St. Ailbe's Hall

By Naomi Kritzer

Part 2 of 2

Read Part 1 here

Andrew badly needed his sleep the next night, but he was woken three times by late-night calls -- an anonymous caller who snarled an obscenity and hung up. Andrew finally turned off his phone to get some sleep. Tuesday morning, he had more hate mail. Wednesday morning, he found that his tires had been slashed; he had to borrow a car to visit his parishioners in the hospital. At least no one seemed to connect him to the "theft" of Phoenix -- though, as she had predicted, Lisa's farm was searched.

In the dark hours of Thursday morning, Andrew woke to a crash and tinkling glass. Caramel started barking frantically. Andrew grabbed his glasses and his phone, dialing 911. "This is Father Andrew Pieri from St. Mary's," he said to the dispatcher. "I think someone just broke one of my windows." Outside, he heard the screech of tires on gravel as someone pulled away very quickly.

"The police are on their way," the dispatcher told him.

Andrew flipped on his bedroom light; it was 4:07 a.m. He pulled on his bathrobe and slippers and went downstairs. Caramel was still barking.

The shattered window was in his study. Andrew shut Caramel in the basement, to keep him away from the shards of glass. There was a brick on the floor; it had been thrown with a great deal of force, slamming past the drawn blinds to land in the middle of the room. Andrew went in; the glass crunched under his feet, grinding into the carpet fibers. He squatted down to pick up the brick, his knees cracking. There was a note wrapped around the brick. "BITCH LOVER," it said.

Andrew put the brick back where it had fallen, for the police officers, and went back out of the study to start a pot of coffee. He could hear the sirens, and wished that he had time to get dressed. In his collar, at least he looked like a man in control of his own life.

The police were not unsympathetic. "This is about the dog in the church, I assume?" one asked. Andrew nodded. "Too bad people feel like they need to attack you over this," the other said. Andrew wondered if that meant that the police felt that violence would be more appropriately directed towards Lisa.

The officers took photos of the damage, and put the note and the brick in evidence bags. Andrew gave them the other nasty letters he'd received, and they put those in evidence bags, as well. "We'll send someone around in the morning, to interview the neighbors," one said. "They might have seen something." They declined the offer of coffee.

Andrew poured himself a cup once the police officers had gone, then went to look at the study again. He'd have to clean up the glass before he could use the room again. He didn't look forward to getting the slivers out of the carpet, and his favorite chair. And his ottoman. And the pillow he used to prop up his knees. His wave of anger and resentment took him by surprise. He slammed the door of the study hard enough to make the house shake, then let Caramel out of the basement.

Caramel followed him into the kitchen, flopping down at Andrew's feet and thwacking Andrew's calves with his long, skinny tail. Andrew put down his coffee and rested his forehead on his arms. He was tired of this. He missed his life. He'd taken controversial stands before, but nothing that people didn't expect from a priest. Nothing that generated this sort of hostility towards him.

Andrew sat up and bowed his head to pray, and suddenly felt horribly guilty. As persecution went, this was pretty trivial. What kind of wimp complained so bitterly about a few harassing phone calls and a broken window? The realization only made him feel worse.

He finished his coffee and went upstairs to shower and shave. Of course, he got soap in his eyes while washing his face, and then he cut himself shaving. He discovered that his favorite shirt was missing a button, and when he started to tie his shoes, his shoelace broke.

He forced himself to say the Morning Office, though Lauds -- praise to God -- were hardly what he was in the mood for right now. The psalm for the morning was a Prayer in Time of Trouble: "Come quickly and hear me, O Lord, for my spirit is weakening." That was appropriate enough, but only made him feel more guilty for his whining.

When he'd finished the Office, he decided to check for email from Leo before he started cleaning. There was glass all over his chair, so he dragged in a chair from the kitchen, promising himself that he would clean up the glass as soon as he was done checking his mail. No mail was waiting, so he poured out this latest misfortune into a letter, telling Leo about the brick, the glass all over everything, the hurried police officers, even cutting himself shaving.

I know that Christ said that we're blessed when we're persecuted in His name. But you know, this would be a lot easier if I knew that I was putting up with all this in His name, you know? I told you about that wonderful serene feeling I got on Monday morning, but that could just as easily have been sleep deprivation as transcendence. I want to know that I'm doing the right thing. I could put up with anything, if I knew that.

To Andrew's surprise, the terminal beeped just moments after he sent his message off, with a reply. Leo must be at his own terminal right now. He opened the message quickly; it was very short.

