hood lowered over his shoulders, the garb belted in the middle, was moving his hands slowly from head to foot a few inches above the physical body of the person on the table. The monk's intently listening face seemed to be registering feelings or perhaps some other type of information. On observation, it was difficult to discern if what the monk was receiving was coming from within him or through his patient. The abbot returned to the head and scanned down the body with his hands, lingering most especially around the heart. The patient turned on his side and the monk scanned the back from head to foot several times.
"Okay Mike, you can sit up whenever you like. Just take your time and make the transition gently and easily, opening your eyes gradually."
Mike just lay there for about two minutes, then opened his eyes and asked: "Dr. Francis, how did you know about the pain in my heart last time?"
"I can't completely explain it, Mike, but sometimes I get intuitive understandings when I do Therapeutic Touch. Some would call it a gift of the Holy Spirit, something unearned. At any rate, the information can be diagnostic of physical, psychological, or spiritual situations."
"That helps some. I felt electricity moving through me this time even more so than last and I saw some flashes of light,( the patient said. "I had a pain in my heart that was very old and I knew I had no cardiac condition. But I now know what it is." He paused for a moment before continuing. "I've been estranged from my parents for some years. They were very neglectful and verbally abusive and I cut myself off from them. I need to do something with that but I'm not sure I know what just yet."
"Keep thinking about it Mike and maybe we can come up with some strategies next time. Then we'll get rid of that pain in your heart--okay.?"
"Not only okay, Dr. Francis, it's awesome!"
"See you next week at the same time Mike. I'm going out in the waiting room now to greet some people who want to see me. You can leave by the office door whenever you are ready. Take your time. By the way, Mike, I'd kill for your hair!"
"Thank you, and I'd kill for your intuition."
The abbot walked through the door and into the waiting room, shut the door behind him, and startled Dave by giving Chantal a big hug along with a kiss on her cheek. "It's so good to see you again, Francis. Thanks for taking time out of your busy day."
"It's a wonderful excuse to be able to see you, Chantal. This must be Detective Gold."
"Yes, ah, Brother, Abbot, Doctor."
"Francis is fine. I like 'Brother' best, but most of the time I wind up getting called 'Abbot,' so whatever works. A few calls me 'Doctor.' The developmental researcher Erik Erikson says that we can experience an identity versus role confusion crisis as we move through life. I've been through it about six times now. How about if we walk around outside a little. It's a glorious day and I am sure that we all could use a little fresh air since our work coops us up a lot."
The other two nodded and followed Francis out the door. They walked past the main building. Brother Benedict quietly kept to his weeding as they walked down the driveway and out to the country road they had just driven in on. "Abbot, we are dealing with a possible murder or suicide of a woman theologian, an ex-nun, on whose computer was a Biblical quotation stating that those who lead little ones astray should have a rock tied around their necks and be thrown in the sea."
"Yes, Detective, Chantal told me that on the phone earlier today and she also told me that it was Professor Beth Johnson-Angelo who is the deceased."
"That's right, do you know her?"
"I've met her and her husband, Dr. John Johnson-Angelo, once or twice at professional conferences. I know her more through her writing in the theological journals than through the conferences, however."
"What exactly does that quotation mean, Abbot?"
"Well, Detective, I'm not a scripture scholar but my understanding is that Jesus was talking about how horrible it is to scandalize people."
"Eh, you mean like shock them?"
"Well in the Biblical sense, to scandalize means to act in such a way that you encourage other people to act in the same way and sort of lead them into sin. In my view of moral theology we are responsible for our own behavior, and that includes the behavior of one who gives bad example which would lead another into sin. For example, if your rabbi were having an affair and it became public and shocked others and weakened their faith and perhaps helped to lead them into sin he or she would be scandalizing them, and in the literal interpretation of this passage it would be better, without the forgiveness and mercy of God intervening, that this person be drowned."
You could see the computer whirling in the detective's head. Chantal's eyes were filling with tears and Francis continued walking on quietly for a moment just to let everybody be with whatever was going on within. Just then a car slowed down as it drove toward them. A smiling lady with curly hair turned silver by her children and grandchildren stopped and said hello to everyone. She told the Abbot she had been over to the office supply store and would get back to the typing. He thanked her and made a quick round of introductions, and Dotty drove off.
"Are Catholics always so pleasant?" the detective said.
"I don't think so, Detective, and I don't think Lutherans are always so pleasant either. Dotty's a Lutheran Christian and one of the most pleasant people I know, along with being the most realistic and Christian person as well."
