Because I’m Yours. The little girl who finally went to Disney World

I never dreamed that taking a child to Disney World could be so difficult — or that such a trip could teach me so much about God’s outrageous grace.

Our middle daughter had been previously adopted by another family. I [Timothy] am sure this couple had the best of intentions, but they never quite integrated the adopted child into their family of biological children. After a couple of rough years, they dissolved the adoption, and we ended up welcoming an eight-year-old girl into our home.

For one reason or another, whenever our daughter’s previous family vacationed at Disney World, they took their biological children with them, but they left their adopted daughter with a family friend. Usually — at least in the child’s mind — this happened because she did something wrong that precluded her presence on the trip.

And so, by the time we adopted our daughter, she had seen many pictures of Disney World and she had heard about the rides and the characters and the parades. But when it came to passing through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, she had always been the one left on the outside. Once I found out about this history, I made plans to take her to Disney World the next time a speaking engagement took our family to the southeastern United States.

I thought I had mastered the Disney World drill. I knew from previous experiences that the prospect of seeing cast members in freakishly oversized mouse and duck costumes somehow turns children into squirming bundles of emotional instability. What I didn’t expect was that the prospect of visiting this dreamworld would produce a stream of downright devilish behavior in our newest daughter. In the month leading up to our trip to the Magic Kingdom, she stole food when a simple request would have gained her a snack. She lied when it would have been easier to tell the truth. She whispered insults that were carefully crafted to hurt her older sister as deeply as possible — and, as the days on the calendar moved closer to the trip, her mutinies multiplied.

A couple of days before our family headed to Florida, I pulled our daughter into my lap to talk through her latest escapade. “I know what you’re going to do,” she stated flatly. “You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you?” The thought hadn’t actually crossed my mind, but her downward spiral suddenly started to make some sense. She knew she couldn’t earn her way into the Magic Kingdom — she had tried and failed that test several times before — so she was living in a way that placed her as far as possible from the most magical place on earth.

In retrospect, I’m embarrassed to admit that, in that moment, I was tempted to turn her fear to my own advantage. The easiest response would have been, “If you don’t start behaving better, you’re right, we won’t take you” — but, by God’s grace, I didn’t. Instead, I asked her, “Is this trip something we’re doing as a family?”

She nodded, brown eyes wide and tear-rimmed.

“Are you part of this family?”

She nodded again.

“Then you’re going with us. Sure, there may be some consequences to help you remember what’s right and what’s wrong — but you’re part of our family, and we’re not leaving you behind.”

I’d like to say that her behaviors grew better after that moment. They didn’t. Her choices pretty much spiraled out of control at every hotel and rest stop all the way to Lake Buena Vista. Still, we headed to Disney World on the day we had promised, and it was a typical Disney day. Overpriced tickets, overpriced meals, and lots of lines, mingled with just enough manufactured magic to consider maybe going again someday.

In our hotel room that evening, a very different child emerged. She was exhausted, pensive, and a little weepy at times, but her month-long facade of rebellion had faded. When bedtime rolled around, I prayed with her, held her, and asked, “So how was your first day at Disney World?”

She closed her eyes and snuggled down into her stuffed unicorn. After a few moments, she opened her eyes ever so slightly. “Daddy,” she said, “I finally got to go to Disney World. But it wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.”

It wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.

That’s the message of outrageous grace.

Outrageous grace isn’t a favor you can achieve by being good; it’s the gift you receive by being God’s. Outrageous grace is God’s goodness that comes looking for you when you have nothing but a middle finger flipped in the face of God to offer in return. It’s a farmer paying a full day’s wages to a crew of deadbeat day laborers with only a single hour punched on their time cards (Matthew 20:1 – 16). It’s a man marrying an abandoned woman and then refusing to forsake his covenant with her when she turns out to be a whore (Ezekiel 16:8 – 63; Hosea 1:1 — 3:5). It’s the insanity of a shepherd who puts ninety-nine sheep at risk to rescue the single lamb that’s too stupid to stay with the flock (Luke 15:1 – 7). It’s the love of a father who hands over his finest rings and robes to a young man who has squandered his inheritance on drunken binges with his fair-weather friends (Luke 15:11 – 32)…It’s one-way love that calls you into the kingdom not because you’ve been good but because God has chosen you and made you his own. And now he is chasing you to the ends of the earth to keep you as his child, and nothing in heaven or hell can ever stop him…

