... continued from Part I.
As Jaya Govinda rose to leave, Laura approached him. She was as small and delicate as ever, but as she looked up at him, her eyes full of anger and bruised love, she seemed powerful. “Go and be a monk. Dedicate your life to God,” she said, her voice strong and unwavering. “But if I ever hear that you’ve married someone else, I will put a bomb in the temple.”
Jaya Govinda didn’t smile. He knew that her sentiment was a serious one, even if her threat wasn’t. So he just nodded, and they looked at each other for a long time, and then he left.
It was the last time they’d see each other for ten years.
Laura was exhausted. By the drama, by the tension, by the pain of heartbreak. She wanted to be free, and she knew that God was the only one who could help her do that. She searched for Him, both in the temple – where devotees, thinking she was looking for their celibate monk Jaya Govinda, still gave her the cold shoulder – and in the church. “I need you now,” she beseeched Jesus angrily one day. “I need to know if you are God or not.”
Gradually, as she attended mass, accepted the holy eucharist, and prayed, Laura felt Jesus connecting with her. And when she received an unexpected invitation to attend a Christian pilgrimage soon after, she knew she had her answer. Christ was her way.
Abandoning her job, her family, everything she knew, Laura joined a missionary community called Figlie Adoratrici del Sague Preziosissimo: The Daughters Who Adore the Most Precious Blood. She became a new woman, with a new name: Maddalena.
Throwing herself into her new celibate life with all the enthusiasm and devotion in her heart, Maddalena became an active missionary, preaching the gospel across Italy, Bosnia, Africa, Austria, and Mexico. She gained high levels of responsibility in a very short time, soon becoming Mother Superior of her community. She was busy and happy.
But thoughts of Jaya Govinda still came to her, and the feeling that she had been betrayed by him and the devotees still lingered. Attempting to heal herself, she wrote him a letter expressing her feelings, and then called him. But with the past still lurking close by, and her bitterness still vivid, she spoke harshly about devotees and Krishna, emphasizing that Jesus was the only way, and driving Jaya Govinda further away. Neither of them realized that they were actually living parallel lives, and that only their paths were different. For as co-ordinator for a large group of book distributors, Jaya Govinda was traveling around the country and spreading the word of God, just like Maddalena. And as vice president for the Prabhupadadesa temple, he took care of the spiritual and material needs of many devotees, just as she did.
Years passed. Jaya Govinda and Maddalena exchanged the odd birthday or Christmas card, but nothing more.
Until Jaya Govinda’s sister got married. The Soresis and the Pipitones had remained good friends, and Maddalena arrived to sing at the wedding. Her voice was beautiful, backed by the two other nuns who accompanied her, and afterwards, Maddalena and Jaya Govinda sat at the same table for the first time in ten years. As they shared updates about their lives, each found the other far more mature and spiritually developed than before.
But they didn’t wonder what it might have been like if they hadn’t gone their separate ways. They were at peace now – but their interaction was purely one of affable, fraternal goodwill. The old relationship was dead and gone.
“Your time in this community is over.”
The voice came from within her heart, but to Maddalena it seemed as clear and loud as it would have if the person speaking was right there in the room with her. She sat bolt upright in bed, breathing fast.
It was two years after her encounter with Jaya-Govinda, and things should have been going well – she was working as secretary for a bishop in Rome – but they weren’t. She wasn’t getting on with her superiors, and she had been praying constantly, trying to find a way out of the gray curtain that enveloped her.
Shaking a little, she climbed out of bed to prepare for her day. But she couldn’t get that voice out of her head. Was she going crazy? Or was it a message from God? The thoughts plagued her mercilessly, making it impossible for her to focus on her duties.
“Maddalena,” said the bishop finally, noticing that she wasn’t herself. “There’s something wrong. What is it?”
“I think I need some time away from the community,” she said slowly, not quite believing her own words. “I need to pray, to find myself. Maybe I need to change my life. Maybe… Maybe I need to marry.”
It was a difficult time for Maddalena, and her father didn’t make it any easier when he suggested that she call Giacomo.
“Dad! You, of all people, should know he’s in my past!”
“That’s not what I mean,” her father said patiently. “I mean you should talk to him about what’s happening in your life. He’s a monk – he may be able to relate.”
Maddalena refused, but her father was more stubborn than her, and at last she relented. She got only Jaya-Govinda’s voicemail and left a message, but when a day went by and there was still no reply, the anger rose thickly in her. “What kind of a friend is he?” she thought.
If she had known that Jaya-Govinda had already tried to call her and left a message which she had missed, she might have reacted differently.
Especially if she had known that right now, he was going through exactly the same struggles as she was.
(Tune in to ISKCON News Weekly on Valentine's Day - Saturday February 14 -- for the final installment...)