Chantal appreciated the opportunity to lighten her inner feelings. "Well, here we are. A Catholic abbot who is some blend of progressive and very traditional, along with a Jewish detective, an agnostic psychologist, and a Lutheran secretary. All we need now is a Buddhist."
"Well, Francis smiled. I do have a good friend who is a Hindu Swami but let's save that for another day."
Detective Gold just raised his eyes and wondered why he came, grateful for the fact that at least the abbot had a woman for a secretary.
They had walked to the end of the bright country road and were near Route 209, the main highway. The trio turned around to walk back.
"Here's my hypothesis, Detective," said the abbot. "Beth either felt she led people astray by her writings and took that Biblical passage more literally than most of us would and killed herself, or there's some psychopath out there who felt the same way and did it for her."
"Now we're getting somewhere Abbot. Thank you."
Chantal couldn't quite absorb what she was hearing. (How would anybody, why would anybody kill Beth,( she thought out loud. "I think what you need, Detective, is a psychological autopsy to help you."
The detective shrugged and said: "Me and behavioral science never got along real well. We have the police shrinks to help us from time to time and they're always over-booked and underpaid as it is. Besides, what cop would want to let others know he's a little crazy."
"I'll do the psychological autopsy, Chantal offered, if that won't be interfering too much detective."
"Well, I suppose it won't hurt anything, if you can tell me what it involves?"
Chantal described the process of clinical interviews with people close to Beth--friends, relatives, associates, analysis of her writings, her behavior, her schedule, everything that would reflect on who this person was and whether there was some motivation to take her own life or not.
"Her husband's in pretty bad shape, Francis. I wonder if you'd be able to see him for a few sessions to help him out. I'm just a little too close to the situation for that."
"It would be my pleasure, Chantal. Have him call the monastery and we'll work it out."
They had strolled to the beginning of the driveway and the sound of a bell was heard pealing over by a little barn. "It's about time for our Evening Prayer or Vespers, which is the older and more traditional term for this part of our Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office. If you don't need me for anything else I'll go in and sing for my supper. It's my turn to play the keyboard this week so I suppose that I've got to make an appearance. I don't want to lead any of these little ones astray by not showing up and giving bad example. You're welcome to join us if you like, folks."
"Maybe I'll take a raincheck on that Abbot, especially since I'm not Christian."
"That's fine, Detective, but what we'll be singing are psalms from the Psalter of the Jewish Bible along with a Christian reading and some prayers for our world at large. Thank you for passing them on to us. The psalms are the backbone of our liturgical prayer."
"Interesting, I didn't know you guys were into that. I thought our Bible was passe."
"Not only is it not passe, my friend, but it is the foundation of our faith. We are grateful."
Brother Benedict, now in his blue and grey habit, nodded in our direction and walked into the oratory. There was a woman in a modified nun's habit also in view of the trio. She wore a simple grey tunic and navy blue scapular with a matching blue veil which covered the back of her head. The monastic woman, or nun, could be seen through a window sitting at her choir stall. A younger man also in a grey tunic but wearing the white scapular of a novice rather than a blue one, was walking down the steps of the main building, and another nun was walking not far behind. Chantal watched Dave. His eyes took everything in and recorded it. They drove slowly out of the driveway, pensive and silent.
"Why the cross?" asked Dave.
"Oh, you mean that big cross of telephone poles--that was constructed with the compliments of Commonwealth Telephone company."
"No, I don't mean that one, Chantal. I mean the one around the Abbot's neck. Nobody else had one on."
"It is a monastic tradition, as I understand it. The Abbot or the Abbess is the spiritual leader of the community and wears a cross to symbolize that. Kind of like a Bishop does. A Bishop runs a Diocese and wears a cross as a symbol of that. And like a Bishop who has a staff or crozier or shepherd's crook, or whatever you would like to call it, the Abbot or Abbess has one as well, except that his or hers is often simply a plain wooden staff as opposed to something that might be made of metal and more ornate."
"What does he specialize in again, Chantal."
"Behavioral medicine, Dave. It's the medicine of the future. I don't understand all of it but I know he uses clinical hypnosis and self hypnosis training to enhance the function of patients( immune systems, to relieve the side-effects of chemotherapy, to reduce anxiety, to help women deliver babies with hypnosis rather than medications, situations like that."
"Ah, that's interesting work for a monk. I still think he ought to be making jelly or bread or something." After a few moments thought, Gold asked,
"What about this Therapeutic Touch, Chantal? I heard people talking about something called Reiki. Is it related to that?(
"I believe that it is Dave. I really don't know too much about it. It's something that was developed by a nurse practitioner named Dr. Dolores Kreiger and has been taught all over the world. I understand that it lowers blood pressure, it stops babies from crying, it speeds up the healing of wounds, it raises the hemoglobin level in the blood. Some people report getting intuitive information of a diagnostic nature by doing Therapeutic Touch on their patients."