But here’s what’s amazing about God’s outrageous grace: This isn’t merely what God the Father would do; it’s what he did do. God could have chosen to save anyone, everyone, or no one from Adam’s fallen race. But what God did was to choose a multi-hued multitude of “someones,” and — if you are a believer in Jesus Christ — one of those “someones” was you. God in Christ has declared over you, “I could have chosen anyone in the whole world as my child, and I chose you. No matter what you say or do, neither my love nor my choice will ever change.” That’s grace that’s truly amazing. (Pgs. 81-84)

Source: PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace

By Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones

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God’s love and a German soldier

It was 1945, World War II had drawn to a close, and a young man sat broken inside a POW camp. He had been a reluctant soldier in Hitler’s army and here, inside a prison in Scotland, he had months to contemplate what had been and what was to come. The cities of his homeland had been reduced to rubble and the people impoverished. His sleep was filled with repeating nightmares in which the terrors of warfare were lived over and over.

And then came what was for me the worst of all. In September 1945, in camp 22 in Scotland, we were confronted with pictures of Belsen and Auschwitz. They were pinned up in one of the huts, without comment… Slowly and inexorably the truth filtered into our awareness, and we saw ourselves mirrored in the eyes of the Nazi victims. Was this what we had fought for? Had my generation, as the last, been driven to our deaths so that the concentration camp murderers could go on killing, and Hitler could live a few months longer?… The depression over the wartime destruction and a captivity without any apparent end was exacerbated by feelings of profound shame and having to share in this disgrace. That was undoubtedly the hardest thing, a stranglehold that choked us.

An unshakeable shame saturated his being and the only future he could see stretching out before him was one that filled him with despair. Yet it was in the midst of this shame and despair that God found him. A visiting chaplain gave the soldier a Bible and, with little else to do, he began reading it. In the lament Psalms he heard resonant voices, the agony of people who felt God had abandoned them. In the story of Christ crucified he encountered a God who knew what it was to experience suffering, abandonment, and shame. Feeling utterly forsaken himself, the German soldier found a friend in the One who cried “my God my God why have you forsaken me”.

In 1947 he was given permission to attend a Christian conference that brought together young people from across the world. The Dutch participants asked to meet with the German POWs who had fought in the Netherlands. The young soldier was one of them. He went to the meeting full of fear, guilt and shame, feelings that intensified as the Dutch Christians spoke of the pain Hitler and his allies had inflicted, of the dread the Gestapo bred in their hearts, of the family and friends they had lost, of the disruption and damage to their communities. Yet the Dutch Christians didn’t speak out of a spirit of vindictiveness, but came to offer forgiveness. It was completely unexpected. These Dutch Christians embodied the love the German soldier had read about in the story of Christ and it turned his life upside down. He discovered despite all that had passed “God looked on us with ‘the shining eyes’ of his eternal joy”, that there was hope for the future.

That German soldier was Juergen Moltmann, who would go on to become one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. Years later, with the message of the loving, crucified God still indelibly printed on his heart, he penned these beautiful words.

But the ultimate reason for our hope is not to be found at all in what we want, wish for and wait for; the ultimate reason is that we are wanted and wished for and waited for. What is it that awaits us? Does anything await us at all, or are we alone? Whenever we base our hope on trust in the divine mystery, we feel deep down in our hearts: there is someone who is waiting for you, who is hoping for you, who believes in you. We are waited for as the prodigal son in the parable is waited for by his father. We are accepted and received, as a mother takes her children into her arms and comforts them. God is our last hope because we are God’s first love.

Source: Moltmann’s writings. Quotes from The Source of Life.The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life. Fortress Press 1977

Two Cups

History has preserved for us two magnificent silver cups from the boggy marshes of Ireland. The first is known as the Gundestrup Cauldron and comes from a century or two before Christ, a the time when the Irish worshiped violent pagan gods. It is adorned with pictures of gods and warriors. One panel shows a gigantic cook-god holding squirming humans and dropping them into a vat of oil. These gods demand human sacrifice to appease their appetite.