Andrew, my poor persecuted friend. Of course you want to know that you're doing the right thing. I know that the pure faith you felt at dawn on Monday seems so frail now, so fragile, but recall it as best as you can and trust in it. Most of the time we have to trust with so much less. And Andrew, don't worry about whining to God. You whine to me, and you know that God is more sympathetic than I am.

Andrew finished cleaning up the study at around ten in the morning; his phone rang just as he was going to open the door and let Caramel in again. He answered the call; it was Lisa. Her face was distraught.

"Jessie found something in the south pasture," she said. Her voice was shaking. "A leg-hold trap."

It took a moment for Andrew to understand what she was talking about. "A trap. Like, to trap animals?"

Lisa held it up where he could see it on the screen. It was an ugly thing, like a jaw with metal spikes for teeth, to snap shut over a foot. "This could have killed one of the puppies. But it wasn't set for them -- it was set for Jasper. She goes running in that pasture, and anyone who watched this farm would know it."

"Lisa, that's terrible. You have to call the police--"

"I have. They came and took a report. I'm calling you because -- if someone would do this to us, they may do something to you, too. I just wanted to tell you to be careful."

Andrew grimaced. "I got a brick through my window in the early hours of the morning."

"Do you know who did it?"

"No." Andrew paused for a moment, distracted by a puppy squabble behind Lisa. "How's Jasper?"

"As well as can be expected. She and the other adult dogs are out combing through the pastures, looking for any more surprises like this one. I don't know if they've found any." Lisa shook her head. "Father, could you come over today? I want to talk."

Andrew saw the dogs out in the fields as he pulled up the driveway. Lisa and the puppies met him at the door of the farmhouse. The puppies were restless from being trapped inside the house on a sunny day; one of the living room chairs had been tipped over, and the puppies were using it as a fort.

Lisa pulled chicken salad out of the refrigerator for lunch and sat down across from Andrew. Two puppies tore past them and up the stairs, shrieking insults at each other. Another trotted over to the table, standing up with his hands on Andrew's knee. "Can I have some of your chicken salad, mister?"

"Teddy, you've already had your lunch," Lisa said. "Go play."

"But I didn't get chicken salad," Teddy protested.

"You got chicken, just without mayonnaise. Mayonnaise isn't good for you."

Teddy turned back to Andrew. "Please?" he said, tipping his head to the side to lean it against Andrew's arm. "Pretty please with sugar on top? And whipped cream and a cherry?"

"If Lisa says no," Andrew said reluctantly, "then I don't think I'd better."

Lisa rolled her eyes. "Teddy, go play."

Pouting, Teddy trotted off to join the others playing under the overturned chair.

"So was there anything specific you wanted to talk about?" Andrew asked, when they'd finished their lunch.

"I guess . . . I've started worrying," Lisa said. "Taking Jasper to church seemed like such a fine, bold idea. A good statement. Now -- well, at least so far no one's been hurt. Maybe I should drop this."

"How does Jasper feel about it?" Andrew asked.

"She wants to keep going," Lisa said. "She likes you. She believes in this. But -- I think I could talk her out of it."

"Do you think that would be right?" Andrew asked.

"I don't know." Lisa stared down at the floor. "You know, to be perfectly honest, the main reason I wanted to bring Jasper to church, to make a big deal out of it, was to draw attention to the cause of enslaved animals. I mean -- you know, if we could get the Catholic Church to say that enhanced animals have souls, then it would be very difficult for people to continue to pretend that enslaving an enhanced dog is no different than keeping a plain dog as a pet."

Andrew shrugged. "You're probably right about that."

"I don't want you to think that was Jasper's motive, though," Lisa said. "She honestly does want to be baptized. She's totally sincere."

"But you aren't."

"It depends on what you mean by sincerity."

Andrew sighed. "This will be harder for you if you don't feel that you can trust in God," he said.

"Then you think we should keep on with this?"

"I think that Jasper has an immortal soul, just as you and I do. And that if she wants to be baptized and to receive the sacraments, then it would be a terrible injustice not to permit her that."

Lisa looked up again, meeting his eyes; for a moment, she stared into them deeply. "In that case, I won't give up," she said.

Lisa walked Andrew to his car. The dogs were returning; they didn't seem to have found any more traps. Hopefully they hadn't missed any. "Lisa, you know, the Church's doors are as open to you as they are to Jasper."

"I know," Lisa said. "Thank you."

