During his career at AIG, Thomas had made and spent a fortune. Friar Felix acknowledged that some men didn’t recognize their calling right away. “That’s the Lord’s way. And you certainly seem ready.”
The subway ads were designed for men like Thomas. Do Something Meaningful was the headline. Make Your Life Your Career, the tagline, was sheathed in gold.
“No need for anxiety,” Felix said, preparing Thomas for the Provincial Minister’s inquiry. “Father Donald will decide if the Holy Spirit is present. For we can’t allow hard times to deceive us.”
Thomas, in a flimsy chair facing an imposing desk, sat long enough to ponder if the monks wore different sandals, winter and summer. From a side door, Father Donald entered, a pointed hood and cowl topping his brown robe.
“So, Thomas, what can you offer our brotherhood?”
“Love of God.”
“What of God’s love?” Father Donald’s face sank into his hood.
“God’s love? Not mine for Him?”
“As you wish.”
Thomas wished for water. Sometimes interviewers offered him a glass, but rarely. It occurred to him that the scriptures made much of thirst.
“God’s love,” Thomas said. “Well, God loves everyone.”
“You sound confused, young man, if I may call you young at—” Father Donald tapped the keyboard, “thirty-five.”
“God loves all his children, whom He created equal.”
“Not necessarily, Thomas. God loves those who believe in Him.”
“Doesn’t everyone want to believe?”
“Wanting to believe is one way of not believing.” Father Donald tightened his lips.
“I believe absolutely, Father, or I would not be here. But, if I may, what about the prodigal son?”
“What about it? You may understand the parable, but it’s irrelevant here. We who serve must believe like little children.”
Thomas agreed whole-heartedly. “We’re all children in God’s eyes. We believe in Him as children believe.”
Father Donald’s sandals scraped the floor and his hood tipped forward. “Yet, an innocent child might believe anything.”
“So we believe whatever the Lord asks. Like His sheep.”
“Sheep? Leaders can not be sheep, Thomas. We’re shepherds.”
Flailing now, his blood racing, Thomas raised his voice. “Just how obedient are sheep? With shepherds, dogs, barbed wire…”
“Thomas, you disappoint me.” Father Donald leaned back.
“I realize you mean just the good sheep. Those with herd mentality.”
“Herd mentality?” Father Donald sounded gleeful. “We don’t put it that way, Thomas. Have you fulfilled our study requirements?”
“Yes, Father,” Thomas answered. “Why else would I be going into this sheep thing?”
“The monastery requires vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity. Simple acts of will. Less advertised is our need for creativity.”
And here Thomas had worried about the chastity vow!
Father Donald rose and extended his hand. Thomas rose, too, and shook that hand. “You’re welcome at Mass anytime. And afterwards, feel free to sell the congregation life insurance. Nothing wrong with that.”