Day #4 – ANATOMY OF A SCENE: Magnus and Molly

Periodically, like say when I’m on deadline for three grants and have five hundred things to do before I spend the evening chasing thirty middle schoolers around the parish hall (welcome to my regular Wednesday), or just whenever I feel like it, I’ll post snippets of the play to give you an idea of the characters and what’s happening in the story.  Here’s a little chunk of a scene between Molly, the main character, and a monk named Brother Magnus who she’s become close with.  This scene follows right after a particularly unpleasant conversation with Father John, an unfriendly and ambitious priest who is trying to convert Molly and use her as a PR tool in the national media blitz surrounding the release of his bestselling book.  Father John is staying at the abbey to do research in the library, but he is not a Benedictine like Magnus and the rest of the monks, whose theology places a high premium on hospitality, charity, brotherhood, and ministering to those in need.  John is a free agent, who I envision as sort of a Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell character – a religious pundit with a devoted following who’s far more political than spiritual in his religious practices and beliefs.  Magnus, on the other hand, is the best kind of Catholic, and has the warmth and open-heartedness that has always made me love Benedictine monks.  (P.S.  If you want a little insight into their world, check out these guys, the monks I know and love and upon whom this story is very very loosely based.)

MOLLY

I’m sorry, but I hate that guy.

MAGNUS

He hasn’t given you much reason to care for him, that’s true.

MOLLY

Do you ever say anything mean about anybody? I mean, you can’t actually like him.

MAGNUS

He . . . well, let’s just say he has made few friends here.  I would like to believe his heart is in the right place, but I haven’t gotten to know him well enough to defend his actions or his motivations.

MOLLY

But you don’t hate him?

MAGNUS

The difficult thing is, I do actually believe many of the same things he does.

MOLLY

Yeah, but you’ve never tried to convert me.

MAGNUS

John’s experience with people is primarily limited to deeply devoted believers, mostly conservative.  The kind of people who would be perfectly happy to see us overthrow all the progress made by the Second Vatican Council and go back to the early 20th-century American church – or better yet, the Middle Ages – back when the priest was God.  Sometimes I think he was born about five hundred years too late.

MOLLY

What he said – about how I would be like half a person unless I converted and returned to Jesus – you don’t believe that, do you?  You don’t believe that I’m like a shell of a person or something.

MAGNUS

You want me to say no.  You want me to say, “No, Molly, you’re perfect as you are.”  And that’s both true and false.  You are perfect as you are . . . as God made you.  But you are not living as the person God made you.  Do I think you would be a happier person – stronger, more alive, more connected to other people – if you came back to your faith?  Yes, I do.  If it was genuine.  I do.  I don’t want to fix you or remake you in my image or convert you with a giant bolt of lightning from the sky.  But I do want you to be your full, whole, authentic self.  And I believe your faith is part of that.  I believe there was a time when you believed in God.  I think you could get that back if you wanted it.  He’s still there, he hasn’t changed.  It’s we who change.

MOLLY

You Catholics.  You’re all the same.  You think if a person just goes to Confession God magically fixes everything.

MAGNUS

It’s true.  We’re hopeless optimists.  (Smiling) The “one true church” business has its ups and downs.  When I was young and stupid, I always felt superior to Protestants.  Their Christianity was diluted, I felt – branch splitting off from branch, moving further and further away.  But Catholicism was a neat, tidy straight line, we could trace our history straight back to Christ.  I was unbearably smug about it.

MOLLY

And now you’re not?

MAGNUS

Well, it goes both ways, doesn’t it?  It wasn’t the Unitarians who had to apologize for the Crusades.

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