"The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God's word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic faith." Pope Paul III wrote that, Leo, shortly after the discovery of the Americas. That was the hard position to take then, and this will be hard now. But it's the right thing to do.



Andrew, my friend, there are rumors flying in Rome about "that priest in America with the canine catechumen." Your bishop has consulted Rome, but I fear that others may not see it as you do. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will take into account not only the good of your friend Jasper, but the good of all the faithful. If we accept a dog, we will be mocked across the globe -- you know that. Some people will leave the Church in disgust -- you know that, too. The Holy Father can overrule the CDF, but he won't -- we both know that. So, where does that leave you?


Twisting in the wind, Andrew thought, reading the letter. Leo was right. In all likelihood the CDF would recommend against Jasper's baptism, though they were unlikely to ban her from attending church.

This past Sunday had been the craziest yet. There had been protestors outside the church -- some objecting to Jasper's presence, others defending her right to be there. Three quarters of the people waving signs weren't Catholic, and nearly all of them were from out of town. The police had been there, but several fights had broken out anyway. The story had been broadcast on TV stations as far away as Chicago, though most were treating it as a joke.

At least it didn't sound like Rome was laughing.

Andrew typed in a quick reply:

Leo -- You talk about the good of all the faithful. Does it serve the faithful to allow them to continue in evil and sin? If the Church denies that enhanced dogs have immortal souls, this legitimizes those Catholics who participate in the enslavement of the enhanced dogs. This cannot be right. --Andrew

Andrew sent the message and had started to turn on the ten o'clock news, to see if they'd done another story about Jasper, when the phone rang. It was Lisa; her face was stark, and she was not calling from home. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Teddy's been poisoned," Lisa said. "Someone left poisoned meat out in our yard."

"Oh my God," Andrew said. "Is he--"

"We're at the vet hospital."

"I'm on my way."

The veterinary hospital was on the edge of town; it had a new wing for enhanced animals, with beds instead of cages. Lisa was in the waiting room, her entire clan of dogs with her, scattered across the vinyl chairs and chipped white tables. "Teddy will eat just about anything," Lisa said. Her face was white, but she wasn't crying. "The vet thinks he'll be all right."

Jessie was keeping the rest of the puppies from wandering out of the waiting room. "Why would anyone do this?" she asked Andrew. "How could a human be so cruel?" There was genuine bewilderment in her voice. Nanny-dogs were designed to love and trust humans; as much as Jessie had been through with her old family, this was the worst betrayal yet.

Jasper sat in a chair in the corner, her eyes closed. Dogs couldn't cry; they could howl, but a howling dog would have been asked to leave the hospital waiting room. A rosary hung limp from Jasper's hand. Andrew sat down beside her. "This is all my fault," Jasper said.

There was a general chorus of denials from the other dogs, and from Lisa. Andrew took Jasper's almost-human hand gently and stroked the fur of her wrist. "You didn't set the poison out, did you? Then this isn't your fault, Jasper; this is the fault of a horrible, evil human."

"If I hadn't come to St. Mary's--"

"You had every right to come to St. Mary's. You have every right to ask for baptism. Jasper, do you know anything about the early Christians?"

Jasper shook her head.

"For hundreds of years, Christianity was illegal and anyone who asked for baptism could be persecuted if they were caught. Sometimes their families suffered, as well. That doesn't mean that those Christians were wrong for seeking baptism." Jasper was silent. "You have the courage of one of those early Christians, Jasper," Andrew said. "Most of us never have to." Andrew touched the fur on her shoulder. "Trust in God."

Jasper nodded and closed her eyes again. The rosary twitched in her hand.

One of the vets came out to the waiting room. "Lisa?" she said nervously. Lisa leapt to her feet; everyone else fell silent, turning to look at the vet. "Your puppy -- um, Teddy -- he'll be okay. We're going to hold him overnight just to be sure, but he should be fine."

The dogs, other than Jasper, were jubilant; Jasper and Lisa were just deeply relieved. Lisa signed some papers and paid for Teddy's stay. Outside, the dogs piled into Lisa's van. Lisa watched them for a moment, then looked at Andrew.

"Father -- I want to reconcile. I want to return to the Church."

Andrew paused. "Now?"

"As soon as possible. Now, I guess. I -- um, I promised God, in the waiting room, that if he spared Teddy I'd return."

Andrew sat down on the bumper of the van. "Well, I hear confessions on Saturday afternoons, or by appointment. This counts as an appointment, if you want to do it face-to-face."

