“You look troubled, my child.”
The priest appears from the shadows as I’m lighting a votive candle. He’s seen my tears and put on a sympathetic face.
I place the candle on the stand with the others. Mine is the only flame. “I’m in mourning, Father. I don’t suppose this will bring a glow to my gloom, but it felt appropriate.”
He tilts his head, pasting sincerity over sympathy. “May I ask who passed?”
“My mother. Suicide. Will she go to Hell?”
He shakes his head. “The Lord looks kindly on those who reject His gift if they were suffering grave psychological disturbance. Was your mother troubled?”
“Yes. For a long time. Will your God forgive her?”
He raises one questioning eyebrow. “My God? You’re not…?”
He leaves either ‘Catholic’ or ‘Christian’ unspoken. Both words would get the same response.
“I’m just an atheist looking for a little peace of mind, Father. A lost soul trying to find her way through the darkness.”
He nods. “You’ve come to the right place, my child. John, chapter eight, verse twelve: ‘I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”
It’s cruel to tease him, but I’m in a cruel frame of mind. “You are the light, Father? If I follow you, where would you take me?”
For an old man, he has a spry smile. “Christ is the Light, my child. I am merely His priest and His parishioner.”
“So if I followed you to the altar, you wouldn’t lift me onto it and take me there, with a dead man glaring down at me? You wouldn’t tell me what you were doing was God’s will, and that I’d burn in Hell if I scratched you again?”
His smile falters. “Who are you?”
“You already said it, father. I’m your child.”
I don’t need to see his reaction. I turn on my heel and walk out.
I left another candle — a fifty-five gallon ‘candle’ — just inside the entrance. I light its cloth wick as I leave, and close the doors behind me, running a bike lock through the handles just as I did earlier with the other doors. Perhaps his God will save him.
Linked to Wicked Wednesday