The summer in Denia in the province of Alicante, Spain, was always calm and a lovely place to be in. It was here that the Jesuit Novitiate was located. From its building Flavius, a novice, laid his eyes at the beautiful stretch of the Balearic seas. Looking at the highs and lows of the tide, he was mentally associating them to the vowed life he was going to commit to. “Flavius, Father Master wants you,” said Paulo. Engrossed in deep thought, Flavius gave no reply. Paulo stood there unanswered. “What happened?” Paulo demanded. Venturing out of his thought Flavius replied, “I am not worthy enough, Paulo, for the vows. How unpredictable and unstable I am. I seek more human love and company than that of God’s. I ….” “That’s enough,” interrupted Paulo, “by putting yourself in such doubts you are putting me out of my surety too. It is neither our worth that causes our call nor our call that will cause our worthiness. It is our journey with Jesus that matters.” Hearing these words Flavius looked consoled and went to Fr. Master’s room.
“I am sending Paulo and you to Evissa for a month mission experiment. You’d be leaving tomorrow by ship,” said Fr. Johannes, their Novice Master. Flavius took this as a sign to silence his doubts and to journey with the Lord.
The two boarded the ship early morning. It was a small ship carrying a few passengers. It was towards afternoon, the sea looked calm and so was Flavius. Flavius and Paulo were standing at the bow and began their conversation:
“Paulo, I am not sure if I am going ahead.”
“Why? You’re scared?”
“Kind of. I don’t know if I can be committed to the vows.”
“I can understand. I’ve been through times like yours. Sometimes I think that I could become a better father than a priest. But whether I choose to become a priest or a married man, there is a price included. I have to choose the one that carries more value.”
“I feel the same but still…. I know I am weak. I believe together with the commitment to the vows I will also receive the strength to live it.”
“Vows are not like a rope that ties you leaving you helpless, but one that helps you save people drowning in sin, that helps you climb the heights of holiness and pull others too with you. God won’t force you. He gives you full freedom to choose.”
“I don’t know Paulo. I feel words won’t do justice in expressing what I feel. Don’t you think that there is slavery in freedom and freedom even in slavery? ”
The two stood there conversing until night came upon them and the water was no longer calm but troubled by the wind. Suddenly they felt the heavy tossing that their ship suffered. They saw the mountainous waves rolling over their poor ship and shatter the masts. The lifeboat they had was too small to hold all the passengers. The only way to save themselves was to jump into the water, get hold of a broken plank and swim to safety. Unfortunately, there was no dry land nearby. Many lost their lives while trying to keep afloat.
The next morning Flavius’ body was lying motionless on a shore of the Mallorca Island. Some inhabitants found him still alive. They surmised he was one of the survivors of the heavy storm of the previous night. They took him with them. He stayed in one of the houses of a very benevolent man. There he was nursed and cared for. The family found Flavius very amiable and slowly their acquaintances turned to family bonding. In that house, there was a girl of Flavius’ age named Nayisa. She was beautiful, the belle of the island and the enchantress of Flavius’ heart. Days and months passed. The two were so companionable that everyone expected their marriage. Here Flavius was in a dilemma. No one knew who he was, so he could marry Nayisa and forget about his past. On the other hand, his conscience would not let him forget who he was. This thought always affected his tryst. He could no longer live with the secret.
Under the light of the moon and by the fire, Nayisa and Flavius sat down. Flavius looked deep into the fire and began,
“Nayisa, I have a secret. It was buried before but not anymore now.”
There he poured out his life. He described to her how he had desired to become a priest, how he doubted his desire and how the fateful voyage brought him to the island where he found her and her love. Now he wanted to return.
With tears accompanying his words he confessed, “I know it will pain you and so will it be for me. Let the pain I give make you forget me and hate me. There your pain will cease and so too your love for me. ”
“Sh,” she hushed him while placing his head on her breast and kissed his forehead. “Speak no longer my love, speak no longer. I know it all. I had read it all.”
“Read it all?” he exclaimed in surprise. He then remembered that he had lost his journal. “Where is it?” he inquired.
“When walking along the shore one evening, I found a bag containing some books. One of the books was titled ‘Me and My God’ with your name inscribed on it. I read it all. There I saw your heart and all that it contained. Truly, I have loved you more from what I have read than from what I behold now and before. I knew who you were and what you wanted to become, but still I could not withhold my love for you. The only favour I could render you was my denial of getting intimate with you. I had preserved myself for preservation of you. Now that you have decided to return, leaving you shall be my token of love for you.” Speaking thus, she left him there alone leaving her words behind with all the love and the pain they could convey.
Flavius was at the port ready to board the ship that would sail back to his country. This was his last rendezvous with Nayisa.
“So you have to forget me now, Flavius?”
“My remembrance of you will not be a hindrance to me.”
“But will they accept you back?”
“I will tell the truth and leave them to decide.”
“Will we meet again?”
“If God permits.”
“Let me embrace you this one last time and then you may go in peace,” saying thus, Nayisa flung herself into his arms.
The horn announced the time for the ship to depart. The two departed with a painful pleasure. Nayisa’s eyes were still on the departed ship till darkness forced her to return home. Meanwhile Flavius, looking at the endless stretch of the sea said to himself, “I thank you, Lord, for everything that had happened. I may not know what a vowed life would be like, but now I know what love is and what commitment it demands.”