MIRACLE IN BELFAST
©1994 Robert J. Lee

(Scene:

A small flat in Catholic West Belfast. Martin Devlin enters after a night of drinks at the local pub. Played with broad Belfast accent. Martin enters shouting out the door.)

Offstage Voice:
Here Martin. Here's one more before midnight.

Martin:
Thanks Son. Awright lads I'll see ya's tomorrow.
(Singing somewhat slurred to the tune of Jesus Loves the Little Children)
We are the IRA provisionals *
We are the Provo's from the Falls.
With our rifles and our guns
we will make the British run We're the...
(Stops when phone rings walks to phone)
Hullo? Aye this is Martin.
(Pause)
Who?
(Pause)
John?.. Oh aye you're that American missionary fella from the prison. Me brother Jim told me y'd be callin'. Says you're a good lad.
(Pause)
What can I do for ye?
(Pause)
Och no bother. I've only just come in. I was down at the pub with some of the lads havin' a few pints before Lent. Ash Wednesday tomorrow an' all.
(Pause)
Well we all give up the drink for Lent. We were gettin' a few down us while we could. It's a long forty days sure.
(Chuckles)
Except for the bishop gives Special dispensation on St. Paddy's Day. (Longer pause) Well nothin' personal but what's a missionary want comin' to my house? I'm no pagan sure.
(Pause)
Jim suggested it?
(Pause)
Now just a wee minute son. Are you tryin' to say that I'm not a Christian? Let me tell you John I go to Mass nearly every Sunday and Holy Day. I make my confessions and do me penance. I do a Rosary a month. What more do y' want from me? (Pause) Look John no disrespect but you can preach to my brother ...he's locked up and can't get away from ye. I don't have to listen. Look it's past me bed-time I've gotta go. ...Tell me brother I'll be seein' him on Sunday after Mass. (Hangs up phone walks over to end table turns on radio and sits down on sofa.)

BBC ANNOUNCER:
(Proper English accent)

We interrupt our regular BBC programming for this special bulletin:
We have just received word of an explosion outside an army barracks in Belfast this evening. Details are scarce at this time but it is suspected that the Irish Republican Army is involved. No injuries have been reported. we will keep you updated as we find out more from our correspondents. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

MARTIN:
(Dancing around the room) Yess! Well done lads!

(Scene:Martin in his flat cleaning a gun. There is a knock at the door)

MARTIN:
(Jumps up runs to closet and hides rifle. Walks quickly to front door pulls pistol out of coat pocket and looks out window) Who's there?

JOHN:
(American accent) It's John Kessler. Is that you Martin?

MARTIN:
There's no Martin here. Go away!

JOHN:
C'mon Martin. Your brother gave me the address. Can I come in? I just want a few minutes of your time.

MARTIN:
I told y' before I don't need no missionaries comin' around. Get back to yer monastery or wherever y' come from.

JOHN:
(Knocking again talking more softly) Look Martin I know about the job you've got coming up. I need to talk to..

MARTIN:
(Suddenly opens the door and pulls John in by the collar with the gun pointed at him) What are y' talkin' about a job? Who've ye been talkin' to and why are y' here?

JOHN:
Jim S-sent me. Remember? I talked to you on the phone the other night?

MARTIN:
(Backs John to sofa and pushes him down.) I've never seen you before. How do I know you're who you say? You could be Brittish Intelligence. (Puts gun to temple) I'm not sure what to do with you ... but I know someone who does. (Goes to phone dials) It's busy ... Well we've got time. Yer not goin' anywhere.

JOHN:
(Frightened) Wait! I know. Jim told me something about when you were kids.

MARTIN:
I'm listening.

JOHN:
He said to ask you about the convent window.

MARTIN:
(Double take, laughter.) Och jeez! So ye know Jimmy! ... I forgot all about that!
(Softens somewhat)

JOHN:
So what about the convent window?

MARTIN:
Jimmy was four years old. Well he got stuck crawlin' out of the nun's window.

JOHN:
That's it?

MARTIN:
Well there is more to the story. He'd asked how come the sisters wore them long habits that covered them up so. I told him that they covered themselves 'cause they was covered in fur. So's he just had to see for himself. So here's me standin' outside the gate laughin like maniac yellin' Come on Jimmy! Hurry! An' sure if he doesn't get stuck ... wee legs kickin' in the air like. Then there's this hand on me shoulder...

JOHN:
The Police?

