“…sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum, amen” mumbled Father Hector Gomez (S.J.) as he absently fingered his rosary beads. He opened his eyes and glanced at the clock. It was time.
Gomez had spent much of his childhood living in the Smokey Mountain landfill outside Manila, until the nuns had rescued him and brought him to their school. A dozen years later, Gomez entered the seminary, his heart full of gratitude toward the Church and with a yearning to serve the world. For the greater good. A few years later, he entered the novitiate community and became a novice of the Society of Jesus, subject to vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Obediently, he had accepted his new assignment. He had expected to be sent to one of those famously desperate corners of the world like the place he had been born – the Dharavi slum in Mumbai, or perhaps a favela in São Paulo. Instead he found himself here, at the odd little concrete bunker at Camp Hero on the eastern tip of Long Island. He glanced around his simple cell, then put on his collar and headed upstairs.
The chapel was on Level C, mercifully far enough away from where the Procedure happened that it was usually out of earshot. Gomez entered the confessional and waited for Enrique to arrive.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two days since my last confession. I accuse myself of… the… um…” stammered Enrique through the thin screen.
Gomez waited patiently. “It’s all right, Enrique,” he gently encouraged. After a pause, Enrique completed his confession and Gomez absolved him by means of the customary formula. They both exited the confessional and sat down together in the chapel’s rear pew. Enrique was crying, tears dripping onto his black cassock. Gomez embraced him. “It’s all right. It’s going to be all right.”
“I had … no idea that it was going to be like this.”
“I know,” Gomez gently replied. “I think we’ve all had the same experience. Yesterday was your first time, wasn’t it?”
“Yes.” Enrique gazed silently into the distance. “But… she’s just a child.”
“We took a vow, Enrique. We both did. We all did. We are soldiers of God beneath the banner of the Cross. And you must remember, that no matter what it seems to us is happening, we must trust in the Church and in our leaders. Our mission is here. Our mission is to do what needs to be done, for the greater good.”
Enrique looked at Gomez.
“But it’s so awful,” sobbed Enrique. Gomez nodded grimly. “I heard that before we took over, the people who used to do this would take some kind of yellow pill every day to forget what they had done.”
Gomez replied softly. “They did. But we must be stronger. The yellow pill was a selfish act, I think. And strangely enough, it seems to be something of a mercy to her that we have abandoned it. Since we took over the administration, we almost never have to carry out the Procedure more than once in a day. It has, something to do with our discipline, I think.”
Gomez embraced Enrique again, silently, until the shaking stopped. "The spiritual exercises will help. Remember the disciplines," counseled Gomez. The two young priests returned to the rectory. Tomorrow it would be Gomez’s turn in the Room, and then Gomez would return to the chapel to make his own confession. And the cycle would repeat, for as long as was necessary. Again and again. In saecula saeculorum. Ad majorem bonum.