Chapter Eight

Weeks after leaving the de la Vega rancho Capitan Monastario continued to feel the pressures of his past indiscretions haunting him. Once Monastario was happy and in love, looking forward to the birth of his child but in a cruel twist of fate all had been taken from him.  Instead of going on with his life he became as evil as the man who had ended his dreams.  His bitterness and wicked behavior blanketed the area around Los Angeles including the Mission San Gabriel.  Rich or poor made no difference to the commandante; all felt his tyranny.  

Monastario was not proud of the ruthless life he led, the heinous crimes or dubious characters he used in his schemes to gain riches and power.  His diabolical behavior nearly cost him his life and that of the woman he loved.  Though the governor himself was nearly killed he chose not to charge Monastario with any crimes in order to protect his daughter from further hurt. However Monastario's hopes of future advancement in the service of the King, riches and power, and a life with Leonar melted away.

Unfortunately Enrique Sanchez Monastario had given his heart to Leonar. What was he to do?  A marriage between the two was impossible, almost laughable.  Leonar, the daughter of the Governor of California, led a respected and well-to-do life.  How could a poor, disgraced soldier who had no money or future hope to share his life with a woman of her position?                           

Diego tried many times following the capitan's departure from the de la Vega rancho to get him to put aside his fears and take a chance at a new life with Leonar before it was too late.  Sadly Monastario could not decide what to do.  Each sleepless night brought him more pain until he finally decided to seek the help of the one person who possessed honesty and was without reproach.  That person was Padre Felipe of the Mission San Gabriel. 

The trail to the mission was rough and took several hours by horseback but the time was not wasted by the commandante.  As his horse galloped over the terrain he reflected on his past and his hopes for a possible future with Leonar.  Padre Felipe was a man of the church who had given absolution to many in confessional but Monastario wondered if the priest would be able to see past his evils to offer help?  Soon Monastario arrived at the church and dismounted.  Nervously he tied his horse before entering the carved wooden doors of the sanctuary.  Alone in the church his mind was flooded with thoughts of his past.  Clearly he remembered his wedding in Spain and the joy he felt when told of the child that had been conceived.  Soon his happiness came to an end when his wife was murdered.  Instead of embracing the church during his sorrow Monastario turned bitter and full of hatred. Lowering his head he prayed that forgiveness in the church might lead to a cleansing of his heart and a clear view of his future.

In the mission orchard Padre Felipe and his Indians were turning the soil in preparation for the coming season.  As the site was cleared and the fallen branches bundled two Indians dragged the dead matter to the front of the mission.  While returning to the orchard one of the Indians noticed a rider at the church door and quickly related the news to the priest.  Padre Felipe made his way to the sanctuary where he saw the commandante's horse.  Preparing himself for the unknown he slowly entered the sanctuary.

"Capitan Monastario.  To what do we owe this surprise visit?" the priest asked suspiciously.

"I find myself in need of help," said Monastario. "If you wish me to go I understand."    

"My son the church turns no one away who seeks help," said the padre. "The church is open to all men."

"Padre, I am not sure why I am here," Monastario said standing.  "I do not deserve the compassion of the church.   Perhaps I have made a mistake coming here."

"I see that you are troubled, my son, and you have questions.  Please sit and we will try to find the answers together."

"It has been years since I sought advice Padre.  I am afraid I do not even know how to ask for help."

"You have taken the first step," the priest responded.  "The church will not desert you."

"Padre, I have led a miserable existence but I am trying to make amends," Monastario told him.  "I just hope it is not too late."

"My son it is never to late to do the right thing," added the priest. 

"Padre, how do I know what is right or wrong?  If I am mistaken I could ruin so many lives." 

"In life there are no guarantees, my son.  We must do the best we can and pray that our decisions are the right ones.  Now tell me what is troubling you."

"The governors daughter, Leonar…I care for her.  From the beginning she saw only good in me even with all that has happened she still believes in me."

"She is a fine young woman, I do not understand the problem," asked the priest.

"I have no money, no hope of advancement.  What could I offer her?  A poor life married to a dishonored soldier living in tiny quarters in the cuartel.  The Governor could never accept me as his son-in-law; it would only put a wedge between the two of them. 

"Capitan, I have spoken with the young senorita many times and she has seen something in you that was lost on the rest of us.  She saw not the man you were but the man you could become.  She understood the bitterness in you and wished only to help.  I believe she has made her decision for she remains at the de la Vega rancho."

"Padre I do not wish to lose her but I have nothing to give," uttered Monatario.

"But you do, Capitan, you have love," smiled the priest.  "The senorita knows of your past and she forgives you.  Now you must truly forgive yourself.  If you can make peace within you; life can proceed.  The deeds of the past cannot disappear but they can be amended."

"Padre she deserves so much.  I can offer but a small room and a soldier's pay?"

"You offer love my son," Padre Felipe answered without hesitation.  "Without love life would have no meaning?  The senorita maintains her father's house but it is not hers.  The riches she has she has not earned.  God has seen fit to bless you my son…do not close your eyes and heart.  Come, light a candle and give your heart to God…He will show you the way."

The flickering of the candle burned away the fears and hesitation within the commandante as he knelt at the altar with Padre Felipe.  Soon with tear filled eyes he gave thanks and rose.  As he opened the door of the sanctuary the warmth of the sun brought a happiness and contentment that had been missing for years.  Untying his mount the commandante climbed atop his horse and headed in the direction of the de la Vega hacienda.  For the first time in many months he finally knew what he must do.

A New Beginning