The second cup is called the Ardagh Chalice and comes from the seventh or eighth centuries after Christ, a time when the Irish had turned to Christianity. Like the first it is a work of magnificent craftsmanship, but the God it depicts is radically different. It has a simple but intricate patterning. But this is a cup of peace, designed to be used in communion. As the worshiper lifts it to her lips she is reminded that this God does not demand human sacrifice, but instead sacrifices himself for us.

Source: reported in T Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilisation (Hodder, 1995)

A Party for a Prostitute

It was one of the most extraordinary birthday parties ever held. Not it wasn’t in a plush ballroom of a grand hotel. No there weren’t famous celebrities, nor anyone rich or powerful. It was held at 3am in a small seedy cafe in Honolulu, the guest of honour was a prostitute, the fellow guests were prostitutes, and the man who threw it was a Christian minister!

The idea came to Christian minister Tony Campolo very early one morning as he sat in the cafe. He was drinking coffee at the counter, when a group of prostitutes walked in and took up the stools around him. One of the girls, Agnes,  lamented the fact that not only was it her birthday tomorrow but that she’d never had a birthday party.

Tony thought it would be a great idea to surprise Agnes with a birthday party. Learning from the cafe owner, a guy named Harry, that the girls came in every morning around 3.30am Tony agreed with him to set the place up for a party. Word somehow got out on the street, so that by 3.15 the next morning the place was packed with prostitutes, the cafe owner and his wife, and Tony.

When Agnes walked in she saw streamers, balloons, Harry holding a birthday cake, and everyone screaming out “Happy Birthday!” Agnes was overwhelmed. The tears poured down her face as the crowd sang Happy Birthday. When Harry called on her to cut the cake she paused. She’d never had a birthday cake and wondered if she could take it home to show her mother. When Agnes left there was a stunned silence. Tony did what a Christian minister should. He led Harry, Harry’s wife and a roomful of prostitutes in a prayer for Agnes.

It was a birthday party rarely seen in Honolulu – thrown by a Christian minister for a 39 year old prostitute who had never had anyone go out of their way to do something like this and who expected nothing in return. Indeed, so surprising was this turn of events that the cafe owner found it hard to believe there were churches that would do this sort of thing, but if there were then that’s the sort of church he’d be prepared to join.

Spasms Of Grace

In 1999 acclaimed Scottish novelist A L Kennedy released a small book called On Bullfighting. Bullfighting is a “sport” which those living outside Spain have difficulty understanding. Yet for those who are reared on it bullfighting has an almost religious quality. Kennedy discovered that bullfighting has roots that extend way back into history, to ferocious bulls that were fought by gladiators back in the Coliseum of Julius Caesar. Her first bullfight was a terrible affair featuring amateur matadors engaging in little more than savage butchery. But when she watched the leading matadors of the day Kennedy saw another level, an intuitive understanding of the bull by the matador, a genuine engagement of human and beast.

In an interview Kennedy was asked what impression an unprepared person might gain from watching  a bullfight. Here’s her reply: “People have preconceptions—either that the audience will be full of blood-crazed Latin types engaged in some kind of orgiastic sacrifice, or the opposite cliché, that it will be fantastically beautiful and wonderfully choreographed, like a dance. Actually, there’s no bloodlust. And even with a very good matador and a very good bull, the nature of the thing is that it isn’t seamless and it can’t be entirely graceful. There will be spasms of grace. It’s a very odd, ramshackle thing. There are all kinds of strange pauses and clumsy bits, and patches of costume drama, and then patches of this very odd, sometimes beautiful communication.”

I like her description that there are “spasms of grace”. It seems an apt description for our experience of the world beyond the bullring. Just as there is much that is violent or painful or cruel in our world, just as there are odd, ramshackle things, somehow in the midst of such a world we still manage to see spasms of grace – moments of sheer goodness, beauty and generosity.

Source: Reported in interview with AL Kennedy, Atlantic Unbound 2001.

Priest

The movie Priest tells the story of a young Catholic priest sent to a church in working class Liverpool, England. When he arrives he struggles with the liberal religious views of the senior parish priest. But we soon discover that his struggle is part of a greater internal struggle – you see our newly arrived priest is gay. He tries to resist, but fails, and  starts leading a double life, on the one hand spending time with his gay friend away from the church while on the other genuinely seeking to serve his parish community. And in the middle of all this is his anguished struggle.

