“At the Duran Rancho I saw more Mexican soldiers and government agents. They talk as if they already have authority in Alta California. Is Spain’s rule truly over?” Sal said.
“It is true. México even wants to replace the Spanish clergy with its own native-born friars. How long can I last?” Brother David looked around his beloved hilltop Mission already packing his memories for the long trip home.
“If you must leave, I’ll go home with you.” Sal’s heart was pulled apart.
“No Sal, this is your new home,” Brother David said. He scooped a handful of sandy soil and held it out toward Sal.
“Don’t leave me,” Sal said. Remembering his mother’s death, his father’s other family, he pushed away Brother David’s handful of Alta California soil.
“Stay and be married,” Brother David said. “Tell me one thing; is El Señor Duran a Mexican citizen or a Spaniard?”
Why would the Brother need to know this? “Maria’s father? What difference does it make?” Sal responded slowly to the odd question, “He is from México, he received his land grant last year.”
“Then, by all means, marry Maria Theresa,” Brother David said. “Salvador Tenorio you’ve become an honorable man.” He took a step back and held his small cross above Sal’s head. “You earned your place here. Maria Theresa’s dowry will make you an official landowner, yes, but her love will give you the strength you need to be the man you wish to be. God’s work continues in you.”
It felt like a kind of baptism, or confirmation, or one of those rites Sal paid so little attention to in his youth. No longer a boy, no longer out for his own fortune alone. He glimpsed a larger purpose, a larger life than he ever imagined.
Brother David fumbled with a tattered package and handed it to Sal. “As a wedding gift, I leave you this pair of candlesticks, the ones with the special twisted cross, for your evening prayers. Promise to remember God, just as God promises to remember you.”
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