Home for Christmas: A Novel

Home for Christmas: A Novel

by Andrew M. Greeley

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Petey Pat Kane and Mariana Pia Pelligrino have been in love with each other their whole lives. But on a night that is supposed to be one of the best of their lives, Peter makes a choice that forces him to leave Chicago—and Mariana—behind. Guilt leads him into the Army, where he becomes Captain Kane, war hero. But nothing can make him forget his love for Mariana.

On his third deployment in Iraq, Peter is injured and finds himself both alive and dead on a wondrous spiritual journey where he is given a second chance at life from God Himself. With Christmas approaching, time is running out for Peter to complete the most important mission of his life: convincing himself that he and Mariana were meant to share a special message of love with the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765322517
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 11/09/2010
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 7.44(w) x 11.80(h) x 0.51(d)

About the Author

Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.

Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.

Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, "The Church in Society," at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.

Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.

Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.

Read an Excerpt

Home for Christmas

By Andrew M. Greeley, Rhys Davies

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2009 Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7321-2


SCENE: A dusty ruined street in an Iraqi city. A cautious American patrol, perhaps two squads, probes its way through the rubble.

WOMAN'S VOICE: "The war here is usually quiet, yet violence and death can erupt any minute and blot out human life." Then the silence returns, save for the wail of ambulance sirens. WTN is embedded with a combat patrol of the First Cavalry Division.

Wendy Eastland, a sophisticated, self-possessed woman, appears on the monitor. Her skin is dark, her teeth flawlessly white, her accent plummy English — perhaps from South Asia with a first-rate British education. She is wearing an American fatigue uniform, armor protection, and the required steel helmet.

"The men who walk on these dangerous patrols are only doing what is their duty. They are all brave. Rarely is the television camera in a position to capture heroism above and beyond the call of duty. Today in the space of a few seconds our camera captured two such acts of supreme bravery."

The camera returns to the street. Someone is firing at the patrol.

"Take cover!" an officer yells.

The men scatter to doorways or drop to the ground to become smaller targets. Someone throws a grenade in their midst. The officer dashes to the grenade, picks it up like a shortstop fielding a ground ball and with a fluid motion throws it across the street into the house from which the gunfire is coming. There is an explosion and smoke pours out of the house, then another deafening explosion rocks the camera. The American officer is knocked off his feet. He falls to the ground and fires at the house.

Then two tiny children, three-and two-years old perhaps, emerge out of the dust and appear on the monitor.

"Cease fire!" the officer yells as he leaps to his feet. He collects the two kids in his arms and rushes into one of the ruins on his side of the street. He is hit by a bullet, winces and grabs a weapon from one of his men.

"Resume firing!" he orders. "Give them all we got!"

He lifts his automatic weapon painfully and empties its ordnance into the house, which now crumbles into dust.

Reporter on monitor.

"This scene of war in Iraq requires more time to describe than to watch. It is a commonplace. One has to watch the replay to comprehend that the young American has saved the lives of many, perhaps most of his men and of two Iraqi toddlers."

Camera shifts back to the street. A young couple approaches the Americans hesitantly.

"Cease fire," the officer orders.

His men nervously keep their weapons aimed at the street.

The young Iraqis babble disconsolately. They want their kids. The camera zooms in on the American, the sleeve of his armor red with blood. He hands the smaller child, cradled in his good arm, to her mother and then leads the little boy out and gives him to his father. Both parents sob.

"Come on, men!" he orders them. "Let's secure this place. Follow me. Be careful — it may be booby-trapped."

He leads the patrol across the street.

"Talking to one of the members of the patrol, we learned that their commanding officer was Second Lieutenant Peter Patrick Kane from Poplar Grove, a suburb of Chicago."

Wendy is seen talking to a teenage American boy. One of the soldiers.

"Yeah, that's Pete Kane. He's something else. We're lucky to have him with us."

"Would you call him a hero?"

"Hell, yes! What else can you call him?"

"Bravery is as common among Americans here as are ambushes, gunfire, and explosions. Split-second heroism may be less common. Perhaps we captured this scene on our camera only by chance. This is Wendy Eastland, WTN, with the First Cavalry Division somewhere in Iraq."