"What do you mean, like, if they have a bad liver or something?"
"Yes, Dave, it can be physical situations, but emotional or spiritual things are also sometimes reported to be revealed to the practitioner."
"Chantal, this getting weirder by the minute."
"I know; I thought I'd save the best for last."
"Does your friend get any of this 'intuitive information' as you call it?"
"I'm pretty sure he does although he's very quiet about it. Some of it is because of confidentiality and some of it is because I don't think he wants to come across like a quack to the scientific community, or like a heretic to the spiritual community. I don't think he's either."
"We'll see, Chantal. Maybe he's both."
"Dr. Johnson-Angelo's office," she said into the phone. "No, I'm sorry, the doctor won't be in today. We're in the midst of canceling all of his appointments. I'm sorry, ma'am, he didn't say when he would be back. Let me put you on hold for a minute." The secretary pressed a button on the telephone and it rang in John's home. He let it ring a few times and then despondently reached his hand over and picked it up. "Doctor, this is Gayle. Can I tell your patients when you'll be returning? I really don't mean to disturb you but..."
"You can tell them anything you like Gayle. I just can't seem to get it together."
"Doctor, if you don't mind me saying--maybe working will be a good distraction for you. You know how you come to life when you're around your patients."
"Who are you to tell...?," and then he stopped himself. "I'm sorry, Gayle, I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at all of this. We've worked closely for many years and I suppose I need to trust your judgment on this. I'll try to be over there by noon. Just sort of take care of me and guard me from the crowd if I need to get out again."
"Sure, Doctor, please come over by noon." She got back on the phone with the patient and said, (Come in about noon. We might be able to fit you in.(
"Well," thought Gayle, "that's great. At least we didn't have to refer this one to another group." She meditated on what a difficult specialty family medicine is. You have to be all things to all people--part physician, part psychologist, part spiritual director--and try to keep your fees low. It was not even eleven in the morning and already the office was full. A few phone calls from Gayle had gotten the word around and everyone was coming in to have their ills treated. John let himself in through the back door, his stomach knotted like a day old pretzel.
Who doctors the doctor, he thought as he felt himself being overwhelmed by the depression once again. Gayle heard him in his office and tapped on the door quietly. He even more quietly whispered "come in." She went in with a stack of phone messages and read the top one to him.
"Abbot Francis from the Salesian Monastery would like you to give him a call, Doctor."
"Can't you just give him an appointment for me, Gayle?"
"I don't think he wants to be your patient. I think he's reaching out to you."
"Well, whoever he is I've got too much to do to get involved with him. Please try to take care of those other messages as best you can."
"I will, Doctor, and I'll let the first patient come in now." In walked a healthy looking middle-aged woman who had diabetes and was there for a check-up. John felt annoyance at seeing her and knowing there were other patients out there waiting to drain him as well, but he swallowed it and began examining his patient. By the end of the session he was lost in her case and feeling somewhat improved. His work was like anesthesia for him. At five-thirty Gayle came to the door with a tray of fast food and told him she would hold the crowd off until six. He smiled the first weak smile he was able to manage in several days. Gayle came in to pick up the tray shortly before six and without warning started to sob.
"I'm sorry, Doctor Angelo. I've tried to be strong but I'm sorry for you and I'm sorry for your wife and I'm just plain sorry. I'm happy, happy that you're here and happy for what you've done to help me and please let's just get on with our work."
John held back his temper and felt the sting of the real issue--the pain underneath his anger. Trying to sound light, he said:
"Gayle, you know that when I married Beth I put her last name in front of my own. I want now more than ever to keep that name. Why would you suddenly drop it? Besides, you know that you don't need to call me Doctor anything. John is fine."
Forgive me, Doctor. I meant no disrespect to Professor Johnson-Angelo, or to you. I'm just trying to keep it together as best I can and regressed to what I called you when I first started working for you. It won't happen again."
Chantal's patients were giving her strange looks ever since her name appeared in the paper mentioning her as the consulting psychologist on the murder of Professor Beth Johnson-Angelo. She, in fact, was giving Detective Gold strange looks ever since he asked her to take on that role for him. Maybe Beth had performed her first miracle!