MARTIN:
Worse. It was me da'. He nearly took the hide off me. Of course wee Jimmy got off easy he didn't know better.
(Turns away)
That's about the last time he ever got off easy. Now he's in H-Block for somethin' he didn't do. It was a set up pure and simple.
(Faces John)
Now just what d'ye want here Missionary? What're ye doin' comin' around here talkin' about a job?

JOHN:
Jim loves you man and he's worried sick that you're going to end up in prison too; or worse. B-But the real reason I'm here is because God won't let me not be here.

MARTIN:
Go on! I know my brother. He's changed so he has but he's no traitor. Who's put y' up to this?

JOHN:
(A little calmer) Martin listen. Jim would be here himself if he could. He asked me to talk to you. In fact his exact words were 'You've got to tell Martin that God loves him and that he doesn't have to hate."

MARTIN:
Look I don't know what he's told you but if y' know what's good for ya y'll drop it. Doesn't have to hate! He knows better than that.

JOHN:
Jim has changed he's accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He's a Christian now and...

MARTIN:
Don't start with that born again rubbish. Let me tell y' somethin'. Back in the sixties my family lived in a mixed neighborhood. We had Protestant neighbors an' all.That was before the troubles. Nobody cared where y' went to church. After me da' marched in a protest march that all changed. After that none of the Protestant neighbors would talk to 'im. We had bricks through the windows and then got burnt outta the house. All the Catholics were chased outta the mixed neighborhoods. If that's your Christianity, I've no interest.

JOHN:
(Pulls a pocket sized bible out of his jacket pocket) You never heard me say that being a protestant made you a christian did you?
(Reads from bible)
Jesus declared I tell you the truth,no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again. It doesn't matter Martin; Catholic Protestant Jew Hindu we all start out as sinners.. none of us are worthy of God's mercy. He loved me so much He loved Jim so much He loved you so much that He sent His son Jesus down to die on a cross for all of us.

MARTIN:
Go on with ye now.If y' think I'd quit this cause to be some kind of religious fanatic yer daft.

JOHN:
By cause are you talking about blowing up innocent children? Or are you talking about an endless circle of revenge and hatred?

MARTIN:
You don't know what yer talkin' about.

JOHN:
Or are you talking about your brother in jail with his wife and kids left alone? If You need a cause how about a cause of hope? How about the cause of Christ?

MARTIN:
Look we can't just lie down and take what the Brits have done to us.

JOHN:
Jesus lived in a country that was occupied by Rome. With all the power at his disposal he never once lifted a finger against the oppressor.

MARTIN:
That was different He was God. He was perfect. I'm only human.

JOHN:
If you believe Jesus is God then why won't you obey him. I know the Catholic church teaches obedience to God. Jesus said Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

MARTIN:
Meanwhile we sit back and get crushed? Three months after the fire my uncle Pat was walkin' in Shankill one night. He had a protestant girlfriend. He was just goin' to call on her..... he shoulda knowed better. It was a dangerous time. (Pause deep breath) A buncha the prods had seen 'im that week in the march. They chased 'im down and beat 'im to death with lead pipes. Seven of 'em. He never had a chance.

JOHN:
I'm sorry Martin.

MARTIN:
He was me ma's youngest brother. Gentlest lad y'd ever know. He didn't hate! He only wanted to live in peace. That's how he was rewarded. They couldn't even open the casket for the wake they'd made such a mess of 'im. After the funeral I promised myself he'd be properly avenged if it took the rest of me life. Y'know my ma's never been the same.

JOHN:

The bible says Do not repay anyone evil for evil. .... If your enemy is hungry, feed him:
if he is thirsty give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

MARTIN:
But...it's not the same. Y' don't understand y'see...

JOHN:
I think I understand a little more than you think. You think you're the only person that's ever suffered? You had your family for love and support.

MARTIN:
What're ye talkin' about?

JOHN:
I never knew my parents. I was raised in an orphanage. It was run by a good Christian family.

MARTIN:
That's why yer a missionary?

JOHN:
Not exactly. They made us all go to church every Sunday. Yeah it was quite a show each week. All sixteen of us marching in together with Mr. and Mrs perfect Christian right behind us. I was just getting to where I even sort of liked going to church. Then when I was ten I found out about this man who was Mr. Religious. He'd been molesting children at his orphanage for years. After a while we all just figured it was part of the price for getting to live there.

MARTIN:
No one ever knew? How could he get away with it?