TV monitor reveals an American compound.

ANCHOR: Our Wendy Eastland witnessed an extraordinary act of heroism by an American soldier in Iraq, which we reported yesterday. Now she has obtained permission to interview him.

Camera discloses Ms. Eastland, devoid of helmet and armor, sitting on a bench in front of an adobe-like building. Next to her on the bench is a tall broad-shouldered American officer with close-cut, dark red hair, clad in impeccably pressed fatigues. His helmet and weapon are propped up on the wall, ready for instant use. He is every inch a promising junior officer, courteous, restrained, unemotional. He does not want to do the interview and his answers are terse. However, occasionally, his military mask slips and a dangerous grin slips across his face. His left shoulder is in a sling.

EASTLAND (EXTENDS THE MIKE TOWARD HIM): Thank you for agreeing to the interview, Lt. Kane.

KANE: My CO ordered me to speak to you. You should thank him.

EASTLAND (NOT USED TO BEING REBUFFED BY A YOUNG MAN): Have you seen the tape we made of the fire-fight yesterday?

KANE: No, ma'am.

EASTLAND: Might I ask why not?

KANE: The CO debriefed us last night after he had watched the tape. He approved of our unit's behavior.

EASTLAND: Were you frightened during the incident?

KANE: No, ma'am. I was too scared to be frightened.

Eastland glances up. She understands that she has a difficult interviewee. This young man is not a redneck from the hill country. Probably a troublemaking Mick.

EASTLAND: Were you afraid you might die?

KANE: Every time we go out on the streets that's a possibility, ma'am — for all of us.

EASTLAND (CHANGING HER TACK): Our cameraman said you fielded that grenade like it was a double-play grounder. Did you play baseball, Lt. Kane?

KANE: A little bit, ma'am. High school. I didn't have a major league career ahead of me.

EASTLAND: You're from ... Poplar Grove, Illinois, Lt. Kane ...?

KANE: Affirmative that, ma'am.

EASTLAND: Do you have a wife or a family there?

KANE: No, ma'am.

EASTLAND: A sweetheart?

KANE: No, ma'am.

EASTLAND: No one would miss you if you die?

KANE: It's hell here for those who do. But that's what happens if you're going to fight a war with National Guard and reservists.

EASTLAND (GIVING UP): Would the folks back in Poplar Grove be surprised by your leadership out here?

KANE: They wouldn't believe it.

EASTLAND: But your troops seem to have complete faith in you?

KANE: You put a uniform and a gold bar on a kid right out of college and give him a command, he's a leader whether he wants to be or not. Incidentally, there are women in my outfit too.

A glint in his eyes as he trips her up.

EASTLAND (TRYING TO RECOVER): Do you worry about risking their lives by your orders?

KANE: I worry about risking the lives of all the soldiers under my command. I am sworn to protect their lives and the lives of innocent civilians. That's all I did yesterday.

EASTLAND: Do you think you'll survive out here?

KANE: I don't know, ma'am. Second lieutenants don't have a lot of longevity in any war. You might say a prayer for me.

Eastland turns away from the camera, which focuses in on her and forgets about Kane.

EASTLAND: Second Lt. Peter Patrick Kane doesn't look or talk like he's a warrior, much less a hero. Yet watch as we play this tape and see what you think ... I know I'll say a prayer for him. I hope my viewers back home will do the same thing. This is Wendy Eastland with the First Cavalry Division outside of Baghdad.


"Peter Kane is coming home for Christmas," the young woman said.

"The return of Killer Kane."

Never was a nickname based on a comparison of opposites in such contrast to the person so dubbed. His generation had no memory of Buck Rogers and his nemesis. My own generation was not unfamiliar with it. The generation of my first pastor at least knew the implication of the words, though I cannot imagine that man reading the comic pages.

"That's a cruel nickname, Monsignor," Mariana said. "You shouldn't use it."

"I never called him that. Are we to expect a renewal of the old romance?"

Mariana was a tall, lithe young woman with long, burnished blond hair, flawless complexion, unforgiving blue eyes, the body of a model — disciplined by habitual training for the marathon — and an IQ around 175. She wore a light gray business suit, every inch the brilliant young lawyer. Not one to mess around with, monsignor or not.