Even though Chantal did see some people for psychotherapy for a variety of disorders, she spent most of her time preparing for court, or actually being at the courthouse, as an expert witness on investigations dealing with the psychological competence of people who were involved in accidents, compensation claims, or other legal matters. She tried to keep Fridays free for paper work and her office patients and today found that one person after the other would bring up the case that presently saddened her so deeply.
If there was a God, why did he/she let this happen? Why did God let this happen to someone like Beth? Beth spent her life devoted to God, devoted to coming to a deeper understanding of God for herself and for others. Beth put her head and employment on the chopping block time and again in the theological stances she took and now, by her own hand, or someone else's, was dead.
The pathologist's autopsy report found no evidence of a struggle. Church officials had recently been trying to silence her, but that had been going on for years. John loved her passionately even though he was jealous of the memories she had about religious life and some of the friends, in and out of her former religious community, who drew her energy and emotion away from him at times.
Chantal couldn't concentrate. She skipped lunch again, skipped dinner again, and drove over to John's office. Gayle looked up appreciatively as Chantal entered.
"Let me see if I can slip you in between patients, Doctor Fleur. I know you're in between patients yourself." Before long, the door opened and a woman and her daughter stepped out, the daughter holding an inhaler to help her with her asthma attacks. Everyone looked up anxiously waiting to be called but Gayle jumped up and was at the door before people knew what happened. In a moment she was ushering Chantal into the doctor's office.
"How are you doing, John?" she asked.
"I manage Okay when I'm with my patients but otherwise it's pretty horrible."
"Have you talked to Abbot Francis, John?"
"No, I haven't, I guess I'm mad at God as well as everybody else.
"He's not God. He met you about a year ago at a conference on the psychological aspects of medical care."
"Oh right, I thought the name sounded familiar. Does he do something other than being an abbot?"
"Yes, John," she said compassionately. "He's a clinical psychologist, and a very fine one. That's why he wants to see you. I asked him to. He's reaching out to you in your pain."
"Well, I'd rather keep my wound closed for now, Chantal, but I appreciate both of you thinking of me."
"Okay, John, I don't mean to be a meddler. I just wanted to encourage you. I know you're busy so I'll leave you now. Call if you need me."
"Thank you, Chantal, I really appreciate it."
In a moment Chantal was gone and a little baby with a dangerously high fever was on the examining table before him.
"Please come in, Brother Matthew. Make yourself comfortable."
"Thank you Abbot Francis. I'll keep working on the make yourself comfortable part."
The Abbot smiled. "I can understand that. You've only been here about a year and are just beginning your two-year novitiate. It takes a while for us really to settle into the monastic life. I'm still working on it after more than thirty-five years."
"Well, then, I guess there's hope for me."
"Oh sure, lots of hope," said the Abbot with warmth and encouragement in his voice. (By the way, Brother, are you still taking your Chinese medicinal herb formula, An Mien Pien?(
(I do when I remember Abbot Francis. It helps me to sleep and keep those feelings of panic away.(
"Good, but we need to do our inner work too. You're soon to have a birthday, aren't you Brother Matthew?"
"That's right Abbot Francis; in a few days I'll be twenty-four."
How much he's packed into his young life, thought the Abbot. College for computer programming, engaged and almost married, and a year or two checking out the Catholic Traditionalist Movement--a splinter group of the Roman Catholic Church that represents the opposite end of the spectrum from Beth's point of view. And his singing voice! He sounds like an angel in the oratory, such a contrast to what is going on within him.
"Brother, you know you can come and talk with me any time."
"Yes, Abbot Francis, I understand that. But you're so busy; I hate to take up your time. And really, I haven't had any major problems in a while. At first the silence was pretty intense here and I was lonely, but I've come to terms with a lot of that-- and the nightmares are stopping, which, I suppose, is a sign of healing."
"It can be, Matthew, or it can be a sign of repression. We need to make sure that your choice of not only this lifestyle, but of your response to the changes in the Church since Vatical Council II is something which is genuine for you. You were pretty wrapped up in the traditionalist movement and if that's where you need to be, so be it. But if you're here, you need to be here heart and soul." The novice's large sky blue eyes filled with fear and the energy in the room felt as of the curly auburn hair on the top of his head was standing straight up.
"Are you asking me to leave, Abbot Francis?"
"No. No, not at all. You're a fine person and a real asset to our community. I just want you to do what is truly in your heart. The nightmares are an indication that you need to listen to something that you have not been listening to."
"But I told you they've stopped--pretty much."