Towards the end of the movie he and his gay friend are caught in public and arrested – homosexuality is against the laws of the land. Once news gets out that a priest has been arrested the media gets interested and its flashed across the local newspapers in no time. The young priest is broken, driven almost to the point of nervous breakdown.

The movie ends with an enormously powerful scene. The faithful gather for mass. Everybody is aware of the young priest’s situation. When it comes time to serve communion both the young priest and the older priest stand out the front ready to serve. Everybody lines up to receive communion from the older priest. Not one person is willing to be served by the younger, gay priest. The camera pans to his face. His lips quiver, his eyes burning with hurt and rejection.

Then a young girl walks forward to receive communion from the young priest. She has been the victim of terrible abuse at the hands of her father. She knows what it is to be crushed. They embrace and together, these two wounded and rejected ones, share in the communion.

 

Welcome Mr President

Former US President Richard Nixon is infamous for his place at the center of  the Watergate scandal. He disgraced both the office of the President of the United States and the United States itself in the eyes of the world. When Hubert Humphrey, a former US vice-president died, Nixon attended his funeral. Dignitaries came from all over the country and the world, yet Nixon was made to feel decidedly unwelcome. People turned their eyes away and conversations ran dry around him. Nixon could feel the ostracism being ladled out to him.

Then Jimmy Carter, the serving US President, walked into the room. Carter was from a different political party to Nixon and well known for his honesty and integrity. As he moved to his seat President Carter noticed Nixon standing all alone. Carter immediately changed course, walked over to Nixon, held out his hand, and, smiling genuinely and broadly embraced Nixon and said “Welcome home, Mr President! Welcome home!”

The incident was reported by Newsweek magazine, which wrote: “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion.”

Carter gifted Nixon with love and compassion. Nixon certainly had done nothing to deserve it. It was an act of pure grace on Carter’s part. When the bible speaks of God’s blessing it speaks in exactly the same way. Blessing is never a reward for good behaviour. It’s a gift, a gift of pure, unadulterated grace.

Moving the Comma

Alexander III was Tsar of Russia from 1881-1894. His rule was marked by repression, and in particular by persecution of Jews. His wife, Maria Fedorovna, provided a stark contrast, being known for her generosity to those in need. On one occasion her husband had signed an order consigning a prisoner to life in exile. It read simply  “Pardon impossible, to be sent to Siberia.” Maria changed that prisoners life by moving the comma in her husband’s order. She altered it to “Pardon, impossible to be sent to Siberia.”

In Christ God has changed the comma that stood against us. From “Pardon impossible, send to Siberia” comes the good news of salvation: “Pardon, impossible to send to Siberia.”

Sources: biography.com and Today in the Word, July 14, 1993.

Inside the Walls

It is said that during the Second World War some soldiers serving in France wanted to bury a friend and fellow soldier who had been killed. Being in a foreign country they wanted to ensure their fallen comrade had a proper burial. They found a well-kept cemetery with a low stone wall around it, a picturesque little Catholic church and a peaceful outlook. This was just the place to bury their friend. But when they approached the priest he answered that unless their friend was a baptised Catholic he could not be buried in the cemetery. He wasn’t.

Sensing the soldiers disappointment the priest showed them a spot outside the walls where they could bury their friend. Reluctantly they did so.

The next day the soldiers returned to pay their final respects to their fallen friend but could not find the grave. “Surely we can’t be mistaken. It was right here!” they said. Confused, they approached the priest who took them to a spot inside the cemetery walls. “Last night I couldn’t sleep” said the priest. “I was troubled that your friend had to be buried outside the cemetery walls, so I got up and moved the fence.”

 

Source: Unknown

Bono on Grace

Bono is the lead singer in U2, one of the world’s biggest selling rock bands. He grew up in Northern Ireland, the son of one Catholic and one Protestant parent. Throughout his childhood and adult years he was a constant witness to the hatreds fuelled by “Christian” belief. It left Bono less than enthusiastic about the Church.

Nevertheless Bono embraced Christian faith and maintains his embrace, not he says, because of the Church but because of grace. It is the one thing that makes him want to be a Christian. In a speech to a Harvard University graduating class in 2000 he declared he was a believer in grace over karma, karma being the notion that we get what we deserve.