Lisa shrugged. "It's not like you wouldn't know it was me in the confessional. Everyone tells me that they can smell dog the minute I walk into a room."

Andrew laughed at that. "I honestly hadn't noticed."

"Well." Lisa made the sign of the cross. "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen." She looked at Andrew. He nodded encouragingly. "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was five years ago." She paused again. "So, that's five Lenten seasons that I haven't gone to confession, and five years that I haven't gone to Mass, and five years that I haven't taken communion. Also, I messed around with a couple of the guys I dated in college, and I've been jealous of friends and impatient with strangers, and I wasn't always a good daughter to my parents. I've yelled at the dogs I promised myself I'd always treat as equals, yelled at them like children. Should I try to count the times I've done stuff? It's been so long. . . ."

"Do you know why you left the Church?" Andrew asked.

"I guess I lost my faith," Lisa said. "Sometime early on in college. I kept going to church for a while, but I was just going through the motions. I still don't know if I believe in God or not."

"But you didn't let that stop you from praying for Teddy," Andrew said.

"Yeah, and I got what I asked for, didn't I? You'd think that would remove all my doubts, wouldn't you."

Andrew leaned back against the van, looking up at the sky. The stars were obscured by the floodlights of the parking lot. "At sunrise, the morning after I took Phoenix to the safe house, I had this one moment of perfect clarity, where I knew that I was doing the right thing. Then it passed. Since then -- whenever I've had doubts, I've tried to remember that moment, but it doesn't always help."

"But I've never had a moment like that," Lisa said. "If I had, I wouldn't have doubts."

"Yes, you would," Andrew said. "That's what I'm trying to tell you. God doesn't always knock you off your horse and shout at you to make a point. Usually, God whispers to us, and it's up to us to sort out God's voice from the static of everyday life."

Lisa was silent for a moment. Then she said, "So I guess I don't get to come back to the Church, since I still don't fully believe."

"No," Andrew said. "You believed enough in God to make the bargain -- and to keep it. God loves you, doubts and all; He rejoices in every step you take towards Him, no matter how small it is. You get to come back to the Church, if you want to come back."

Lisa didn't answer; after a moment, Andrew looked at her face, and realized that she was struggling not to cry.

"You can say the act of contrition later," Andrew said. "For now why don't you go ahead and let yourself cry." He handed Lisa a tissue. She took it and burst into silent, wracking sobs. He pulled her head gently against his shoulder, letting her lean against him. When she had cried herself out, he steadied her, then cupped his hands around her head. "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." He made the sign of the cross. "Amen."

"Amen," Lisa whispered.

"Go in peace," Andrew said. "But call me tomorrow and let me know how Teddy's doing."

Back at the Rectory, Andrew logged on to check for mail from Leo. He had a letter, but it was very short.

Andrew -- Sorry, something's come up. I really can't discuss Jasper's situation right now. We'll talk later. --Leo

Andrew blinked at the letters on the screen. No matter how busy Leo was, he never let it keep him from his e-chats with Andrew. Andrew scrolled back through the old messages, wondering if he'd said something that annoyed Leo, or if there was some hint--

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will take into account not only the good of your friend Jasper, but the good of all the faithful. . . . The Holy Father can overrule the CDF, but he won't --we both know that.

Andrew sat up straight in his chair. Of course. Anyone involved with the CDF's deliberations on any subject was strictly barred from discussing it. Leo was a theologian -- he had probably been brought in for his analysis of the situation, or maybe just because he knew Andrew. That meant the CDF was already discussing the situation. Maybe it would all be resolved soon, one way or another.

The phone rang. It was Lisa, voice only.

"Oh my God," she was saying, over and over. "I can't believe it, I can't believe it."

"Lisa," he said. "What's wrong? What's happened?"

"--the farm."

"I'm on my way," he said, hanging up and heading for the door.

It was humid and very dark outside. He had his windows rolled down, and he smelled what had happened even before he saw the flashing lights at the end of Lisa's driveway. Fire. Lisa stood with the dogs beside the barn. The house was charred to the foundations; a single upright beam still stood, a pillar of blackened timber. Along with the smoke, he could smell the gasoline that had been used to set the fire.

"No one was hurt," Lisa said, her voice toneless. "We were all at the vet hospital, because of Teddy."