"That may be the case, but have they been replaced with insomnia?" With that, the novice monk began to sob from his soul. "Matthew, you're falling asleep in the oratory and even at meals. You've lost a considerable amount of weight and you don't look happy. How about writing down your nightmares and we can process them? Catch whatever you can of them, even if it's only fragments. Dreams are something like DNA; you only need a minute sample to be able to break the code."
"I'm afraid to do that, Abbot Francis, because then you'll really think I'm crazy and throw me out on my ear."
"Brother, I can't say what I'll think because I haven't seen them yet, but I do know that I've dealt with many, many people regarding their nightmares and it has been a life-giving and freeing experience. So please try to trust the Lord who seems to have lead you here. It may be that God is trying to enlighten you, to raise your awareness to some conflicts within you so that you can be at peace about them and not waste all your energy burying issues. Only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds. Any wounding you feel will bring new life. That was the experience of Jesus. What do you say?"
"Well, I suppose that my head's going to be completely covered with bumps if I let it fall on my choir stall one more time during Liturgy of the Hours and I'm going to burn my nose if I fall into my soup again," he laughed and blew his nose and coughed, still trying to mask his tears of fear and resignation.
"Sleep, Matthew; let the nightmares happen and write them down. Jot down some old ones too if you remember them and we'll talk again in a few days. Now go with God's peace and blessing."
"Thank you, Abbot Francis, for giving me a chance."
"And thank you, Matthew, for giving God a chance."
"So what's with the male administrative assistant, Chantal? Is this some type of a feminist thing or perhaps a nineties statement?"
She sighed. "No, David, it's simply the case of a young man who's struggling in graduate school at the university and I am part of his work/study program. In other words, he gets paid to help me and it gives him a bit of experience in the area of clinical psychology. He's here twenty hours a week and, by the way, does a super job."
"Any problems with ethics or confidentiality thus far, Chantal?"
"No, Carl seems very ethical and we had a long talk about confidentiality and privileged communication. He's been trained at the university but if there are any slip-ups it's on my license and I'm the one that will be in trouble. It's an occupational hazard, Dave."
Dave scratched his head. "What's the difference, if any, between confidentiality and privileged communication?"
"Confidentiality is an ethical obligation whereby a professional is required to keep his or her dealings with a client or patient secret, as it were. Privileged communication, on the other hand, is granted to licensed professionals such as clinical psychologists, physicians, and religious leaders and essentially makes them immune from divulging information about others in a court of law. There are some limits to the privilege, for example information about child abuse. In fact, we are mandated to report that even if we are not in court."
"I think I got it! Some states don't license certain professionals, for example, counselors. So they would be bound to ethical confidentiality but not have privileged communication before the law."
"Exactly, my friend. Psychologists are licensed in all fifty states and the District of Columbia and have privileged communication in one form or another in all jurisdictions."
"Moving from the world of the abstract to reality, Doctor, how's that psychological autopsy going on Beth?"
"It's just about completed; I'm going over to the monastery to talk to Francis about it tomorrow and to get his input."
"Mind if I tag along, Chantal?"
"No, Dave, as long as you don't interfere with my work! How's that for reversing the roles?"
"Well, not too bad, especially since we are on our way out to dinner under the guise of working, and I am getting the distinct impression that we might almost be enjoying one another's company."
"Don't push it, Detective."
The ambience was delightful, complete with checkered tablecloths, perfect bread sticks, a friendly but not overly friendly waiter, and a bottle of wine. "I really like Italian food, Dave. Thanks for suggesting this place. We'll probably get good service because your dark Mediterranean complexion makes you look Italian."
"I think we'll get good service because you're beautiful. But don't mind me, I think it's the oregano talking."
"You know, Dave, I think I must have been Italian in a past life. This place really is fun."
"Past lives, Chantal, do you really believe in that?"
"Oh, I don't know what I believe. That was just a little attempt at humor."
"Are you sure you don't really believe in that? At times you seem pretty gullible to me."
"Gullible? What's that supposed to mean, Detective?"
"Oh, I don't know. You tend to take people at their word, you know, you believe most people when they tell you something."
"Well, don't you, Dave? How about when you said you were beginning to like me, or when you mentioned that you thought I was pretty. Was that true or was I being gullible?"
"You'll never know, Doctor."
"So, I'm gullible and now you're playing mind games with me. What else do you want to do to ruin our evening?"
"Me ruin our evening? You're the one who's getting cranky."
"Cranky? Dave, you've just insulted me a couple of times over. Who wouldn't be a little perturbed?"
"A little perturbed? You're annoyed, I can tell it, just like my ex-wife, what a woman! Couldn't look at her crooked without her bursting into tears and becoming angry."