"There never was a romance, Monsignor."

"What would you call the relationship which began in first grade and, unless I misunderstand the purpose of this visit to the rectory, has never ended?"

Her eyes turned to finely tempered steel.

"I hate that woman."

"The one who made him famous?"

"I don't want to go through it all over again."

"You may have to, Signorina Pellegrino."

Dead silence.

"I thought you were on the edge of engagement. With the brilliant young doctor ..."

"Wainwright Burke. My mother thinks so."


In my first term at St. Regis, first assignment after ordination, I encountered Petey Pat Kane and Mariana Pia Pellegrino in my first catechetical assignment — second graders in training for their First Communion. The pastor warned me that Sister Superior would monitor me and if I was unsatisfactory she would dismiss me. He was a man who illustrated the truth that a curate was a mouse in training to be a rat and the deeper truth that a liberal curate was a rat in training to be a dragon.

Sister — who like everyone else in the parish, besides the monsignor, seemed to think I was OK — warned me beforehand that they were a good bunch of kids, except for Petey Pat Kane and Mariana Pia Pellegrino, who would take over the class unless I stopped them.

"I'll point them out to you," she promised me as we entered the classroom.

I glanced around and saw the offenders immediately.

"The blond and the redhead," I whispered.

"Right on!"

"I'm not much older than either of them."

"Good morning, boys and girls."

"Good morning, Fr. Joyce."

They were apparently upset that I had stolen their opening line.

Peter Patrick Kane was a scrawny little redhead with a quizzical — and thoroughly artificial — squint. His green eyes were alive with what my great aunt would have called divilment. Mariana Pia Pellegrino was a blond beauty, doubtless spoiled by her indulgent parents.

"I've told the boys and girls you will try to answer any of their questions."

"I'm not very smart, Sister. I won't be able to answer most of their questions, which will be too hard for me."

Mariana Pia's hand shot up — a demand for immediate response. I ignored her and called on Jane Quinlan, a name I picked off S'ter's charts.

She had a problem with what her grandmother had said about sacrilege. I pointed out that the Church had changed its discipline about the pre-Eucharist fast. After I had ignored her four times, Mariana Pia gave up. She didn't sulk, however.

The little redhead raised his hand. His green eyes were twinkling with mischief.

"Reverend Father, Mariana Pia wanted to ask you a question. She always wants to ask a question. She's awfully smart."

Everyone laughed, including the blushing towhead. Even S'ter laughed.

"Mariana Pia ..."

"She's this one, Reverend Father." He pointed at the girl in the desk next to him. "She's the blond one — natural blond, she says!"

More laughter.

"Petey Pat is my agent, Father. He's very bold. S'ter says he's a bold stump."

"Your question, Mariana Pia?" I said, trying to be stern.

It worked. Class calmed down.

"Father, how small does the bread have to be before Jesus isn't there anymore?"

Her mother had suggested that one had to be very careful not to step on a speck of Jesus as she walked away from the altar.

The mother was a scrup and so was the daughter. She articulated a perfectly reasonable theory that alleged that even a speck of a host that you could see only in a microscope might still be Jesus. She even quoted from the Pange Lingua, the Holy Thursday hymn.

"Gosh," Petey Pat observed, "if Jesus was worried about that, he should have become a jelly bean."

Another surge of laughter.

"I'm the teacher, Petey Pat. I get the laughs. Anymore wise remarks from you and you're out of the room."

The charmingly obnoxious little redhead shrunk into his desk so he was almost invisible. The class froze. Good — they were afraid of me. Mariana Pia rose to the defense of her tormentor.

"He didn't mean to make trouble, Father. Petey Pat is really very shy."

I'd better be careful, I thought. I wouldn't want to make his fierce little Amazon an enemy.

"Jesus did not want us to become obsessive about such things, Mariana Pia. In the early days of the Church, sailors would put Holy Communion on the masts of their ships, and soldiers put them on their battle flags because they knew he wanted to be near us all the time."

"Thank you, Father."

"You're welcome."

