When her husband died, Linda did not want to bring up her three-year-old stepson Lucas, so she left him at the local church and disappeared from his life. Fifteen years later Linda came to ask his forgiveness, but he only said a few words to her.
Lucas could barely remember his life before he settled at St Mary’s Church in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. He had vague memories of his father and mother, but these were only separate images. His real memories began later, when he was brought up by nuns in the church.
They told him that a woman had left him on their doorstep when he was just three years old, and that they had been taking care of him ever since. When Lucas was seven, the church opened an official orphanage and took in other children.
Most of them were adopted, but not Lucas. That’s why he held a special place in the hearts of the nuns, especially Mother Rosa. “Mother Rosa, do you think I will ever see my parents again?” – asked her one day a boy who was only nine years old.
“I don’t know, Lucas. It’s hard to say, and I haven’t seen your mother very well. But God has a plan for everyone. We love you here, honey. We are your family,” she replied. Lucas was pleased with this answer.
He went to a nearby public school and loved helping the younger children at the orphanage. He also learned the value of giving back to the community, and his faith grew through the priest’s sermons.
At the age of 15 he decided to become a priest and wanted to help underprivileged people. But first he had a lot to learn, and he could not start studying until he was of legal age.
At the age of 18, Lucas became an official seminarian in the church and everyone was so proud of him. It took time and hard work to reach the priesthood, but he was up to the challenge. It was all he knew, and he loved it.
But one day a woman walked into the church and immediately recognised him. “Lucas,” she breathed out softly. Lucas looked at her and noticed her tattered clothes as well as her skinny figure.
“Ma’am, do you need help? I can take you to the nearest free canteen. They’ll cook you something hot there,” he offered.
“No, Lucas. I’m Linda, your mother-in-law. I don’t think you remember because you were so young,” Linda said hesitantly.
“Well yes. I was just told that a woman dropped me off here and never came back. It’s been 15 years,” Lucas commented.
“Wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long,” Linda said. “Can we talk ?”
Lucas gestured for her to take a seat in the church pew. He wanted to know what this woman had to say, and it was the perfect test of his profession.
“I have come here humbly to ask your forgiveness. I shouldn’t have left you here. I was such a selfish person,” Linda began. “But when my husband Carlos died, I didn’t know what to do.”
“Carlos was my father? I don’t remember him at all,” Lucas asked.
“Yes, and he loved you. He raised you alone, but I had no maternal instincts. So when he died, I was lost. I wanted a new life and decided to leave you here,” Linda confessed, ashamed. “But my life didn’t turn out the way I expected it to.
“I’m here to listen,” Lucas said as calmly as he could. It hurt him that his father was really gone, and that this woman had abandoned him. But it had to be part of God’s plan.
“Well, your father left me a home. But I got involved with a terrible man. I committed several crimes in his name, then he persuaded me to write a deed to the house in his name for legal purposes after I got in trouble. He sold it and disappeared,” Linda said with tears in her eyes.
“I was left with nothing. I tried to find a job, but I had a criminal record, so I was left on the street. I haven’t been in this part of town for years, but today. Today I thought I’d ask around to see what happened to you, and as soon as I saw you, I knew. You look a lot like Carlos.”
Lucas smiled, thinking that he once had a father who loved him and was like him. “But why have you come to me?” the young man asked.
“I need you to forgive me, Lucas! Of all the terrible things I’ve done, this is the only thing that torments me. I was horrible to you when I was young. I once gave you water, calling it soup. Once I left you home alone all day,” Linda sobbed.
“It means the kindest thing you have ever done for me is to leave me here. I had an amazing childhood. The people in this church have become my family,” Lucas said.
“Really?” exclaimed Linda, looking at him. “Does that mean you forgive me?”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. The only one who can forgive you is God. I can only say that I do not blame you or hate you for what you have done. Ask God for forgiveness. Talk to Father Peter, he will help you,” Lucas suggested, pointing his hand towards Father Peter in the confessional. Then he left.