"Well, Dave, I'm not a tear-burster. I'm strictly anger. Do you have some unresolved issues still brewing with your ex, Dave?"
"No, why do you ask?"
"Well, you brought her up a couple of times and it's a pretty intense feeling level emitted when you bring her up."
"Don't get shrinky with me. We're here to have fun, not to pick each other's brain."
"Dave, you're the one who started the mind games. Maybe it'd be better if I left now, okay?"
"Suit yourself." Chantal stood up and started to walk toward the door. A waiter came over and asked if everything was all right. She said that everything was fine. "I'm just getting to know someone whom I believe I probably don't want to know. Thank you."
She was out on the street, hailed a cab, and was back home before Dave had even left the restaurant. Chantal didn't turn to the junk food she was tempted to binge out on but worked out on her treadmill instead and followed that with a long, hot shower. She was on the couch in her robe and watching the late news when the intercom buzzer to her apartment rang. A little startled, she got up and pressed the talk button and asked who it was.
Dave's voice boomed through the speaker saying: "It's a jerk with a pizza. He looks Italian, but he's not, and if you let him in he won't bring up his ex again or play mind games."
"Did you bring any wine?" she hollered back.
"Maybe, but I'm not going to bribe you. I'm not just another pretty face."
"Okay, handsome, I'll buzz you in." Pizza on TV trays with a little Anne Murray music in the background--what could be more delightful? "When we both apologize, we might try to figure out what it is that irritates the other. Then again, maybe the hour is too late for that sort of heavy conversation. What do you think, Dave?"
"I'm too tired, Chantal. I'm just happy we're talking. I'm not the shrink but I think it has something to do with our backgrounds and this case."
"Oregano," she said with a twinkle in her eye.
"Come in, Doctor Johnson-Angelo. What finally gave you the inner freedom to trust me enough to come over?"
John looked at the abbot with mixed emotions. "If you want to know the truth, it's the fact that you have read my wife's work."
"Oh, yes, I've read it and I respect it. She's thorough, she's sound and she's passionate about her love of God and the Church. I am grateful that I was able to meet her and that she lives on through her writings."
"You look a little confused, Doctor, can I help?"
"Well, it's just that you're sitting here dressed like someone from the Middle Ages and yet you are in touch with the latest in contemporary theologians and not intimidated by the questioning attitude of people like my wife and others. What are you--liberal or conservative?"
"Well, Doctor, I guess I can't be diagnosed all that easily. Let me put it this way. I try to live by the Tao and even that is an undefinable concept and experience."
"I know this much about Tao, Abbot, it has something to do with the coming together of all creation, the Yin and the Yang, the masculine and the feminine, darkness and light, opposites coming together and complementing one another, 'synthesis,' 'individuation,' words like that."
"Very true, Doctor, and all of that within the context of energy, life, God, grace, however you want to name it, him, her."
"Well, Abbot, all of that meant something to me until about two weeks ago when my wife was murdered and now I'm not sure what makes sense. What had been existing peacefully together in my inner life has been scattered to the four winds. Beth gave her life completely to God in one way or another for well over fifty years and this is what she gets in return. I give my life to helping other people and am left alone to do it."
"John, if I may call you that, life is obviously unfair. You know that very well on a head level from your work as a physician, as I do being a clinical psychologist and spiritual director. If you can assimilate that simple statement about unfairness on a heart level, you will experience the wonder of the Tao within your deepest darkness."
"That sounds beautiful and poetic, Abbot, but I hurt."
"I know you do. You've got to. I think maybe you hurt not only emotionally but also physically."
"What do you mean, Abbot?"
"Well, my specialty is behavioral medicine. Did anyone tell you that?"
"No, they didn't. I that thought you were a clinical psychologist."
"I am that, but I deal a lot with physical problems using behavioral science approaches. I don't mean this to brag, but I know that you understand what a post doctoral diploma, or board certification as it is sometimes called, is. In fact, my guess is that you are board certified in family medicine."
"That is correct, Abbot."
"Well, I fulfilled the mandatory five years of post-doctoral experience in behavioral medicine, obtained the necessary letters of recommendation from professionals in the field, submitted a video-taped and transcribed work sample to the board for analysis, passed the comprehensive examination and am a diplomate in behavioral medicine of the International Academy of Behavioral Medicine, Counseling, and Psychotherapy."
What a mouthful! Again, I offer this just to help to establish some credibility with you, John, and to build a little professional rapport. Also, the spiritual side of healing is much simpler and open to us all, no special schooling needed. And now that I've told you a little about my background and philosophy, it will be up to you to work with me or not as you so choose. I have more patients than I can manage as it is. I would be happy to work with you but am not desperate for work by any means."