JOHN:
The Pastor helped cover it up. Nice church. I ran away when I was fourteen. When I was seventeen was in a drug rehab ward at the county hospital. Suicide watch. I spit on a preacher who was volunteering visiting us in the ward. That preacher never gave up praying for me. He was there every day. Every day he sat and shared Jesus with me and I learned that Christianity wasn't religion. This guy that I spit on that I insulted and threatened? When I left the hospital it was to live with him. I finally saw true christianity in the years with he and his family.

MARTIN:
Alright aye ye've had some time of it yerself. What's that got to do with me?

JOHN:
God healed me not only of the drug addiction but of the hatred and bitterness too.

MARTIN:
So now ye think ye've gotta come here?

JOHN:
Do you think I'd have the courage to come to this neighborhood alone? Or knock on your door knowing what I know about what you're planning to do? My being here is Gods will. That's the only reason I'm here. I had reason to fear what you'd do to but y'know what? I fear God more than I fear you.

MARTIN:
Look even If I wanted to I couldn't back out now. I know lads who've been kneecapped for backin' out of commitments. Some have been killed.

JOHN:
If you want to make a commitment commit your life to Christ. I can't promise everything will be easy but I do know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. Here (Hands bible to Martin) you need to read this. My phone number's in there
(Turns toward the door pauses and turns back to Martin)
By the way there's a room full of prisoners praying for you right this minute. Catholics Protestants convicted murderers political prisoners former atheists former IRA men. They've all been born again.
(Martin watches speechless as John walks out the door. Sits down with the bible)

MARTIN:
(In bed awake. gets up pacing) Can't sleep ... Blasted missionaries an' their Jesus freak rubbish! Who does he think he is comin' in here preachin' to me?

JOHN:
(From off stage - John's voice Mild echo quality) Jesus declared 'I tell you the truth no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again.

MARTIN:
(Stops pacing and looks around) Born again!
(Shakes head)
I must be losin' me mind!

MARTIN'S MOTHER:
(From offstage Female voice Irish accent frantic) Martin wake up! They've set fire to the house! Get Wee Jimmy!

MARTIN:
(Looks around and up at the ceiling) Mommy?

JOHN:
(From Offstage) Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

MOTHER:
Martin it's your da' he's been hurt bad!

MARTIN:
(Covers his ears)

JOHN:
(Offstage) If your enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty give him something to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head.

MOTHER:
The doctor says it's a miracle. Thank God! He'll only lose sight in one eye.

JOHN:
By the way there's a room full of prisoners praying for you..

MOTHER:
Martin they've arrested your brother! What was he doin' with explosives?

JOHN:
..but I do know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

MOTHER:
(Sobbing) Martin! Yer Uncle Pat's dead! They've killed him! Oh Paddy I warned ye about goin' with that girl!

MARTIN:
Why God Why?

MALE VOICES:
(Offstage singing) We are the IRA provisionals...

MARTIN:
(Singing) We are the provo's from the Falls.
With our rifles and our guns
We will make the british run.
We're the IRA Provisionals from.....

JOHN:
(Offstage) ...fear God more than I fear you...... They've all been born again.

MARTIN:
Born again! We are the IRA provisionals.....
(Childrens voices singing fades in)
Jesus loves the little children
all the children of the world
(Martin drops to his knees)
Red and yellow black and white
they are precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

MARTIN:
What do y' want from me God?
(Buries head in hands)
What do y' want?
(Lights out)

MARTIN:
(In flat with another man.) ...then there's me on me knees askin' What do y' want from me God? And sure if He didn't answer! (Other reacts with mockery)

MARTIN:
He said 'I don't want yer penance I don't want yer Rosaries I want you!' And I says I'm yer man.

GERRY:
So what're sayin'? Yer already Catholic. And what's this? You're conversin' with God Himself Now?

MARTIN:
I heard Him I tell ye as plain as I hear you. He said 'Stop the violence you don't have to hate any more I'm here with you now.'
(Pause)
And all of a sudden I couldn't hate. I tried I honestly tried to hate the soldiers and hate the Prods that killed me uncle. But I couldn't somehow. I just knew that Jesus died for them too.

GERRY:
C'mon now Martin yer scarin' me sure y' are.

MARTIN:
Look Gerry I've known about Jesus all me life. Son of God virgin birth crucifiction resurrection. I've known all about Jesus but I'd never met 'im before. Now I have.

GERRY:
Martin we've gotta go

MARTIN:
I prayed to God to get me a way out of this job. I don't know Gerry I just can't go through with it. I can't be a part of the violence any more. Y'll have to go without me.

