Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
a street lamp flickers
on and off
On occasion, I enter a church to escape the everyday world. It doesn't matter what denomination—just that there's no service and that the door is unlocked.
The thin light passing through stained glass windows brings to mind Saint Barnabas Grammar School where we started each morning with the Mass. I remember the dour countenance of Sister Angelica during catechism class: "Raymond, what is the purpose of the life of man?" If I failed to answer, "The purpose of the life of man is to know and love God," I'd have to hold out my palms for slaps from her ruler.
Even now, I can make little practical sense of the catechism's answer. The boy's purpose . . . to avoid getting his hands slapped.
The statue of Mary with open arms reminds me of Sister Theresa who gave the lonely boy pill bottles for his insect collection. Her purpose . . . to do a bit of good where one is able.
Recently I learned of her death. Long ago, I should have sent a thank you note. A man's purpose . . . to shoulder the regrets.
into the collection box
1. The title of this piece is taken from Philip Larkin's poem "Church Going."
2. Matthew Scudder, the protagonist of Lawrence Block's crime novels, has the practice of entering a church at random, meditating in the solitude of an empty church and leaving a tithe in the collection box on his way out. This triggered an urge to write about my own such visits.