"I appreciate your honesty, Abbot, and will try to keep an open mind. A physician playing God under these conditions just wouldn't work, now would it?" A faint smile.
"One therapeutic treatment which I use combines spirituality, physics, and psychology and is called by a variety of names and taught in a variety of ways and cultures but is something that many people would call Therapeutic Touch."
"I've heard of that. Some of the nurses were using that at the hospital and it had interesting results. But I must say that it just sounds like hocus-pocus to me."
"Well that's fine, John. Let it be hocus-pocus as long as it helps us. Here comes the kicker, John. I sometimes get an intuitive sense when I scan a person with my hands and once in a while when it's very profound I don't even need to scan, and that's why I know your whole GI tract is out of whack. You've had the runs for days; you've been vomiting, your electrolytes are off, and you want to stay that way."
"What do you mean, I want to stay that way? Who are you to tell me what I want and don't want? He paused to let his anger subside. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be so angry, Abbot. And I was so taken aback that I missed the part about asking you how you knew all of that. Are we still friends?"
"Of course, John. One of the first things I learned as a psychotherapist was that people often unconsciously transfer negative, and sometimes positive, perceptions from their past on to the therapist. The same is true with a physician and possible for anybody for that matter. We can become like a projector screen, better yet a lightening rod, for our patients. Sometimes I am the mother who abused them, the nun who took a special interest in them in grade school, and on and on. As the patient works through the often intensely powerful transferred feelings, he or she becomes free from distorted unconscious reactions and learns to respond more and more in freedom to life events. I guess you can tell that I was a teacher in a past life, so to speak."
"My father used to read our minds, tell us what we were thinking or feeling, and I hated it. This little discussion has made me more aware of why I am so sensitive when people do even a little bit of that. You have helped me already."
"The power to heal is within you, John. I am like a midwife; my role is to bring that new life out of you."
"What a beautiful image, Abbot. Now can you tell me how you knew about my physical symptoms?"
"Actually, I'm not sure how I knew and I didn't mean to confront you too harshly about wanting to keep your symptoms, but I think it's something we need to think about. As a physician, you know there's a payoff to being sick at times and I believe that your physical and emotional illnesses are giving you some type of payoff. Why don't you go home and ponder about what the payoff might be and then come back and maybe we can do some Therapeutic Touch? Okay, John?"
"Well, I don't know. I'll have to think about it. I truly appreciate your thinking about me but I just think I might like to leave things the way they are."
"I'm sure you would, John; I'm sure you would."
John left the office and walked toward his car. Passing a nun in her 40s on her way into the main building he thought that she looked vaguely familiar to him. The nun seemed to turn away and pick up her pace when he looked toward her.
The Abbot sprinkled each of us with holy water as we left the oratory after night prayer. The community entered into its grand silence until after breakfast the next day. Then simple silence would pick up and we would be able to talk for lesser reasons, for example, a need during work, or out of charity to a visitor or another monastic. During grand silence only the greatest emergency would allow us to talk. There was always an intensity about the night.
Brother Matthew made it up the steps to his room in the men's guest house and barely got his belt off and scapular up and over his head and off when he flopped on to his bed and went into a profound sleep, still in his grey tunic. Before long, the dream began again. A mysterious woman approached who was angry with him. She wanted him to talk with her, spend time with her, get to know her, like her, love her--but he would have none of this. He asked her to go away. She became indignant. They struggled. He found himself trying to kill her. She would never die--almost, but not quite. Then, filled with the horror of what he was doing, he would scream and shake violently and wake up or be awakened by Brother Benedict who certainly did not approve of this behavior, especially in a novice.
In a cozy room lined with books--too many books for the shelves--a meeting was being held. The community creatively used just about every corner of the building and every inch of space but continued to need more room. Most of the volumes were about the spiritual life, some of them ancient looking, others just off the press. Some books contained the wonders of philosophy and psychology. All of them were used as food for the soul. A library truly reflects the people who own it, especially when the people are striving to find their reflection in one another and in the Sacred.
Chantal, David, and Francis sat at an old oak table. Chantal was delivering the results of her psychological autopsy to this small but august committee. David's temper was starting to flare.
"You mean to tell me that you knew that Abbot Francis treated Beth in the late seventies and you never told me?"
"Yes, David, I couldn't get hold of you during the week and last night was so rocky that I just didn't get to bring it up, but I knew I'd be telling you today so where's the harm?"
