This is a continuation from All Will be Well.
A weak smile spread across Mother’s face. “Adele…My girls…”
At the mention of ‘girls’, Elle and Josie rushed to Mother’s bedside.
“I don’t…have much time. Christ is calling me home,” Mother whispered.
Tears poured down Adele’s face. “What are we going to do? Where will we go? We have very little money.”
“Adele. Take my rosary and…listen to what Father Peter and Father Marc tell you. Do as they say. They will take good care of you girls.” Mother tried to lift the rosary over her head, but she couldn’t move her arms, so Adele took it from her.
“I will, Mother,” was all she could say.
“Mama! Please don’t go. Don’t go. Please,” Josie wailed.
“Come on, children. Let Father Peter pray over your mother,” Father Marc intervened.
Without another word, the three girls shuffled over to the door where Father Marc stood.
Adele watched her dear mother slip away right after she confessed her sins to Father Peter. Her face was white and marked with years of suffering, yet her expression was of content. She was glad to be in heaven, far away from here. Adele felt strangely happy for Mother and relieved to know that she would suffer no more.
“Your mother has repented. She is with God now,” Father Peter said after he finished praying over her.
Adele made the sign of the Cross. So too did Father Marc and her sisters.
“My dear children; your home is no longer here. It is in Jerusalem. It is God’s will, as your mother’s, that you take up the Cross and fight the enemy,” Peter said.
Adele was not surprised to hear this, yet she could not stop her heart from racing. “But Father, I am only sixteen and I do not know how to fight.” She felt a strong hand on her shoulder; Father Marc’s hand.
“God will protect us. He is on our side. He will smite the very enemy who desecrated the Holy Sepulcher.” Father Marc’s voice was so loud, it rang in Adele’s ear.
Adele turned and cast him a blank look. “Pardon my ignorance, Father Marc, but I do not know who this enemy is.”
Peter’s face flushed a deep red. He looked at her as if she had just uttered a blasphemous word. So did Father Marc.
“They are Muslims; a race of barbarians,” Peter yelled. “These filthy heathens, who proclaim a lowly man, Muhammad, as God, base their religion on rape, murder and incest.” His lips began to tremble. “These infidels continue to desecrate the place where our Lord suffered; they persecute and torture the Christians living under their rule, and now they threaten to destroy Romania.* These Muslims are the Antichrist, I tell you.” He paused and took a deep breath. “But the good Lord has heard the cry of his people for deliverance. That is why he has called us to save his Holy City and liberate our Eastern Brethren from the infidel.”
Adele exchanged looks with her younger sisters. She could easily tell, by the looks on their faces, they were just as horrified by this news as was she. So, this is what the Holy War is all about.
Adele suddenly felt Peter’s hand on her shoulder and she smelt his putrid breath. She fought the urge to grimace and back away. The last thing she wanted was to offend him and Father Marc, especially since she had promised her mother that she would do as they told her.
“Jesus does not care that you are a young peasant girl, and he does not care that you are poor. He is calling you to take up the Cross and defend His people. The Holy Land belongs to Him. I promise; you and your sisters will be safe. We will all travel together, and there will be many Christian warriors who will accompany us.”
Peter’s eyes filled with tears. “All your sins will be absolved. Every one of you.” His gaze danced from Adele to her sisters, to Father Marc, then back to Adele. “The road to Jerusalem is long and treacherous, but that does not compare to the Heavenly award Christ has for you; for us. If God spares your life, He will bless you, for the Holy Land is full of treasure. Even the lowliest of peasants shall live a comfortable life.”
Josie squealed. “Oooh, treasure! I cannot wait to find out what it is.”
Father Marc cupped a hand over her mouth. “That is not God’s intention, child.”
Adele’s gaze shifted from Peter to her mother. “You are right. This is no longer our home. We no longer belong here. God has a plan for us elsewhere and He has sent you to us. I…we…will take up the Cross and, with God’s help, we will fight the infidel.”
“Bless you, child,” Peter said, bowing reverently. “You will have eternal salvation, I promise.”
Tears gathered in the corners of Adele’s eyes. “I wish only to be with my mother in Heaven, and it makes my heart glad to know I will see her again one day.”
Father Marc pulled a knife out of his cloak, then carefully cut out four crosses from Mother’s blanket. He handed one to Adele, one to Elle, one to Josie and kept the last for himself.
“Take this cross,” he said, holding up the piece of cloth, “and sew it onto your clothes, over your right breast.” He then made the sign of the Cross with his spare hand. “God wills it!”
“God Wills it,” they all yelled in unison.
Adele felt a strange tingling sensation all over. She did not know what lie ahead, but she was more than happy and prepared to leave her dismal life behind forever.
* The Byzantine Empire was referred to as Romania–shortened for Roman Empire–back then.