Father Avalon was prompt for his 1000 appointment with Pierre des Cieux. Claudia was thrilled to see him come; she ushered him in and served them coffee.
“So, what can I do for you today, Father?” Pierre asked, relighting his pipe.
“I appreciate your time,” Avalon replied. “I came to talk about Madeleine.”
“It seems that my daughter has become the topic of conversation everywhere,” Pierre observed. “At least you had the courtesy of coming to my office rather than forcing me—or my daughter—to come to yours or someone else’s.”
“I want to begin by apologising for the way she was treated by the Core Group at our meeting last Tuesday evening,” Avalon said. “That was uncalled for, and I told them that when we met on Thursday. There was nothing wrong with her praying for Steve Brenner. He’s had a hard time at University Consolidated because of his involvement in our group and that was doubtless good for him in many ways.”
Pierre looked at Avalon straight in the eye. “You are the first person to apologise for anything related to Madeleine and the entire affair of her miracles,” he stated flatly. “I think it is fair to say, however, that you have a group of people under you who may find your authority as their priest very dispensable at the proper occasion.”
“Our situation is complicated, I’ll admit,” Avalon replied. “We are an ecumenical group—we have non-Catholic people as well as Catholic ones. Some of each are in the Core Group. We have a social mission as well as a spiritual one, which makes us different from similar groups in, say, the United States. And, of course, you are knowledgeable enough to know that my relationship with Bishop Santini is less than satisfactory.”
“I am sympathetic to your last point,” Pierre said.
“I understand that,” Avalon continued. “After he found out that Madeleine had attended the prayer group meeting, he called me into his office. He asked me if I could use whatever influence I had to get her to recant of her miracles. He said that they were causing the church serious problems.”
Pierre thoughtfully puffed on his pipe. “So what did you tell him?”
“I told him I would not. I told him that, if he felt that the Church’s best interests were served by taking action in this matter, he should do it himself.”
“You sound like you have had a lot of practice at challenging him in that way.”
“Frankly, Mr. des Cieux, I have.”
“I don’t understand Santini. It is not unusual for the Church to take a hard view of such things, but we are not claiming anything other than what happened. We are not asking the Church to approve of what she has done, and I certainly have no intention of turning this office into another Lourdes.”
“I think that Santini’s agenda is complicated,”Avalon said.
“That is a very circumspect way of putting it,” Pierre observed.
“So can we expect Madeleine to return to our prayer meeting?”
“We have discussed this. I have advised her not to, for a long list of reasons. She is in agreement with that.”
“I am sorry you feel that way,” Avalon regretfully replied. “I know, however, that your situation and hers are difficult.”
“Madeleine is the wonder of my life, Father Avalon. But she is a passé simple girl—even the way she speaks—in a composé world. I think what you are setting in front of her is interesting but, in the present situation, is too much for her. But what I would like to know is what you see in this Charismatic Renewal of yours, with our traditional emphasis on the sacraments.”
“After I got out of seminary,” Avalon began. “I was an assistant at my first parish. Sunday after Sunday, Mass after Mass, I would see people coming up to receive the transubstantiated Body of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Then I would see their lives; some were exemplary, but many were just ‘box checkers’ who were little different from those who never darkened the door of any church. This bothered me. That’s what started me on my search. The Renewal is the best hope for Catholics and others to be really transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Pierre relit his pipe. “I think your idea is intriguing. In the case of Madeleine, when this whole thing started, I was sceptical, but now I realise that God himself has his hand on Madeleine in a very special way. But I don’t know where it will end for her. I do want to say, however, that I deeply appreciate all that you have done for Claudia and Carol Yedd. You have made a very special difference in their lives and given them support that no one else has. Having seen them struggle for so long, that is very meaningful to me.”
“Thank you very much,” Avalon replied. He arose. They shook hands and Avalon departed.