In a song entitled Grace (found on U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind album released in 2000) Bono pictures grace as a beautiful, vibrantly attractive woman. Here we find a wonderful description of grace as it comes to us from God and one another.

Grace, she takes the blame
She carries the shame
Removes the stains
It could be her name

Grace, it’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything.

Grace, she’s got the walk,
Not a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything.

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things.

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.

 

Source: Lyrics from U2, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” album. Information on Bono from U2.com and mcphisto.com.

Gabrielle Carey. From Puberty Blues to Faith

Gabrielle Carey is an Australian author most widely known for co-authoring Puberty Blues. In a later book, In My Father’s House Carey relates an incident that led to her conversion to Christ. Carey was raised in an atheist humanist household. Her father was a university lecturer with a passionate commitment to the left side of politics. Throughout her upbringing he railed against oppression, capitalism and was a key figure in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam years. He also railed against God and the church, finding it impossible to believe in a God when the world was full of so much suffering.

But that left Gabrielle tremendously burdened. In her book In My Father’s House she writes, “One of the hardest aspects of growing up as the daughter of a humanist was the worry of having to live up to incredibly high intellectual and moral standards. And worse, what happened when it was discovered that you hadn’t? Would you be given a second chance? Could you confess your weaknesses? Would you ever be forgiven? What would my father say if he found out that I was just another brainless, mind-moulded, media-manipulated failure to humanity?”

It was this burden of guilt Gabrielle found lifted when she converted to Christian faith. “Perhaps what I liked most about Catholicism” she writes, “or at the least the Catholicism the abbot had introduced to me, was knowing I could be wrong, knowing I could behave badly, awfully in fact, and that I would still be loved. That all I needed to do was own up and I’d be forgiven…At least with a Catholic God and father you could fail without feeling that it was the end of all hope. And that was such a relief.”

Source: Scott Higgins, based on Carey’s In My Father’s House (Pan McMillan, 1992)

Diary of a Country Priest

George Bernanos wrote a novel called Diary of a Country Priest. It tells the story of a good young priest who struggles against a corrupt and deceitful church. Has a very difficult life, made more difficult by fact that he develops stomach cancer. In the final days of his life he lies weak and in terrible pain. Another priest is called to perform the last rites. A friend waits with him. Later the friend records what happened as they waited.

“The priest was still on his way, and finally I was bound to voice my deep regret that such delay threatened to deprive my comrade of the final consolations of our church. But a few moments later, he put his hand over mine and his eyes entreated me to draw closer to him. He then uttered these words almost in my ear. And I am quite sure I have recorded them accurately, for his voice, though halting, was strangely distinct.

‘Does it matter? Grace is everywhere…’

I think he died just then.”

 

A Modern Prodigal

(Note: this is a modern retelling of the parable of the prodigal son. The details are fictional. When using the story adapt the details to your situation – eg city, etc. Also remember to point out at the end that the story is fictional)

Jenny grew up in Rankin Park, Newcastle. In her early teenage years she fell into a pattern of long running battles with her parents. They didn’t react too well when she came home with a nose ring. They were furious when she stayed out all night without so much as a phone call to tell them where she was. Her friends weren’t exactly her parent’s first choice.

One night Jenny and her folks have a huge fight. “I hate you!” she screams at her father as she slams the door to her bedroom. That night she acts on a plan that’s been forming for some time. Once everyone has gone to sleep she gets dressed, packs a bag and goes into the kitchen. Opening the kitchen drawer she rifles through her parent’s wallets. She takes the credit cards, the cash, and their bank book. She hops on the train and heads for Sydney. When she gets there she waits on the doorstep of the Commonwealth Bank so she can be the first through the door. She forges her mother’s signature and withdraws $12500 her parents had in their investment account. She grabs a cab to the airport and uses Dad’s credit card to buy a ticket to Melbourne – she figures the last place her parents will look for her is on the streets of St Kilda.

She arrives in Melbourne and pretty soon she’s enjoying the high life – a new group of friends, plenty of booze, late nights, sleep all day, no school, no parent’s hassling her about a nose ring, let alone her experiments with sex and drugs. It doesn’t take long til the $12500’s gone and the credit cards have been cancelled.