GERRY:
Martin I've known y' for years but I don't know how I can cover for ye. If McDermott finds out y' backed out of a mission... well y' know what'll happen to ye.

MARTIN:
Look Gerry don't worry about coverin' for me... I fear God more than I fear McDermott. God said to stop. He'll look after me if I do as He says.

GERRY:
This is crazy! What am I supposed to do?

MARTIN:
Do whatever y' have to. I'm stayin' here.

GERRY:
We've been plannin this for weeks. How're we s'posed to replace ye with an hours notice?

MARTIN:
Well maybe ye can't at that. All I know is that's me finished with the bloodshed. If I die so be it. I was willin' to die for the cause of revenge all these years. Now I'm just willin' to die for a different cause.

GERRY:
Y' might at that Martin. I can't belive this! All yer family's endured and y've got a chance to strike back. Now yer goin' betray every one chasin' after some grand idea that some religious fanatic's put in yer head.

MARTIN:
(Raising his voice) I can't betray God!
(Softer)
Look Gerry y' don't have to do this. I don't know every thing in here (Holds up bible) but I do know that Jesus loves ya and-

GERRY:
Stop it Martin! McDermott's expectin' us in an hour.

MARTIN:
He loves McDermott too.

GERRY:
Fer the luva...I've gotta go!

MARTIN:
Stay here and pray with me.

GERRY:
Y've lost yer mind sure you have. If y' want yer ma to read about y' in the obituaries then just stay here. I can't help ye y' daft sod!
(Slams the door as he leaves)

MARTIN:
(Takes paper out of bible walks to phone and dials it.) Hello John Martin Devlin. I need to talk to ya. Can y' come over here tomorrow. I don't know where to start .. but I've quit the mission.
(Pause)
Aye' I'm not jokin'. Look I'll tell y' all about it tomorrow. Right now I need y' to pray for me.
(Scene:In the apartment with John and Martin ending a prayer)

JOHN:
...Father thank you for your mercy. Thank you for the work you are doing with my brother Martin. I pray that you will complete the healing you have begun and give him your complete peace. I pray a hedge of protection around him from all who would be his enemy. And Lord we lift these people up that you would see fit to heal the hatred that is in their hearts and allow your love to touch them. In Jesus Name we pray ... Amen.

MARTIN:
Amen.

JOHN:
Martin When are we gonna get you out to speak to the prayer group at the prison? They've been rejoicing now for the past three weeks but they want to see you in person.

MARTIN:
Och John I don't know. I'm grateful and all for their prayers like. It's just...I'm not a speech maker y'know.

JOHN:
Gimme a break Martin. I've seen the way you can talk to people. You've got the gift of gab.

MARTIN:
That's different. I've never stood up and made a speech before. I could always have a chat with the lads.

JOHN:
Hey these are people you're gonna spend eternity with they're exited to hear your testimony.

MARTIN:
I need more time...

JOHN:
More time?

MARTIN:
Aye.

JOHN:
we can work with that. How much time do you need?

MARTIN:
I don't know... I just don't feel right about it.

JOHN:
I don't understand. I mean I understand being aprehensive about talking to a group...

MARTIN:
That's not it.
(Stands up begins to pace)
I've not been fully honest.

JOHN:
What are you talking about?

MARTIN:
All this talk about forgiveness...

JOHN:
Martin we all have doubts at times...

MARTIN:
Would ye let me finish? I know God's changed me heart so he has. He took the hatred away sure. He led me to get away from the violent life I was gettin' deeper into. It's just... It's bein' able to forgive completely. I don't know.

JOHN:
Some things in our lives take longer than others to overcome.

MARTIN:
Y'know we were burnt out of our home. I've been harrassed by the cops by the soldiers. I know I've forgiven 'em... in my heart I have. But...whenever I think of Uncle Paddy... I see his face... before and after. I don't hate them that done it. I really don't. I've said I forgive 'em and I have up here
(Points to head)
but here
(points to heart)
I haven't. I don't want to be a hypocrite. I don't want to be set up like some sort of pious saint with everything all spiritually together.

JOHN:
I think I see your problem.

MARTIN:
Ye do?

JOHN:
Yeah I do. You're suffering from a bad case of what's called humanity. Don't expect perfection from yourself man! You'll fail every time. Keep dilligent in prayer. I'll be sure to hold you up before the Lord for this burden and...
(Knock at the door Martin walks over and opens the door. Enter Gerry)

MARTIN:
Och Gerry what about ye boy?