"Interesting pair," I said to S'ter as we left the room.

"They're in love with each other. Both of them very smart and very vulnerable. Difficult family backgrounds. I am afraid for them."

"Young love."

"I've seen it before. Young but very intense."

I worried about them as I returned to the rectory. Very attractive children. What would happen to them?

I settled into my tattered easy chair to wait for the monsignor. He came to my room almost immediately, holding a travel magazine in his hand. I was sure he had phoned S'ter as soon as he had heard me trudging up the stairs.

"Well, Sr. Joan Marie said you didn't make too much of a fool out of yourself."

In my first years at St. Regis he never once paid me a compliment. He complimented no one.

"That was good of her."

"So I suppose we'll have to let you continue for a while in your instructions."


"Any specially bright children?"

"Peter Kane."

"I wouldn't waste my time on him, if I were you. His parents are immigrants — father a truck driver, wife a whimpering bitch. Nothing there."

The pastor had been a snob all his life. He grew up Back of the Yards, marched in the Industrial Areas Foundation protests and became one of the last "labor priests" in the diocese. Yet the day he was appointed to St. Regis, he acted like he had been installed on the Queen's annual Honors List. The joke in the parish behind his back was that you had to submit your last three federal tax returns before you could become one of his cronies.

"Anyone else?"

"Mariana Pellegrino."

"Mariana Pia!"


"Her family is very important. The father is Don Silvio Pellegrino, managing partner of the largest law firm on LaSalle Street and the last American ambassador to the Vatican. Powerful contacts over there. Major contributor to the parish. High-class gentleman."

"Sil" was, in my judgment, a pompous ass from the Italian neighborhood around Taylor Street who had made his early money by defending Outfit thugs.

"And her mother is a Carter — Dr. Wellington Carter's daughter."

He intended that I be impressed. I was not.

"She is active in Catholic charities. Quite close to the cardinal."

Anita Carter Pellegrino, as she called herself, was an anorexic bitch whom even other affluent matrons of the parish couldn't stand. Both she and Sil had grown up in Bridgeport and had, it was alleged, waited for their first million-dollar year to announce their conversion — to the Republican party.

I offered no comment. In the pastor's world view I was shanty Irish, though he knew full well that my family could buy and sell all his cronies in the parish.

He stormed back into my cell a half hour later.

"Anita Carter Pellegrino just called me. Didn't I tell you that they were important people?"

"I had the impression that you thought so, yes."

"You are a fool, Father. An immature arrogant fool."

"That might be the case," I admitted.

"She tells me that you were encouraging sacrilege in the First Communion instructions today."


"She said that you told those innocent children that the early Christians affixed the Eucharist to their battle flags and the masts of their ships."

"That's true, Monsignor," I said reaching for my source. "It's right there in —"

"Like all overeducated young people, Father, you think wisdom comes from books. You do not have the simple elementary common sense to protect little children from such blasphemous and sacrilegious notions. I am hereby dismissing you from all catechetical work in this parish and specifically ordering you to stay out of the second-grade classrooms."

"Suit yourself," I said indifferently.

But I was not indifferent. I liked the second graders. We had established common grounds that afternoon. It didn't matter, however — I would be out of here soon enough.

I almost asked him if he was going to preach at my Sunday masses. That would scare the living daylights out of him. He said the 6:30 A.M. and didn't preach.

As I walked to the basketball courts when school was getting out a week later, I encountered Peter and Mariana, both looking very disconsolate.

"S'ter says you won't teach our class anymore," Peter said sadly.

"It's not fair," Mariana said.

"And it's our fault," Peter concluded.

"Peter! It is not! It's my bitch of a mother's fault!"

"Don't talk that way, Mariana. You shouldn't call your mother that."

"My father calls her that all the time."

So, trouble in paradise.

"S'ter says we could talk to you out on the courts after school."

"She says Monsignor never looks at the courts, because he doesn't like teens."

"Especially girl teens."

"Very bad taste on his part," I said.

"Would you ever just talk to us?" Irish polite subjunctive.


Excerpted from Home for Christmas by Andrew M. Greeley, Rhys Davies. Copyright © 2009 Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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