Back home her parent’s are frantic. Mum’s had to start packing shelves at night to pay off the credit card debt, and the $12500 set aside for her sister’s university fees is gone. The police are notified, the streets are searched – first Newcastle, then Kings Cross. Her parents don’t know what’s happened. They fear the worst.

Meanwhile down on the streets of St Kilda things aren’t going too well. Jenny’s soon addicted to heroin and the money she stole doesn’t go too far. She moves into a squat and starts selling herself for sex.

One day she’s walking down the street and sees a poster on the telegraph pole. It’s headed “Have you seen this girl?” Below the heading is a photo of her – at least as she used to look. The poster’s got her parent’s phone number on it, and asks for anyone with information to call. Jenny rips the poster down, folds it up and puts it into her pocket.

The months pass, then the years. Jenny’s been careless one time too many. At first she writes off her sickness as just another bout of flu. But the illness persists. She goes to the free clinic to discover she’s contracted Hepatitis C and HIV. Not even the brothel wants anything to do with her now.

As she sits lonely, tired and hungry in the squat, she looks at the poster she’d rescued from that telegraph pole and saved for the last few years. She thinks back to her previous life – as a typical schoolgirl in a middle class suburban Newcastle family. It triggers memories of the famous family waterfight one steaming summer day when she was 12; and of crazy moments dancing together; of her sister’s comforting arms when she broke up with David. “God, why did I leave?” she says to herself. “Even the family mutt lives a better life than I do.” She’s sobbing now, and knows that more than anything she wants to go home.

Three straight phone calls, three connections with the answering machine. She hangs up without leaving a message the first two times, but the third time she says, “Mum, dad, it’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a train up to Newcastle. I’ll be at Newcastle station about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, well I guess I’ll just stay on the train til I get to Queensland.”

The next day on the train Jenny thinks about all the flaws in her plan. What if mum and dad were out and miss the message? And what are they going to do if they heard it anyway – after all, it’s been 10 years and they haven’t heard a word from me in all that time. How are they going to react when they discover I’m a junkie with AIDS? If they do show up what on earth am I going to say?…”

The train pulls into Newcastle station at ten minutes past midnight. She hears the hiss of the brakes as the train comes to a stop. Her heart starts pounding. “This is it. Oh well, get ready for nothing.”

Jenny steps out of the train not knowing what to expect. She looks to her right and sees an empty platform, but before she can look back she hears someone call her name. Her head whips around and there’s her mum and dad and her sister and her aunts and uncles and cousins and grandmother. They’re holding a banner that reads “Welcome home”, and everyone’s wearing goofy party hats and throwing streamers and popping party poppers, and there’s her mum and dad running towards her, tears streaming down their face, arms held wide. Jenny can’t move. Her parent’s grab her with such force it almost knocks her over.

“Dad, I’m sorry. I know…”

“Hush child. Forget the apologies. All we care about is that you’re home. I just want to hold you. Come on, everyone’s waiting – we’ve got a big party organised at home.” And Jenny finds herself awash in a sea of family and love that she has not known for over 10 years.

 

Source: A fictional story by Scott Higgins modelled on a similar story in Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace and paralleling the story of the prodigal son

The Homecoming. What Awaits Us?

Eminence, a novel by Australian author Morris West, tells the story of Luca Rossini, a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. Luca who now serves in the Vatican, live sin the shadow of a terrible experience he suffered as a young priest in Argentina. It was the 1970’s, a time when the military junta that ruled Argentina, acted with terrible brutality. Luca was brutalised in front of the villagers. Lucky to escape with his life he was spirited out of Argentina. Yet the scars across his back are an outward symbol of the scars he bears within. By the time we find him in West’s novel Luca is 50 years old, a confidant of a rigidly conservative Pope. In one scene the Pope reflects that he, the Pope, will have much to answer for when he comes to judgement before God. Luca responds, “We pray every day that our trespasses will be forgiven, Holiness. We have to believe that our end will be a homecoming, not a session with torturers!”

“Do you really believe that, Luca?” asks the Pope.

“If I did not, Holiness,” replies Luca,  “I think I could not endure the chaos of this bloody world or the presence of whatever monster called it into being.”

Source: Morris West, Eminence (Harper Collins, 1998) p106-107