GERRY:
Martin ye've gotta listen to me. It's time for ye to get outta here for a while.

MARTIN:
Whaddya mean?

GERRY:
Look ye had some good luck when McDermott decided to cancel the last mission. He never had to know that ye pulled out.

JOHN:
That wasn't luck. God's hand was all over that.

GERRY:
Och would ye shut yer gob? Haven't ye caused enough stir to suit yerself? Ye waltz in here from America brainwashin' the lads in prison. And if that's not enough now yer comin' round the Falls tryin' to get people to leave their church?

MARTIN:
Gerry I've told ye he didn't change me... it was

GERRY:
I know it was God. He talked to ye Himself. Well now I'm talkin' and listen good. The Lads aren't very well pleased with what they're hearin' about ye that ye've turned on 'em.

MARTIN:
I've never turned on anybody.

GERRY:
Och well whaddya call it then? First ye turn away from yer church and embrace the Prods. Now the word's out on the street that yer through supportin' the Republican cause.

MARTIN:
I've never stopped bein' Republican I'm just through supportin' violence. And as for embracin' Protestants? I'm embracin' Jesus Christ. It's got nothin' to do with religion it's all about Jesus.

GERRY:
Never mind all that I didn't come here for a theology debate. I came here to warn ye. We've been through a lot but I can't protect ye any more. Maybe ye should go stay with yer sister in America for a while...y'know til things cool down a bit here.

MARTIN:
God's protectin' me. I've no need to run anywhere.

JOHN:
(Reads from Bible) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me...

GERRY:
Y'know missionary...

JOHN:
...in the presence of my enemies...

GERRY:
ENOUGH! Yanks have always had safe passage in this neighborhood. Yer about to change that fer yerself.

MARTIN:
(Reads from Bible) Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.

GERRY:
Right. I've wasted enough time here.
(goes to door opens it turns to Martin)
Don't say I never warned ye Boyo.

(Martin is sitting on couch reading bible. Man bursts through door. He's wearing a ski mask.)

MASKED MAN:
Devlin McDermott wants to see ya.

MARTIN:
Sorry lad I'm finished with all that.

MASKED MAN:
Y' misunderstood me.
(Pulls out pistol)
I mean now.
(Pulls Martin out of chair by collar and pushes him out the door)

MARTIN:
(From outside) How are y' lads? Did y' know that y' don't have to hate anymore? (Pause) Is that you Seamus? Jesus loves ya son.
(Pause)

MARTIN:
God bless ya's.
(3 second pause then single gunshot. Lights fade. Mournful tin whistle music)

JOHN:
(At podium in prison) I want to introduce someone who many of you have prayed for. He accepted the Lord four months ago. He risked his life to obey God and was spared for his faith. This is my brother in Christ Martin Devlin.
(Aplause)

MARTIN:
(Using a cane limps up to podium) I don't exactly know where to start. So much has happened to me in the past couple a months. Praise God I won't be needin' this stick for much longer. For that matter praise him for this wound. He performed a miracle that night sure. Young Seamus swears he had the barrel of the gun right up against my thigh bone. I know he did. While the lads were holdin me to the ground I felt it right there. Says he saw a hand push it away just as he pulled the trigger. Must've been one of God's angels sure. So's it's just grazed the bone like. Can y' picture this? He pulls the trigger and as the other lads were runnin' away here's Seamus on his knees bawlin' like a baby. He accepted Jesus while he rode with me in the ambulance. Also most of ya's know me brother Jimmy an' how his conviction was finally overturned. Well he's just started studyin' at a seminary school in America.
(Aplause)
I'm not really a speech maker. I just wanted a chance to tell yas thanks for prayin' for me.

BILLY:
(Stands up and shouts from the audience) Martin! Over here Martin!

MARTIN:
Aye? Who's that?

BILLY:
My name's Billy Andrews. I've been in here for seven years saved for four of them. I'm one of them that was prayin' for you. Five years ago I never woulda believed that I would sit and pray with Catholics. Jesus taught me to love. He also taught me to confess. Martin I was with the Lads from Shankill the night they killed your uncle. If I could undo it...

MARTIN:
(Looks startled steps back cane drops from hand) Come over here Billy.
(Starts to walk toward audience)

JOHN:
Martin wait...
(Grabs Martin's arm)

MARTIN:
(Pulls away walks toward audience the two men stand arms length apart pause 3 seconds then embrace.)
God bless ye Brother!
(Close with tin whistle playing Jesus loves the Little Children as the two men walk together back to the stage)
NYU Drama


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