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Rev. Gerard Walsh

By 1977 is chaplain of Massachusetts State Police (Police Chaplain)
            He is acquainted with Kenny—served as a prison chaplain four years 1960-64, when aged 32-36.
            Sermon title 1962… “Give your Doubt to God”
            Kenny remembers his analogy of Doubt to a man cheating on his wife. If you cheat, you doubt that your vocation give to you from God is to honor your wife, and serve your family.
            Katherine McHugh, 70 yrs-old in 1962, had confessed her weak faith. She asked Fr. Gerry—Do you ever doubt? He was behind the screen, glad she could not see him squeezing his rosary. He swallowed, tempted. He cursed to himself Satan, Be Gone! “You are a child of God. God is merciful and all-understanding. Have you heard the prayer of intercession to St. Peter? Take a prayer card in the vestibule. I was invited to attend a retreat in Gloucester with the most doubt-filled priests you can imagine—the Jesuits. God forgives such intelligent men and woos them into the Jesuits when they are lawyers at banks or CIA agents in Angola—it is better that they come up with ingenious prayers than rob and plunder, don’t you think? A quiet man who had no imagination himself, you may have observed about me, quite rightly. I am content with my prayer card. Yet my flock deserves better. I have been waiting for someone to confess guilt in order to share this strange and wonderful experiment in prayer. They call it contemplation. The Admire the wife of Peter for letting her husband follow Jesus, the wandering preacher. Pray three days with the passages describing Jesus’s appearance to Peter on the water’s shore. Do you love me? Do you love me? Prepare for this prayer every night, and wake up in the morning and answer Jesus. At night you must place yourself at the house of Peter’s mother where we remember Jesus healed her. At the house you will cook for Peter’s mother in your imagination, any ingredients you wish you could afford, bake a perfect treat if you want. A knock at the door just before dinner. Go to open it every night. It is Peter’s wife the first night. Peter himself, who has denied Jesus, the second night. Finally Jesus on the third night. If you discover an unexpected visitor at the door, that is okay too. Wait on each, serve the meal. Let them say what is bothering them. Answer them kindly, without telling them your own story, until Jesus arrives on the third day. Tell Jesus that you have listened to Peter’s wife, and Peter, and whatever feelings you have tell Jesus. In the morning—you will be treated to a meal from Jesus and he will ask you, Do you love me.
            I had never heard such a talk. I wished I had pen and paper to take notes. I felt troubled. What if I was already forgetting the instruction? I wanted to raise my hand, but I felt embarrassed. I went up to the priest afterwards, and shyly asked him to repeat what was the step—I couldn’t recall the difference between the night prayer and the morning prayer. He patted my arm and smiled. It’s not homework, he said. The evening is preparation for the John’s Gospel story of the risen Jesus. Imagine the home of Peter’s mother as the setting. The morning prayer is when you will go to the shore at sunrise; Peter followed the same path every day as a fisherman, remember. Let Peter be your guide, in your mind, like a movie, watch him get up and follow him out, through the village to the shore. Watch him go to the boat, get in and set off. Turn and find Jesus sitting at a fire.
            I stopped the priest. I was overwhelmed. He had not said this the first time, and again, I was not prepared to take notes. This is not what you said before, I said, annoyed.
            He raised his hands up. You caught me. Sorry to compound the confusion. I’m afraid it was all very new to me—the imaginative prayer he suggested I try took getting used to. It seems that those playful, deceitful Jesuits, do not take prayer as serious. If my archbishop were to appear at the doorway, instead of Peter, that was allowed; and if I had made a meal my mother made for St. Patrick’s day, growing up, that would be just fine to serve to an Aramaic-speaking Jew.
            Recently, when what you can call my faith in this country, when my patriotism was upset by the Cuban Missile Crisis, I returned to this prayer.
            An unusual visitor arrived the second night: a Cuban soldier. You can imagine I was started to see his military rifle slung over his shoulder. Don’t worry father, he said, I am hungry. May I come in?
            He was not an ardent Communist, he confessed. He believed that it was reasonable for a man to fight for his land, like the Capitalists. He admired the American constitution Bill of Rights. He had read the Federalist Papers written by Alexander Hamilton. He had started in on the difficulty with tariffs, when I waved my hands—he should not talk with his mouth so full, because I could not understand what he was saying. He cleared his throat and said Father, are you a New Deal Catholic? My eyes about popped out of my head. Inflation is a very difficult problem. Worse is the problem of unemployment. You Americans have the most fertile lands, I have seen photographs of your California valley. I have seen photos of your Victory Gardens in the cities! Yes, I love America, father. But why are you a soldier, I asked, you seem well read—are you fluent in English—or is this the miracle of prayer that I can understand you? Yes, yes father, I am fluent in English. I learned in a jail in northern Guatemala, to perfect my accent, speaking to the CIA guards who held us. I wrote a letter to the Oregon Senator Wayne Morse, the Republican turned Democrat. I have told him everything. If you read your papers you know his suspicion against the CIA that they make policy. This is unconstitutional father, not right! Your Congress must understand; they do more than keep us unwashed in that cement floor, the iron roof—what do you suppose we ate for those months? Oh, just because they say they keep us unshaved twelve days—you know we are released months, months after they take us! No one know if he ever see his family again. Here we speak English very little. It is not necessary in Miami.
            Miami? Guatemala—what are you saying? Father, I am telling you the ugly truth. I am sorry. You can read Andrew Tully, CIA: The Inside Story. We were supposed to be sent to Cuba and tried as mutineers. Instead the CIA fail, so they take us to Miami instead. You can ask Frank Bender if you don’t believe. He do something for us. I trust him when he say he was in the underground in France and that he is sick of what CIA do in Guatemala. He is old guerrilla now, and he say “screw it” and is not afraid to tell truth before he die.
            I was not in France, but I served.
            He looks at me close, and nods, yes. I think he looks into my heart and realizes that I have had to live with myself for killing men. He does not have to say this. I am remembering a pit I jumped into when the shelling through the forest was so thick and I laid under a dead body. A German soldier was already in the pit. I had my knife out on his throat in a second. And he was shaking and trembling and wimpering and his body sagged in the mud beneath my blade. I smelled him having shit his self. Then I was on my knees hugging him. He was laughing in disbelief and we grinned from ear to ear because it didn’t matter. Nothing has ever forgiven the fact that we who have survived have made shields of the dead. I was only nineteen. He was seventeen and looked younger. We counted our fingers and traded knowledge like the deaf. The sky cried with us. We held each other for warmth. The boys like it when I hold them too. When it was dark—we crawled out of the pit and wiggled in opposite directions. I was afraid that I was shooting at him later on and often I aimed just off center.
Later, I made a habit of telling people I had not served in France, as if to say it had not really been my doing. If I met a man who served I did not ask where. The men who were quick to tell me their rank impressed me even less for obliging me so. Those of us who saw combat were cousins and knew each other by the less we said about it. If he has survived and made the most of that education he could get, he preferred to receive respect for achieving a living by the grit of an ordinary grind. I liked a man who said, Father, my grandfather grew potatoes. My father wanted me to do more. I can count the potatoes, predict the market for McDonalds and can convince a kid to like fries in the advertisement I produce. I want to be like my grandfather, but I have too much education to get my hands dirty. If I were to raise crops it would be like all those guys died for nothing.
The Cuban is blithely eating my meal and smiling. His weapon is hung behind but like a toy gun. The dirt washed from his face when he cleaned up. He is no more than a boy. He has relaxed the truculent look on his face. Father, what are you going to do about us? We need you. 
I want to hold him. Jesus, I want to hold him again.


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