"The harm is that this is material, Chantal, that I could have had in mind as I continued on with this investigation and am only now getting it."
"I only found out about it the other day, David."
The man and woman looked at Francis as he began to speak. "We have an ethical issue here. I treated someone in confidentiality and under the privileged conditions, supported by civil law as well as canon law. It was shortly after she left religious life and was floundering around. I was an intern at a hospital where she was an out-patient and didn't even know if I could get the records until a few days ago. I did get the records. Chantal has them now. We each have before us a copy of the psychological autopsy. How about we move on from there, presuming the good will of everyone involved?"
"Okay by me Francis, if I may call you that."
"That's fine with me, Dave."
"By the way, Francis, let me lighten the atmosphere a little and ask you a question. Does that title Abbot come from Abba, the Aramaic word for daddy?"
"Yes it does, Dave, you're right on target. I really consider myself a brother to the Brothers and Sisters here and that is why I tend to call myself that, but I do answer to 'Abbot' and 'Doctor' and 'Brother' and once in a while from Catholics 'Father,' although that's not really accurate."
Chantal wondered out loud: "Why from Catholics?"
"Well, Chantal, most Catholics are so used to priests that when they see a man in a Church-related position they stereotype him into being a priest whether he is one or not. My call is to monasticism, the vowed life of contemplation, silence, and the overflowing of that into service for others. I have monastic vows, that is my whole vocation from God and consecrates me to God. Baptism does that in many ways for all Christians."
"I understand that, Francis. I remember when we were in graduate school and even more as interns you were on the brink of making this decision to found the monastery. You always seemed restless in your original community. You stated that most of the men were priests. Even though you admired many of them and some of them were close friends and continue to be, the emphasis was not on the vowed life, it was more on priestly ministry."
"That's exactly right, Chantal, and that's good for some people, but I know what I'm called to and here I am with bills and broken water pipes and all that goes with it. We need to be honest to our primary call or those demons we call symptoms result."
"As fascinating as this all is, Dave interjected, we(d better get to the heart of why we're here."
"Very well. I've written up a report," Chantal said," and you each have one for review, I will point out a few of the highlights at this time. I'll simplify the matter by cutting out background data with which we are already familiar and get right to the heart of the matter. Here we go. Her husband, her friends, her colleagues tell me in every possible way that Beth was not suicidal. She was experiencing hassles and struggling to live and be with what she felt called to be, but had been living with that kind of stress for many years now."
"Why do I sense a "but" coming?" questioned Dave.
"Because about fifteen years ago when Francis treated her she did exhibit some suicidal ideation. Many people do now and then and it passes fairly easily. Francis gave me a psychological assessment report that he did on Beth when we interned. He had a very competent supervisor who reviewed it and co-signed the report, which is mandatory for a supervisor. Beth was coming to terms with something. She had shed the identity of being a religious after having worked so hard for change and new life for her community, and now was struggling to make it on her own, and in the most challenging arena--by becoming a theologian, which had been largely a man's domain and a priestly domain. Here was this laywoman struggling to make ends meet financially, coming to clarity with her genuine identity and call and terrified about all of it."
"Some people call it a sort of Zen madness," Francis offered. "St. John of the Cross, the famous Carmelite mystic and contemplative, teaches that at some point all of our images of God, the afterlife, and ourselves, can collapse. We experience great disorientation and only then do we become truly who we are and know God for what God is. This is where Beth was. It was not a chronic mental illness. It was a profound rite of passage."
"Pardon me for saying this, Doctors,( Gold pragmatically offered, (but my boss is claiming that this lady theologian killed herself.( With that Dave suddenly jumped up startling both Chantal and Francis and said, "Can I use the phone?"
"Is something the matter, Dave?," Francis said. "You jumped up awfully quickly without any apparent reason and we're not sure why."
"Oh, that, it's the beeper in my pocket. I have it on vibrate so when somebody is trying to get hold of me I feel the thing vibrate, even through the flab."
"Oh, I get you," Francis stated. "When I was an intern, we had the old-fashioned kind that simply made noise. And yes, there's a phone over there. Feel free to use it. Would you like some privacy?"
"No, that's all right. Dave punched in a number quickly and was overheard saying: " Yes, yes, where, how long ago, I'll be right there." He hung up, turned to his two colleagues and said: "There's been a death, I've got to go."
"Is there anything we can do?" Chantal said.
"No, I don't think so. On second thought, maybe you can pray. It's in a religious place."
"Where's that? Francis asked.
"A place you may know of, the Center for Traditional Catholicism. One of the priests there was either murdered or committed suicide."