The dogs huddled together, staring at the dying flames. There was an arson investigator on the scene; he wanted to talk to Lisa, so Andrew helped Jessie hustle the rest of the dogs into the barn, and sat down to comfort the puppies. They vied for the opportunity to sit in his lap; the ones with human-like hands wanted to exchange high-fives with him, like Jasper had told them Andrew did with the human children on Sundays. Jasper sat close by, holding one of the puppies. "Tell us a story," the puppy in Jasper's lap said.

For a moment, the only stories that Andrew could think of involved early Christian martyrs. Then he remembered that his copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was in his briefcase, in his car. He fetched it, along with his emergency flashlight, and sat down on the floor of the barn to read it to the puppies.

The barn was hot and humid; the air was still. The floor was concrete, and covered in swallow droppings. The puppies curled around each other in a heap at Andrew's feet, in the circle of light made by the flashlight. One by one, they fell asleep. As the last puppy stopped struggling to keep her eyes open, Andrew looked around. Jessie had fallen asleep hours ago. Lisa had come in at some point, and gone to sleep with her head resting on the haunch of the Newfoundland. Andrew had reached the point in the story where Aslan slipped away to allow himself to be sacrificed, in exchange for the life of the misguided Edmund. Now Andrew fell silent, wondering if anyone was still awake and listening. At the edge of the circle, someone's eyes glittered -- Jasper.

"You know the rest of the story," Andrew said.

Jasper nodded. After a little while she said, "There is something I have always wondered about that book."

"Ask me. I'll try to answer," Andrew said.

"What exactly is Turkish delight?"

Andrew laughed a little. "It's a sort of candy. After I first read the book, I asked my parents for some. I figured it must be awfully good, for Edmund to sell his soul for it. Actually, it's kind of sticky, and too sweet -- I didn't much care for it even when I was a kid."

Jasper came forward into the circle of light. "People have sold their souls for less," she said.

"True enough." Andrew watched as Jasper settled down protectively beside the puppies. "Jasper, I have a question for you," he said.

"Ask away."

"Why do you want to be baptized?"

Jasper was silent for a long time. "I know that Lisa supported the idea because she thought it would bring attention to the movement to free enhanced animals," she said. "I'm not as committed to the cause as Lisa is, though. If that were all I cared about, I'd have given up after that first Sunday." Jasper propped herself up on one elbow, and her tail thumped twice. "I want to be baptized because it is a prerequisite to taking communion."

There was a pause.

"I suppose you want to know why communion matters so much to me," Jasper said.

"It had crossed my mind," Andrew said.

"I believe in God," Jasper said. "At first, I believed because I was so relieved at the idea that I might have a Creator who truly loved me, unlike the humans who manipulated dog DNA and designed me before my birth. But then I came to value the love of God in itself." Her voice was deep and a little hoarse. "When I first became interested in religion, I assumed I'd never be allowed even into a church building. I read some books by religious people who kind of set out on their own and found God by themselves. But I'm not a saint -- and I could barely understand what they wrote. To come to God, I would need an easier way. And in the Catholic Church, God gives Himself to us as food. Could any way be simpler?"

"Probably not," Andrew said.

"So," Jasper said. "That's why."

There was a long pause. Andrew was mentally composing his next letter to Leo. Some say that God made humans, but humans made the enhanced dogs, and that therefore they don't have immortal souls. But, consider. Jasper has the intellect to understand what God is; she has the desire to know God; she wants to obey God's will as best as she knows how. Would a merciful God deny Jasper His presence? Then Jasper spoke, breaking into his reverie. "Father, can I ask you a question?"

"Ask," he said.

"Do you think that the Church will let me be baptized?"

"It doesn't matter," he said. Jasper raised her head to peer at him questioningly. "It doesn't matter because I'm not going to wait for a yes or a no. I'm baptizing you tomorrow morning."

They drove over to St. Mary's at dawn -- Lisa, Andrew, Jasper, and all the other dogs, since Lisa was afraid to leave anyone alone. To receive baptism, Jasper needed a sponsor who was an active Catholic; fortunately, with Lisa's return to the Church, she could sponsor Jasper.

Lisa parked outside the church, and Andrew hustled everyone inside as quickly as he could, then locked the door behind them. The puppies wandered around, gaping at the stained glass windows. Andrew vested as quickly as he could, then strode down the aisle to join Jasper and Lisa just inside the door.

Baptism was an intimate ritual; Andrew could smell Jasper's breath as he inhaled. He had expected her to smell fusty, like Caramel, but her breath was no more sour than any human's. It occurred to him that she probably brushed her teeth.

"Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God's children?" he asked her.

"I do," Jasper breathed. Her eyes glinted at the words God's children.

Andrew led Jasper through the rest of the baptismal vows, rejecting Satan and affirming the Apostles' Creed. Though smaller than Lisa, Jasper was still much too big to pick up and hold over the baptismal font; he had Lisa place her right hand on Jasper's shoulder, and Jasper bowed her head. "Jasper, I baptize you in the name of the Father." He poured: the water beaded up against her thick fur, and ran down her face. "And of the Son." He poured again. "And of the Holy Spirit." He poured again.

The baptism done, he anointed her with holy chrism; the oil made her fur slick. "The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and brought you to new life through water and the Holy Spirit," Andrew said. And through fire and violence, and a stubborn lapsed Catholic. "He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation, so that, united with his people, you may remain forever a member of Christ who is Priest, Prophet, and King." United with his people. God, let it be so.

When the rite was done, Andrew gave Jasper a hug. "Welcome to the Church," he said.

Public weekday Mass would be held later that morning; Jasper would receive communion then. Lisa was still afraid to leave the other dogs alone, but the puppies definitely couldn't be trusted to behave in church, so Andrew arranged for them to stay at the Rectory. The puppies wanted breakfast, so he poured out bowls full of dry Raisin Bran -- it was the only thing he had in quantity. The puppies ended up playing with the raisins, rather than eating them, but they seemed reasonably satisfied with their breakfast.

Andrew brought Jasper and Lisa back over to the church with him a half hour before Mass. They sat down in the front row, this time --Andrew wanted Jasper to receive communion before anyone else knew what was going on. He went back to vest again, then lurked where he could keep an eye on things. His palms were sweating; he wiped them on his alb.

When Andrew came out, he was relieved to see that only a handful of people were there. One of them was Carolyn, the woman who has thought it was so inappropriate to bring a dog to church. Well, it didn't matter. He started the Mass.

Andrew realized as he started the Consecration of the Eucharist that his voice was shaking. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to steady his breathing. God, I trust in You, he thought, and felt better, but his voice continued to shake. His heart was pounding so hard that he could hear it in his ears. He raised the chalice, chanting the prayer of consecration.

When it was time for the parishioners to approach and receive communion, Jasper rose and started towards him as quickly as she could. There was a crash from the back of the church, the sound of a falling kneeler. "No! What are you doing?" Carolyn shouted. She stood in the aisle. The other parishioners froze where they stood, staring at Jasper.

"This is desecration," Carolyn said. "This is desecration of the Eucharist! Jesus said, 'It is not right to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.'"

Jasper kept her eyes fixed on Father Andrew. Andrew met Carolyn's eyes, hearing his own voice echo in the church. "Jesus did say that," he said. "And the Canaanite woman said, 'Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master's table.' And Jesus praised her faith, and healed her daughter. For you see, Carolyn, in that story, we -- the gentiles -- were the dogs. The 'children' Jesus spoke of were the Jews. Christ came for all of us. Anyone who seeks. Anyone who knocks. Jasper is seeking him, Carolyn. I hope that someday you will, too." He looked back at Jasper and raised the wafer. "The Body of Christ," he said.

Carolyn started forward; her voice went up to a shriek of rage. "If you do this, Father, there is no turning back. You will be on their side. Theirs. Do you understand me?"

"Then that's the side I need to be on," Andrew said. "Whatever the cost."

"Thanks be to God," Jasper whispered.

"No," Carolyn shouted.

Andrew placed the Host in Jasper's mouth. Jasper crossed herself, and moved aside, bowing her head, waiting.

Andrew raised another communion wafer. "The Body of Christ," he said. Something wet splashed his vestments, and he realized that he was crying.

Carolyn turned on her heel and left the church. One by one, the others followed, except for Lisa.

Lisa moved to stand before him. "Thanks be to God," she said, and he placed the Host into her outstretched hand.


Copyright © 2004 Naomi Kritzer

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Naomi Kritzer's short stories have appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, and Tales of the Unanticipated. Her story "Comrade Grandmother," published in 2002 in Strange Horizons, was reprinted in Year's Best Fantasy 3 (edited by David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer), and translated into Hebrew for an Israeli webzine. Her first two novels, Fires of the Faithful and Turning the Storm, were published in 2002 and 2003; her third novel, Freedom's Gate, will be coming out this summer.

Naomi lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and two young daughters. For more on her work, see her website. To contact her, send her email at